Patagonia

Its difficult to describe the beauty of Patagonia. This sprawling chunk of glaciers, mountains, rivers and coastline straddle one third of the land mass of Chile & Argentina. Dominated by the southern end of the mighty Andes mountain range, its a diverse array of icecaps, fiords, alpine plains, glaciers, glacial lakes and rivers, not to mention the not too insignificant matter of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Surprisingly for me, it was not really a huge part of my initial plans. I thought that perhaps if I had time and money, I might tack it on towards the end of my journey. A chance bus meeting on the way into Bolivia however, introduced me to some people who’s major focus was Patagonia and my opinion soon started to change. The fact that they were looking to rent a car and explore it on a whim also appealed to me.

And so it came to pass, after crossing the border from Bolivia and into the Atacama desert of Chile, I decided to while away a few days in Santiago ( an amazing city and one worthy of its own blog post ), and then board a plane flight to Punta Arenas and away I went.

All up I spent the best part of 3 1/2 weeks in the southern end of Patagonia. The area is so vast that I simply did not have the time to see it all so the northern areas will have to wait for another time.

While there are so many options and things to explore in this wonderland, the main focus of the people I met was hiking. Most of the hikers were well prepared for overnight camping and hiking and many were exploring by a range of methods, cycling, walking and even rafting.

I would not admit to being the most hard core hiker, some strenuous day hikes and strolling around taking photos was more my scene. My travel buddies were right into it however, and left me behind as they undertook some of the famous overnight hikes that make Torres Del Paine in Chile, El Chalten and El Calafate in Argentina world famous.

Torres del Paine – Chile

Arguably, the most famous and desirable hiking destination in Patagonia is the Torres del Paine National Park. The roughly 600,000 acre park has many features but is most easily recognised by the Cordillera del Paine ( Towers of Paine ), 3 massive granite monoliths that dominate the skyline. The Grey Glacier, Los Cuernos and the French Valley are other attractions. Of course the major focus here is hiking and two particular treks are world renowned, the W trek which winds around the Torres and the O trek which basically winds its way the whole way around. I was not really prepared with equipment or accommodation for the big treks, so my buddies and I found a beautiful campsite on Lake Pehoe and I explored the area from there. Morning vistas of the Torres and visits from friendly armadillos, venturing up to the Condor viewpoint and standing directly under soaring condors was more than enough for me.

The Cordillera del Paine

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The view across Lake Pehoe

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The view from the campsite at Lake Pehoe

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On the road in Patagonia

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The view from Condor Point

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A couple of tips –

If you are planning to visit Torres del Paine by car, you will most likely arrange most things in the nearby town of Puerto Natales. Despite some maps showing fuel stops on the way, there simply are none. We could not find petrol anywhere other than Puerto Natales, be sure to factor this in to your plans for exploring the park.

Also be aware that in recent years the Park has become exponentially popular. If you are planning on hiking the W or O trek in the high season of Jan / Feb independently, then be sure to book well ahead with the Park Authorities. The free camp sites were booked solid for 2 months beforehand when I visited. Another reason I left the hard core hiking to others.

Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas sits at the southern end of Chilean Patagonia and is generally the first point of entry for many who venture there by air ( though bear in mind that a new airport opened in Puerto Natales in 2016 so that may change the plans of some ).

Punta is a nice enough place although there are not an enormous amount of things to do from there, especially if you are on a budget. I enjoyed wandering the town with a camera as there is some interesting graffiti and an amazingly interesting cemetery, but for me, the highlight of visiting Punta is to visit the island of Magdalena in the Magellan Strait, home to over 60,000 pairs of breeding Magallenic Penguins. Day trips can be arranged in Punta and the sights and smells and these curious little creatures is incredible. I highly recommend it.

