I ended my time in Panama with a 2.30am pick up and very little sleep as the neighbouring clubs were pumping out the music all night!
The first of three flights for the day was Panama City to Bogota and Bogota was freezing! Thankfully I only had a short time here. Next up was Bogota to Quito where I had to do a separate registration and bag check for the Galapagos islands. As is typical, I allowed plenty of time for this transfer and extra requirements and there was no queue so I was through quickly and then had to wait for the bag check in to open so I could drop my bag again! I guess it beats not having enough time and there being a long queue!
It was a great feeling being back in the islands and of course the first smile always comes when the airport staff have to chase the iguanas of the road so the bus can get out!
I arrived in Puerto Ayora and was met by the Spanish teacher, Carol before being taken to my host family. They live just a few minutes’ walk from the main part of the town and the water front and 5-7 minutes’ walk from the language school so is perfectly placed.
The family are lovely, Patricia and her two daughters Camila and Maria Gracia – Camila learns English as the same place I will learn Spanish so it is great that some one in the house speaks English when I get stuck with Spanish!
I have a massive room and with my own bathroom with an interesting island quirk – the electricity in the bathroom apparently only works when the neighbour is home and turns their lights on 😬 so lots of cold showers in the dark are in my future!), there is no Wi-Fi but they are getting it … I am not holding my breath as things like that happen slowly here. One thing I am certain of, it will be great to be able to unpack for a month 👍🏻
I will definitely need to learn real patience for the internet here – as it is so slow! So so, so much patience is needed (can you tell I am writing this while I wait for one page to load!). This is not a personal challenge I had planned for myself, but will be one nevertheless 😬👍🏻
After an early night and a very long day of travel, I started my Spanish lessons and my first day was just tests etc. to assess my level – the week started with lots of Spanish and lots homework! It’s going to be full on 4 weeks I am sure.
By the end of week one I had a massive headache, it may be that I wasn’t drinking enough water or, it maybe my head was about to explode with so much info! 3 hours lessons then 1-2 hours homework each day and my family are only supposed to speak Spanish to me 😬 I know it is good for my learning but the struggle is real! It has been a long time since I have had to learn so much – definitely a good work out for the brain after many years of stagnation and a mental challenge for myself.
To balance out that mental workout, managed to get out for a run Thursday morning – it was good to get out and the mornings are just the perfect temperature for running. I look forward to exploring the town a little more on these morning ambles.
Finally, it was Friday and as I did not have to rush and do my homework for the next day, I went for a walk to a local mangrove area and lagoon. There was not a huge amount of wildlife around at the time (they were probably all having their siesta) but I did manage to spot a night heron and a turtle.
Down by the main wharf in town, there are lots of little iguanas around (when I was here in October there were no little ones so I guess just that time of year). You really have to watch where you are walking so you don’t step on them.
My afternoon walk also took me past the small fish market where they were unloading some fish. A very cheeky sea lion was getting in amongst all the fish as they unloaded it but was very well behaved and not eating the fish but waiting for scraps the gave it every now and then. Obviously, this is an everyday but he was definitely getting in the way! Of course, there were also other beggars in the form of pelicans, herons and frigate birds all waiting for their chance to grab some scraps.
For my first weekend, I headed off on my first dives – to the islands of Seymour North and Mosquera. I was told they were fairly easy dives, not too deep and not too much current. I had read a lot of info online while trying to pick which dive company to go with but ended up being more like pot luck as I booked through a friend of my host. Fortunately, it turned out to be a great company. They have a sail boat rather than the regular small dive boats and although this means it takes a bit longer to get to the dive sites, there is far more room to relax (and nap) between and after dives.
The only challenge was that although we got in to our wetsuits on the yacht, we had to get the rest of our gear on in the panga (tender) which was somewhat of a challenge in the swells! Still we managed it and I was always grateful to get out of the boat bouncing around and under the water!
The first dive for the day was pretty quite, nothing majorly exciting, though plenty of fish, turtles and reef sharks.
On the second dive we saw around 30 hammerhead sharks swimming by above us, as well as eagle rays, turtles, Galapagos sharks and loads of fish – my ‘buddy’ was and Israeli guy, nice enough but as with the ones in Colombia I played paint ball with, he was not one to comply with instructions – we were given clear instructions to stay together if we saw Galapagos sharks as they can be dangerous – of course he went of chasing it to get the perfect photo, I stuck with the guide. Quite prepared to sacrifice my buddy for the sake of the group 😬🤪
The other issue we had was one of the group of 4 we were diving with used his air very quickly and he was almost finished his tank when the rest of us were half way through, thankfully the guide did not use much so on both dives he ended up sharing his air so we did not need to cut short our under water time.
To round of my first week, I went out dancing with my host ‘Mum’ (who is pretty much my age) and a couple of her friends. Thankfully one of whom spoke English! Had fun dancing to the Reggaetón and salsa music with a mojito in hand 😘 A perfect ending to my first week back in the Galapagos Islands.