Day 15 & 16 – Wednesday & Thursday May 23-24, 2012

At 5:00 AM we received a “natural” wake-up call. A rooster began crowing and continued for about 30 minutes. I must say this is the first time I have heard a rooster while staying in a hotel! We were up, had breakfast and loaded on the bus by 7:00 AM.

Today we are to transverse the island of Santa Cruz from south to north. Our departure airport is located on Baltra Island off the northern tip of Santa Cruz. The airport here is the largest in the Galapagos. It was built by the US during WW


In the highlands of Santa Cruz, about halfway across the island we stopped to see “Los Gemelos” the twins. The twins consists of two large magma chambers which have collapsed.

 




We decided this would be a good place for our group photo.


Arriving at the northern end of Santa Cruze, our next adventure was to take a public ferry across to Balta. The first ferry we boarded was too full to get our luggage on top, so we “passed thru” to the next ferry.



Our bus waiting to load our luggage on the ferry.

After a little time for some last minute shopping at the outside vendors, we soon boarded our plan for the flight back to Guayaquil and then Quito.


After arriving at our hotel in Quito, we had a few hours to rest and get our luggage ready for our early flight to the US tomorrow. For dinner tonight we were taken to a private museum for an after hours tour and then dinner. It was quite interesting.




Arriving back at the hotel, we said our last goodbyes to our fellow travelers. In the morning we would be leaving at different times and this was the last time we would all be together.


Thursday morning we were up early and took the short van ride to the airport. The trip home was routine but long. We had about a 3 hour layover in Miami but since we had to go thru customs it wasn’t so bad. Arrived in Atlanta and then had the one hour drive home. We got home about 10:00PM. Tired but happy.

Overall I would rate our Machu Picchu-Galapagos trip a great success. It was more “active” than I had expected but not more than could be done. We had excellent group leaders/guides and we were fortunate to be traveling with a great group of people of whom we will always have fond memories. We hope to see some of you again….

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Day 14 – Tuesday – May 22, 2012

Today we leave the boat for an overnight on land. We were up and away before 7:00 AM. Our first stop after a brisk 20 minute walk was the Darwin Center, located on Santa Cruz at Puerto Ayora. Here Equadorian and foreign scientists work on research and projects for coservation of the Galapagos terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The Center, established in 1994 has a Natural History Interpertation Center and provides educational projects.

The weather gods were still favoring us with beautiful clear weather and no rain. It was hot and sticky but no one complained. We visited several exhibit areas and then wandered thru the Center and observed the “pens” where they segregated the various tortois species from the different islands. They collect the eggs in the wild, incubate them and raise the small tortoises until they are able to survive in the wild.

We also got to see Lonesome George – the only remaining tortoise from Pinta Island. The details are in the sign below.

It is estimated that George is about 80 years old. Still pretty young for a tortoise. They have been trying to cross breed George to keep his strain alive, but so far have been unsuccessful. They recently changed the two female tortoises for a different species which they think are more closely related to George. Good Luck George…..

After leaving the Darwin Center, we walked back down the main street to our designated meeting place. We had about 1 1/2 hours to browse the shops and do a little shopping.

Speaking of shopping, I know it’s for a good cause but the sales tax in the Park at the Center is 50%. Elsewhere on the island, there is no tax.

The obligatory photo with the giant tortoise . See what I mean by “hot and sticky”?

While making our way up the street, we passed the fish market. I have seen many fish markets in South America but this one was different. They had a natural disposal for the waste produced from cleaning the fish.

Between the Sea Lions and the Pelicans, there was no waste evident. It was interesting that the wildlife knew what they could have and what they couldn’t.

When we finally boarded our bus we headed to the highlands for lunch at a private location. The grounds were beautiful and lush.

After lunch we traveled a few more miles to an area where we would hopefully see a few tortoises in the wild.

E.T. – phone home…. The giant tortoise was used as the model for E.T.

We were lucky and did find a few.

I am not sure exactly what was happening here, looks more like an Easter Egg hunt than a giant tortoise hunt 🙂

After leaving the farm, we stopped to visit a lava tube. This one was discovered by the land owner trying to find out why his cattle were mysteriously disappearing.

These tubes can run for miles underground where they carried the molten magma to the sea.

