Sunday, December 28, 2008
Trip Report and Pics
As most of you know, Kurt and I generally take a trip each December, over the holidays, which lasts around 10 days, give or take. This year, it was to the Galapagos Islands, off of Ecuador. While travelling, I try to take notes about what we do and see, so I can remember when I get back. Below is what I typed out while travelling, with some additions upon our return.....
Today was mostly travel to Quito. We flew American Airlines through Miami and had a really long layover. We got there at like 9 a.m. and our plane was scheduled to leave again at 330 p.m. We boarded on time, but then, there was a mechanical issue with the plane, so we had to sit in the plane for about an hour and a half while they fixed it. Finally got flying and arrived in Quito around 900 p.m. Went easily through customs and got our luggage. Went outside, and our driver, Alfredo, was there. We were driven to the hotel, Nu House. Very kewl hotel.
Everything is very modern. We were in room 202. We were all starving by this point, so we headed to a place next to the hotel called El Atrio. The food was amazing. Kurt and I both had the sea bass, which was served atop guacamole filled yucca (I had never had yucca before, and I have to say YUM). I started off with a crab mousse, which was interesting…..Not like anything else I have ever had. Kurt started with a ceasar salad that looked amazing. Auntie had onion soup and a roast beef sandwich. She loved the soup, but said the beef was tough……..Headed to bed after that.
Got up and head to breakfast at about 8 a.m. Free with our room at a place called Q next door to the hotel. I had fried eggs and toast with orange juice.
After that, walked around a little near the hotel to check out the scenery.
Met our driver, Alfredo, at the hotel for our day tour of Quito, which lasted from 9 until around 3 p.m. We started off at the Basillica, the only church we went to where pictures were allowed.
Which totally killed me at some of these churches, as they were AMAZING. All of this tour was pretty much in the old Coloniel part of the town. After the Basillica, we headed to two other churches, the Church of San Francisco and the La Compania church here (most important in area). La Compania had these two amazing paintings near the door on display, and I loved the one that was an oil painting of hell. Very kewl. I would love a small version of it for the house, but alas, did not see anything like that anywhere while shopping. One of the churches had a museum of really old, kewl catholic artifacts, and a special nativity scene area that was the neatest display I have ever seen.
While walking around Old Town, Quito, Kurt bought some ice cream that was homemade from a lady selling it from a cart, as well as some Yucca chips.
The store fronts were hilarious, my fav being the places that sold shoes. It was incredible how many pairs of shoes were stuffed into a small store.
After that, headed up to El Panecillo, to see a statue of the Virgin Mary with wings.
After that, went to a museum called Central Bank Museum, that displayed the history of Quito and Ecuador. Awesome paintings and artifacts in there. At the end of that tour, we came back to the hotel and headed to a local mall, El Jardin, because my husband, who has issues with doing things for himself, LOL, forgot all his short sleeve shirts and had to buy some. So, we had lunch at the mall, at a place called Cafeteria Jardin. I had rice with shrimp, YUM. Kurt had a tuna sandwich and fries and auntie had a burger and fries. Walked around the mall, found some cheap shirts and left. Came back to our hotel area and walked up and down the streets. I ended up buying a really kewl turquoise scarf (winter) from this Alpaca store. The scarf is soft and gorgeous. And it was cheap. Yay. Had dinner at a local place known for Ecadorian cuisine called Mama Clorinda’s. Kurt had white fish, I had a local fish, and auntie had chicken. We all started out with yummy soup too. Went to bed after that.
Got up early to take a shuttle to the airport. Alfredo drove us and got us all checked in. waited for our flight, and we were off. Had a short layover in Guayaquil. Then, off to Baltra where the airport strip in Galapagos is. Here we met Africa and Javier, the naturalists for our trip through Angermeyer Cruises. They took us to a dock to our dinghy and we were off to the vessel, the Maryanne. While waiting to get on the dinghy, we were surrounded by sea lions, all chilling out on the dock. So cute. I heart sea lions. There was a mama and baby that were soooooo cute.
Got to the ship and were assigned our rooms. We were in Room 3, and auntie was across from us in room 4. The rooms were nicer than I expected. Big bathrooms, small cabins, but enough room and we are barely there. Had lunch, which was eaten in a common area with all passengers. All meals are like that here. Funny thing--we are traveling with almost all Danish people. There are 16 people on this yacht and 11 of them are Danish. But, they speak fluent English, so we can talk to them all. Another funny thing, there are 5 kids on our trip. All perfectly behaved and adorable, ranging from ages 8-14. I normally do not like kids being around me constantly, but these kids are great. That afternoon, we did our first hike on South Plaza Island. It was incredible. We got off on this makeshift dock and immediately were laughing at the sea lions, there were 100s of them.
We also, on this hike, saw lizards, iguanas, yellow warblers, frigates, crabs, and other birds. Some of the views were amazing as well. After this, went back to the yacht, and had dinner, and went to bed.
Got up and had breakfast, then went to Espanola Island. Went to a beach area, where we were free to roam around. TONS of sea lions, chilling on the beach. We also saw mockingbirds, pelicans, crabs, a stingray and other birds.
After this, went back to the yacht, and changed for snorkeling. Kurt tried for the first time in his life, and as of right now, he does not like it. I, however, had a blast. The fish and coral were amazing. I saw a ton of different fish. After this, went back to the yacht and took a nap before the next hike on Espanola Island. Auntie sat this one out as she was not feeling well. Awesome hike. We saw sea lions galore, including many babies, some as young as a few days old. We also saw waved albatross, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. We also saw blue footed boobies, with eggs, Galapagos hawks, frigates, gulls, lizards, with the most brilliant colors I have ever seen.
This hike was VERY rocky. The views were incredible. Oh, we also saw a blowhole. Dinner, then bed.
