Mil doscientos noventa kilometros (y el resto)

And then we came crashing back down to Earth.

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Goodbye, Galapagos!

After the unrivalled high that was three weeks in the Galapagos, at the end of last week we embarked on the next stage of our travels. The plan was a four-day trip from San Cristobal Island, Galapagos, to Chachapoyas, Peru; that’s approximately 2200 km in planes, taxis and buses spread viscously over 96 hours.

We always knew it would be a challenge.

Back to the mainland

When you leave the Galapagos, the conventional wisdom of getting to the airport with ample time before your flight is excessive. Arriving with 90 minutes to spare had us sitting outside catching up on podcasts and books after checking in our backpacks. San Cristóbal Airport is only down the road from the town center, which would be been a much more pleasant area to spend our final hours on the Galapagos. Nevertheless, hours were killed and we departed without hassle.

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Criminal barnet on the way to Guayaquil

We’d heard fairly interesting reviews of Guayaquil, both online and on our cruise, and upon arrival we really felt the contrasting atmospheres between 3 weeks in Galapagos and 3 minutes in Guayquil.

Thankfully, we had an overnight stay at the Courtyard by Marriott booked, which is about four miles from the runway. The hotel had a gym on the 16th floor – my goodness did it feel good to get on the treadmill – a pricey but well-serviced restaurant and our room had two double beds. We joked about it being the last decent night’s sleep for a while.

Absolutely jinxed it.

Crossing the Ecuador & Peru border

After a morning of packing and planning, we checked out, fixed the hotel printer, had our last proper meal for 24 hours and ordered our taxi to Guayaquil Terrestrial Terminal, which is the international bus station that is situated inside a shopping mall next to the airport (!?).

The hotel cab driver confirmed the location with his dispatcher and we were off! …to the wrong place. The driver confirmed the destination with a guy on the street and we are off! …shit, it’s not there either. One final confirmation from a second helpful Guayaquileno and we are actually on the right street. Evidently, Marriott guests don’t slum it on buses from the Terminal.

Acting out our best “we know exactly what we are doing” impressions, we arrived at the Terminal with plenty of time to spare yet still managed to flap around trying to decipher the gate system. “Tú hablas inglés?” Of course not. The bus terminal was 3-storeys tall, each with 20 gates, surrounded by shops and Ecuadorians enjoying their Sunday afternoon. Our bus was on the top floor, our bags went in the hold and we decamped. Easy enough.

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Leg room, air conditioning, entertainment. Peru buses are great!

Five hours, and one absolutely stunning sunset later, we were pulling into a car park that looked suspiciously like a land border. Our Cruz del Sur representative ushered us all to the front of the very long queue – much to our British embarrassment – and the chaos ensued.

One queue desk was for exiting Ecuador; done. The next queue and desk was for entering Peru, but we were told to wait outside. For more than five minutes we existed in no country. We’d exited Ecuador – we had the stamp and everything! Before the cortisol got too active, were taken to another building back towards the entrance of the border, which turned out to be the Peru customs for tourists. Odd. Forty-five minutes passed and we were still waiting in the customs building, wafting hats and books in an effort to deter the mosquitos.

All-in-all, our crossing into Peru was chaotic but we expected nothing less; in total, the experience was about two hours, but it never felt sketchy. The final slog to Mancora saw us arrive in the “Peruvian Magaluf” at 23:40. Bedtime was the day after we had left, and we only had 32 hours of downtime until we had to endure the second part of the journey.

A travel tip for Mancora: unless you are staying there to do day trips into the desert, or planning on surfing, just book the Guayaquil > Chiclayo direct service on Cruz del Sur. It didn’t help that there was a local election, which prohibits the sale of alcohol, but it’s a very quiet, very small town not particularly worthy of a stopover.

“That was the worst bus experience I have ever had.”

Oof, a major claim.

From touching down on mainland Ecuador to Mancora we had travelled 376 km by Cruz del Sur bus in the VIP section.

As is evident here, we had a lot further to go to get to Chachapoyas from Mancora, via Chiclayo. We had researched the main bus companies, with Oltursa seemingly the only one that had a direct bus between Mancora and Chiclayo; a 3:30 am arrival did not sit nicely with us so we opted for a day trip on three different companies that looked like this

  • Morning – 3hrs – Mancora > Piura on EPPO
  • Afternoon – 3hrs – Piura > Sullana > Chiclayo on Linea
  • Overnight – 8hrs – Chiclayo > Bagua Grande > Pedro Ruiz Gallo > Chachapoyas on Movil Tours

We were led to believe that the bus agencies were in order of least good to best. What’s the worst that could happen?