On our way back to the Hotel, we stopped at the home of a small coffee grower. Here I purchased some whole bean, locally grown and roasted coffee. These photos are of the ladies grandchildren who were staying with her after school.

Bill, as always has a special gift for relating to the children.

Our hotel, the Casa Natura. It was very nice and quaint. We were on the 3rd level and there were no elevators. Glad we didn’t have to handle the luggage! The rooms were very large and we had a lovely balcony.

After a couple of hours to rest and refresh ourselves, we headed by foot to the restaurant for dinner. It was a very pleasant walk of about six blocks.

The food was great, most of us had the fresh tuna and it was cooked perfect tonight…

Tomorrow is another early morning with two flights back to Quito.

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Day 13 – Monday – May 21, 2012

Travel and tourism in the Galapagos is highly regulated. If I understand correctly, each tour boat is assigned certain islands for each tour. The longer the tour the more islands assigned. Neither the Naturalist nor the ship’s captain has any input into what islands are assigned for a specific tour. In our case we had 3 nights onboard the ship and were assigned 4 islands. Our 4th night was spent on Santa Cruz Island. Gustavo, our trip leader each morning posted our schedule on a whiteboard.

Our first “event” is a couple of hours on Bachas beach. Gustavos thoughtfully reminds us of what we need to bring.

Two U.S. barges were towed to this beach and abandoned after WWII. The locals mispronunciation of “barges” became Bachas and it stuck. You must be careful where you walk in some places. Tthere are still pieces of metal sticking out of the sand in some places.

A member of the official greeting committee.

The lovely Carina patiently waits for us.

Higher up the beach there were numerous sea turtle nests. Some had egg shells remaining from the hatching. We had to be careful not to disturb the nest, but what I found even more interesting were the turtle tracks left in the sand. They actually looked like they were made by some mechanical device.

Turtle tracks

Over the years I have photographed many flamingos, but I don’t believe I have ever seen one flying. That changed on Bachas Beech.

Their bodies really look like it would be impossible for them to fly!

The small ghost crab, not nearly as plentiful as their cousin the Sally Lightfoot crab.

Sally Lightfoot crab

We spent the morning enjoying the sun and the view. We took a swim and did some snorkeling and of course observed the wildlife.

 

 

 

We had the entire beach to ourselves, but It felt like we were the only people in the world.

As per our schedule, we took a bridge and galley tour before lunch. This didn’t take long, after all it is a small ship, but it was interesting.

Raul in his tiny work space. It was amazing that he prepared the fantastic meals in such cramped conditions. I am sure all of our kitchens are much larger than his and he prepares 3 meals a day for 24 people.

We visited the engine room and the folks who had worked at John Deere were pleased to see that a couple of their motors powered the generators.

We then went topside to visit the captain in the bridge. He was very kind and happy to answer all of our questions and and show us some of the ships equipment.

Captain Romel

After lunch and a short rest period, which we were going to need, we landed for our trek to “Dragon Hill”. This landing is on the northwest side of Santa Cruz Island.

You may get the idea that we spent a lot of time on the zodiacs, and we did. By the end of our trip we were pretty adept at boarding and debarking from the bobbing boat.

The scenery was beautiful. At one point I counted 22 extinct volcanic cones from one spot.

I’ll be quite for a while and just share some photos.

Galapagos duck

 

and we marched on… and on… and on……

Another of my old friends.

The view was great, but it was HOT.

We returned back to the ship where we had a “port talk” with more information about the islands and their history. We then got to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the Pacific.

Sun setting over Guy Fawkes Island, a collection of two crescent shaped islands and two small rocks north-west of Santa Cruz Island, I have no idea how the Island got the name of the English revolutionary who attempted to carry out the Gunpower Plot in 1605. There must be a story but I couldn’t find it. It was a beautiful sunset anyway.

We finished the day with farewell cocktails with the captain and crew, followed by dinner.

The ever gracious Carlos.

Tonight we will travel around the island to Puerto Ayora on the southeastern side of Santa Cruz Island. Here we will debark for a day of exploring and finish with an overnight in a hotel.

