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  • AutorenbildSanni & Gerri@

Galapagos: Isla Isabela

After another stopover on Santa Cruz, the first ferry in the morning will take us to Isla Isabela; actually there is only one ferry. Although the island with a size of 4,588 km2 and a length of 120 kilometers is by far the largest of the Galapagos Islands and thus occupies more than half of the land area of the entire archipelago, it is also the most tranquil. A one kilometre long white sandy beach, a few sandy streets around the central park and a small Mercado in the center of Puerto Vilamil. That's it.

On Isabela we also find a variety of animals again. In addition to our favourites, the sea lions, we can observe particularly many and impressively large specimens of the sea Igaunas here. They cross our paths at the beach and during our hikes.

We have 6 days to explore this sleepy and relaxed island paradise. Our hostel is hidden in the middle of the village next to a small farm where we are woken up in the morning by the grunting of a mini pig. Of course, the obligatory rooster is not missing either. This time we cook for ourselves, which on the one hand saves the budget and on the other hand we also like a lot because we have not yet had a real opportunity to cook in our accommodations. Since we are here at the source, there is of course fish and sea food on the menue. It looks like Sanni has liked it a lot…


Wall of tears

In the morning we spontaneously decide to take a mountain bike tour to the Wall of Tears. Bicycles can be rented on Isabela at any corner and the distance of approx. 15 kilometres should be doable, even for non-cyclists as we are. However, the two facts "driving in the sand" and the incredible power of the sun made us sweat quite a bit. The path is beautiful. It leads us to dreamlike small bays and separate little hiking trails. We meet wild turtles and stately Iguanas along the way. Arriving at our destination, we climb the Mirador Cerro Orchilla. From there we have a great panorama view. The "Wall of Tears", in Spanish "El Muro de las Lágrimas" is a testimony to the cruel past of the island. It stands near a former penal colony, which was operated on Isabela from 1944 to 1959. The prison director forced the inmates to build a huge wall that would surround the whole facility. The wall did not have a practical reason other than occupying and punishing the prisoners; letting them suffer. They had to first get the heavy and often sharp-edged lava stones from a distant crater and then stack them up to a wall, without mortar and without technical support. It happened that stones slipped and parts of the wall collapsed. In 1959, there was an rebellion which lead to a mass escape of the prisoners. In the same year, the prison was closed and Galápagos National Park was founded. The part of the wall still preserved today is approx. 100 metres long, 3 metres wide and up to 6 metres high. The name stands for the torture and sacrifices of the people who had to build this wall, which cost thousands of prisoners their lives. Locals say that if you listen carefully to the wall, you can hear the ghosts of the long-deceived prisoners scream.

On the way back, we stop at some bays to enjoy the view and come across a lava tunnel. A beautiful and at the same time scary place. Sanni offers Gerriet 10 EUR if he swims through the tunnel to the sea. Fortunately, Gerriet's travel budget has not yet been used up in the first month, so he gratefully refuses.


Los Tuneles

Today, we are going to see one of Isabela's highlights - the lava tunnels Los Tuneles. With the speedboat and a decent swell, it goes approx. 30 minutes to our snorkelling spot. In the water we swim through a labyrinth of solidified lava stones and corals. At first we are a little annoyed because our 8 snorkelers frantically paddle towards each creature. We ignore the excited calls of the guides and just let ourselves fall a little behind. So we enjoy the underwater world fin-free. We see reef sharks, turtles, eagle rays and even a lonely seahorse.

After snorkelling, we glide slowly by boat through the extraordinary crater channels created by collapsed lava tunnels. These are protected in a kind of reef, surrounded by the roaring surf. Here the name "Los Tuneles" opens up to us. We go ashore for a little walk and look at these special formations and lagoons from above. We are particularly lucky - the breeding season has just passed and we can observe the cute fluffy chicks of the blue-footed boobies. By the way, they don’t get the blue feet by birth but by eating fish. Certain pigments are absorbed that colour the feet of the boobies blue. On the way back, we even see a penguin. While other penguin species live in Antarctica, the penguins in the Galapagos Islands are the only ones living north of the equator and in tropical climate. We smile at the somewhat grim facial expression and baptise it with the name Kowalski. Anyone who has seen the movie Madagascar knows why.


Hike to the Volcán Sierra Negra

The Sierra Negra volcano is located at the southeastern end of Isabela and has an altitude of 1,124 m. It is one of the most active volcanos in the Galapagos Islands. The recent outbreak was on 26th June 2018.

