Day 20-21 Journey to the Driest Place on Earth


This morning we were feeling a bit drained from 3 days being tossed around a 4WD and we had a big journey ahead so we slept in, found the 24h House channel and generally chilled. In the afternoon we said good-bye to Quito and started our 24hr journey to San Pedro de Atacama.


We started with a 1hr drive to the airport, then flight 6,7 and 8 of our trip. Quito to Lima, a 1hr or so wait in Lima then Lima to Santiago where we had 6hr wait. We found the domestic lounge and made use of their comfy seats and I fell asleep. Then Santiago to Calama. There’s literally nothing in this town other than the airport and a giant minesite.

d1 So then a 1hr shuttle bus to San Pedro.


Looks like a few renewable projects going on also as we passed a big solar farm and then a bunch of wind turbines. Checked into our hotel and found a place to hire some bikes and booked a Sunday tour. Not too shabby on hardly any sleep.

day 18-20 Volcanoes


Monday we started our 3 day tour of some of the volcanoes in Ecuador. After a late start due to communication issues we drive to Antisana.

antisana hike

First up is a hike – walking at this altitude really hurts and you end up walking so slow.


The view at the top isn’t too bad and we head back down…so much easier than up. Then it’s onto the bikes. This is the 4th bike we’ve had and for me it’s the 2nd worst. They’re heavy, look like they’ve been dropped 100 times and the brakes take a lot of power to use.

antisana ride

We head straight up some hills and the altitude kills me. My head is thumping, the world is dancing and is in funny colours. I’m struggling to breathe as John tells me to peddle faster. I can’t really feel my hands properly so I squeeze the brakes to see if I can stop and walk up the hill a bit. Next hill…can’t feel my feet anymore and after I lose my feet off the peddles for the 3rd time I think it’s time to call it a day.

quilotoa hike

Tuesday we hike to Quilotoa lake. It was a cold night at 4000m but the sun is out this morning and after getting moving you get quite warm.


We start at the top with a view over the lake and then walk down.


The track is really loose dirt and I’m slipping and sliding all over the place with my sneakers so I stop before the bottom after I see someone else fall 5 times.


The local dogs follow the others up and down the track. Today we only have the guide so he has to double as the driver and direct people from the car as we go down.


Wednesday – as we leave our hostel we get a good view of Chimborazo – our destination for the day.

chimborazo hike

We drive up to 4800m and then we hike to 5100m.


Every step is slow and labored.


Got a bit further than this hut so we make it to 5100m.


Then back down to the car. The ground is loose and slippery and I fall hard on my butt. The camera makes and awful sound. It seems to still work but I’ve taken a chunk out of the lense casing.


Then down….


and more down and then a big drive back to Quito.

Day 17 Riding the Ciclopaseo of Quito


Last night we went for a bit of a wander for dinner. The place seemed eerily abandoned. The police had started taping a few of the cross streets off for some reason.

Found a steak place that we had to ourselves for dinner and then headed back. Then most of the streets are taped off, there’s a lot of police and even some ambos. How strange…


Then we discover why. There’s a 10k running race around the churches of Quito on tonight.


Seems like the whole city is out running. These guys are fit..I huff and puff just walking up these hills at altitude and the leaders are pretty much sprinting.



Sunday morning I’m keen to check out the Ciclopaseo. They started by closing some of the streets of Quito one a month for a few hours on Sundays so that bikes could take over the streets in safety. Now they run it every Sunday from 8am-2pm.


We grab some bikes from El Ray which is located on one of the closed streets which is extra handy and head further into new town.


They also block a lot of the cross streets off so it’s a bit weird riding through red lights.


We’ve got a beautiful morning for it aswell. Not too hot or cold and no rain in sight. I definitely feel the effects of every incline more at this altitude…if you think you suck at hills try them with less oxygen..they suck even more.


This is us at the northern turnaround point. We decide not to ride all the way to the other end as it goes through old town which is much busier with pedestrians and there’s a lot more hills.

I think It’s a great initiative and it was great to see lots of dad’s out riding with their kids aswell. B great to see something like this in Brisbane on say the SE Busway every month!


Back to our apartment where the neighbours dog is waiting on the roof to say hello. He looks so sad.


Then a wander into town for lunch. A few of the streets here are also blocked (in addition to the cicloplaseo ones) for pedestrians. There’s heaps of people out and about.

Grab some supplies as we’re heading out for a few days of riding volcanoes in the Andes. I think I might be using the sag wagon a bit as Chimborazo is 6000m!

