With a myriad of insects ranging from speck-sized to large enough to confuse them with our shoes, nighttime trips to the facilities were often met with a “shriek” (Hil) or a “whack” (Dave). The humidity and ocean air was warm and calming but unfortunately Hil awoke with some serious abdominal pain. Being a drive, a puddle-jumper, a commercial flight and a drive from a hospital, we had a few moments of concern. A restful day napping and a soothing hot water bottle helped to alleviate the pain, and by evening we were out on our rented bikes loving the light pink and orange tones of the sunset. We walked our bikes along the sand streets passing by coloured plastic chairs and tables on makeshift sidewalk patios. Biking home in the dark with the thick sea air and our headlamps we laughed and smiled as the occasional palm tree shadow broke up the smooth dirt road terrain.
A fruit-filled breakfast in our little apartment was bolstered by some ‘treats’ from the mainland like peanut butter and granola. Hil decided that her morning would consist of some writing and photo editing while Dave opted for a solo snorkel. There were no other swimmers in the bay and with the volcanic basin to himself, Dave tethered a GoPro to his arm and jumped in. The light tide surged and swirled around, suspended shadows traced on the ocean floor’s varying depths. Striped, coloured, speckled schools whisped by. Rays hovering along the bottom as Dave tried to follow their gently flapping path. The visibility was good but the shallows were stirred up and through the wafting clouds of silt the image of a sea turtle became more and more clear. Old face, deliberate movement, and peaceful paddling. The turtle floated and flapped its fins up to the surface, breaking the aqua-air threshold and then diving down again. Following one turtle, it was then joined by another. Time passed and the gentle journey together was interrupted by a jet-stream of bubbles and a wall of silver fish. Two seals were twirling, winding and weaving through the water. The fish desperate to stay one step ahead kept together and sped away making sharp, quick movements. Chasing the efficient, hydro-dynamic seals meant some quick feet, deep breaths and even quicker reflexes as they flipped in towards Dave’s face.
After meeting a couple from Amsterdam who were circumnavigating the globe Dave returned from his swim covered in a rash and spots…oh my! With Hil on the mend, Dave took an afternoon to sooth the odd burning sensation that ran from his back down his legs. Fortunately it passed as quickly as it arrived.
Bikes, floppy hats and a surfboard under the arm, we biked out to the El Faro beach break for an afternoon of surfing and sunsets. A couple of good rides and a lot of paddling to get “out the back”. Twenty other bobbing wave riders took turns cruising in towards the beach and small surf shack. A brief stop at the central market for dinner’s groceries and a fresh coconut, and we started the commute back home.
We explored the island, tortoise breeding centre, nearby out-islands where we snorkelled with nurse sharks, turtles and a pesky blowfish (that kept following us threatening to puff its cheeks). With our days on Isabela island winding down we took to clearing out our fridge and cupboards, so dinner was a gourmet fluffernutter creation of fire-roasted marshmallows, with crunchy peanut butter and white bread. Our enjoyment of this camp / childhood snack was taken to a whole new level by being able to share roasted marshmallows with a unlikely guest. We had agreed to return the bikes today, but totally forgot to do so. Around evening time a young boy, also named David, showed up at our apartment just in time to go through a full range of emotions witnessing his first marshmallow, and as if that wasn’t enough, his first roasting as well. We cleared up the bike rental situation and then set out to share the marshmallows with him. We had to skewer, roast and eat one each before he would even consider trying but the response was at first confusion (about what this white cylinder was made of), then intrigue about the texture and crispy exterior with soft sticky middle, and then pure delight at the sweet finish. He reached for another.
Our last day was spent on a secluded and mostly private (although we did have some other visitors at times) playita. Low tide, smooth sand and the hot sun drew out the day.
A late morning flight had us bumping along the sand road windows down. There was no one at the airport, literally no one. So we waited for the two attendants and then sat in the open air departure lounge until the 6-seater prop plane arrived. Up a step ladder, across the wing and back two rows we tucked into the small plane for the flight to Baltra, then on to Guayaquil, then on to Quito.
Cris met us at the new international Quito airport and we loaded up to head into the mountains to a historic and prominent Hacienda. Arriving at Zuleta in the dark we could only appreciate the courtyard, estate-style building layout, the clip-clop of a group of horses trotting by. Now at altitude with a chill in the air, we found our cozy room, warmed up by the wood burning fireplace - a welcome comfort and change from the humidity of the islands. We joined a couple, Martha and Brian from Atlanta, at a family-style table for dinner and learned of their camping trips to the mountains and volcanos of Ecuador years before. With so much to explore in the community we fully enjoyed the garden-grown and home-cooked meal and cup of tea before tucking in. As we unpacked our damp clothes and basked in the dry air, we recharged for an exciting stay at Zuleta to discover why this home, of one of Ecuador’s Presidents, had been such an important place in the history of the country’s political and agriculturally development.