A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Hawkson

Scenes from South Pacific - The Movie

semi-overcast 28 °C

For the past 9 days we have been adrift in the South Pacific on specks of land that erupted from the seabed just last week - in geological terms. The first hominids were already on the march from the Serengeti 4 million years ago when most of the Galapagos Islands broke the ocean's surface in a fiery blast that would have echoed around the globe. Our journey began on San Cristobal island – the oldest of the group. Here, on San Cristobal, we were not watching the movie South Pacific – we were bit part extras with walk - on parts as we joined the main cast that has been with this production since its cataclysmic beginnings. Our 'South Pacific' movie had many supporting characters like the flaming red crabs...
large_2-P1160038.jpg
...along with the multitudinous sea-lions who pushed there way into the crowd scenes at every opportunity. They were particularly good at getting in the beach scenes when other actors wanted to swim...
large_1-P1160004.jpg
However, most of our movie is staged underwater where the true stars of the Galapagos were waiting in the wings. We donned wetsuits, masks and flippers and dove into the aqueous set to play our parts. The set was cold and dark and then, on cue, the stars slowly made their entrances into the limelight...

A multitude of sharks, rays, turtles and multi-hued fish performed an underwater show for us as we repeatedly dove to swim alongside them. We can swim well, but this was not our world and, with just a flick of a flipper or a fin, the main characters zoomed off into the indigo depths. Our movie lasted a couple of hours underwater and then we returned to our boat with tales of wonder and a South Pacific movie that will be in our memories forever.

San Cristobal is an island of pristine beaches. sparklingly clear turquoise waters and a core of high mountains that catch the warm moisture laden Pacific air and turns it to rain. However, much of the island is just barren volcanic rock where only cacti thrive...
5-P1160055.jpg
We mountain biked to the highest point – the caldera of the extinct volcano that had made this island – and as we laboriously climbed for two hours we went from the scorching sun-filled beaches to the cloudy, cool, highlands to view the caldera's lake...
4-P1160057.jpg
From the highlands we went on to the spectacular beach at Puerto Chino and swam in the surf alongside the only other beachgoers – the sea - lions...
large_3-P1160052.jpg
The ride back down the steep mountainside was exhilarating and we rewarded ourselves with beer at one of the many dockside restaurants in the main town, Puerta Baquerizo Moreno. Next stop – our movie continued on the island of Santa Cruz where we visited some of the oldest living creatures in the world and continued our underwater adventure with the incredible animals of the Galapagos Islands. Creatures like the fierce-some looking marine iguanas,
large_6-GOPR0299.jpg

Hasta Luego for now from the beautiful Mindo valley high in the Andes on the mainland of Ecuador. More of our Galapagos movie coming soon to a screen near you.

Posted by Hawkson 19:01 Archived in Ecuador Comments (5)

Out of Touch

storm 6 °C

Dear Regular Blog Readers,
James wants to let you know that he and his son have NOT been eaten by sharks or giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands. They are having a great time diving and sunning themselves. However, the Galapagos is more than 1000 kilometers from Ecuador and getting on the internet has proven difficult for James. Rest assured that as soon as the internet becomes available, James will be back with blogs and photos. Meanwhile don’t feel sorry for them!
From the Wife who is suffering in the gales off the West Coast of Canada!!

Posted by Hawkson 15:27 Archived in Canada Comments (3)

Walking in the Clouds in Quito

semi-overcast 17 °C

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, sits atop the Andes mountains in a bowl formed by a ring of volcanoes. At nearly 9,000 feet above sea level it is one of the highest capitals in the world and not a good place for anyone worried about altitude sickness. If the city isn't high enough, you can always climb to the top of the bell tower of the Basilica Voto Nacional...
large_1-P1150918.jpg
The climb up the outside of the tower on rickety steel ladders is not for the faint-hearted, but is well rewarded with great views of the surrounding old colonial city as well as the Basilica's two clock towers (both showing the wrong time)...
large_2-P1150928.jpg
For a wider vista of this grand city at the top of the world you need to take the cable car - the teleferico - up into the surrounding mountains...
large_4-P1150944.jpg
The ride up the cable car takes your breath away in more ways than one. The views of the city far below are spectacular, but the lack of oxygen above 12,000 feet is initially quite dizzying. We soon caught our breath and took in the panorama of volcanoes including the still active snow-capped peak of Cotopaxi. Thanks to technology you can join us as we take the 18 minute ride back down to earth...

Quito is a bustling city where the traffic has been pushed out by pedestrian friendly cobblestone streets and where families can enjoy the many plazas and parks in the warm sunshine. This is the main plaza in front of the palace...
large_5-P1150969.jpg
Quito's lofty perch ensures that it frequently has its head in the clouds but we have been lucky for the past couple of days. We, for the Ecuador leg of of this trip to the end of the world in Patagonia, means James and his son. Here is Ian tucking into a hearty lunch of fish, chips, salad and beer - total cost four dollars in Quito city centre...
3-P1150931.jpg
Tomorrow we leave for the Galapagos Islands to swim with the sharks and re-visit the giant tortoises - Hasta la vista from Quito, Ecuador.

