Monday, April 1, 2019

Turtles, Tortoises and More

I was awake at 5:00am. After all the animals we saw last night, I was wanting an early start. Surprisingly, John was not as interested at getting up so early, so I went down to the lobby and caught some WIFI until 7:00.


By 8:00am we were at the start of the path to Tortuga Bay.


We walked a half hour on a beautiful pathway. Many finches and birds flitted in and out of the trees and cacti. 


There were many little lizards, one which I almost stepped on. John said that if it was stupid enough to just sit there and be stepped on then I would be demonstrating how evolution weeds out the dumb ones of the species.


We arrived at Tortuga Bay and at the main beach, Playa Brava, the water was too rough for swimming with big waves coming in but the beach was one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.


All the sea turtle nests proved that the beach was appropriately named- Tortuga is Spanish for turtle. We could also see many turtle tracks left by the mama turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs and then returning to the sea.


We watched chubby little shore birds running with their match stick legs. For the longest time we watched a longneck bird (heron?) as he hunted for his breakfast.



Marine lizards basked in the sun. These Godzilla Mini me’s were indifferent to us.



After about twenty minutes walking along the Playa Brava we came to a peninsula and on the other side was Playa Amanda beach. This beach was also lovely; no buildings around and lots of shade trees with poles dug into the sand to hang your backpacks. Because it was in a cove, the water here was tranquil and warm. The fine sand although amazing to walk in, made the water murky and hard to see the small white tipped sharks which I was told frequent the cove.


As the water in the cove was warm I didn’t need the wet suit which I had dragged with me in the backpack.


We had a light snack on the beach and suddenly we had much feathered company. 


On the way back the tide had come in as we walked back along Tortuga  Beach.


The thirty minute walk back to the road was a lot more difficult with the sun almost overhead... not a lot of shade.


We were hot and sweaty by the time we made it back to the hotel. After a half hour in our air conditioned room and a quick shower, we were ready to do more sightseeing.


We popped over to the nearby fish market which not only had people and fish but also pelicans, an iguana and numerous sea lions sleeping off their meal.


After a typical Ecuadorian lunch of soup, fried fish and rice (I didn’t eat the salad...although I wanted to), we grabbed a cab which took us to the highlands of Santa Cruz.


It was cooler and slightly overcast in the highlands. Our first stop was the Rancho Primicias Tortoise Reserve where we had meaningful encounters with these huge animals (many of them well over one hundred years old). These gentle beasts can live until two hundred in the wild.



You did have to watch where you stepped...tortoise poop can be really big.



I was really glad that I wore my hiking boots for this visit because the trails at the Reserve were uneven.


Our. Next stop was to a nearby lava tube. We descended stairs as if entering a cave to begin our 500 metre trek through the lava tube. The tubes are formed when the outside of a lava flows cools forming a solid shell while hot lava still flows inside. Once the hot lava stops flowing the tube or tunnel remains. Our tube was huge, like walking through a subway tunnel, except that some areas were much narrower or lower. There was one section where the rock ceiling was so low that we had to drag ourselves through on our stomachs. It was amazing how long it was.


Our final stop was Los Gemelos which are two huge holes in the ground caused by the earth collapsing into areas weakened by volcanic activity. Nature has filled these holes with vegetation creating a beautiful scenic view.


The driver dropped us off at our hotel and we shopped around at a few places for day tours.


Then came my favourite time of the day. The time where we buy drinks, go to the dock and enjoy the sunset and the wonderful show under the water. 


Tonight I had a deep chat with the pelican beside me, then chilled with a sea lion as I drank my beer.



When the lights under the dock came on, John and I were hypnotized by the show put on by the sharks, sea lion, pelicans, rays and sea turtles... yes it’s definitely my favourite time of day. 



After a good hour, we tore ourselves away from the dock and went for supper to Charles Binden Street which is filled with tables at night for outdoor dining at the cheap but tasty Kioskos restaurants that line the streets. Tonight I had grilled garlic octopus with bbq’ed corn and cheese, rice and fries. The corn was the big white corn that I had seen in the market at Otavalo. It is not sweet like the corn we are used to.


Back at the hotel, we paid to extend our room for two more nights. Our exact same room cost $20 less per night when we booked it directly here than booking it online through booking.com. 

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