First week in Ecuador
I was dreading the terrible leg room that Iberia is famed to have, but was pleasantly surprised to be on british airways. at madrid airport there is no real transfer system, so we were forced to go to an information desk and get handwritten tickets for our flight to Quito. We got through security with 15 minutes to spare having arrived with 2 hours... terrible organisation. Turns out LAN was operating our flight so instead of bad legroom and one overhead tv per cabin we had a tv each, and were placed in the best seats in economy by one of the emergency exits. food was great, service was great, and our bags arrived - everything went surprisingly smoothly.
We were met at the airport by a guy with a safe looking car and our names on a sign and he drove us to our host family. we were then met by maria viteri, the boss of the ecovolunteer. she informed us that there would be no scuba diving and no manta rays but we reluctantly handed over the $200 'registration' fee anyway. we also had to pay for accommodation in quito and our bus to puerto lopez a fact that she cheekily glosses over in her website. so the next morning we got on the 12 hour bus ride to Puerto Lopez. the seats were surprisingly comfy and could recline very nicely. we were lucky enough to have 2 seats each for the large majority of the journey, and we stopped many times for various food vendors to get on and try and sell us stuff. almost got left behind at one stop because i went to the toilet and the guy couldnt change my 5$! we had a very funny conductor who chatted up all the girls on the bus and cheekily hopped off and on to grab food when he wanted. another guy peed out of the window in front of billsy whilst giving us a grin and he was quite a character throughout the journey.
When we arrived in puerto lopez we called for gabriella to come show us the way to the volunteer house. she is from quito but looks and sounds american. recently she readily tries to point the blame for just about anything that goes wrong at me and billsy because we are the newbies and also the youngest by far, pretty funny though. there are 3 ecuadorian guys who work/volunteer here, its hard to tell and they are all very cool and have been good to us and helped us wherever possible so far. theres an english couple who graduated cardiff 2 years ago one with ecology the other with biology and they are just traveling around i guess but seem to be very nice. various other people are also here but not worth mentionning really at this point. billsy and I share our room with an ecuadorian girl and a spanish girl, but have only slept in our room once because we spend most nights in a tent on the beach before patrolling.
On the first day i went out to capture and release turtles in the speedboat, but we didnt get any and only succeeded in feeling heat exhaustion/jet lagged/nauseous. That night was supposed to be a rest for billsy and i to acclimatise, but we were pushed into a night patrol straight away after a quick presentation about turtles and the ones we are looking for. We are mainly trying to help the hawksbill turtle which is critically endangered, but also nesting green turtles come up and we take measurements count eggs etc for them too. One girl has been her for 3 months and saw her first turtle 5 days ago, we saw one on our first night. A nesting hawksbill which is a very rare sight. we waited for hours for it to finish laying its eggs and covering its nest then suddenly (whilst dozing on the sand) were alerted by parmalat (nickname for an ecuadorian guy) that it was time to pounce on the turtle and so we pinned it down and proceeded to watch joe the english guy take measurements and dna samples then tag it. this was at about 4 in the morning... the basic structure is we leave for the beach at 7.30, and set up tents etc in a group of 4, and then we patrol in pairs - one group from 9 to 12, one from 12-3 and we stay up if we find a turtle. the next day we tried to get surfboards for 2 hours to no avail, and ended up buying supplies to go to the beach early and snorkel/mess about before meeting the other pair and starting patrols. the beach is called La playita and is for our access only because the turtles are so endangered. It is really quite beautiful and peaceful and you can see in the photos the pictures of billsy and i hanging out that day. only problem was that there were some people on the beach who we had to reason with to leave asap to preserve the turtles tranquility (in actuality we just wanted to have our own private beach for an afternoon because it was cool and the water was very clear. we snorkelled and saw a baby octopus and a stingray which was fun. after that we ate a dinner of tinned sardines in tomato sauce in tortillas before sleeping until 9 when patrol started. we found a whole bunch of erratic tracks, one turtle appearing briefly but nothing major to write home about.
After that we went to do turtle capture and release. we got two whoppers and they are very feisty so got whacked a couple times. theres a video of me throwing one back in on billsys blog. its very heavy. billsy took a dna sample from one and i tagged another along with us both being taught the various measurements to take. it got quite hot so eventually we all just jumped in the water for a swim and went home. later billsy and I went snorkelling off the point at puerto lopez and after negotiating some seriously sharp rocks we managed to swim a very long distanve without flippers whilst looking at the reef below. ther are some videos of this snorkelling on billsys blog thing, saw loads of tropical fish, highlights were probably a large blue parrot fish, the biggest fish ive seen yet, and a few puffer fish. then I went to los frailes to patrol and spent an exhausting four hours polishing my spanish talking to this ecuadorian girl who i had to patrol with., was very glad when I got to finally go to sleep and we didnt see anything. Billsy meanwhile went to a different beach to patrol and there wasnt a huge amount of room in the tent so he slept on the beach. he got much more than me thought because he didnt have to patrol so i am completely exhausted.
Anyway, so that is his account, saves me from writing the exact same thing. anything else, well we rented surf boards one day, want to get a bit more pro before wrigy comes out and shows us up. that was good although not for too long. also found out we are going to the Isla de plata for 5 days, will write about that soon.