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Entries about beaches

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water

This post is sponsored by Kevin and Lisa!*


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Yes, I've been waiting forever to use a Jaws (2) tagline for my blog....

So while I made a big deal about 'Doing the Galapagos on the cheap', there were some things I really wanted to do or see.

Firstly, I wanted to see several animals. Sea lions, marine iguanas, giant tortoises and Darwin's finches. I would also have loved to have gone scuba diving, having passed my advance PADI course last year. It was very expensive though. Very fortunately, I have some lovely friends who gave me some money for Christmas / Birthday last year (Thank you so much Kevin and Lisa!! XX) that I was able to use to do just that. Go diving in the Galapagos!

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These plants are like tiny Chinese lanterns, amazing!

I had looked around and decided that I wanted to go to a place called Kicker Rock. It was the place where they said there was the best chance to see hammerhead sharks. I needed no more convincing! I found a place that I liked the look of, went and spoke to them, checked out their equipment (VERY important! All Scuba companies are not the same!) and booked my spot for the next day, which would consist of two dives and an afternoon at a beach in the NW of the Island.

I arrived the next morning, very excited and raring to go. I met my dive partners. An older German guy who works as a photographer and was also once a German Navy Seal!! and a young Israeli guy, fresh out of national service and now travelling the world. We went over our diving plan, signals etc and got our equipment. After a quick dip to check it all out, the boat sped off to Kicker Rock and we were ready to go!

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A pretty happy Chris!

I've only ever dived in Thailand, across eight or nine sites off the island of Koh Tao, but apart from the advance dives (a 30 meter dive with almost zero visibility, a night dive and a shipwreck dive) they were all fairly similar. Teaming with life, great visibility. How did these dives compare? There seemed to be a lot less variety of life, but what they had was amazing!

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You know that thing where you're 20 meters under the surface of the ocean and you look around to see ten hammerhead sharks swim by? No? Well I do now! I have no photos (I'll get some from the pro photographer!) but I took videos with my fake GoPro and made a video, so here's the link!

https://youtu.be/A3V39iV_k58

It was amazing! I saw about 12 or 13 hammerheads in all, 2 black tip sharks, loads and loads of turtles and a sea lion. It was two of the best dives I've done. It really ignited my love of diving too. I love being underwater and I hope to dive again somewhere this trip!

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Oh yeah! There were loads of dolphins too!

The next day I went on a highlands tour. It was arranged by the ladies who owned the house I was staying at. Basically it's a tour run by all the taxi drivers on the island, usually about four hours long and costing around $50 - $60.

At this point, I should mention the taxis on San Cristobal. At least 50% of the vehicles on the road were taxis, these big pick up trucks that drive around honking at anyone walking on the road. It's a marvel that the island survived the pandemic as far as tourism money is concerned as so much of the island's economy rests on it. At one point the island was pretty much running on a barter system. Thankfully Ecuador has a really successful vaccination program running right now!

So my driver came and picked me up and we headed to our three destinations: A lagoon in a volcano, a giant tortoise sanctuary and a beach on the North of the island. We headed first to the volcano, only for the weather to turn suddenly and the visibility was so bad we decided to come back later. Off to the sanctuary!

There's no animal I identify more with the Galapagos than the giant tortoise. I could go on about this for a while, but the differences between these gentle giants across the islands were one of the things that helped nudge Darwin to his Theory of Evolution (which I read again on the flight to the Galapagos! lol). I couldn't wait to see them.

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I can't help it. I see these and have the Baby Elephant song in my head. Wrong animal, I know! I can't help it! Now you have the Baby elephant song in your head too. No? Don't know the song? Google it, I'll wait. Now you have it in your head. Forever

The sanctuary has two parts. An area where you walk around in the hope you'll see some tortoises and a breeding centre filled with tiny baby giants (is that a triple oxymoron?). Often I've been to these places where you walk around for ages trying to spot anything at all, but not here. The tortoises were everywhere!

Only a few of them were big enough for a saddle, but riding the big ones was.... I'm joking!! Don't try to ride the giant tortoises!!

They'll likely bite you I think. I doubt that'll feel great.

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He'll bite you. He'll mess you up

After an hour or so of watching these ancient animals, some well over a hundred years old, we went down to the beach. Not much to see here really. Very nice beach, but no better than the beaches back where I was staying and far more crowded than some along the island, but a nice walk nonetheless. Time to head back to the volcano.

