Women's Adventure Travel
LYN TAYLOR, DIRECTOR
We Departed Lima For Our Flight to Quito, the Capital of Ecuador.
The 3 hour flight was absolutely the most frightening of my life. I have flown many times on small aircraft in the Everest region of Nepal, and experiened unbelievable turbulants and heavy rain. Now, one would think that being on a large aircraft with over 200 passengers comparred to a small 10 seater aircraft you would feel safer and more secure. Not true on our flight from Lima to Quito this was certainly not the case.
We were buffeted about like sardines, at once stage I plucked up the courage to look out the window, all I could see was lightening bouncing off the wing of the aircraft. Any minute I thought our engines would cease amd we would plummet into the ocean. Other passengers were praying and holding their Saint Christopher medal whilst others were holding each other. Finally we touched down at Quito airport. Here at last and still alive to tell the story.
Ecuador is one of the most diverse countries on Earth. Straddling the ecuator, Ecuador offers you tropical beaches, snow-capped volcanoes, the Amazon rainforest, and the incredible Galapagos Islands.
The following morning at 7am we were greeted by our guide and taken to the foothill of the majestic snow-capped active volcano Cotopaxi, situated 130 klm from Quito. The temperature this morning is 0 degrees, but as the sun rises over the mountain our face and fingers begin to thaw. Not for long because we were about to hop on our bicycles to embark on a 5 hour thrilling ride, from the base of the volcano to the outskirts of the city.
Now my bike riding skills are not so good, especially when it comes to cycling over volcanic rock and negotiating hair pin bends, but after about 3 falls with a few gravel rashes I managed to conquer the next 3 hours to our lunch hut. After a hot cup of tea and some tasty local food in our bellies we put on our wet weather gear and went out into the bleak rainy cold weather to finish our cycle to the outskirts of Quito, finally reaching our destination at around 5pm. It was a quick strip off of our wet gear and into our warm vehicle where instantly fell asleep. Despite the weather this would have to rate as one of the most exhilarating days of my life and certainly recommended if you are visiting Quito.
After our shower and massage we hit the city touring Quito by night and exploring the bustling streets and squares of the largest historical centre in the Americas, we visited some very impressive Cathedral’s, majestic Compañía and iconic San Francisco, guardians of a stunning multi-ethnic artistic and cultural heritage. Quito has many wonderful restaurants and the food is delicious. Our day was huge, big certainly worth the effort.
History of Cotopaxi National Park was created in 1979, and it is the second biggest national park in Ecuador and second most visited after the Galapagos National Park. The first documented information about the eruption of the Cotopaxi Volcano is from 1534. From that date there have occurred numerous eruptions that even destroyed 3 times the city of Latacunga until 1877. The last eruption was in 1942 and from then now it is an active volcano becoming the highest active volcano in the world.
The first man ever to climb the Cotopaxi Volcano was a German named Wilhelm Reiss in company of the Colombian Angel M. Escobar. In 1877 a powerful eruption melt the ice of the North Slope, this was used as an easier route to climb up to the top of the Cotopaxi Volcano.
After 2 stunning days in Quito we departed for our flight to Baltra. Baltra airport was originally constructed by the U.S. military during World War II as a base to protect the Panama Canal from enemy attack. During this period most of the indigenous fauna of the island was exterminated. Land iguanas have only recently been successfully re-introduced and can be seen near the Baltra airport. Baltra is currently an Ecuadorian naval base and is not within the boundaries of Galapagos National Park. The San Cristobal airport is just a few minutes outside of the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (the Capital of the Galapagos).
Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent, these 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life – such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch – that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.
We were met at the Galapagos airport by our naturalist guide, it was then a short bus ride from the airport to the dock where our boat and crew await us for our trip of a lifetime...
From the dock we glimpsed a little of what was installed for us. Frigate birds soar high above the azure blue bay while blue-footed boobies dive like shooting arrows from the heights and submerge after fish below.
After arriving aboard our yacht we received a warm welcome from the crew and a brief introduction to etiquette and safety aboard our yacht and whilst we are ashore on the islands. This helps protect these unique islands and their wildlife. On the first day we began to feel and breathe the true essence of nature in the world's most wondrous group of islands, they were ours for unhurried exploration.
Oh! What a unique and peaceful place on earth to be, and I have been fortunate to have had to opportunity to visit Galapagos twice, once in 2005 and again 2007. My next visit will be in June 2010 when I will be organising another wonderful tour. Nothing in the world compares to these enchanted 19 islands and more than 40 islets in South America. The world's most wondrous group of islands is yours for unhurried exploration, why not join me in 2010?
Our First Stop Was at Bartolome Island
A small barren island, located across Sullivan Bay off James Island, Bartholomew has two visitors’ sites. At one of them it is possible to climb to the summit of the island, from where visitors can observe a variety of volcanic formations, spatter and tuff cones, lava flows and lava tubes. The moon like landscape provides the most scenic panorama in the archipelago. At the other site, the visitor may swim and snorkel from a beautiful beach or walk across the isthmus to another beach that faces south, where swimming is prohibited. Multi–coloured fish and occasionally penguins may be seen at the base of the tall pinnacle rock, which dominates Bartholomew’s landscape.
2nd Port of Call Tagus Cove (Isabela)
Named after a British warship which anchored here in 1814, this cove is located to the west of the island and it is usual to take a panga trip below the high cliffs. Here there is an opportunity to see penguins as well as marine iguanas, sea lions and the magnificent looking blue footed boobies which are in abundance. After a dry landing we climbed up the trail to oversee Darwin’s Lake. This is below the slopes of Darwin Volcano and is, surprisingly, a salt water lake above sea level. It is said that the salt water is drawn up from below by adsorption through the porous volcanic rock of which this part of the island is formed. Darwin's salt water lagoon. Penguins, Hawks & frigate birds.