Magallenic penguins at Magdalena Island

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The interesting cemetery in Punta Arenas

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El Calafate

El Calafate is a quaint little town in the heart of Argentinian Patagonia. We arrived here by default. As mentioned earlier, as we could not find fuel at Torres del Paine, we decided to turn right and head to Argentina instead as there was a petrol station just over the border, the only time I have ever left a country to get fuel !!!!!! El Calafate is a hiking mecca and its most notable feature is the massive Perito Moreno Glacier. This extraordinary glacier is located about 1.5 hours by bus from El Calafate. We had by chance found a free campsite only 30 mins drive away and so were able to be at the glacier at 8am as the gates opened and before the bus hoards arrived.
To say that this place took my breathe away is an understatement. It is simply majestic and a definite must see.

A rainbow appears on Perito Moreno Glacier

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The high alpine plains of Patagonia near El Calafate

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A visitor at Perito Moreno Glacier.

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The face here is 60 meters high and ice chunks regularly calve off into the lake in a massive spray. Perito Moreno is one of the few existing glaciers that is not shrinking.

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El Chalten

El Chalten is a small town which has become the home of hiking and rock climbing in Southern Argentina. Climbers come here for months at a time during the season to clamber up the many peaks in close vicinity. The town is located by the Los Glaciares National Park and the nearby magnificent Fitzroy Ranges. There are any number of hiking options here from quick 1/2 day walks to multi day overnight hikes. Its an extraordinary place, with many other things to eat up your time. Flyfishing the azure blue glacial rivers is one as is cycling along the valleys.

The hiking, & rock climbing Mecca of Argentina, El Chalten.

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The Fitzroy Ranges

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You meet some amazing people while travelling. Luke and Jason were carrying inflatable rafts in their packs and had hiked and rafted down from Northern Patagonia.

You can follow their journey at http://www.13degreesofpatagonia.com

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El Chalten township.

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Home sweet home.

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A tip – If you are heading to El Chalten, be sure to be cashed up first. There is only one ATM in the town and in the week I was there it was constantly out of action. Take plenty of cash, there are places to change currencies if needed.

I am more of a photographer than a writer and the stories above simply do not do justice to this huge and diverse place. You could easily write a book about each location. I did not manage to get to northern Patagonia and there is an enormous amount to see there as well. From grade 5 rapids and some of the worlds best white water rafting at Futaleufu to kayaking the many fiords. Maybe next time !!!!!

Patagonia can be explored in many ways, from organised trekking tour groups, to high end cruise ships from Santiago to Buenos Aries and Antarctic and Easter Island cruises. The world is your oyster here depending on your needs and budget. My method as usual,  was to do it independently and pretty much on a whim. If you are planning on doing extended overnight hikes, my advice is to be prepared and pack lightweight, warm and dry clothes, tent, sleeping mat and cooking equipment. A lot of this equipment can be rented in the supporting towns if you are travelling long term and do not want to carry the kit when you leave. You can also stock up on food here as needed.

So there you have it, my small insight into Patagonia. This isolated wonderland at the southern end of the world will be one of the highlights of your life.

Grafitti

Really, I just love graffiti. From the inner city blocks of Melbourne, to the Barrios of Medellin, grafitti art provides a colourful outlet for artistic expression as well as adding vibrancy to sometimes otherwise drab places. What sometimes looks like a colourful conglomeration of images can often contain many hidden stories and a running social commentary, if you manage to find it or have a guide explain it.

Without going into the intricacies of all these stories, I learned a lot of the fight against GM foods and the influence of Monsanto throughout Guatemala, the white flag mothers of Medellin who stopped violence in the streets during the Escobar period, the dictatorship years and disappearances in Santiago and Valparaiso in Chile, all through artistic graffiti expression. So here are some of the shots of graffiti that I enjoyed the most. Its a not a definitive list, I took hundreds of shots, these are just a few that caught my eye.

Valparaiso, Chile

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Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile.

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San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

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This work depicts the evils of Monsanto and its GM foods. No prizes for guessing who depicts who here.