Haven’t decided if we’re taking out laptops with us yet and unsure on the internet situation so might be radio silence for a couple of days.

Day 16 Getting High in Quito


We went in search of high places in Quito. It’s not hard when you’re already at 2800m but we wanted a good look at the city.

We’re near old town which has a lot of old buildings and most of them are churches. We’re not big into churches so I limit us to one – The Basilica del Voto Nacional. Why did I pick this one? Because you can climb the tower for a view of Old Town.


It costs $2 to go up. At level 3 there’s a big balcony with a decent view.


Then you walk across the wooden bridge which sits on top of the indside of the roof. It’s pretty wobbly with small rope handles and then up a steep ladder/stairs.


On this level you see the two towers and a bit of the city.

IMG_6190Then you climb up the tower. Really narrow treds and steep ladder/stairs to a pretty awesome view.Definitely worth $2.


Hang here for a bit and then head down. Halfway down we run into one of the families from the boat who lost their luggage. Glad to hear they got it back finally!


Next we catch a cab to the base of the Teleferiqo – the cable car up the mountain. If you’re into down hilling you can take your bike up and down all day for an extra 8.50! It’s a decent ascent up the hill.


There’s a pretty decent view up here and you get a feel for how massive the place is. You can see the big skyscrapers of New Town which have a very different feel to where we’re staying in Old Town – think we picked the right spot.


We wander up the hill a bit more for a better view and hit 4000m. You can keep going up the mountain for about 5k but we don’t have much water or the enthusiasm for a hike like that at altitude today.

Head back down and check out the small amusement park before we jump in a cab back to our hotel.

Day 15 Bye Bye Galapagos, Hello Quito


This morning had a fairly early start with a 6am taxi, a ferry to Baltra, a bus to the airport and a flight to Quito.

Annoyingly you “have” to be at the airport 90 mins before the flight even though it’s basically an upgraded shed.

Final thoughts on the Galapagos….

– It’s quite expensive to be there e.g. $17 US for a small tube of sunscreen.

– It’s a lot more impacted by humans than I expected. There’s a lot of cats and dogs running around and a lot of farmland.

– Land based vs boat based. We spent a few days on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz + a 8 day boat. In hindsight what I should have done was the 3 populated islands with day trips ourselves and looked for a cruise for outer islands (if one exists). It would have been a lot cheaper.

– Hiking distance has no relation to time. A lot of the ‘hikes’ that are 1-2hrs are actually only 500m or so. You’re very limited in where you can actually walk.

– Snorkeling was great – not sure if you’d see much more diving?


Then we had a 2 hour flight to Quito, then about an hour in the cab to find the owner of the apartment we’re staying in.

The view from our apartment is amazing.


We’re just outside of old town. Went for a wander to get lunch. Managed to find the 2 spanish ladies from out boat at one of the restaurants…they’re going to think we’re staking them after finding them at the beach in Santa Cruz. Then a few supplies for the fridge and then I had a cracking headache from the altitude change so chilled for the evening.

Day 14–KoM hunting in the Galapagos


After sitting around on a boat for a week doing sweet FA I thought it was a good idea to go for a bit of a ride while we had the chance.

We’d spotted a bike hire place whose bikes weren’t completely rusted and had disc brakes and John had found some Strava segments he thought he could beat so off we set.

The cool thing in a town of 16000 people is they have a separated bikeway which is narrow but keeps the cars and you away from each other.


The problem with being on a volcanic island is you’re either go up the mountain or go down and seeing we’re at the bottom it was up for us.

After about 3 peddle strokes I was missing my bike. The bike must weigh 20kg and I’m already in my easiest gear on the middle chain ring..this is going to hurt.

Up we go to BellaVista and hang a right and ride a bit more and there’s a fork in the road. This must be the left we take…as we vere onto dirt road. It’s raining lightly (as it seems to do a lot here) and up and up we go.


Pull over after a bit to check the map but Google doesn’t have the road to Cerro Mesa on it…seems about right.

Ohh…a bit of downhill…and this is where I discover disc brakes aren’t all created equal. Silly me with my 2 bikes I look after and their awesome stopping power…this one…the back break barely works and the front is only slightly better and the brakes are arse-about to what we’re used to…hmm….better not need to stop going down in a hurry.


We haven’t seen any other cars for ages and I wonder if we are on the right track. I’m huffing and puffing and ready to give up. Poor John is trying to get me motivated. Then we come across a bit of a diversion in the road.

Eventually we see a side road which would be the one you’d come in on if coming from the beach so I think we’re on the right road and it starts to flatten out for a bit..yay.

