In nur einer Stunde hat die Fähre von Buenos Aires aus den Río de la Plata – den Silberfluss (in Wirklichkeit ist er braun und eine Mischung aus Süß- und Salzwasser) – überquert und im Hafen von Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay angelegt. Leider gab’s auf der Fähre keine Möglichkeit, während der Überfahrt an Deck zu bleiben und das schöne Wetter zu genießen: alles zu! Die Grenzkontrolle war kein Problem und ruck zuck erledigt, wie an den meisten südamerikanischen Grenzübergängen bisher (mit Betonung auf SÜD!!).
Colonia ist eine verschlafene, sehr saubere Kleinstadt mit engen Kopfsteinpflaster-Gassen, alten Gebäuden und einem Leuchtturm und hat insgesamt einen leicht morbiden Charme. Auf den Straßen waren erstaunlich viele Oldtimer unterwegs. Viel gab’s nicht zu tun in Colonia: nach einem späten Mittagessen und einem entspannten Spaziergang in der Altstadt verkrochen wir uns in unserem Quartier.
Aber ganz ohne Ärger geht’s halt doch nicht: erst der vierte Bankomat – nach einer langen Wartezeit in einer Schlange – hat mit unserer Kreditkarte Geld ausgespuckt. Wir waren schon leicht nervös, so ganz ohne Geld…
After being back in Puerto Ayora we tried to figure out what to do with our last full day on Galapagos. Originally we planned to do a day trip to Isla Isabella, but we weren’t keen on spending at least 6h on another nutshell. Finally we decided to to a snorkling trip to Isla Santa Fé, with a visit of a nice beach on Santa Cruz on the way back.
The boat we had for this trip was again the “nutshell”-type, but only with half the amount of people. Weather was very good.
On the way to Isla Santa Fé we were able to do some whalewatching, which was unplanned and therefore a really good surprise. We saw a humpback-whale in full action and close-up. The view was better than on any other whalewatching tour before! I was lucky to get at least some good pictures – not so easy since the whale was fast.
With this amazing start of the trip we were looking forward to the first snorkeling spot. We saw a lot of fish, but only one sealion showed up for a short time.
Next spot – more luck with sealions. There were a lot of them – also some really big ones. The big ones are a bit scary when they dive towards you with high speed. I made a lot of pictures, but then I decided to record more videos. I filled up the SD Card of my waterthight camera quite well.
Last stop on the way back was a very nice sandy beach which was only accessible by boat.
This day was one of the best on Galapagos – even with the bad end: Eva and I both got a horrible sunburn on our back. First time on out trip that our Australian suncream factor 30 wasn’t enough. At that point we understood why they sell suncream factor 100 in some shops on Puerto Ayora…
After we settled in in our accomodation and after a “virtual tour” through town by the owner of this place (a guy from Seattle) we had a walk to see what’s going on in this village. The road along the coast was very nice and there were a lot of nice restaurants and shops. The farther you walked away from the coast the shabbier the buildings got. Nevertheless, our host ensured us that we are absolutely safe here on Galapagos – the people here figured out that it is bad for business if there is crime. And there are enough legal ways to get to the money of the tourists…
After our excursion though Puerto Ayora and enjoying dinner we took a taxi home. No matter what our host said, we were not keen to walk the 15 min at night to one of the roads farther away from the coast where our Hostal was located. And since the taxi rides in town always only cost one Dollar, it isn’t worth thinking long if you should save the money or not.
First thing to see next day was the Charles Darwin Research Station. If you go there in the morning the chances are higher to see a lot of the huge tortoises because they are fed. It is really amazing how big they are and how they move their bodies over the bumpy and rough surface. Especially when you take into account that all the rocks are from volcanic origin and so the edges are quite sharp. Also some land iguanas can be seen at the research station. They are rarer and larger than the water iguanas.
After this pleasant start into the day we passed the so called fisherman’s harbour. Was quite interesting to see how they prepare the fresh fish and how eager the Pelicans and Sea Lions were to get a piece. After I saw this I decided that I’ll skip eating fish for a while – just as a precaution…
Next thing on our bucket list was a short hike to a gorge. The place there is one of the rare spots that you can explore on your own without a long taxi ride or a booked trip. I did a short snorkelling session there, but after we arrived it got crowded there pretty fast. The gorge reminded me a bit of the gorges in the Karijini National Park in Western Australia – but only a bit. Karijini was much more spectacular and nicer.