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Medellin, Colombia

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Punta Arenas, Chile

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Cartagena, Colombia

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Colombia !!!

Unfortunately, due to a malfunctioning computer, my blog posts are being written well after the event. Time takes away some of the immediacy and emotions that come quickly to mind when writing in real time. Time has not however dimmed my love for Colombia. It is simply one of my favourite countries.

How to quickly sum up Colombia in a few words ? Probably diverse, passionate, natural and friendly come to mind quickly.

Diverse –

Colombia has it all, golden Carribean beaches, the wild ( politically and natural ) Pacific coast, the Amazon, cloud forests, jungles and lost cities, mountainous coffee country, adventure galore, ziplining, canyoning, kayaking, rafting, biking ( both motorised and pedal power ), diving, incredible cities and history, sport fishing, desert and most likely a lot more.

                                                    Street kids busking in Medellin

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Passionate –

To the outside world and to anyone that travelled in Colombia years ago, the name simply conjures up visions of danger and drug related violence. This is not the case anymore. Colombia is really no more dangerous than any other South American country and only requires the usual precautions and a common sense approach. As elsewhere, guided city walks always provide an in sight into the local culture and history. The city walk in Medellin especially, was done with very passionate young local Paisas ( as the folks are known locally ). They are extremely proud of their transition from the days of violence and nearly all of them have direct experience of those times as children. They are only too willing to openly discuss the Pablo Escobar era and all that went with it, ( our guide was not a huge fan of the Hollywood version of Narcos, it must be said ).

As elsewhere in South America, graffiti is used widely as a form of expression. there will be a seperate blog post on graffiti later.

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These are known as the Towers of Light. They are located in an area that was formerly a total no go zone because of violence and now represent the new beginnings in Colombia.

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Natural –

Colombia pretty has it all, some of the most diverse bird life on the planet, amazing ocean life, cloud forests, volcanoes, wild rivers etc etc.
For avid bird watchers, it must be among the best on earth. I spent a week in the little town of Taganga on the Caribbean coast doing my Rescue dive certification. For anyone considering doing a diving course, this little place ( along with Honduras ), offers some of the cheapest options on the planet. It does pay to research carefully and select a professional dive centre though ). I cannot recommend Oceano Scuba in Taganga highly enough.

Also, the little mountain town of Minca has incredible bird life if that takes your fancy. This Colibri ( Hummingbird ) drinks from a feeder at the Minca Hotel. Its worth doing breakfast there just to sit with hundreds of these little guys. I love ´em !!!!

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                                                  A lovers sunset at Taganga

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                                                       Afternoon showing off time 

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My time in Colombia was mainly contained to the Northern part of the country. Reports from other travellers confirmed that the southern towns and country further south on the way to Ecuador is just as beautiful and diverse as the north. I arrived in Cartagena by catamaran from Panama ( subject to an earlier post ), and my group of fellow boat mates and I enjoyed a week of post sailing celebrations in this very cool city. The old part of Cartagena is alive with history and pretty, rustic houses draped in vines. It is easy to spend a week just wandering around the old town, taking in the museums and street life. My little Airbnb was located in a quiet side street and my usual afternoon routine simply consisted of buying a few cheap bevies and sitting on the front step and getting to know the locals and watching the world go by. I could have easily stayed longer here.

                                           The beautiful Old Town of Cartagena

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Colourful Guatape is a few hours from Medellin and certainly worth a few days. The temptation is to do a day trip from Medellin but it is best discovered with more time,     ( as always ).

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                                                           Perros !!!!!! ( dogs )

I admit to being a dog lover and South America in general and Colombia in particular also love them. Dogs are everywhere !!! Here are a couple of my favourites.

Barney the weird Corgi / Lab mix that lives in the bar I frequented in the main square of Guatape.