Then in the distance (which isn’t far as its so cloudly up here) we see the top of the volcano and it’s steep. Once we reach the base John heads off but it’s too hard for me so I start pushing my bike and then stuff this and park the bike in the bushes and walk up.


John’s already hit the top come back to see where I am armed with the go pro to re-assure me it’s definitely the last hill.The top would be amazing if there wasn’t cloud everywhere.


At the base of the last hill is a Giant Tortoise so we get a picture with him. He’s got a big GPS tracker stuck to his shell.



Then he proceeds to walk over the go know with all that choice…


Now to return…and I suck at descending. I actually ride faster on flat than I do downhills. Eventually with sore hands we make it back to the hire place, covered in mud. So much mud I can no longer see the blinking rear light it’s covered so thick.


Good to spin the legs but man I want my light bike back. Good news is John got his KOM he was after.

Tomorrow we fly to Quito so that’s Galapagos done and dusted.

Day 13 Stroll out to Tortuga Bay


This morning we woke to rain, so rolled back over and waited for our 8am breakfast to be delivered. After a few hours the sun came out so we decided to go for a stroll to Tortuga Bay.

After a 1k walk from town we get to the registration point and get instructions..don’t swim at beach one..too dangerous, don’t touch animals etc.


At beach one…we find the usual suspects – iguana wandering along the sand.


Then just before beach two more iguana chilling under the mangroves.


Then out to the outcrop between the beaches


surrounded by cactus trees.

IMG_6158Then to the beach.which looked more like a shallow lake filled with crying children. We’re so spoilt with beautiful beaches in Australia that most beaches elsewhere just look dodgy.

Then back into town for lunch.


Now we’ve come across some odd showers over the years but this is the 2nd one of these we’ve seen on this trip. Anyone else find the wires a little worrying?

Note: later found some info where people refer to these as suicide showers…I feel a safefy moment coming up in the future

Day 12 North Seymour and Back to Santa Cruz



Up for 6am start today for our last trip of the cruise to North Seymour.


Here we’re on the hunt for Blue Footed Boobies,


which we found a few nice specimens


that sat fairly still while we took photos


and even did a little run for us.


We also saw Frigate birds who look like this when their breast sack is deflated


and when they inflate it


look like a whole new bird.


There was of course the obligatory sea lion


and Galapagos crabs.


Back on boards and final pack of the room and loaded onto our final zodiac trip to the shore.

Then a bus ride to the airport on Baltra where we say goodbye to most people.


Then our free bus to the ferry, a $1 ferry ride across to the north of Santa Cruz and then we split a cab with the lovely spanish ladies who saved me with their cold and flu tablets.

Our accommodation is kind enough to let us into our little apartment early so we can drop our bags etc. It has a kitchen and a lounge chair and multiple beds and feels so massive after a week on the boat.

Then a quick walk to next door to drop off our week+ of laundry to get done a $1/kg – sweet deal.

Quick catchup on the world before we wander round the corner for lunch. Then some more catching up on the world like seeing Bolt got his Triple Triple before finding dinner.

Day 11 Santiago and Bartolome Islands


This morning starts with a zodiac cruise of the shore of Santiago island.


We’re in search of Blue Footed Boobies but alas none to be found.


There are however, quite a few nesting pelicans.


There’s a juvenile hawk that for some reason wants to pick a fight with the fur seals.


He eyes off the crabs for awhile instead.


The shore has quite a lot of fur seals. They look so much like sea lions but I remember these guys from South Georgia – vicious and grumpy.


As the pelicans look for fish some of the other birds hitch a ride in hope of snagging a freed feed from the mouth of the pelican.



Before lunch the other go on a snorkel in the same area – water is cold and with the fur seals around I’m not expecting much interesting wildlife so I’m waiting for this afternoon’s snorkel from the beach.

As the afternoon approached it was our last chance to snorkel on the beautiful Bartolome Island beach.


The water was somewhat warm with the wet suit on and the rocks were teaming with fish.


Had a bit of a play with the go pro trying to simulate a desktop pic of a snorkeler in the water. Didn’t do too bad with one of John.


I on the other hand completely suck with the flipper things. All they seem to do is either bend or feel like they’re going to snap my ankles. We saw a couple of Galapagos penguins wizz past us – tried to follow them but they are way too quick in the water.


The late afternoon was a hike up the view point on Bartolome.


380 or so steps was a bit huffy puffy but the view was great.


Really wish we’d come up here in the morning or lunch time as the sun set is in such the wrong place late afternoon for a good picture.