3rd Port of Call Floreana Island – Devil's Crown
One must be a good swimmer as currents can be very strong, so be careful.
It is a marine site located a short distance from the island. It is an old eroded volcanic cone and a popular roosting site for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans, and frigates. Red-billed tropic birds nest in rocky crevices. The centre of the cone is an outstanding snorkelling spot full of sea lions and colourful fish. Today was the most special day as we snorkelled with turtles and sea lions. We also visited Urbina Bay (Isabela) which is south from Tagus Cove and still on the West coast is Urbina Bay. It was an easy wet landing on a gentle sloping beach. This area is very interesting in that it is a perfect example of the geological activity of the islands. The waters of the bay are a good place to see turtles and rays and ashore is a short trail leading to a coral reef, which is evidence of uplift from the sea which occurred in 1954.
From here it was an easy walk to reach the Alcedo and Darwin volcanoes. We were blessed to see large coloured land iguanas and the giant Galapagos turtle, flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, pelicans and marine iguanas an absolute smorgasbord of marine life.
This Afternoon We Visited Floreana Island - Post Office Bay
Historically, this site is the location of a wooden barrel that was placed in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. It has been used since this time by mariners and tourists as a post office. The idea is to carry letters or postcards to their destination by hand. Between us I think we collected about 20 letters to take home to Australia and of course we all left our own postcards hopeing that they too will be collected by future tourist to Post Office Bay and delivered to our loved ones back home.
Apart from being the Post Office Barrel, this site was the landing area for some of the first colonists. The trail to the highlands leaves from Bellavista and passes through the agricultural zone, near the National Park boundary, the Miconia Zone and then goes to the Fern and Sedge zone. With clear weather (unpredictable) this area affords beautiful scenes of rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones covered with grass and lush greenery all year round.
History of Galapagos Islands
Due to their inhospitable nature and lack of water, the Spanish paid the islands little attention, giving them the name 'Las Encantadas' or bewitched islands. This was due apparently to the strong currents and light winds which made them hard to find, appearing as though it was the islands, rather than the ships, that were moving. On the other hand the European sailors, pirates and buccaneers found them to be a useful hideaway, especially as they had by this time located watering places on Santiago, Floreana and San Cristobal.
The first intentional and extended visit to the islands was made in 1683 by an English buccaneer vessel, the Batchelor's Delight, under Captain John Cook; she numbered amongst her crew William Dampier, Lionel Wafer, Ambrose Cowley and Edward Davis, all of whom would leave us with literary records of their visit. Dampier was the first to provide us with an accurate description of the islands and their fauna and flora. In 1687, William Hacke published a Galapagos map based on Cowley's visit there in 1684. Although not very accurate, it took more than 100 years until a better version was prepared by Aaron Arrowsmith for James Colnett's book published in 1798. After the voyage of HMS Beagle the first truly accurate map was published by the British Admiralty based on Captain Robert FitzRoy's detailed survey of the islands. (Map to the right reproduced with permission from John Woram).
Visits to the islands were much more frequent by now and increasingly their purpose was scientific and strategic as well as commercial. A new period began in 1832 when Ecuador proclaimed its sovereignty over the islands. There were only a handful of permanent settlers at that time but their number had increased to around 300 by 1835 when the HMS Beagle arrived with Charles Darwin on board.
Darwin spent five weeks in the Galapagos collecting and preserving specimens from four separate islands. This started the process of enquiry which led him finally to conclusions published in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859. Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian colonists had grown in numbers. A series of attempts were made to exploit such crops as orchilla (dyers' moss) and sugar, but none lasted long and several ended violently. Only fishing and subsistence farming on four of the larger islands; Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana was able to sustain people for long. This resulted in the population growing very slowly so that by 1955 it was only some 1500. In 2006 there were 19184 permanent residents in the populated areas of the archipelago.
While some scientific work, mainly the collection of specimens, had been going on since Darwin's visit, the first expedition that made a serious attempt to catalogue the flora and fauna of the islands was the expedition of the Californian Academy of Science in 1905/06 under the leadership of Rollo Beck, aboard the schooner Academy. It is from this expedition that we first learnt of the truly remarkable nature of the islands. In 1923 and 1925, William Beebe led two expeditions for the New York Zoological Society and wrote two books on the islands, 'Galapagos, Worlds End' (1924) and 'The Arcturus Adventure' (1926) which provide us with fascinating and eminently readable accounts of the islands by a trained observer.
The Future of Galapagos
Today the islands boast the highest standard of living of any province in Ecuador but, with a rapidly growing population, conflicts have inevitably arisen between the population needs and the fragile Galapagos ecosystem. The pressures on the archipelago's natural resources threaten their biodiversity and ecological integrity, as well as the sustainability of the natural resources upon which the livelihoods of the islanders depend. As the population grows, these pressures are likely to increase rather than decrease. More than ever there is a need for all involved to work together to influence decision makers, in order to preserve these unique and beautiful islands for all their inhabitants and for the world.
If Galapagos is on your Bucket List make sure it is at the beginning of the list and not at the end.
Ecuador and Galapagos Islands are only a small part of this fabulous 2012 South America tour organized by Lyn Taylor Director of Lyn Taylor’s Adventure Travel. You will have the chance to visit Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon and Cusco where you will witness the most spectacular festival in Peru the Intra Rami. The tour will also take in the Amazon Jungle, Buones Aires and the amazing Iguazza Falls.
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