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Lucas, the punk house Schnauzer at the Grand Hostel in Medellin, and by the way, if you are looking for a well run, quiet little hostel in Poblado, go and see Lucy, I loved my time there.

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                                      Climb the 780 steps at El Peñon, Guatape

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                                                        Its not a bad view up there.

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                                                             Street art in Medellin

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                                                             Colourful Cartagena

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The wild Pacific coast at Bahia Solano and El Valle will get its own blog post later. Its a fascinating place both naturally and politically. The major source of revenue here is picking 20kg blocks of contraband cocaine from the ocean, spilt from high speed motor boats plying the North America trade. Both the FARC rebels and Paramilitaries as well as the locals are all looking to make a quid this way, and its a LOT of quids. Its also a world class sport fishing hub for anyone who makes the effort to get there. This humpback was cavorting about as we dragged out lures past.

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                                                        Reflections of Medellin

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                                   Fishing boys on the Pacific Coast at Bahia Solano

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Locals in Medellin are super proud of their Metro system. They view it as an example of their new beginnings. Its is squeaky clean and good luck to anyone who tried to graffiti it. These cable cars also ride up into the hillside Barrios and are all included as part of the metro system. Works like a dream. You can ride all the cable cars for the price of one ticket !!!! Awesome !!!!!

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                          Some imminent rain from the hostel balcony in Guatape

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I could write about Colombia forever but will most likely do some more specific blogposts a little later. They are each worth extra time of their own. So for now, just a few photos above, ( after all, this is a mainly photographic blog and I am no Earnest Hemingway ). I will let the photos do the talking.

Mole !!!! Cooking School in Oaxaca

A really great way to immerse yourself in local food culture and taste is to do a simple cooking class. The last time I did one was many years ago in Hoi An, Vietnam and I enjoyed that so much that I need to give myself an uppercut for not doing them more often. I simply have not indulged in these as often as I should have, but at the suggestion of my travel buddy in Oaxaca, Mexico I decided it was time to give it another crack.

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The usual routine for a cooking class is to hit the local market early in the morning to buy the ingredients. This also gives a far more detailed idea of how the local markets work and just what is available. Just strolling around taking photos does not provide a true indication of what is really available in these local markets. The Central Market in Oaxaca is absolutely massive and the quality of the produce left me spellbound. Stall after stall of super fresh and ripe seasonal produce is laid out as far as the eye can see. Our chef, teacher and all round good bloke Geraldo was our chef, teacher and mentor. He patiently explained the in & outs of both the produce and the people in the market.

Ingredients procured, it was time to head back to Geraldos home, kitchen and classroom. Without going into intimate detail of the preparation of ingredients, the basic idea was to prepare and cook tamales, a salsa de Gusanito, guacamole, a traditional Oaxaca soup and a mole negro. Now, I have tried a couple of moles before but pretty much had little idea of what actually goes into developing the deep flavours required. To be honest, a mole is not the prettiest dish in the world. It looks a little as though a pile of mud was thoughtfully retrieved from the nearest boggy road. The deep smells of the spices as they are pounded in a mortar and pestle however, suggests something very different indeed.

Firstly, the Tameles were prepared with long banana leaves, trimmed and cut into portions. The freshly ground corn was mixed with a preprepared red Mole sauce, folded up and laid in a steamer to cook. Now the big guns were brought out and heavy mortars and pestles were distributed throughout. Without going into the long list of fresh spices to be pounded into shape, ( a photo of the recipe follows ), our little group was soon head down, pounding, mashing and stirring to our hearts content.

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Meanwhile, others were busy deseeding and roasting the fresh chillies to be blended and added to the spice mixture.

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Yep, cactus worms are are a key ingredient of the tasty salsa. These are also often mixed with salt and used to coat the glass rim of the various local margaritas. The delicious Mexican margaritas are worthy of a blog post of their own !!!! My favourite is made with Mezcal, passionfruit juice, red apple and the above salt coating on the glass rim.

