Estamos en Floreana

Floreana might only have a population of around 200 people, and limited places for D.I.Y. visitors like us to visit, but it has a pretty fascinating history!

The most ‘colourful’ part or the Island’s history began in the 1930s….

Before this time, whaler’s might have visited the island, and even set up the first post office box on the Galapagos at the famous Post Office Bay… It might also have been home to the first EVER resident of the Galapagos – yep, apparently someone lived on Floreana in 1807 (the island was fully colonised by Ecuadorians in 1832 – with the idea of it becoming a penal colony)… There might even have been pirates living in the caves in the Floreana Highlands…

However, much of this seemingly fascinating history has been overshadowed by the more recent bizarre and elaborate tale of murders and disappearances that surfaced in the 1930s with the arrival of German settlers…

The first German settlers were a couple – Friedrich Ritter and his lover Dore Strauch. Prior to arriving in Floreana it is said that in a bid to nip in the bud any dental problems that might arise, that Ritter removed all of his teeth and had a pair of removable metal dentures made to take with him! Other narrators of the story take it a step further and say that both Ritter and Strauch removed their teeth before leaving Germany – no one claims that two pairs of dentures were made though… apparently in this version they share the one set of teeth!?! ๐Ÿ™‚

Reports of the two of them living on Floreana made it back to Germany, and in 1932 they were joined by the Wittmer family – Margret (who was pregnant – and apparently later gave birth to her son in one of the caves previously used by the pirates!), her husband Heinz, and her step-son Harry… This family also built a house and started farming.

Later the same year, the self-declared Baroness Eloise Wagner de Bosquet arrived on Floreana with her two lovers, and a servant… she wanted to build a luxurious resort for the wealthy on the island…

With the arrival of the Baroness, it was apparently no longer paradise on the island – none of the newcomers got on…

One day the Baroness and one of her lovers vanished.

No one really knows what happened….some claim that they were murdered, others that they sailed off together in a yacht!

A few months later Ritter died in mysterious circumstances, and following his death Stauch headed back to Germany.

The Baroness’s second lover left the island of his own accord as well – on a passing boat… but apparently he was found dead on Marchena – a small island in the Galapagos – months later by a passing ship…

The next death was Margaret Wittmer’s step-son Harry… who apparently drowned…

The Wittmers remained on Floreana… and today, the ancestors of the original Wittmer settlers still live on the island… in fact they run a famous water-front hotel!

Our stay on Floreana was – I’m pleased to say – disappearance and murder free ๐Ÿ˜‰

We hadn’t managed to book accommodation before arriving –ย  as only one option seemed to be available to book online… and to be honest the listing on booking.com made no sense… so we decided the best thing was to just rock up and hope!

From the wharf, we headed along the main street of the main settlement Puerto Velasco Ibarra, until we arrived at the first accommodation – Casa de Hospedaje Hildita… Only problem was that there was no-one there… we assumed with the lack of walk-in customers on the island that this would be the case everywhere – so rather than move on and find somewhere else to stay, we opted to ask a local sitting in a truck if he knew where we could find the owner! The friendly local checked round the back of the hotel for us, and then told us to wait there and he would go and look for him… and off he went in his truck ๐Ÿ™‚ A few moments later he came back… with the owner – Santiago ๐Ÿ™‚

Santiago was reluctant to let us stay – he had guests arriving on the day that we were leaving!?! And therefore we wouldn’t be able to check-out just before the ferry departed in the afternoon – instead we would need to vacate the room at midday so he could get it ready for the new guests… We assured him it wasn’t a problem and checked in!

The accommodation was pretty basic – but it was good enough for us ๐Ÿ™‚ And Santiago was really awesome – without him we’d have been clueless and hungry!!! He helped us arrange lunch in the restaurant across the street – on this island you have to order any meals you want with plenty of warning – no just rocking up and expecting to get a meal – if no meals have already been pre-ordered there’s a high chance the restaurant will be closed!

He also gave us some advice on where we could go – La Loberรญa and the Highlands – and where we couldn’t go – Post-Office Bay… in spite of the fact that a new trail has been built for land-based travellers to walk to Post-Office Bay from the main settlement on Floreana, you can only walk the trail with a guide… and in practice this means as part of a land-based tour organised through the Floreana Community Cooperative… ๐Ÿ™

It was almost lunch time, so rather than heading off to explore we hung around on the step of our room drinking mate… with a lack of hot water this was going to be the last mate for us until we made it back to Santa Cruz… BUT hey at least we’d been prepared and filled the thermos before we left! ๐Ÿ™‚

PB drinks mate on the steps of our accommodation.

Lunch was worth the wait… It was AWESOME ๐Ÿ™‚ Freshly cooked fish, salad, rice and a side of beans… and a big jug of juice to wash it down ๐Ÿ™‚ We decided that it was so good that we ordered exactly the same thing for dinner!!! And then went back for one breakfast and a dinner as well!! The rest of the time was self-catering… well more like muddling through really – with only one shop and one bakery in the town, there wasn’t really a whole heap of choice… and fruit and vegetables only appeared in my dreams…

The only shop on Floreana! But hey, it has COLD BEER!
Floreana’s bakery… only be sure to come only in the evening – as the dude who runs it is up in the highlands at his farm during the day….

The town of Puerto Velasco Ibarra made us feel like we had stepped back in time… and it wasn’t just the lack of shops – roads were unpaved, trucks delivered milk to local residents in churns, and there was a VERY laid-back feel to the town – if I can call it that – with approximately only 200 residents is it really a town?

Milk delivery from a local farm.
The road behind our house.
A back street in Floreana.
The main road to the Highlands.

With little to see in ‘town’, we liked to stroll to the Loberรญa, or hang out by the waterfront – there were two spots that you could be by the water in town – the wharf and Playa Negra (Black Beach).

We enjoyed our strolls along the famous Black Beach, which is home to the infamous Wittmer Hotel which is run by the descendants of the Wittmer family… However I think that we liked it more for the views of the ocean and the numerous colourful marine iguanas that could be spotted – rather than for a glimpse of the hotel…

Black Beach.
A beautiful marine iguana on Floreana.
Marian iguana hanging out on the lava rocks.
Looking out to the ocean from Black Beach.

The other cool water spot was by the wharf… from here you could hang on a bench with a really nice view of ‘town’.. or else drift off into your own thoughts while surrounded by nature.

The view of town from the wharf.
Sun-baking marine iguana on the wharf.
A heron hanging out by the waters edge.

For tourists – who like us aren’t on an expensive cruise, or guided land-based holiday – and therefore aren’t allowed to visit Post Office Bay, there is a ‘poor mans’ replica post box located by the wharf in Puerto Velasco Ibarra…

For those that aren’t familiar with the concept – it was initiated by whalers back in the 1700s – they built the post box at post office bay – so they could leave letters for loved ones there. The idea being that anyone who was passing through Floreana on their way home, would look through the letters and take with them any that they could later deliver by hand on arrival in their home country…

Today whalers are replaced by tourists! Tourists post their own stampless mail – usually in the form of a postcard – and in return are supposed to remove any postcard that might be addressed to someone living near to them… they are then supposed to hand-deliver it to the adressee.

Given that on leaving Floreana we still – in theory – had around 6 months left of travelling (Mexico is still a long way away!) – we decided not to take any of the cards from the box – our hope was that they would find their way to the adressee long before we left Latin America!

We did however use the postbox…

PB posting mail, while a brown pelican looks on!

And as our ferry – Queen Astrid – was due to depart, we knew that we would make it off Floreana before anything we left in the postbox!

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