Got up this morning and went to see the tortoises in the wild on a farm on Santa Cruz Island. This was awesome. These tortoises were all between like 30-100 years old. They are HUGE and look dinosaur like.
It was amazing. Also, took a hike in the first there to see the vegetation and such. Can’t even adequately explain how kewl these creatures are. Got on our shuttle and stopped at a lava tunnel, that was really kewl. It is like 10000 years old.
After that, had lunch on the boat, then headed back to the Darwin Station and town. We saw Lonesome George, who is famous because he is the last known Pinta Island tortoise. He is like 150 years old. Also saw a lot of other tortoises here, which they are attempted to mate so the species do not die out.
We also saw iguanas here, and some birds. After that, walked around Puerto Ayora, which is a small town near the water. Bought some postcards, Blue Footed Boobie salt and pepper shakers, and various other small figurines for the office collection. After that, came back to the boat for dinner and bed. While waiting for dinner, we saw a shark in the water. It was pretty freaking kewl to see his fin go in and out of the water. I guess they come around sometimes at night to eat fish near the lights of the boat.
Did a morning hike on an island North Seymour Island. Here we saw a ton of birds nesting, including frigates and boobies. This was awesome because we got to see the baby birds, which are adorable, sitting in their nests.
Also saw iguanas, lizards and sea lions, and a ton of crabs. Went snorkeling and saw tons of schools of fish, as well as a stingray and a snake eel. Went snorkeling a second time and saw a ton of fish, and saw 8 white tipped sharks. Pretty freaky, but kewl at the same time. The white tipped sharks are gorgeous, but scary. Went on a second hike on a beach area again (Chinese Hat Island), but with walks up cliffs to see stuff.
The sea lions here were hilarious. One of the dominant males kept chasing us from beach area to beach area to tell us that it was his territory. He was the biggest sea lion I have ever seen. Also saw the albatross birds here, which are only found there. Saw babies as well, which was awesome.
Started out today on Isabela Island. It was a beach hike where we saw sea lions, iguanas, lizards, green sea turtles (including two mating), pelicans, frigates, boobies (blue footed), tons of crabs and an awesome landscape.
After that, we took a boat tour of the rest of the island and saw a ton of things, including lots of swimming penguins, iguanas, sea lions, lizards, sea turtles, pelicans, boobies, etc.
Went back to the boat after that and went snorkeling where the penguins were that we saw. It was amazing. We saw about 8 green sea turtles, a ton of penguins, including about 20 that swam right under me, starfish, different kinds of fish, etc. Prob the best snorkeling yet. It is amazing to see the turtles and penguins while snorkeling. After that, went on another hike at Fernandina Island on a volcano field. It was very hot there. We saw 1000s of iguanas. It was kinda insane. Everywhere you turned, there was an iguana. At one point, Kurt counted 102 just in his site alone, and I am sure he missed some.
Here, we also saw the marine iguanas who swim in the water. Also saw the cormorants, which are flightless birds and only found in the Galapagos. Saw a baby in the nest too. Here we also saw green sea turtles and the hawk billed turtle, which had amazing colors. Also saw a lot of birds, including pelicans, frigates and boobies, as well as sea lions, lizards, and crabs.
Came back to the boat after that, where we ended up seeing whales, about 4 of them, in the water near the boat. Was not expecting to see whales, so that was amazing. We also got to go into the captain’s area to watch the coordinates turn to 0’0’0 (meaning we were on the line of the equator.)
Today visited Santiago Island (Puerto Egas) and Rabida Island. Started out with a hike on Santiago where we saw lots of fur seals (SOOO cute), iguanas, sea lions, oyster catcher bird, yellow crested heron, yellow warbler, crabs, lizards, pelicans and boobies.
The walk was on a lava field. After the hike, we snorkeled at the black sand beach there. Kurt tried snorkeling again, but was not happy with the equipment and his snorkel broke. I saw sea turtles, one shark, and tons of fish. Swam really far on this one and was pretty tired afterwards. Took a short nap, then boarded the dinghy for a second snorkel. This was off of Rabida, which is a red sand beach. Nice snorkel, but only saw a lot of schools of fish and a new fish, the mackerel. After the hiking, the captain put the sails up on the ship, which looked so cool. The ride was interesting though, much different than with the motor on.
Visited Santiago Island again and Bartolome Island today. Took two hikes.
One was on a huge lava island, that had awesome views of pinnacle rock and volcanoes. The second was a hike up 360 stairs to a ledge that overlooked the ocean and gave an awesome view of pinnacle rock and a lot of wildlife. Tiring hike, but not as bad as we thought it would be!
There was one snorkel that afternoon as well, which I skipped because I was exhausted! Took a nap with Kurt instead….
Got up early to go to Mosquera Island. We were not able to land and walk around because the tide was too low, but we did see a lot of sea lions and wildlife on shore…..Came back to the boat and got ready to disembark. Walked around a souvenir area at the airport and bought a deck of cards and a cute blue footed boobie tote bag.
Flew back to Quito and were met by a driver who took us to our hotel for our last night. Had dinner at Rodriguez’s, which was a yummy Mexican place right outside the hotel. After that, went to the room and just chilled. We were both exhausted.
Got up super early on Xmas to be taken to the airport. The rest of the day consisted of flights home. We kept trying to jump on flights to get home sooner, with no luck--all were full.
No delays on any flights, but did not get home until like 930 p.m. Kurt was convinced that we would be held up at the Chicago Airport, because they are known for delays, but we were not even held up there, thankfully!
The remainer of the pictures from my trip can be found here for Galapagos, and here for Quito.
Happy holidays everyone!!
Composed By: Lori Anne Haskell at Sunday, December 28, 2008