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After much ado and not a little elbow grease, the mixtures were toasted, pounded, strained and blended and ready to be cooked and consolidated in a clay pot before the grand finale lunch. The highlight of the lunch was undoubtably the Mole which was poured over some fresh pork also procured at the morning market. The deep smokey flavours lingered on the palette, and certainly overwhelmed its basic appearance.

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As an added bonus, a bottle of Vino Tinto miraculously appeared, along with the obligatory shot or two of Mezcal.

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All in all, an entirely enjoyable day and highly recommended. Wherever you happen to be in the world, a local cooking class will introduce you to a range of flavours, local culture and some seriously delicious food.

And then, Viola !!!! the final climax.

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There was actually quite a bit more involved than mentioned above. Fresh Tortillas were also pressed and roasted.

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The fresh fried pig skin, cheese, raisin and herb soup was delicious !!!!

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A spicy guacamole was prepared.

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So, if you happen to be in Oaxaca, The La Cocina Oaxaqueña Cooking School is highly recommended. You can book through your hotel or hostel or contact them directly at http://www.cooking.com.mx

So there you go, local cooking classes can add an extra dimension to your travels. Just get out and do it !!!!!!!

Cotopaxi

I admit to having had some reservations before I ventured to Ecuador. Reports from travellers on the road were somewhat mixed and I was leaving behind one of my favourite all time cities of Medellin in Colombia. By pure luck though, I found myself in a hostel in Quito called the Secret Garden and settled in for 3 days. I soon discovered that the Secret Garden has a sister hostel, located about an hour and a half drive away and located in a rural setting adjacent to Cotopaxi National Park and with views across to Cotopaxi, an active volcano that last erupted enormously in the late 1800’s.

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 What awaited me totally blew my mind. The Secret Garden at Cotopaxi is located on a hillside with direct views to several volcanos, snow capped Cotopaxi as well as Pasachoa and Runinahui, both extinct but stunning volcanos.

                                                       View from the Jacuzzi !!!!

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                                                                 Shower view

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 The hostel arranges hikes of varying difficulty to the various volcanos plus treks to the high level refuge of Cotopaxi at 4,850 metres. The super adventurous will be disappointed to hear that the hikes to Cotopaxis summit have been cancelled due to the recent volcanic activity. As with other high altitude summits around the world, climate change is also reaping its now familiar havoc with the glaciers on the mountain that have decreased by 40% since 1976. Yet another obvious scientific fact to keep the climate change deniers busy.

 Another fabulous trip is a visually stupendous horse riding trek through the surrounding National Park. True to form though, on the morning of the horse trek, the grey clouds rolled in and the 4 hour trek was interrupted by rain storms and a particularly unwelcome hail storm at one point. The rain meant that the camera had to stay hidden away in my dry bag and the stunning vistas could not be photographed. For anyone planning a visit though, the horse trek is definitely not to be missed. Some of the photos below will give an inkling of the scenery.

                                                               Lunch views

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Afternoons and nights at the Secret Garden are spent lazing away the hours in the welcoming warm Jacuzzi with views across to the volcanos or by playing several versions of cards while enjoying the cheap beers and wine. Food is tasty and abundant and included in the cost of the basic packages that are best booked from the Quito operation.

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All in all, the secret Garden at Cotopaxi is one of the best kept secrets in Ecuador and should be a must see for anyone planning a trip to this part of the big wide world.

Galapagos !!!!!!

What to say about the Galapagos !!!! Mesmerising, majestic, wild, raw, windswept and totally unique. The volcanic archipelago off the Eucadorean coast is easily reached by plane from either Quito or Guayaquil. I had done very little research as to the actual logistics of visiting the islands beforehand but it was a bucket list item for me and only the details needed to sorted out. That I would visit was a given.

