Galapagos

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April 25, 2004

Off to the Galapagos!

 MD 80 AA to Dallas 13:50 20 C

            We are on our way to Dallas, which starts the first leg of our trip.  We will be staying at a hotel overnight and off to Guayaquil in the morning.  Damon and I are looking forward to this trip very much.  The airport in Vancouver was not very busy at all so everything was a breeze.  Hopefully that is a trend for the rest of this trip.

April 26, 2004

B 777 AA to Miami 11:25 am 22 C

             Getting ready to take off and am feeling a little tired as Damon was up at 5:30 am.  Pigged out at the free buffet breakfast so will hopefully have a nap this flight.  So far so good, although Damon wouldnít take his shoes off through security so they did a bomb test on his shoes and re-checked him with the security wand.  I however, took off my shoes off and had them back on before they were finished with Damon.  ďItís the point of itĒ says he.  I have a feeling we will be going through something similar on the way home.

April 26, 2004

A 300 AA to Guayaquil 16:53

            We will be arriving at around 8:00 pm and am looking forward to a bed.  Damon has promised me some shrimp tomorrow for lunch.  I would also like to have some mango and banana, maybe for breakfast.  They recommend we donít wander through the streets at night, always take a taxi.  Too bad.  Can hardly wait for tomorrow!

 PS  It just occurred to me as we leave Florida, that I have been there 5 times (4 of which were final destinations) and have never been out of the airport!  I surely MUST be Damonís girlfriend!

April 27, 2004

Guayaquil

            We are having our first full day in Guayaquil!  This morning we went out with our tour guide Veronica and she showed us all around the city.  Chichen-Itza is nothing, we climbed 500 stairs to get to the highest point in the city and had the most beautiful view.  You could see everything from there!  We saw statues, park and a cemetery.  Damon really likes the park across the street from our hotel.  Instead of birds they have lots and lots of iguanas.  We were told not to stand under the trees as they will not hesitate to poop on your head.  They didnít say anything about good luck either!  The weather is cloudy today but I donít mind, I am hot enough as it is without the sun.

            We went to the Blue Snail for dinner as it specializes in seafood and Damon promised me shrimp.  It was sooooo good!  The shrimp were quite big and they came in a cold salsa soup.  I will make that for company one day.  The beer here is $1.50 and the pop $1.20.  For once Damon didnít give me ďthe lookĒ when the bill arrived.  In fact, he was quite excited at the price of beer.  We were both happy with our meal although neither of us were exactly sure what we were ordering.  We were in bed by 8:00 pm and lights out by 10:00 pm.

April 28, 2004

            Slept in until 8:00 am, even after going to bed so early!  We are meeting Veronica at10:00 am and she is taking us on a historical tour.  We were also invited to a cocktail del mas (free drinks), so will attend that at 7:00 pm.

              Had a wonderful time with Veronica this morning.  There were a lot of typical animals and plants of Ecuador.  After the tour, we walked around town trying to find a place to buy wine.  As we were walking, a lady stopped and told us ďnot dat wayĒ in broken English.  We soon found out it was some kind of protest.  We will look in the paper tomorrow.

            The cocktail hour this evening was amazing!  There was sushi, pork, chicken, shrimp, tuna and lots of desserts.  I guess we donít need to go for dinner!  We met the executive chef (Mesias) and he speaks English very well.  We had a wonderful time chatting with him for almost the whole night.  At 9:00 pm he left us as he wanted to go home to his wife who is from Switzerland.  Damon and I finished our drinks and headed up to our room so we could get ready for our trip to the Galapagos tomorrow.  This is what we have been waiting for!

April 29, 2004

A 320 Tame Airlines to Galapagos

9:14 am

            We are just about ready to land on Baltra Island and when we get on the boat we are supposed to practice the safety drills, have lunch and then snorkel!  I can hardly wait until this afternoon!!

            We are going on our first tour of the day.  We will be arriving on Bartolome Island in about a half an hour.  The name of our team is the Albatross so we are starting off with a hike up 360 stairs (good thing we practiced earlier on our trip) so we can have an amazing view of the island.  After the hike we are going snorkeling and will hopefully swim with sea lions and penguins.  I am a little nervous to be honest but this is what I came to do.  It really is beautiful here.  The water is a gorgeous blue and already we have seen a blue footed boobie dive into the water.  Those things go so fast, it almost looks like an airplane would if it was crashing.  I can hardly wait to see more!