Oh the bloody volcano. Still no visibility, I went anyway. Got wet, saw little, got bloody muddy, walked back down. I'm sure it's lovely when you can see it. Great, thanks.

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Great

I'd now seen and done everything I needed to see and do. Had it been 'on the cheap'? Well. Considering you need to fly to Ecuador to get where I started, then pay for a £170 flight to get to the island, then another £90 because you're not Ecuadorian, then another £70 Galapagos tax to help the ecology, maybe it can't be done on the cheap. Add to that the £150 I did in tours and you're already at £500 odd.

But when I was there, I mostly cooked my own food, did a lot of hiking and things that were free, I had an amazing time, swam with sea lions, dived with sharks and hand fed giant tortoises. I almost saw a volcano lagoon.

I think it was well worth the price.

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  • This post was of course, not sponsored by anyone, although Kev and Lisa helped pay for the diving! If any of you are interested in using your

hard earned money to pay for me to live out my dreams, it's more than welcome! I've never tried lobster! Chuck me £20 and I'll do that! Another £20 and I'll zip line! I could try any number of things, we could make a game of it, although there's likely a limit, I'll not have sex with anything weird or wear an 'I love Dartford'* T-shirt for cash. there's not enough money in the world for that.

Or I guess you could just spend that money on doing something fun for yourself! But probably giving it to me is a better idea

  • Also, one of my posts here has hit 1000 views! Far more friends than I have on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere really, so maybe I should cut out all the local references for readers who have no idea what I'm going on about. Or it's my responsibility to help hundreds of people around the world realise what a hole Dartford is and help them avoid it.

Posted by cblanc102 05:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains lakes beaches animals birds boats turtles islands water padi diving wildlife hiking travel hostels island dolphins scuba sharks underwater beauty trails galapagos solo solo_travel hammerheads Comments (0)

Doing the Galapagos Islands on the Cheap

Another Sisyphean task

sunny 26 °C
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The main reason I had come to Guayaquil was as a stop on the way to the Galapagos Islands. To come all this way and not visit them seemed insane to me, but I have limited money and everyone was telling me how expensive the place is. But as ever, I persisted.

I had found a nice cheap flight for £170 and a room in someone's house for £7 a night. Great start! All this came crashing down around me at the airport.

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That way lies Asia

The process to visit the Galapagos is a bit convoluted. I first went to the counter, to be told I had to do the check in on one of the online machines. This was annoying, as it wouldn't let me do the online check in the night before, so why now? Once this was done, I then had to go get my back checked for banned items. You aren't allowed any non processed food stuffs as they're worried about damaging the eco system. Fair enough. Coffee was allowed though, so I was good. I then had to go pay for some travel card thing, which was another $20 and I was good to go.

But when I went to drop of my rucksack at the counter, I was told that I had bought an 'Ecuadorian flight ticket' and I would have to pay another $130!! I was pretty steamed at this point and if my plane ticket had been refundable I'd have likely cut off my nose to spite my face and told them to stick it up their arses. Fortunately after a couple of conversations with friends and family, saner heads prevailed and I paid up and got on the plane. I didn't buy a coffee in the airport. That will show them!

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They really love Paul Bettany here! - Only one person I know will get that joke

So 185 years, 9 months and 27 days after Charles Darwin arrived in The Beagle, I arrived on a jet plane that landed about a mile from where he did. Darwin thought the island a deserted and isolated place when he initially arrived and my first impressions were pretty similar, but I soon changed my mind (as did he) as I started to explore the island.

For starters, as has been the way in most places I've been this trip, everyone is really nice. The family who own the house where I'm staying are lovely and despite little English being spoken and my continually crap Spanish, we seem to be communicating fine. The room was great, pretty basic, like most of the island, and terrible wifi, but you know, it's a small island in the Pacific Ocean 500 miles away from anywhere, it's a bit of a miracle they have wifi and phone service at all really! The phone service isn't really that bad either, I'm using it right now to uploads the pics on here because the wifi isn't cutting it.

Anyway, after dumping my stuff, I soon took a walk down to the beach to see if I could see any wildlife around. I was in for a bit of a shock.