That ended up being a total lie, and the worst happened.

A lot of nothingness

To our surprise, the first two buses, while rough around the edges, were okay. We didn’t have the luxury of air conditioning, but we paid £20 between us for both journeys and the windows opened enough to circulate air in the coach.

Our stopovers – Piura and Chiclayo – both had their charming parts, too. We were decanted on the street in Piura, so crammed our backpacks into a 4 soles tuk-tuk to grab lunch at a place called Piqa, which was fantastic; spiced rice fried with beans, stuffed red peppers with cheese and some delicious, spiced, grilled beef. Fast-forward a few hours, we jumped off the bus in Chiclayo and walked with purpose to Cuatro Once, a craft beer bar. After indulging in more cheese, fried carbs and delicious, hoppy goodness we made our way to the Móvil terminal.

The issues started when we were led to believe our coach was going to Trujillo before Chachapoyas, which if you look on a map would have added 8 hours to our journey. Wires were crossed: the bus was delayed coming from Trujillo, which wasn’t too bad. Then our luggage looked like it was put on the wrong bus, which was too bad. A few Google Translates later we were told tranquiló, our bags were safe. Both buses were going to Chachapoyas anyway, so even if they had messed up we wouldn’t be far from resolving the issue. “They do this everyday” we kept telling ourselves.

Then we got on the bus; seats 41 and 42 upstairs.

What we didn’t know is that seats 41 and 42 are above the engine, and that our bus didn’t possess air conditioning that worked or windows that opened. Have you ever had sweaty eyes? We tried to sleep, but for 11 hours (we made an additional 3 hours worth of stops) we sweated, and sweated some more, and breathed air that felt like treacle. It was such an unpleasant experience, and one we will not be repeating; VIP for overnight trips is the plan now.

The cool Andean air in Chachapoyas felt like a crispy, autumnal hug when we arrived. Our luck had changed: it was 07:30 and our hostel room was almost ready.

24 hours here in the Andes and we feel very welcomed by the local community; handshakes, “hola”s and helpful advice from many different people. It’s a shame that the local square is under reconstruction (as per the title image!)

Finally, we aren’t in transit; this is the Peru experience about which we were so excited.

Until the next time.

I/

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Crucero en la Eden

If you ever visit the Galapagos, it’s important to know that the best time to use the internet is between 02:00-to-07:00 am, because, unlike the local roosters, everybody and everything is asleep. Outside of these hours, getting online is like being transported to 1997, as shown here:

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Absolutely not fast dot com.

Nevertheless, being up with the larks roosters today was semi-planned. We’ve been disembarked from our Galapagos cruise since Sunday, and we thought it time to talk about our experience on the Eden. And this post really needs pictures, which therefore requires “good” internet!

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Much like the rest of our stay on the Galapagos, eight, oft bumpy, days cruising around the archipelago was phenomenal.

We were a little trepidatious when we left Puerto Ayora for Balta Airport, where we were meeting the rest of our shipmates and our guide, because many hours of research had resulted in us choosing the Eden. This particular route included Genovesa & Espanola islands, which are both great for birdwatching, however we had no idea who our naturalist was going to be. Why is that important? We had read accounts on various review sites that noted to have a good experience in the Galapagos relies a lot on how passionate and knowledgeable your guide is that shows you around the national park. Luckily, the Eden cruise, which sleeps sixteen passengers – eight up; eight down – works with a naturalist called Wilo, who is somewhat of a local superstar guide. Lucky us!