            As I sit here in bed, I wonder how I can possibly put into words what we saw today.  The hike was not as hard as I thought it would be and when we arrived on the island, a marine iguana and some sally light foot crabs were there to greet us.  As we walked, there were endemic (which means only the one area has this) plants to the Galapagos and the most amazing view once we got to the top.  The climb back down was a little easier and we ran into many lava lizards.  They are very small in size and since it is mating season, the females have a VERY red throat.  After our hike we went for a well deserved swim.  We saw penguins, pelicans, and sea lions, we hadnít even gotten off the boat yet!  When we got in the water, we saw many fish and the biggest sting ray I could ever imagine (apparently it is not THAT big).  The highlight of our day would have to be seeing the dozen or so sea turtles.  They were hiding in the seaweed at the bottom of the ocean although a couple came out to swim.  Of course it had to come to an end at some point and I would have rather kept on snorkeling and skipped dinner all together!  When Damon lost his mask somewhere in the ocean, I knew it was time to go.  Somehow, it was found by the guy working our boat (donít ask me how he saw it, it was buried) and Damon didnít have to pay for it.  The water is a little cold here so after 45 mins our bodies needed some warming up.  There is more snorkeling tomorrow and I canít wait!

            We met this couple at lunch this afternoon, Nadia and Vince.  They live in Rome and they are on their honeymoon.  She is originally from Australia and speaks English really well and he needs to practice a whole lot more.  We are lucky to be seated with them for the rest of our stay.

 April30.2004

           It was early to rise at 6:45 this morning but totally worth it.  As I sit here to write in my journal during siesta (1:30-3:30 pm), I can barely keep my eyes off the water.  There is so much to see and in the blink of an eye you could miss everything!  We went for a long walk at Fernandina Island.  We saw a lot of sea lions, mostly young so they are very brave and love having their picture taken.  If you stopped giving them attention, they would yell at you.  They were very good at posing for the picture.  I think Damon got 40 pictures of the one sea lion.  You couldnít help it.  He was too cute.  After Jorge (our guide) dragged us away, we ran into some more marine iguanas, sally light foot crabs (their shell is so beautiful) and for the first time we saw some flightless cormorants.  That really was amazing.  They let us get so close.  You were scared to breath.  There were two mothers sitting in their nests and they gave us a peak at the new additions to their family.  It was a very special moment.  I canít explain it, you just have to experience it.  After our walk, we quickly came back to the boat where we changed into our swimsuits and headed out to do some snorkeling.

            This snorkeling trip was one to remember.  We first ran into a sea turtle who was feasting on some algae.  We think the sea turtle was female as they are bigger than the males.  I sure hope the picture turns out with our underwater camera!  We then look up to see a crowd of people swimming in one spot so we went to check it out.  We soon forgot how cold the water was (about 18 C) when the sea lions started playing with us.  They would swim right up to your mask and then dart away.  I would start to laugh and then water would start to fill my mask.  I couldnít help but smile as we were having so much fun playing with them.  I canít tell you what that feels like.  It really makes me speechless.  You would think that is the end of our day but we just had lunch and now this little siesta, which allows me this opportunity to write about this mornings events. 

             This afternoon we went for a boat ride and of course ran into many sea lions, pelicans, and a whole lot a boobies!  Blue footed ones that is.  They were mating when we went by so they made a lot of noise, danced with each other and the males would spread their wings.  We also saw a lot of fish jumping out of the water and we think a shark was scarring them.  While the fish were scared of the shark, they didnít think about the dangerous boobies lurking at the surface.  It was quite a sight and perfect timing on our part.  The blue footed boobies were diving into the ocean to get their prey and we were so close, both Damon and I got pooped on.  This is about the only time I will ever brag about such a thing!  When we arrived at our destination (Isabela Island), we had a 45 minute walk ahead of us.  Along our way to the top, we saw Galapagos mocking birds (I learned how to call to them), and Darwin finches (the males are black and the females are grey).  When we finally got to the top we had a beautiful view of 1000 year old lava.  Very different from what we are used to.  Pretty soon we will be headed for dinner but For now, I am enjoying a vino tinto and will now focus my attention on the sea lion that has been swimming around our boat this whole time I have been writing.  The young sea lions are so curious and playful.  They will not hesitate to check things out.  The pelicans are pretty brave along with the marine iguanas.  The boobies, penguins and turtles are quite shy.  Adios, I am going to enjoy the scenery.