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Day 12 – Sunday – May 20, 2012

Today was a day of exploring. Our first stop was Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island. This was followed by a great hike on North Seymour Island where the wildlife was incredibly abundant. There are quite a few photos and I will give little commentary, just enjoy the pictures folks!

Black Turtle Cove


Frank’s ready whether anyone else is or not…


He’s wondering what we are doing in HIS cove.


Have you heard the joke about the three Boobies on the rock…., well maybe later.



Sea Turtle



It’s easy to see how this cove got the name Black Turtle Cove.

Back on board the Carina after returning from exploring Black Turtle Cove, we saw National Geographic Ship the Islander. We crossed paths with the Islander several times and it made me appreciate the small close group we have on the Carina. I understand the National Geographic tours are great but 120 people vs 16, I’ll take the smaller group any day.


 

North Seymour Island


Here we are landing on North Seymour Island







Magnificent Frigatebird in all his glory


Another blue footed boobie. I have several photos on this post, they are just too cute not to post….










He didn’t eat the spider (I don’t think), they are pretty much strictly vegetarians.


As you can tell, I love the iguanas…


 




Marine Iguanas


another Frigatebird


Blue footed boobie with an egg


Gustavos

Below are a couple of photos taken as the sun was setting on an absolutely beautiful day in the Galapagos Islands.



At dinner tonight we had a surprise. Today was Bob and Peggy’s anniversary and Raul prepared a cake for the occasion. The real surprise came when he produced a fire ax to cut the cake. For a moment I think Peggy thought he was serious!

 

It was a lot of fun and I think it was great that OATS arranged for this small celebration to honor their special day.

It has been a long, tiring but enjoyable day. It’s early to bed for me…..

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Day 11, 2012 – Saturday – Galapagos

Up early at 4:30. We had the luggage outside the door at 5:30 with it separated into what was staying at the hotel and what was going with us. After checking out and breakfast we were on our way to the airport. I was surprised to learn that there was a Galapagos Airline – AeroGal. See the cute iguana on the logo? We had to go thru a separate check in for the Galapagos. They give special attention to make sure you are not bringing any plant or animal life with you. Everyone also has to pay a $10 immigration fee.

 

The first leg of our flight today was from Quito to Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador. Guayaquil is located on the coast and is only a 35 minute flight from Quito. I was impressed with AeroGal. The planes were new, clean and roomy. The service was excellent. On the short 35 minute flight we were served drinks and a pastry. I had the fortune of sitting next to our group leader Gustavo on the flight. He pointed out many features of the country as we passed over.

This impressive mountain is the ice-capped volcano Chimborazo. It’s last eruption was about 1400 years ago, but on the average it erupts every 1000 years. I am glad we didn’t get to witness it coming to life. An interesting fact about Chimborazo is that it’s the highest volcano in the Northern Andean Volcanic Zone and the summit is the FARTHEREST point from the earth center. Measured from the center of the earth it is 2229 meters higher than Mt. Everest. This is due to the equatorial bulge of the earth and Chimborazo is located only a few degrees from the equator.

At the airport in San Cristobal we were welcomed with this sign

After a very short (10) minute bus ride we arrived at the pier.

There is no doubt who rules in the Galapagos – the wildlife…

Suited up and heading for our ship. Kay, Wayne and Peggy.

 

The other group behind us.

Arriving at our boat, the Carina.

 

Bob waiting while the first group unloads.

Wayne getting ready to sample our first meal aboard our home for the next 3 nights.

After lunch and a brief rest, we head to Isla Lobos for snorkeling and then exploring the island. Unfortunately, my new snorkel began to malfunction after about 15 minutes out. The valve is obviously defective. I was able to use one from the boat for the rest of our trip.

Below are a few photos of the wildlife we saw.

 

 

 

 

The first of many Blue Footed Boobies to be seen.

A gull type which Gustavo said he had never seen on the islands before

Sally Lightfoot crab. They are everywhere….

It was a very tiring but satisfying day. Looking forward to tomorrow.

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Day 10 – May 18, 2010 – Quito

Well today we were able to sleep a little later, we met in the lobby at 7:45 to begin our day. Our first stop was at the Sinamune school for the disabled. Rush hour traffic was pretty heavy and the driving in Quito is adventurous to say the least (but perhaps less so than in Lima).