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Our route saw us visit the north-east, centre, and south of the archipelago, which looked like this;

  • Sunday – Baltra & Santa Cruz (North)
  • Monday – Genovesa
  • Tuesday – Bartolome & Santiago
  • Wednesday – Santa Cruz (North and West)
  • Thursday – Santa Cruz (Highlands)
  • Friday – Floreana
  • Saturday – Espanola
  • Sunday – San Cristobal

On each day, we were surprised by the different experiences that we had. This post would be a dissertation for us to do the trip justice, which unfortunately means we have to note only our highlights, which are in temporal order;

…meeting our shipmates for the first time outside Baltra Airport and Jeffery pointing out Wilo’s percentage calculations with some quick maths…the group was off to a cracking start…

 …being, quite literally, thrown around in bed during the 7-hour overnight boat ride to Genovesa…

…Monday morning snorkelling with hammerhead sharks and walking with Red-footed Boobies; Monday afternoon snorkelling with Galapagos Fur Seels and walking with Nazca Boobies…

…the sounds and smells from thousands of birds on Genovesa Island at dusk…

…being told the week before the cruise that we wouldn’t see Galapagos Penguins because there are only about 500 and they are hiding in the cold waters around Fernandina, only to wake up on Tuesday morning and see Galapagos Penguins. And then snorkel with them…

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Riding the panga around Black Turtle Cove, Santa Cruz

…hiking up Bartolome to capture the picturesque views of Pinnacle Rock and Santiago…

…walking on miles of solid lava and feeling inspired by the infinite shapes and forms of what was once liquid inside our planet…

…hearing the Galapagos Hawk for the first time…

…Walter the Kitchen Wizard’s cooking everyday. What that guy did in his 5ftx7ft kitchen was unbelievable. Did anyone say pineapple?…

…snorkelling with a Galapagos Penguin (again!) then in the same breath witnessing a Blue-footed Booby dive underwater to the ocean bed and catch a fish, after which it surfaced and nearly took Daisy’s head off…

…being mesmerised by Giant Tortoises. They may move slower than the Earth’s crust, but they are breathtaking animals…

…walking inside a lava tunnel and building up further interest in geology…

…reading postcards in Post Office Bay on Floreana. Paul from Bradford, your postcard from Sasha is going with us around South America. We will take photos and will send it once we get back…

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A pair of Albatross and us!

…visiting Espanola island! So many highlights here, like watching a Sea Lion with a fresh baby, surrounded by placenta that was being eaten by Hood Mockingbirds; seeing Waved Albatross greet each other; photographing the Galapagos Hawk in flight…

…building up friendships with people from Britain, China, Indonesia, Denmark, Canada, Israel, Hong Kong and Bognor Regis…

Anyone who is familiar with the major islands will see that the glaring omission is Fernandina, and some smaller islands like Rabida and South Plaza. A lot of cruises will do the Northern Route – Genovesa & Espanola; or the Western Route – Isabela, Fernandina & Espanola. Very few boats do all four islands because the distances are so far, unless you want to spend a lot of money, which we do not have the luxury of doing.


All these words and pictures may tell a story. Whether that story is a good one remains to be seen. If you take one thing away though, let it be this; if you are planning a year away, or have children who are curious about nature, or want a 2 week holiday, put Galapagos on your list of considered destinations.

As Wilo said to us on our final day on the Eden:

You know, my friends, I visit these islands every month, but every time I come back I see something different, something unique.

Based on our time here, we both wholeheartedly agree.


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It’s been 72 hours since we reached dry land, and are both feeling adequately rested after our cruise. Today (Wednesday?) will probably see us hike to a bay on San Cristobal that is famous for nesting birds. Daisy is also wrestling with the choice of whether or not to do one last dive, while I am enjoying reading classic novels; War of the Worlds in the latest on deck. It’s a hard life.

What is our next stop? Our flight to mainland Ecuador is on Friday, with an overnight stay in Guayaquil – which is pronounced “Whyakeel” – then Peru on Saturday. 8 hours on a bus will be alleviated by having 21st Century internet. It’s time to get on the IG Stories.

Until next time.

I & D/

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Una semana en Galápagos

It feels impossible to put into words the uniqueness of Galápagos, but to not try will do this place a disservice. Also, we wanted to add more images to this post, but WordPress is being weird, so it’s just text! Apologies there.

Arriving in Baltra Airport was inconsequential – the airport was small, with only one other plane at the terminal. However, our unique Galápagos experience started at baggage reclaim. We got ushered towards the corner of the only terminal and were told to wait; our bags were visible but we weren’t allowed to collect them until three dogs (a drug-sniffer dog; a food-sniffer dog; and an animal-sniffer dog) clambered over every bag that was taken out of the baggage hold. Two of the three dogs did their job well, however it seemed like they were training a new food-sniffer dog, which was misbehaving, much to our enjoyment and the polices’ annoyance.