I had arrived at the exceptionally well run Secret garden Hostel in Quito and quickly noticed that an independent travel agency called Carpdm was located just downstairs. My initial enquiry very quickly developed into a solid booking, along with flights for an 8 day cruise, departuring in only 3 days. I was astounded that it could be arranged so quickly but it seems that the vast majority of bookings are done at the last minute. In fact on the boat trip I arranged, only 2 others had booked in advance ( and paid a premium for the privilege ). The other 10 people had all booked with the previous 2 weeks.

 The informative and genial guy behind the Carpdm desk explained in detail the range of options. They are basically divided into 3 types ( excluding all inclusive liveaboard dive trips which are much more expensive but I am sure incredible ), firstly the cheapest option is a basic backpacker type boats that are in the $ 1,200 USD range for a 6 day cruise. The next level ( which suited me best ), was a mid range boat that was in the vicinity of $ 1,800 USD. The last options are the high end boats that resemble a Pacific cruise liner, not really my cup of tea.

 The boat I selected was the Nemo 2, a large catamaran that certainly looked quite nice in the marketing blurb. The plane ride from Quito took around 4 hours and landed on Santa Cruz early on Day 1. My first glimpse of the Nemo 2 confirmed that I had made the right decision. It made the Santana ( the Cat I rode from Panama to Colombia ) look like a dinghy. !! Day 1 consisted of getting stowed on board, running through the details of the trip and heading off for an afternoon snorkel and walk on the southern side of Santa Cruz.

 Without boring you all to death with the intimate details of every island, the route selected took in the north western islands, these are much newer and diverse than the older islands of the Southern route ( I was reliably told by our guide ). The Galapagos were formed by underwater volcanic eruptions, emanating from a tectonic hotspot in the Pacific Ocean. Over the millennia the islands move slowly east at a rate of about 3 inches per year. They then gradually erode and become lower and lower.

 The days on board basically consisted of snorkeling and walking trips, usually two per day. In between the daily adventures, the crew on board delivered an amazing and huge assortment of delicious meals. The following days plan was explained in detail before dinner each night and the whole operation worked like clockwork.

 Our guide Osvaldo accompanied us on all trips and passionately explained the finer details of the amazing wildlife and geology of the islands.

 Those who read my occasional blog posts will know that wildlife really floats my boat and the unique and unbelievably close access to the various creatures just blew my mind. Snorkeling trips varied from place to place but a quick summary of what I encountered underwater would read something like this : Galapagos sea lions, Fur sea lions, Green & Olive Ridley turtles, plummeting Boobies fishing, White tip, Black tip and Galapagos sharks, a Penguin hoovering up a shoal of striped Salemis literally within touching distance, then surfacing and looking at me with a fish it its mouth, all of 2 feet away, all manor of Stingrays, Spotted Eagle Rays, a vibrant array of reef fish, moray eels, Wahoo, Barracouta and last but not least, a migrating Humpback Whale that gave us a nice display from the boat as the sun went down one afternoon. While I would loved to have been able to dive in this underwater paradise, snorkeling had to suffice this time.

 Land based walking trips to the various islands took in vast lava fields, intimate bays that have harboured boats from pirate days right through to present day yachts. In days gone by, boats would spray paint their names on the rocks around the bays, the oldest I saw was from the late 1800s. As far as wildlife is concerned, the close proximity to the birds and lizards is just amazing, a summary would be : Blue footed boobies, Red footed boobies, Masked boobies ( and no, I didn’t buy the “ I love Boobies “ t-shirt ), displaying Frigate birds with their nests and chicks, Galapagos short eared owls, Swallowtails, Tropical birds, all manor of Finches, Hawks, Mockingbirds, Giant tortoises, Land iguanas, Marine iguanas and the usual plethora of totally unconcerned Sea lions. I am sure I have missed a few but the above gives you an idea of what is there to be appreciated in the islands.