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Loads of animals everywhere!

The wildlife here is everywhere and I've only seen 5% of it. From the multitudes of birds, big and small, to the lizards everywhere, you can't walk 100 meters without spotting something, but when I got to the water and visited the closest beach to where I'm staying, I found it filled with sea lions, scores of them! Now you hear people talking about how the animals here don't view humans as predators so don't care about you, but their absolute ambivalence towards you is amazing really. They really could care less about you unless you go near their babies or they want to play with you.

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I'm like Attenborough

And there are very few rules as to being around them. You're told to keep 6 feet away and not to touch them, that's about it and not always possible as they'll come right up to you whenever they please. You're supposed to walk away, but no one does, the result is some lovely close up pics of hundreds of (mostly sleeping) sea lions as I went from beach to beach. I also saw loads of marine iguanas, another of the animals I really wanted to see. All I need do now is pay a taxi to take me to the top of the island to where the giant tortoises live and I'll have seen the three land animals on my tick list!

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Ahhh

The price of things isn't too bad for the most part either, considering everything that's being sold has been shipped over 500 miles to get here. I've found the food is pretty reasonable, especially if you go to one of the many little restaurants that are just really extensions of people's houses, but I had a huge burrito at a restaurant in town for just eight dollars, so that wasn't too bad. I did see a normal sized bottle of Jack Daniels in a supermarket for $80 though!!!

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It was a big old burrito!

I'm mostly just walking / hiking around. This morning I woke up and went swimming in the ocean with the sea lions. I'd call it a once in a lifetime experience if I didn't expect to wake up and do it again tomorrow! It really was amazing sharing the water with them as they checked me out, swimming around me and then showing off some leaping out the water. I've taken some video, so hopefully I can do something with that.

Over the next few days I want to do a couple of scuba dives and also take a tour up to the volcano and down to the tortoises, other than that I just want to discover as much of the island as I can and maybe try out the three for $10 mohitos I saw at the beach!

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Posted by cblanc102 14:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged landscapes beaches animals birds planes boats islands water diving flying hiking beach travel volcano drink hostels island scuba plane beauty flights trails coffee journey south_america galapagos ecuador solo problems solo_travel Comments (1)

The importance of a day three

And a heartfelt apology


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Unusually for me, I shall start this entry with an apology.

We all have our prejudices. some learned through others and some through experience, but they're more than often wrong. I'm sure there are one or two people from Dartford who aren't filth and maybe a score of people from the North can use cutlery, but my crime is greater than just generalisation against a group of people. I have been specist.

Not all monkeys are bastards.

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This monkey was nice

All of my monkey encounters in the wild so far have involved the little sods trying to steal food or attack me. This is our fault, I've always known this, we shouldn't be bringing food into their environments, but it wasn't until I went to a place where they completely ban food around them that I realised how nice they can be. Both the family we encountered in Manuel Antonio Park and the dozens I saw around Uvita were all excellent. So again, I wholeheartedly apologise to monkeys worldwide for besmirching their characters.

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Howler monkeys that howl for two hours at 3 am can sod right off though! I know that truck woke us all up, but you didn't see me shouting about it until 5 am! Shut the eff up!

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This is a sloth, but it's just like a lazy monkey with huge claws

On with the blog...

I'm sat in Drake Bay a day later than planned as I needed an extra day in Uvita to rest up. I know it sometimes sounds that I'm just on a months long holiday, but it's a lot harder than it sounds. (I know, booooo hoooo!)

For example, today I went for a hike and hit 110 miles walked so far, in just 24 days. These were not easy miles either, often up very steep hills, through jungles, forests, sand and rivers and always in 30 plus degree heat. Today's hike was unexpectedly long as I thought I could get a boat back here at the end and had to walk back when I couldn't. It ended up being a 20 km walk... (again, cue tiny violins)

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Having loads of beaches all to yourself was great though

My feet have certainly felt better and I was generally pretty tired. I stayed at Uvita to relax but then ended up walking nine km that day anyway as I explored the beach. So I needed another day to sit around, read, swim and plan where I was going next. It's also an attempt to dry my clothes, but nothing dries here! I guess it must be the humidity, but it blows my mind that my little sports socks still haven't dried completely after 3 days sat in 35 degree heat!