May 1, 2004

Santiago Island

            It is now siesta time and the boat is really rocking.  I was trying to sit in the hammock but it was making me sick.  I am feeling better now that my chair doesnít move.

            Our morning on this day was yet again packed with adventure.  We saw more sea lions and lots of babies as it is that time of year.  We also saw sea urchins, oyster catchers (a bird with a bright orange beak), and lava herons.  Our walk was fun but I always canít wait to snorkel.

            After our walk we couldnít wait to jump in the ocean as all the young sea lions were playing.  You could see them leaping out of the ocean begging us to play with them.  There were about 6-8 sea lions to swim with and they were so happy to see us.  They would chase each other and wanted us to join in but I donít know if they understand that we canít swim as quickly as them.  One of the sea lions really liked to try and scare you.  He would almost touch your nose with his before dashing off again.  I love swimming with them.  It is so much fun.  When we finally had to get out of the water because it was time to go, we saw two male bulls fighting for territory.  That was a sight to see!

            When we arrived at the boat, we had a quick shower to rinse off and then headed to the restaurant for a traditional Ecaudorian meal.  We started off with some shrimp in a cold tomato soup (you are supposed to put popcorn in it but we didnít know until it was too late), then we had some potato soup which only Vince and I really liked.  At the buffet we had cooked bananas, corn, pork, fish, and a tropical fruit for dessert.  Not all of it was good but most of it was.  I am going to finish off with my siesta with my eyes closed but will be back with more tales of my travels.

            It is not even 10:00 pm yet and I am lying in bed already.  I feel so tired after spending all day in the sun.

            This afternoon we went to Rabida Island to look at the landscape.  We saw lots of cacti and unfortunately it is becoming less common as the donkeys love to eat them.  We also ran into a rare Galapagos tomato bush.  It was a hot walk but earlier when we arrived at Rabida we had a wet landing off the dingy and my dress caught on the handle so I lost my balance and then along came a wave at the perfect moment and tipped me over.  We all had a good laugh and I was a little embarrassed.  Oh well, I am just surprised it didnít happen earlier.  On our walk we of course ran into sea lions although this was slightly different because it was a long stretch of beach with many herds.  We ran into a sea lion which we guess to be a week old, who was nursing.  What a beautiful sight!  While we were watching that, we heard a noise and we saw another sea lion nursing (about 1 month old) and he was a VERY noisy eater.  Unfortunately we couldnít stay forever but I knew we were going snorkeling again so I was anxious to get going.

            This snorkeling trip was different because we didnít swim with any sea lions but we saw some tropical fish like the parrotfish and others too.  We also saw many starfish and a boobie decided to fish while I was snorkeling so I had a prime view of him catching the fish and diving into the water.  While all this was happening, our group left without us (what Ďs new) so we caught the last dingy out.  All in all it was a wonderful day but am a little disappointed we wonít be snorkeling tomorrow.  I hope the tortoises make up for it.

            Right now, Damon is hanging his head out our bedroom window watching a sea lion swim right under our window.  I can hear him splashing and am going to watch too.

May 2, 2004

            Today is our last full day and I am not looking forward to going home.  I have had a lot of firsts during this visit and could have a lot more if only we could stay longer.  I will be very sad when we leave tomorrow afternoon.

            Right now it is very quiet on the boat as everyone is in their rooms having a siesta.  Apparently the boat started rocking at 4:00 am. Things were falling and doors slamming.  I think it woke everyone up except me.  I didnít wake up until 5:45 am!  I did much better than everyone else.  I feel great and donít think I will even have a nap.

             This morning we were on Santa Cruz Island visiting the Darwin Station.  The Galapagos Islands are 1 of 2 places in the world where you will find giant tortoises and we stood an inch away from them!  Most of them are not shy and will let you get so close without even flinching.  The ones in the wild will scare easily.  The Darwin Station is trying desperately to save the tortoise.  They are incubating the eggs (with the temperature, you can control the sex), and raising the tortoises for about 4 years before returning them to the wild.  They are quite pleased with the results so far.

           Unfortunately for George and the other older giant tortoises, they cannot be returned to the wild because nobody can determine which island they came from therefore they must remain at the Darwin Station.  It is not such a rough life and they make the environment as natural as possible.

            Tortoises can live over 100 years.  They look so wise and their expression is one of sadness.  They do not move very quickly but elegantly and gracefully.  What an amazing opportunity for us to see such a creature at such close range.