After sharing a taxi with some pretty quiet German girls, our first stop was Puerto Ayora, the main town in the archipelago; only four of sixteen islands are inhabited, with Santa Cruz island being the most populated at 25000, and Puerto Ayora being its hub. The vibe in the town was awesome – which was something we appreciated throughout our stay there. We dumped our bags, headed out for a cerveza and ended up at a bar watching Barcelona SC play Delfins; apparently Guayaquil, Ecuador also has an almost identical-looking team to FC Barcelona called Barcelona SC. The local supporters’ group were banging drums, singing songs and involving the entire bar in their celebrations for 90 minutes, which was fun, especially as their talisman scored an absolute screamer on 83 minutes. Game over: 2-2.

The next few days involved a few different naturalist experiences. Hiking to Tortuga Bay, seeing marine iguanas for the first time, and getting a bit pink – thanks, English Rose skin. Although, in our ignorance we didn’t bring any water, so by the end of our walk it was a case of “water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink”.

On Monday we went with Academy Bay Diving (highly-recommended) on a boat to Floreana for a dive and snorkel with a really good group of people from US, Australia, Holland and Brazil. Daisy did her first of few scuba dives, and with her ridiculous vision, managed to point out two Red-lipped Batfish, the prehistoric frog-bat-fish that was aptly named Angelina Jolie by the dive team! The find was so rare, and so good, that she even got a fist-bump from the dive master at 22 metres. I stayed closer to the surface and snorkelled with sea turtles, sharks and a fleet of Storm Petrels, which was a highlight of the trip so far; being so remote in the open Pacific ocean, surrounded by sea birds feeding was a breathtaking moment where I vocalised my enjoyment with a “holy shit”, although with a snorkel in my mouth it sounded more like “hurrrgly chheettsh”. On the boat we met a really nice couple from San Francisco, who we may hopefully bump into while we travel Peru. Cocktails were drank and contact details were shared.

Our Instagram has a few different photos from the rest of our stay on Puerto Ayora. We went to Las Greitas and swam between volcanic rocks, spotted Parrot Fish in the cracks and sat by the beach on the way back to the town, getting flanked by endemic ducks, Frigate birds and these little sea waders. And finches. Finches everywhere. These little dudes are ballsy, to the point of taking pecks out of our sandwiches while they were in our hands. Perhaps they are the sparrow-shaped seagulls of the Galapagos.


The journey to Puerto Villamil, the third-biggest town in Galapagos at 2800 population, on the biggest island, Isabela, was fairly uneventful. We were sat at the back of a full boat, which crossed westwards on really choppy waters for 2 hours; one of our fellow passengers suffered with sea sickness for the entire ride. She went through 8 bags.

The town of Puerto Villamil has a seaside vibe, where everyone knows everyone. We did three tours on the island – Volcan Sierra Negra; Las Tintoreras; and Los Tuneles. Our first two guides were absolutely amazing; Nuria taught us about the history of the flora and fauna of Volcan Sierra Negra, and even more enjoyably we got a geology lesson about volcanoes: a win! And Sebastian, what a character. He took his “beautiful travellers” around Las Tintoreras, where we were treated to some wonderful sights, including sea lions playing with sharks, countless sea turtles bobbing up for air, and marine iguana nurseries: watch your step! We also attempted snorkelling, or should I say Daisy did – I shivered my way out of the bay because I was turning blue; I need “mas grasa” on me. Lost Tuneles was a stunning, geological marvel, where we saw Blue-footed Boobies courting and swam with White-tipped Reef sharks, a fleet of Golden Rays and, again, countless turles. Our guide though, the less said about Javier the better. If “a person who has fallen out of love with their job” was in the dictionary, it would come with a picture of that miserable man.

Today is Sunday and we are going on an island-hopping cruise – Lancha Eden. We may see Waved Albatross – which we have already seen hunting fish on the open ocean the boat back to Puerto Ayora yesterday afternoon – and Galapagos Penguins, which would be a dream but very unlikely because 1. there are only about 500 of them left and 2. yesterday we left the island on which the penguins are, supposedly, hiding.

We are only on week 1 of 3, but being here has already had a lasting impact.

Until next time.

I & D/