Posted by Hawkson 15:46 Archived in Ecuador Comments (5)

Las Palmas - Christopher Columbus wuz 'ere (Probably).

sunny 32 °C

We spent our final few days on Lanzarote driving around its volcanic landscape. The roads on the island are incredibly well built, signposted and maintained – and there is very little traffic. The views of neighbouring arid islands from various veiwpoints were spectacular. This is La Graciosa...
large_La_Graciosa.jpg
Perhaps the most striking feature of Lanzarote is that all the buildings are white...
EC134132D9F2B530505BCA6718F2A5CD.jpg
The island's government strictly controls building based on the ideas of famed Canarian artist Cesar Manrique – no building can exceed 4 floors; all must be white with woodwork either natural or, near the coast, blue, or inland, green.

You've probably heard that a dance floor collapsed in Tenerife in the early hours of Sunday morning and many were injured. After our recent quad biking escapade in Zanzibar you might worry that we've now taken up night-clubbing in the Canaries – not so. In fact we've hopped islands to Gran Canaria where we are soaking up the sun on the prom in Las Palmas...
large_Playa_de_la_Carteras.jpgToday_s_temperature.jpg
Many people are in the ocean but after getting accustomed to sea temperatures in excess of 40 Celsius in Zanzibar we decided to skip a dip and have fresh sardines on the prom for lunch...
Fresh_sardines.jpg
Las Palmas is something of a enigma. It is a grand port city that lacks the chic of Cannes, the splendour of Hong Kong or the history of Venice, although there are some interesting Spanish colonial buildings...
large_EC1797B9C1B9355141E32364642BC594.jpg
And, being a Spanish colony, you can be certain that there is a grand cathedral fronted by an enormous plaza...
large_1-P1150847.jpg
While it may not quite be Sevilla or Granada, the Island does have one thing in its favour - Las Palmas has been declared scientifically to have the best climate in the world for humans. There is absolutely no chance of a white Christmas here but we thought we might see Santa when the streets filled with hundreds of parade goers on Saturday...
Demonstration.jpg
We were still waiting for Rudolph and sleigh when we realised that we were watching a protest against sexual violence toward women by men. However, the many pedestrianised streets are all decked out ready for the jolly old chaps appearance.

America looms large in Las Palmas because it is claimed that Christopher Columbus stopped here in 1492 on his way to prove that the world was round and the east coast of India was just across the Atlantic. But whether or not he actually stayed in this house is widely disputed...
large_Columbus_museum.jpg
However, Columbus House is an excellent museum in the heart of the old city. The navigator may have even waved to the crowds from this balcony before setting off for India...
Columbus_museum_balacony.jpg
Columbus, (actually named Christophe Colon), 'discovered' America about 500 years after Norsemen first settled there, and when he returned to Spain he confidently announced that he had found the westerly passage to the Levant. Modern America was thus accidentally founded by a latecomer and total failure who is still venerated to this day in the U.S.A.

Gran Canaria is a lot greener than its volcanic neighbour Lanzarote and now we are heading into the central mountains to find some shade under the palms before we return to London. See you soon.

Posted by Hawkson 07:17 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

Life on the Moon in Lanzarote

sunny 25 °C

We chose an eco-farmhouse for our stay on the island of Lanzarote and envisaged ourselves surrounded by grazing animals while basking in the warm ocean breezes off the southwest coast of Morocco, We arrived at night and our host cautioned us not to step off the dimly lit path onto the 'flowers' as we approached the villa. We couldn't see the plants in the darkness, but with memories of Zanzibar still fresh in our minds we anticipated being surrounded by a lush tropical landscape. Then we awoke to this view of our garden!...
large_Lava_Rock.jpg
Where are the flowers? What happened to the tropical plants: the coconut and banana palms; the frangipane and bougainvillea? We had gone from an equatorial paradise in Zanzibar to a sterile moonscape dotted with bare mountains and vast fields of volcanic ash...
large_F0EA8E0B011FBF11950CCDEB77E99FE3.jpg
We soon realised that when our Spanish host had said, “Mind the flowers,” he was actually saying, “Mind the flows, - the lava flows...
More_lava.jpg
The Canary Islands rose out of the Atlantic Ocean 15 million years ago when the earth's tectonic plates shifted and volcanoes sprouted from the sea bed to rise high into the air. The new land cooled and eventually became forested tropical islands inhabited by settlers of various ethnicities. The Spanish came in search of slaves in the 15th century and the islands were often a battleground. Then, from 1730 to 1736, the volcanoes of Lanzarote erupted repeatedly and completely blanketed the island in molten lava.
But if life throws you rocks – make a rock garden. And that's what the local grape producers have done. These are their 'fields'...
Lava_Flow.jpg
In addition to being hundreds of feet deep in volcanic ash, Lanzarote is also extremely dry. It only rains a couple of times a month and never from April to October. It might rain 3 times in November, (thankfully not this week), when daytime temperatures rarely drop below 25c. But, ingenious wine makers have found that by planting just one vine at the bottom of a wide deep hole it can get just enough moisture to survive. Judging by the number of barrels in the Bodega de Rubicon they are very successful...
1-P1150710.jpg
The hot, dry conditions are also great for sea salt production at the salinas...
large_Salinas_de_Janubio.jpg
In truth, Lanzarote is just one big pumice stone. But one other asset of an island made entirely of rock is that it is surrounded by miles of fabulous sandy beaches – and that is where we are headed now. Hasta la vista...
large_Famara_Beach.jpg

Posted by Hawkson 10:41 Archived in Spain Comments (4)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 562) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 10 .. »