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More random pics from my camera rather than my usual phone

When I started travelling last year, I had booked hotels and hostels months in advance, this trip I'm being a lot looser with it, often only booking a few days ahead and booking last minute. The only reason I was able to stay a day longer in Uvita was that I hadn't booked anything for the next day at 7 pm when the owner of the place I was staying at asked me if I was leaving.

I have a few two night trips planned. with these I pretty much just turn up, see the area the next day and then leave the day after. One night trips are just stopovers to somewhere else. I need to make sure I have some three or more night trips here and there to just recharge and work out what to do next.

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Speaking of which, my plans so far take me forward about a week, at which point I'll be entering Panama. The hardest part about this is that to enter, you must have proof that you're leaving. There is a scam that a lot of people do where they book a fake bus and get the money back, but as I'll be flying out to Ecuador, this makes no sense, so I'll more than likely just take the cheapest flight out I can find in the middle of July. Panama looks nice, in places a lot like Costa Rica, but with maybe more in the way of culture? I don't know. There are some islands I can do, but I need to see how cost effective that is.

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On Sunday I plan to stay in a hostel dead in the middle of a jungle, that say's it's 'clothing optional' There's no way I'm stripping off! The reviews are all excellent, but it will be interesting staying in what sounds like a filthy hippy commune with little wifi and electricity but free hiking trails and a better than average chance to see some tapirs (I love me some tapirs!). Tomorrow I'll go halfway there but I have to get a bus at 4am for some ungodly reason!!

Posted by cblanc102 05:37 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged beaches animals monkeys hiking hostels costa_rica trails south_america central_america latin_america solo_travel Comments (0)

I was aiming for the horse!

hostels and happy accidents


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My new place for the next two days. Very open to nature!

I wake up at 6 am now. Every day, without an alarm. It's just where my body clock has ended up I think, I never woke up this early before, even for work, but at 8:20 am I've had breakfast, two cups of coffee (Costa Rican style!), been to the beach (closed until 9:30), came back and swam in the pool, registered my drone for Costa Rican flight and washed and hung out my clothes. If only I was this motivated generally!

It's easy here, as the howler monkeys have been at it since the early hours. It's a nice way to wake up. Here is an apartment complex of sorts. collection of about eight wood and metal cabins some 200 meters from the beach set around a pool in between the forest and a mangrove swamp.

I decided to stay in a more expensive place for a couple of days (it's about twice as much as a hostel) because I need a bit of a rest and recharge. In the first 20 days of this trip I have walked well over 80 miles. Many of them through pretty harsh terrain, up steep hills and in heat topping the mid 30s. If I haven't lost some bloody weight by now, nothing will do it!

The past few days have been great and it was all by chance and by finally getting into 'hostel mode', where I become a little more sociable and spend less time by myself. I only really stayed in a hostel in Bangkok last year as the hotel rooms were generally so cheap there was no need to bother with them. But the hostels here have been mostly a trial for me. The one I stayed in twice at San Jose, while having everything I need (free breakfast, nice beds, hot water) seemed to make me somewhat depressed, although I think it had more to do with the city than than the place of sleep.
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Hostel Plinio in Quepos

The hostel in Quepos however, was a great experience, and as I warmed to hostelling in general, I spent more time with the people, which in turn has led to more opportunities.

I met joey in the bar. A 74 year old American who's in there every night as far as I can tell. A bit of a character, he's lived in Costa Rica for a few years in an apartment up the road from the hostel. He tells me he's been travelling since 1972, but I think he's pretty settled now. He told me of a route South that takes me to where I want to go via a ferry that goes through forests and mangrove swamps. Tours like this are pretty expensive here, so to find a ferry that not only takes me where I want to go, but through lush beautiful landscape for just $15 is perfect!

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Some Costa Rican critters!

I had a tour booked on Saturday to go to Manuel Antonio park, a National Park some 5 km away that is supposed to be one of the highlights of Costa Rica. I was booked to leave at 7 am. No one turned up. No one even contacted me until 10 pm that night with some rubbish excuse. After waiting an hour, I walked back to my room where a young girl was sat. Her name is Olivwia (not a typo, Polish mother). She told me that she was having trouble booking a ticket to the park, I told her what had happened to me so she game me the money and I booked tickets for both of us for the next day. While we were planning our trip, a guy called Tim sat with us. Tim's an American, 23 currently living in Vegas who has randomly been turning up where I am for the past 2 days, so we've spoken a bit, but not much past "Hello, where are you from?".