Sinamune was founded by Maestro Edgar Palacios in 1993. Palacios is a talented musician who has more than 150 original compositions to his credit as well numerous CD’s. His goal at Sinamune is to teach motor skills to disabled persons through the use of music. The organization has an orchestra which consists entirely of physically or mentally disabled children and adults. Sinamune is one project the Grand Circle Foundation supports in Ecquador.

We enjoyed a wonderful performance of music and dance performed by the students. We even got to dance ourselves!

An always smiling Gustavo waiting for us to board the bus.

After leaving the school, we went to the colonial portion of the city.

Ceremonial Guard outside the Presidential Palace

Street vendor selling what looks like ice cream, but I understand it is some kind of meringue, I would have loved to try some, but with the heat I just wasn’t sure how safe that would be on my delicate North American stomach…

We then went to an outside cafe for lunch. It was located in the plaza at the Iglesia de San Francisco cathedral.

Bob is explaining something to the girls it appears.

We had cornmeal tamales, different from Mexican but quite delicious and goat. The goat was also very good. Another great aspect of this cafe location was that it gave me a wonderful opportunity to people watch and get some photos.

Latin lovers everywhere…..

He’s got MY GOAT…..

Security enjoying the “ice cream”

After lunch we drove the short distance to the equator to a museum. Here they gave several interesting demonstrations of equatorial phenomena .

Kay with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern.

A shrunken human head. There was even wall with illustrations showing the process to “shrink” a head. We saw these at a couple of different museums. We were told the natives no longer did this, but who can be sure? There is still a lot of the country which is jungle….

Bob and Carl look like they are about ready to return to our hotel for a little siesta.

A typical pharmacy. These are located every couple of blocks in the cities.

Arriving back at the hotel we had a couple of hours to relax, nap, or in my case get my luggage organized for our travel tomorrow. We would only be carrying our small bag, leaving most of our luggage in Quito to pick up on our return.

This evening we had our second “home hosted meal”. This time was a little different from the one in Peru. We divided into two smaller groups to visit different homes. Our family was a professional family who lived in Quito. The father, Diemel, had a degree in engineering but was the head of fraud at a bank outside Quito. Evelyn, his wife, was an accountant who worked from home. They have two children and a lovely home. The meal was very good, but the conservation with Diemel and Evelyn was what made the visit. They both spoke very good English and we were able to discuss any and all aspects of daily life in Ecuador.

Evelyn, Diemel and their children

Well, to bed early. We have to be in the lobby at 6:10 ready to leave for the airport. But first, we must check out and have breakfast. Up early again….

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Day 9 – May 17, 2012 – Cusco-Lima-Quito

Well, we have about learned the drill:

6:30 – Luggage outside the door
7:00 – Depart for the airport
8:50 – Fly from Cusco to Lima
10:15 – Arrive at Lima Airport
1:00 – Fly from Lima to Quito
4:25 – Arrive at Quito airport and transfer to hotel

All things considered, it went pretty smooth…

My last glance out my hotel window and our bus is waiting already.

I only have one airport photo…. Just not enough time (or was it energy?)

Taxis lined up at the Quito Airport. Quito is a city of 2.5 million people approximately 25 miles long and 3 miles wide at an elevation of 9,200 feet. The city comes to within less than 1 mile from zero latitude known locally as “The middle of the world” to avoid confusion. The word equator is Spanish for equator. The airport is located about 6 miles north of the city center and traffic was heavy.

We arrived at our hotel only about an hour later than was originally planned. Considering we arrived in Quito during rush hour and our flights were a little late, not too bad.

We are staying at the Mercure Hotel Alameda. As you can see from the this lobby photo, it was pretty nice. Actually the nicest hotel we have been in. The only problem was that there was only one working elevator for the entire hotel. We were on either the 5th or 7th floor… gee, can’t believe I don’t remember which. I guess there have just been too many hotels in too short a period. I do remember though, that I was too far to take the stairs too often. Oh, I think we were on the 5th the first two days we were here and then the 7th when we came back thru for one night.

This is Gustavo our Trip Leader for Ecuador. Here we were having our initial briefing at the hotel along with pisco sours.

Not a bad day considering that we spent it in airports and airplanes… I have all my other photos edited and hope to have them posted soon.

 

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