One way to get to the tourist’s money is to offer tours. Often it is hard to say upfront if the tour is worth the money. Like the half day trip that we booked for the following day with snorkeling next to an island for 30 US$. The price would have been ok, if we had been able to do some snorkeling – but the waves were very high and the currents strong. Nevertheless the tour was held for the full price even when it was clear to the locals that there will be no snorkeling where it was supposed to be. At least we could see some blue footed boobies (yeah, that’s their name) and some sea-iguanas. The black iguanas have algae and sea grass as a food source, so they are swimming and diving. The rest of the time they are lying around on the rocky beach and heat their bodies up again. And they are not scared of the tourists at all, actually they’re pretty stoic…
Before we took the “ferry” to the island San Cristobal we made a hike to the Tortoise Bay. Instead of Tortoises we saw some iguanas again lying on a nice beach with very fine sand. That’s at least something. We weren’t looking forward to our boat ride since the weather wasn’t very pleasing. It is possible to visit three islands with public transportation. The hub for that is Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. The other two islands are San Cristobal and Isabella. To both islands it is an approx. 3h ride with a speed-boat that I wouldn’t call a “ferry”. Funny thing is that there usually are 2 or 3 ships operating at the same time to the same island. So I really wonder why they use these nutshells for 26 peoples or less, instead of having one proper ferry with less environmental impact and a higher level of safety. After the ride to San Cristobal we were absolutely sure that we are not going to visit Isabella on a day trip – 5 to 6 hours on a boat on one day, especially on such a small one and in rough conditions are simply too much.
Afer approx. 3 weeks on the South Island of New Zealand it was time to have a look at the other Island. Between the 2 Islands is a regular ferry service by several companies provided. The ships need three and a half hours to travel from Picton to Wellington – when good weather conditions are given. We had very good weather conditions, and thats not so normal for this passage. As soon as we arrived in the Wellington Bay the wind strenghten up and it became more and more cloudy.
After Steward Island we had of course to go north again. We planned a one night stay in a hut a bit outside of Manapouri, but Eva caught a bit of a cold and finally we stayed 3 days in this hut. The hut was one of several huts that shared the toilet and shower facilities located in one center building. Every hut had a double bed, a couch, a table with chairs, a cold water supply, a stove to heat with wood and a gas stove with two spots to cook. And, besides that all there is a nice veranda with a coach that granted a nice view down to the valley and the opposite mountains. So, overall a perfect place to cure a cold – either lying in bed or sitting in the sun on the veranda. Even without the cold to cure it was already time to have a short rest from sleeping somewhere else every night for the last weeks. I enjoyed it a lot to sit on the veranda in the sun, drinking a cold beer or a cider and just watching the landscape and appreciate the silence.
After this break we had quite a long drive up to the Milford Sound. We left early in the morning to catch one of the early cruises in the sound (=fjord) and it was a bit more than a 2 hour drive. Weather conditions weren´t good from the start, but the sounds have quite special weather conditions so we hoped to be lucky. When we arrived we faced low hanging clouds that made a cruise in the sound worthless. We decided to wait until it is clearing up – until we decided to go for a cruise we waited 5h, but it was worth it.
Since it was the last cruise of the day we weren´t eager to drive all the way back on the same day. We just drove about 45 min back and found a nice, but very simple accommodation at Gunn´s Camp. Our hut was just big enough to have enough space for the bed. The public facilities served its purpose – but what can be expected in the middle of nowhere. After dusk we did a short hike to a nearby spot with glowworms.
Next day was cloudy again, but again we hoped to be lucky. We drove a bit into the direction of the Milford sound to do a hike we got suggested. And we were lucky – at the starting point of the hike it was sunny. The hike to the Gertrude saddle was quite exhausting but very nice, but the saddle was in the clouds and so we missed a good view down to the sound. Nevertheless it was a great and more sophisticated track (many of the tracks here in NZ can be labelled as nearly wheelchair-accessible, and that’s boring)