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Tim and Olivia hiking through the jungle

Tim tells us about an out of the way waterfall that someone told him about. Apparently you need to hike for an hour to get there but it's worth the effort. So we all decide to go together. It was a very tough hike, through rain forest, rivers with no crossings, dilapidated bridges like something out of Indiana Jones and ropes down rock faces, but yes, it was well worth the effort. We saw loads of animals, including monkeys and two random dogs that followed us to the waterfall and back then disappeared, we climbed rocks, waded through rivers and then swam in a pool at the bottom of the waterfall that we had all to ourselves. We didn't see anyone else the whole time. It was tiring, but a pretty magical day that we ended with another little hike to a beach we had all to ourselves for sunset.

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The Waterfall pool at the end of our hike

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Our private sunset

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One of the two beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park

Sunday, Oliwia and I went to the National Park. Again, it was an amazing day. Beautiful beaches where we swam in the Pacific which was almost bath water warm, we hiked through the forest spotting iguanas, deer, frogs, sloths and three breeds of monkeys. The highlight though was climbing up a hill to find a family of ten or so Capuchin Monkeys who could not have been less bothered by our presence. You're not allowed to take any food in the park with you, so the monkeys aren't always attacking you thinking you can feed them. We sat with them for half an hour, at times less than a foot away as they played. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

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One of about 200 pics of monkeys and sloths I have

Yesterday we sadly split up some, as Tim headed back for San Jose before he returns home and Oliwia and I headed south here to Uvita. It's been nice to have someone to talk to for more than a day, although we'll probably go our separate ways either tomorrow or the end of the week as she heads North and I head south into Panama. This is how travelling is. It's crazy and temporary and the only way really that I would end up spending days with a 23 and 19 year old nowadays, and it all came about because some lazy bastards didn't come pick me up for a tour. But it's fantastic.

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I did smash my finger on a rock though hiking!!

Posted by cblanc102 15:41 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged beaches monkeys hiking costa_rica beauty south_america central_america latin_america sloths solo_travel Comments (0)

Damaged goods

There's loads here that can kill you, but it's the stuff that can't that you need to worry about

SCIENCE! ( I'll let everyone know when the science bit is done )

about 1 million years ago, the sun created photons at it's centre. Because of the massive gravity at the centre of the sun these photons travelled far slower than their usual speed of light.

Eventually (as I said, about a million years) they hit the Sun's surface, travelled 93 million miles through a vacuum ( about -270 degrees) and hit the Earth's surface.

They then burned through our atmosphere and into my poxy back!!

END OF SCIENCE!

I've been here 17 days and my body is wrecked. I've been really careful with suntan lotion, putting it on all the time, staying in the shade where I can. but today like a dumbass I went snorkeling for an hour with lotion that's not waterproof. I felt fine, ate in the shade, drank plenty of water. but that's how the stupid Sun gets you!

So I'm in an immense amount of pain.Every part of me aches. I'll be fine I'm sure, lather myself with Aloe Vera, stay completely out of the Sun, but I have to leave in less than 3 days and I'm worried how I'm gonna carry a 15kg rucksack on my burnt back!

But that's only the start of my woes (read: whining)

I'm completely covered in mosquito bites, it turns out that the mosquito repellent clothes I bought don't work at night when you don't wear them. I have a mesh, but stuff gets in.

Blisters! I have loads from where I walked 11km in flip flops the first day like a dumbass! They're going now though. Yay!!

Various scrapes - I have a pretty large scratch on my knee I think came from coral, I still have urchin spines in my hand and a cut on my other hand I have no idea where it came from (probably scuba)

Each time I move somewhere, I hope it'll get better, but seeing as how I'm moving from a woody area to a rain-forest, I doubt it! I have leeches to look forward to!!

I bought some 1400 movies, 500 books, 1000 albums with me just for this kinda emergency! That's my weekend sorted haha

Be safe, STAY OUT OF THE SUN and don't leave me comments just calling me a wanker lol

Posted by cblanc102 08:20 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches thailand sun koh tao mosquitoes sunburn stupidity Comments (0)

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