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Coral Beach, Isabella Island, Galapagos Islands

Due to the Colombian Coffee Farmer’s strike we arrive to Ecuador through the back door.  The lonely planet doesn’t even have a border crossing here, so we are proud to have found it, and to have finally made it out of Colombia literally on our own two feet…  Our happiness is overwhelming. With our defenses down, we get scammed and pay $2 each for a motorcycle ride less than a km long.  I put my leg on the escape and end up hobbling around for a couple of days. I am happy no more, welcome to Ecuador, sucker.

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Our first stop, Lago Agrio ( = Sour Lake) is an ugly oil mining town on the border of the Amazon, with zero tourist appeal.  It struck us how cheap Ecuador is compared to Colombia… $5 for a bag loaded with snacks? Yes please.  $7 for an 8hr bus ride to Quito? Tick. Bandages so cheap you can’t give me change for a fiver? Fuck.

The next morning we haul it to the bus station via immigration.  We caused minor confusion amongst the officials, “your passport says…. Yesterday, or… what day is it today…?”  We were warned this would be a problem, but I have a fail proof strategy; Female Latin flare. I stamp my good foot and knowingly glare: “YOU WEREN’T WORKING YESTERDAY”, “ahhh, well, let me ink up the printer and… New Zealand, what’s the weather like in Europe?” the conversation goes on as per normal.  I stare at the man winding the printer cartridge with a little drip bottle of ink and sigh.  Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Gabi getting excited by the prospect of having a printer style stamp on her passport. Geek.

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Gabi and I at Mitad del Mundo, where we procured TWO more passport stamps

Quito, the capital is just as ugly as Lago Agrio!!! Standards were high after Panama City and Cartagena… We can’t go to the coast because it is raining, so a in a snap decision we spend more than my monthly budget on a once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands.   To make the trip more budget, we decide to “rough it” for 3 days on the main islands, and book a 4 day cruise to the outer islands.

And the Galapagos Islands were AMAZING! The landscape varied from rugged desert, with visible dried up lava flows and the odd tussock grass to Bush (sub tropical rainforest) to Caribbean style beaches, surfers and all.  The setting really took my breath away! I would have stayed there a month if possible!!

The Darwin finches did not really catch my attention, although the sharks, turtles, blue footed boobies, and marine iguanas did.  The Galapagos definitely made my Ecuador experience.

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Isla Isabela Landscape

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Isla Isabela Landscape

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Gabi´s friends, Tortuga Bay, 

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My friends, Isla Santa Cruz

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Tortuga, Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela

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Hallmark Card!

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La Gruta snorkelling spot, Isla Santa Cruz

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Sea Shells and our ¨cruise ship¨

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Galapagos Crabs

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Galapagos Iguanas

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Blue Footed Boobies, and a token seal

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Ray! (much less exciting than the sharks though)

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NAZCA boobie

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Cutest baby NAZCA boobie

On an IMPORTANT side note, Ecuador is one of the smalest countries in South America, but has one of the largest biodiversity in the world, mostly in the Amazon Forest on the mainland. Under the same rainforest also lies a significant natural reserve of oil, hence towns like Lago Agrio materialising in recent years.  In the past Ecuador’s President  Correa asked the international community to effectively pay Ecuador for lost revenue in exchange for protecting  one of the worlds last untouched areas.  He was mainly ignored.  In 2012 Correa put a bid to auction off 8 million acres of pristine Amazon Rainforest to the highest b  It is unfair of us to expect a developing to take an economic hit for this and judge them whilst we blindly consume petrol in the developed world.  The real solution is to stop using petrol, but this seems a far way off in the future. In the meantime, lets make an effort to tell the world we want to protect Mother Nature.  Please take a minute to watch the video, do some research (if you dont trust me directly :)) and sign the petition linked http://amazonwatch.org/take-action/stop-the-11th-round-oil-auction-in-ecuador.

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