                                  Giant Domebacked Tortoises blocking the road

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Marine iguanas, the catalyst for Darwins Theory of Evolution

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                                     Young Galapagos sea Lion resting on a red sand beach

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                                  Diego

 I really loved the story of Diego as explained by Oswaldo. Diego is arguably the most famous Giant tortoise still living. Of course the most famous was Lonesome George, the last surviving member of the Pinta island subspecies. George passed away in 2012 and with him the last of his species. Lonesome George was a Saddleback Tortoise ( the other being the more plentiful Dome backed ) and after the massacre of his species by raiding pirates, they were especially affected by the introduction of goats. Being low browsers, the Tortoises food supply was decimated by the introduced goats. I was happy to hear that the $ 100 USD entry fee helped fund an eradication program that has now removed the goats and tortoises are being slowly reintroduced.

                              A poor long distance shot but this is the legendary Diego

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                                        One of Diegos ladies is pleased with his efforts

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                                                                         Happy ladies

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 The remaining 11 subspecies from the different islands still exist in differing numbers. The story of Diego starts with a conservation effort to save the subspecies of a neighbouring island to Pinta. Scientists conducting a survey discovered only 15 remaining tortoises, 12 females and 3 males. Of the 3 males, only two were of breeding age, the other was too old. The 15 tortoises were relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz in an attempt to repopulate the island. Unfortunately the two males of breeding age were just not up to the job, being totally disinterested in the ladies. To the frustration of the scientists, it looked as though this subspecies would soon follow the way of Lonesome Georges lot. An enterprising person decided to go online and ask around the world zoo populations to see if by chance any Tortoise from the island had somehow made it into captivity. An e-mail from a US zoo arrived in due course and after a DNA comparison, it was discovered that this Tortoise, to be named Diego was indeed from the actual island. Diego was soon relocated to the Research Centre and to the delight of the scientists, soon proved himself to be a raging shagaholic !!!! Not only did he begin siring progeny from the ladies, his magnificent prowess on the job also provoked the other two males into action. The result is that now 200 Giant Tortoises have been relocated to their original island. Diego singlehandedly saved his species, Go Diego !!!!! An inspiration to blokes everywhere !!!

                                                                       Red footed Boobies

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                                                                       Masked Boobies

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                                                                              Land Iguana

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Flightless Cormorant drying its evolved wings, they are now land based and have no need for wings.

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                                                              Sally Lightfoot Crab

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                       Darwin Lake where the Beagle moored and Darwin came ashore

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             This guy suffered the effects of the current El Nino inspired drought conditions

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                               Iguanas are forced to seek food anywhere they can find it

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                                                     Young Frigate bird testing its wings

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                                                                        Marine Iguana

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                                                              Lazing Galapagos sea Lions

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                                                            Swimming Marine Iguana

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                               The Nemo 2 at rest, a floating home away from home

                                                                      galapagos-263Happy to see me !!

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                                                       Tropic bird ( I think )

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                      My Icelandic mate Siggy showing the scale of a Giant Tortoise

                                         galapagos-50Frigate birds riding the draft from the sails 

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                                       What is the collective noun for Marine Iguanas ?????

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                                                                   Sunset on the Nemo 2.

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                                                                 Young Blue Footed Boobies

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                                                     Galapagos Sea Lion showing off

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A rare Olive Ridley Turtle, you can see some Green Turtles also. There must have been 30 turtles in this inlet.

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                                               Its the end of the road for this lava flow

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To give an idea of the proximity to the animals, consider that I only have a 24 -70 lens with me. To get any kind of decent shot I have to be within a meter or so. The animals are basically within touching distance.

I could seriously write forever about these amazing islands but at the risk of producing a novel, it is suffice to say that the Galapagos won my heart and was right up there with the best trips I have done. I would certainly recommend anyone considering a trip there to look at the mid range boat trips, they combine just enough intimacy and comfort. The 8 day trip was also the perfect length.

My only remaining advice is …. JUST GO !!!!!!!