We bade farewell to Puerto Ayora and Santa Cruz this morning. We had an early breakfast at the Cafe/Deli as we did most mornings – $5 for coffee/tea, fresh exotic juice, deliciously warm fresh baked bread with butter and jam and scrambled eggs. Fortunately the hotel staff brought our luggage down the 4 flights of stairs. The hotel was family run, and the people were lovely. We opted to get a local 'taxi' to take our luggage – actually a ute (pick-up truck) which cost all of $5 for all our bags, while we walked the short distance to the wharf. Our bags were inspected for fruits and seeds and by 9am we were on our water taxi, a smallish enclosed speedboat which carried us to Isabella. It was too noisy for talking and too bumpy for reading (for those inclined to mal de mer, anyway), so I listened to my iPod and basically slept the whole way, save for a brief Oreo refresher half way across. The journey took around 2 hours, and we were met at the dock in Puerto Villamil, the only town on Isabella Island, and taken to our hotel.
Hotel Sol is basic but comfortable, and the best thing about it is that it is right on the beach. Gorgeous spot. And very close to the small collection of cafes and dive shops that passes for the town centre. It's very quiet (which Puerto Aroya certainly was not) and there's a relaxed holiday feel. I think we are going to like it here. Our room doesn't have the view this time, but it is huge – there is a king bed and 3 single beds, and we only have to go outside our door to see the view.
After lunch at one of the nearby restaurants (burgers or pizzas mainly – but also on the menu was Oreo Cheesecake, Joel's speciality!) we had free time. Keith and I took a little stroll around the town, and popped into the large, modern Catholic Church to have a look. The stained glass windows were images of blue-footed boobies, iguanas and other local wildlife, the pulpit was a lighthouse and there was a huge mural of Jesus descending over Isabela Island. Different.
We had a couple of hours free and the ocean beach looked very inviting. The water was not too cold, and we had a pleasant swim. As we sat on the beach drying off a marine iguana swam through the surf – a cool sight, even if none of us had a camera at the time.
At 4.30 we hopped on our little blue mini-bus and drove to a lagoon in a disused quarry frequented by flamingoes. We were told there may not be any flamingoes there, and if there were they may be far away (those of us who saw the flamingoes at Lake Bogoria in Kenya are hard to impress now), so we were happy to find several quite close to the rim. Some in the group have never seen flamingoes, so it was even better for them. We stayed until it was getting dark, then it was time for drinkies.
We found a great little bar right on the beach. Ocean views, sitting at little tables in the sand, and they had videos of Galapagos Wildlife showing on an outside brick wall. There was even free wi-fi. Perfect spot – the perfect image of a tropic island holiday. Until it started to rain! We were planning to stay for dinner, but found out you have to order a day in advance, so we moved elsewhere. All the restaurants here are open air (though they do have a roof!) and have similar menus (lots of fish, prawns & lobster) and prices (cheap) so we just usually pick one that takes our fancy. The food is always good. Tonight I had grilled fish steak, and Keith had Teriyaki fish. The menu always just says “fish”, you just get whatever the catch brought in, there is no choice of species.