We hike a total of 16 kilometres through the volcanic landscape and directly over the huge lava fields. During the sweaty hike, we enjoy insanely beautiful views, both over the Kaldera, as well as over Isla Isabela and the seemingly endless and bizarre volcanic landscape. In some places you almost think you can feel the heat of the active volcano.

We will remember this hike not only because of the spectacular landscape.

In the morning, early at half past eight, a group of five adults and two teenage girls board the tour bus. Unlike all other people who we picked up so far, they have no bags or backpacks with them. They are dressed in T-shirt/top and shorts. Everyone is consistently travelling in white sneakers. A head or any other form of shade? No way. Mmh... maybe they're going on a different tour than the 16-kilometre sunny volcanic hike! Arriving at the entrance to the Sierra Nevada, dense fog with low-hanging clouds and a constant spray rain welcomes us. So Sanni and Gerriet get the good old functional rain jacket and the cap out of the backpack - ready for the adventure. Short briefing from the guide about the plan of the tour... During the sentence "It's about a 10 miles walk", the group of seven who, as it now turns out, travellers from America, become visibly nervous. When the guide answers the question of whether it is a joke, the adults look a little perplexed and wonder at what point they missed this information when booking the tour. Obviously, they only understood the part where the bus took us to the entrance of the park. Nobody can know that the volcano is not just around the corner. Well, we start walking and within a short period of time the weather is getting better. The first stage takes about half an hour because the climb is not particularly steep but consistently goes uphill.

Urgent drinking break! Drink? Oh, water... good idea. Unfortunately, the group of seven don't have any! Nothing at all? No. Sanni sees the red and suffering faces of the two girls. The heads of the fathers, obviously sunburned even before the start of the hike, now seem to glow. That's not possible to do this hike without any water! So we hand in one of our water bottles, the guide hands also his only one. At the second stop after about another 20 minutes, their water supply was almost exhausted. Of course, with seven people. We stop at the crater, get interesting information about the formation of the caldera, the last eruption of the volcano etc. Selfie time. The sun is now really burning mercilessly. Meanwhile, the other family members of the group are slowly but incessantly turning red. Sanni can't help it. She helps out with sunscreen. (editors note: Sunscreen is incredibly expensive in Ecuador. On Galapagos, of course, even more. Nevertheless, we bought a 150 ml pack of Eucerin Sun 50 + for 29 dollars in SantaCruz.) Anyway, everything comes to the karma account and we actually feel with the group, which is already really ashamed. Although, we can't avoid to wonder about the, let's call it kindly "naivety". Fortunately, after approx. 2 hours we have a snack break with a sandwich, fruits and a juice pack. One of the teen girls doesn't want to drink this because she doesn't like peach. But her brother urges her to do so, embarrassingly touched. The killer argument: sugar is also good and helps. Afterwards, we hike, and hike, and hike... "The Seven" do well and now fortunately, despite their misery, seem to enjoy the tour and the wonderful landscape. After the very sweaty last ascent on the way back, we distribute a water refill to everyone again. In addition to our 650 ml drinking bottles, we are armed with two additional 1.6 litres bottles of water in the backpack. When we get these out, everything really falls out of their faces. Well, Germans planning and prepping is everything! We hike the rest of the path together and get into a nice conversation. As it turns out, the two families had a long night before with a lot of red wine. A hangover on top of all this. We show respect that they didn‘t collapse on the way. However, they did not receive the details of the tour when booking, but also did not ask. In addition, we think that the guide should definitely have given a hint, when he saw those guys stepping into the bus without any equipment. Fortunately, everything went well in the end. The two girls in particular have fought really bravely for their parents dragging them on such a trip so unprepared. The mood only got really bad when the guide said at some point that it is not far anymore. We understood fourteen minutes. But in fact it was forty. To make it even worse, another bus is already waiting for the seven in the parking lot. They have booked a snorkelling tour directly afterwards and they are already late for that. The next evening, we take walk at the beach. Suddenly, we hear cheerful calls from the balcony of a very stylish house, directly at the beach. We see waving red arms. Our seven! We are cordially invited to enjoy the sunset together with a glass of wine. We learn that the snorkelling trip has been cancelled. In addition, the families will also leave the island in two days to Quito. „Great, then we take the same ferry at 5:00 in the morning?!“ No, they are travelling with the private airplane and if we would have met two days before, they could have set us passenger list. Well, we need to stick to your travel route: 2 hours boat, 1.5 hours bus, 3 hours stay at the airport, 2 hours flight to Guayaquil, 1 hour stop-over and then another 50 minutes flight to Quito. But such a glass of (really good) wine is something special for us backpackers. Because we rarely afford that. So one can say that we have turned water into wine.


*The English version of this blog is supported by automated translation*

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