------------------------------- ------------------------------------ On and Off The Needles

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Final Installment

It's been really nice being able to chronicle the trip for both me and for you guys! I'm so glad you're enjoying the pictures and stories about our trip. Without further ado, onto the last three days!

Day seven was the one hubby was looking forward to all week. His day of scuba. The group split and took out two boats - one holding the three scuba divers in the group, and the rest of us snorkelers rode in another boat. We both started at Isla Lobos off the coast of San Cristobal Island. The divers did their check out dive there, and we did our first snorkel.

(check out the teeth on that guy!) Isla Lobos means ”Sea-Lion Island” and we did see plenty. They frolicked in the water with us and rested in the sun on the rocks.

This time, I had stopped at the tour company's shop in town and picked up a long wetsuit. I wore that under (yes, under) the shortie suit I had worn before. I was more comfortable, but still a bit cold.

Next, we headed out to Kicker Rock. The two rocks rise over 500 feet straight out of the ocean. The water was cooler and the current much stronger here. It was pretty much an open water snorkel. Especially in-between the two rocks.

I opted out of this snorkel. The coldness of the water and the current just worried me too much. The guys had a great time scuba diving there though.

They saw all kinds of fish, an octopus as well as some Galapagos Sharks.

Pretty neat. Turns out a few of the people in our group had to be brought back to the boat because they were pretty tired and the current was too strong for them. I'm glad I listened to myself and stayed put!

We then headed to Puerto Grande Beach. It was a great little protected cove on the northwest coast of San Cristobal. Pablo led us on a little mini-hike to see the sights of the island while hubby decided to stay in the water and snorkle. He managed to get some shots of a Heron stealth style coming up from the water.

He also spotted an eel!

The day ended back on Santa Cruz. There were only a few more days left of the trip and we were all starting to get anxious about the magical time ending.

Day eight took us down a volcano and up close and personal with Sea Lions. I haven't been on a bike in years (like seriously probably 7 or 8 years!) so the prospect of a high speed mountain bike down a volcano scared me a little. Before we left, Pablo showed us a great church on top of the hill made entirely of lava rock.

We all thought it must be really old, but it turns out it was built in 1999. From there you could also see Kicker Rock in the distance.

For the bike, I was lucky and most of the way was paved, and you could go at your own pace. I think I burnt through most of the rear brakes on my bike!

Not too many pics from this activity - it's hard to bike and snap photos! We biked to the beach and had a really nice break. There were tons of Sea Lions!

The babies were so unaffected by humans. They strolled right past us on the rocks like we weren't even there.

We watched pups playing and wrestling in the water for about half an hour.

After the fun respite with the Sea Lions (I could have stayed there all day watching them!)we got back on the bikes and biked the uphill back to town. We hit the hotel for lunch, then changed back into our bathing suits. More snorkeling!

This was the last snorkel of the trip, and to make sure I enjoyed it, I threw on another shortie wetsuit. That makes three total. But, I was comfortable and not cold at all. We snorkeled along the inlet of rocks. The waves crashed and the sea came through a huge break in the line of rocks. The current was crazy! I was afraid at one point I'd get sucked out to sea!

It was pretty neat. The visibility wasn't all that great, but we did hear a bull Sea Lion patrolling up and down the inlet. At one point, he swam right under us - he hit my fins! It was pretty neat. With the current and the excitement from my Sea Lion encounter, we all collapsed back on the boat. From here we headed back to Santa Cruz.

Day nine was our last day on the islands. A fitting ending, this last night we stayed in what was our favorite hotel of the entire trip. The Hotel Mainao.

It had very Mediterranean architecture. The manager greeted us and he was super friendly. The room was spacious and the shower had pressure and loads of hot water! Such a luxury! (water pressure is pretty much non-existent in the islands)

Before we left, we organized a last minute, final hike. We felt pretty special - the other group didn't get to do this bonus trip! Pablo arranged it all to fit in before we had to be at the airport to head back to Quito. So we headed to the lava tunnel.

It was amazing. We all had headlamps or flashlights, but at one point we all shut off our lights. You could not see your hand an inch in front of your face.

The tunnel was about 1 km long. Parts were really wet and slippery, with areas that had tons of rock on the ground where sections of the roof had fallen in. After a while, we finally saw the light.

It was a great way to end the trip. We piled into the taxi's and hit the long road back to Baltra.

The flight back to Quito was short and uneventful. Once we arrived, hubby and I knew there was one thing that we had to see before we left Ecuador in the morning.

The equator! It is only a short cab ride from the Quito airport. We conned some of our tourmates to take our bags back to the hotel for us, and we hopped in a cab at the airport and headed to the equator.

Time was of the essence. We had our final dinner with the group at 6. We had to shower and change at the hotel first, so we had little time to get our "errand" done. It was pretty funny. Totally reminded me of an Amazing Race. We left the cab at the entrance to the park, ran up to the equator (it was all uphill and we forgot the elevation in Quito!) stood across the line and got a nice tourist to snap a picture.

We ran back to the cab and made it just in time to dinner. Whew! Early (4am!) the next morning we packed up and headed to the airport bound for home.

Overall it was such a trip I just can't explain. Not only being able to spend time with hubby, but being in such a unique place! It was truly the trip of a lifetime!