            On our tour of the Darwin Station, we ran into our first land iguana.  It is a sandy colour but looks similar to a marine iguana. 

            This afternoon we are hopefully going to see more tortoises but I canít remember what we are doing exactly.  Canít wait to find out!

            Our afternoon consisted of a hike searching for giant tortoises.  We came across 3 but they were much more shy than at the Darwin Station.  It is more rewarding when you are searching for them and finally you spot one.

            After our visit with the tortoises, we went for a hike inside a lava tube.  It is like a giant cave with lots of minerals.  This particular lava cave goes for about a mile although we didnít hike the full length of the tunnel we got a pretty good idea of what it is like.  It is quite difficult to walk in because of the lava.  It is like walking on a bunch of rocks.

            After the lava tube it was time to go pack to the boat and pack our things to go home.

May 3, 2004

            I am now sitting on an airplane on our way back to Guayaquil.  I am going to miss the Galapagos Islands very much.  It is very difficult to leave such a unique and beautiful place.

             This morning before we left for breakfast on the cruise ship, Damon happened to be looking out our bedroom window at the right time and spotted a shark.  We are not sure what kind it was because we only saw the fin and his tail.  I couldnít believe we lucked out like that on our last day!

            After breakfast we had one more trip to the beach.  This beach had beautiful soft white sand.  We went for a little walk with Jorge and found two flamingos and a common stilt (bird).  I am thankful our group had some horseshoes somewhere because we had not seen any flamingos yet.

            Our luck had not run out yet!  After our dingy ride we had to wait at the dock for our bus to the airport and a frigate bird happened to fly right in front of us!  We were so disappointed that we didnít see any and at the last possible moment we were able to catch a quick glimpse, red breast and all!  We did not get a good picture but we saw one and that is all that matters.  All in all, I think we are both quite happy with what we saw and all our adventures.  This was an amazing trip and I would recommend it to anybody.  Save your money, it was worth it!  Now we are making our way back home but you never know, we still have one more night in Guayaquil and another adventure in Dallas.  We might get into trouble yet!

            Nadia and Vince were staying in Guayaquil for the night as well so we decided to get together one last night for dinner.  We went to  Cafeteria Lo Nuestro which is a really quaint restaurant and was recommended by the locals.  We had shrimp, prawns and calamari.  We were really happy with all the food and it was so much better than on the boat.  We said goodbye to our new friends and I would love to visit them in Rome.  The invite is there and vice versa.  I hope the rest of their honeymoon is just as nice as our trip to the Galapagos.

May 4, 2004

            We woke up in Guayaquil this morning, went for breakfast and off to the airport we go.  It is not as exciting to come home although tomorrow in Dallas we are going to go for a steak and see where JFK was shot.  Not much to report today as we are just flying all day.  We are not arriving in Dallas until around 10:45 pm and we will just go to bed I am sure.  I wish I could write something a little more exciting but even Damon is behaving today, although he did get the finger treatment at the airport leaving Guayaquil.  Ha ha!

May 5, 2004

            We spent the day in Dallas today although I was a little disappointed that I didnít see as much big hair as I thought I would.  Our flight attendants didnít disappoint me though.

            We went to the spot where JFK was shot and then we went to the 6th floor museum where the shooter was.  I have to tell you it was a little creepy.  We didnít plan our trip to the museum all that well as we ended up touring with about 100 kids.

            To save money, we decided to take the train to the airport.  When we couldnít get the machine to take our money, a guy with a gun waved us on.  We heard an announcement about checking tickets and this lady threatened us by telling us there was an armed guard.  We said ďwe know, heís the one who let us onĒ.  Anyway, when we got off at our stop, I thanked the guard and we purchased our tickets.

            Damon and I are now on the last flight home and I am very sad to leave but also happy to come home and share our new knowledge.

            We are now at home and I canít tell you how much fun packing is and how unpacking is the exact opposite.  I wonder why it takes 1 hour to pack and 3 days to unpack?  I am sad to say it is now back to the real world.  I hope you made it through my journal and I know it is a little long but there was so much to share and I didnít want to leave anything out.  Damon and I took over 1300 pictures and trying to cut it to 100 was impossible but I did manage about 150.  While I am still basking in our last trip, Damon is ready to research the next.  I guess that is why I have only been to 5 countries and Damon is now at 64.  How do I keep up with him?  L   


 
     

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