Tonight we pack up our room ready for our last outing in the morning. We have by far had the best cabin on the boat. It’s on the upper deck and is at a dead end so nobody walks by our window and the door and window let in really nice breezes. It’s small but still the type of place you can relax and allowed me to read 2.5 books while I’ve been on board.

Farewell drinks with the crew and last massive meal of multiple meats from the wonderful chef.

Day 10 Fernandina and Crossing the Equator


This morning we visit a new island – Fernandina. The zodiac driver is quite skilled at navigating us through the shallow rock to land on the concrete platform.


Here lives the largest population of marine iguanas.


The rocks are literally littered with them to the point that you have to be careful where you walk.


They sit there bathing in the sun totally unphased as masses of people walk past them.


With big number of animals also means you find a few dead ones.


Littered in amongst the colony is many a dead iguana sitting on the rocks where it took its last breath.


These guys are pretty cool, having evolved from the other land iguana with the ability to swim and breath under water aswell as the ability to live on land.


In one of the shallow rock pools there are a stack of sea turtles just pottering around.


There are also quite a few sea lions on the shore.


We spot one mother and a pup that must only be a few days old.


It wants to check out the new visitors but mum calls it back and it reluctantly plods back over and sulks on the rocks.


There’s also quite a few of the red crabs around that looks awesome against the black lava rock and the green seaweed.


There’s 2 lots of snorkeling today and the water is extra cold with the current.morning1

There’s a few penguins that dash around through the group.


The water is full of turtles and I really want to go in but my sensible head wins over and decided that I don’t want this cold coming straight back so I sit it out and have to be satisfied with the cool pics and videos that John is able to get.


As he moves around he swims from turtle to turtle, just bobbing along with the current.


The afternoon is a zodiac cruise in search of Blue Footed Boobies.


There’s stacks of crabs.


Flightless Cormorant


and rocky outcrops to explore.


The evening before sunset is the “Crossing the Equator” party. We’re all invited onto the bridge with the captain to watch the gps tick over to 0 degrees.


We spend most of the night in the northern hemisphere and cross back to the south early hours of the morning while we’re all asleep.

Day 9 West Isabella

DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR9629.This morning I’m sleeping with the help of some cold and flu one of the other passengers had. The real stuff is so effective and so annoying that it’s almost impossible to get at home.


John goes out on the morning excursion to walk over the lava flows.


Not much vegetation here bar the lava cactus. Always one of the first plants to appear on a new volcanic island.

0V7C0406They can grow for 100’s of years. Slowly opening gaps in the lava letting in water and slowly breaking the lava apart.


Mid-morning is a cold snorkel with lots of sea turtles


and lots of fish.


The water out here is really cold (hence you can get penguins) and John is chilled to the bone when he gets  back.


In the afternoon the brave people go for snorkel number two for the day. It must be cold – one of the passengers who has thus far swum without a wetsuit gave in this afternoon.


This evening we land and hike up to Darwin lagoon.

After two days in bed I feel like a person again but I haven’t got my land legs back and everything feels like it’s still moving.


As we walk up the sets of stairs I’m feeling a bit out of this being sick thing is killing me when I notice everyone else is huffing and puffing so it’s not just me.


We hike over the top of the first crater for a decent view over the island and then back to the boat.

Day 8 Isabella Island


Today I’m feeling worse so I pretty much sleep the entire day. John goes to the island in the morning to visit yet another breeding center.


This one has lots and lots of babies. It’s almost surprising there’s any of them left when you hear the stories from years ago. These guys can last 12 months without food and water. This made them popular with pirates and other boats passing through the region. They could pick them up alive and keep them that way for months on end and have fresh meat at hand.


The guide said there was one ship that too 700 alive in one boatload. You can imagine how quickly you could decimate the population with harvesting at this rate. Sounds like everyone is sick of breeding centers though.


There’s also a few flamingo


Some iguanas


And some penguins.


We’re vey close to the Equator yet there are penguins….but a cold Antarctic current feeds through to this island allowing cold enough water for the penguins to survive.

John’s tired so we both skip the afternoon snorkel which by the accounts of ‘lame’, ‘nothing but sand’ and ‘we had to queue to get into the water’ sounds like it was a good option to miss.

Day 7 Santa Cruz Island


Today we’re on the most populated of the islands – Santa Cruz.


We spend the morning at the Charles Darwin Foundation and breeding center. There’s some massive guys here but the pens and the light aren’t so great. We wander back to town and grab a coffee before heading to the highlands for lunch.


We have a few stops for the tortoise crossing the road under police escort on the way to lunch.


And then on our way to a private reserve. This one we all just pile out of the bus and walk around.


This place I like as they’re all just wandering around and you can get quite close to get a good picture of them. Their shells are keratin, just like our fingernails.


Tortoise in mud should be the new saying. These guys like to lay in it.


There’s also a small lava tunnel to walk through.


There’s a lot of groups here. Ours, another bus load plus a stack of taxis.


While everyone else is getting their free coffee we nip back to get some better photos without so many other legs, arms, cameras and people in the photos.


Then it’s back to town to kill some time. We watch the volleyball match going on. It’s a bit odd. First it’s on concrete – ouch. Second they use  a soccer ball – ouch and third the “catches”, “carries” and “pushes” seem to be all ok here. They also seem to take it very seriously.

Day 6 Santa Fe and South Plaza Island


Today I’ve woken up with a head cold. I think weeks of battling people at work and on the bus coughing on me, long travel and probably the cold snorkel tipped me over the edge.


Still not terrible, I load up on antihistamines (best I have) and head off to Santa Fe.


The small beach has a decent sea lion population just lazing around in the sun.


One of the main reasons to drag my butt out of bed was to see this guy – the Santa Fe land iguana.


They’re only found on this particular island.


They take a liking to one of the other kid’s red Air Jordans and get a bit excited as they go past.


There’s quite a few iguanas in the small area we walk around.


There’s also a few hawks out looking for food.


Then back to the boat


So we can get our fins, wet suits etc so we can go for our first snorkle.


There’s lots of fish.


The water is really cold.


So I’m quite glad to get out and get in the sun to warm up.


As we set sail to South Plaza Island there’s quite a few birds hanging around the ship.


Then it’s a dry landing on South Plaza Island.


This one is filled with a red succulent undergrowth with cactus forest.


This one has a different breed of land iguana.


Nesting gulls


A large group of bachelor sea lions


Large schools of fish you can see just below the surface of the water.


The red crabs that look like they’ve already been cooked.


And lots more land iguanas.


They have a really funky spine and nobbles on their skin.

Day 5 All aboard the Galaven


Today we head out on our 8 day boat trip around the islands. We get a nice sleepin and wander into town.


Have one last meal at our regular food place and look for a long sleeve shirt for John.


Then a quick taxi ride to the hotel and back to grab our bags to wait for our boat. We have a quick zodiac ride to our boat and get assigned our rooms. Luckily my persistence in demanding a room not next to the engine pays off and we’re on the top floor as expected…phew. Quick bite to eat and then it’s back to the mainland.


Then it’s a 30min bus ride to the breeding centre we rode to on Sunday.


I don’t feel so bad at struggling up some of these hills 2 days ago on my bike with clunky gears when the bus really struggles.


We’re at the centre in the late afternoon so the light is much better than when we were here last time.


We’ve also brought more appropriate lenses. This time we have the zooms which are much better at getting in close.


It’s much busier today with our group of 19 and a couple of other buses plus a few individuals.


Seems to be feeding time so there are a few more animals around we can get fairly close to for pictures.


Then it is a bus back to town and an hour to kill before we’re back on the boat.


We are in the harbor most of the night and get to see the sun set over the ocean.

Day 1–Arrived in Guayaquil


Today was a long day of travel. There were border security strikes at all international terminals today and we only had 1 hour to get from our domestic flight to international in Sydney so I got it moved.  Meant an earlyish flight.


Flight 1 of 11 for the trip was Brisbane to Sydney. We made it from the plane to our international gate in under 30 mins…what was I worrying about! With the e-Gate there’s no customs people to talk to, just people who can’t work out how to put their passports in the folder, walk through the gate to get your picture taken etc.


I don’t mind the bus between the terminals. You get an idea of just how massive these planes really are.

Flight 2 of 11 -Sydney to Santiago – A long flight across the ocean. As I’d booked my Qantas and Lan tickets separately we had to go through security, get our bags and come back in. This also meant paying our fee of 125 US (ouch). Had a 5 hour gap till the next flight so made use of our Priority Pass and used one of the lounges with more comfy seats and wifi.

Flight 3 of 11 – Santiago to Guayaquil – Another long flight of just over 5 hours. Overheads were overfull with people bringing 3 or more bags onto the flight so ours had to go under our feet. No entertainment on this flight but basically tried to be in the least uncomfortable spot and close my eyes.

Finally in Ecuador and shuttle to the hotel was a bit odd with the guy giving up and just putting us in a cab. So tired now and glad to lay down.

Earlyish fight tomorrow to Galapagos so hopefully get a little sleep.