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Ecuador 2017 – December 17, 2017

January 14th, 2018 No comments

Sunday, December 17, 2017

This morning we finish packing up as we’ll be heading to another island. After breakfast Jorge leads the walk down to the docks where a sea lion is sunbathing on the floating dock right next to the boat, so much for the 6 feet of distance. He is unperturbed as we all walk with our bags just a couple feet from his nose to be able to board the boat.

The boat ride to Isla Isabela will first stop at Isla Floreana for a snorkel break and some lunch. They call the boat a “speed boat” but it is not what comes to mind when I think of a speed boat. It is more like a cabin cruiser with room for three or four people upstairs and approximately sixteen downstairs. Vicky and I head upstairs for the first half of the trip. It is a bit bouncy at the high speed and we catch a few splashes along the way. But as time passed by, the sun encroached on our space. The sun here is intense being on the equator and I already have a bit of sunburn, so as the boat slows down, we climb the ladder downstairs to the cabin. With the boat idling the waves roll us side to side and the exhaust fumes are making a few people green, but everyone manages to hold onto their breakfast and soon we are underway again.
Boat ride
As we are approaching Floreana, I am looking at the back of the boat and notice a large school of flying fish that were spooked by the boat and took to the air to escape. The entire boat trip takes about two and a half hours to get to Floreana. We wait offshore for a water taxi to take us ashore. The entire population of Floreana is approximately 140 people and we wonder what we will see on the island.

Once we arrive at the docks, the marine iguana welcoming committee is waiting for us.
Marine iguana
Marine iguana
Floreana
Marine iguana
Floreana
Floreana
Floreana
Marine iguana
Marine iguana
Marine iguana
Marine iguana
From here it is a 10 minute walk to a black sand beach where there is a small hotel. Here a lagoon offers a protected snorkeling area. We don our wetsuits and head for the water over the sand which is rather hot. The fish do not seem as plentiful as our previous areas but we do see schools of surgeonfish, sergeant majors, parrot fish, and many others. We do see a chocolate chip starfish as well as a variety that had a red body with black spots.
Snorkel
Snorkel
Sea turtle
Sea turtle
We came across three sea turtles feeding in shallow water. We were able to watch them for quite a while before they swam away. As we began making our way back to shore, one of the sea turtles came up to me and just stared at me while drifting along side me for a couple of minutes – way cool!

As we are drying off and warming up on the beach, we spot a large marine iguana swimming across the lagoon.
Eric, Chris, and Jason
Lunch is at a nearby restaurant which consists of soup with fritters, rice and lentils with yellowfin tuna. Dessert is a cake/brownie with coffee ice cream on top. The small population can’t really support a restaurant and so this one operates on a as need basis. Visiting groups such as ours and other transients such as doctors, teachers, or researchers contract to have a meal served.

On the way back to the boat we stop at the local “post office”. This is a large wooden barrel where people can drop postcards and then relying on other travellers to deliver their letters. None of the letters in the box are bound for Florida so we do not take any with us. But others in the group find some for their area of the world. Germany seems quite popular. Others leave some postcards addressed to themselves or someone they know just to see how long it takes to make it.
Chris
Marine iguana
The water taxi takes us back to the boat and we spend another two hours speeding across the open water to Isla Isabela. Isla Isabela has a population of approximately 2,200 people with the majority living in the town of Puerto Villamil.
Isabela
Our hotel is the San Vincent. After checkin in and dropping our bags off, Jorge takes us on a tour of the town. On a nearby corner, a preacher is bible thumping and preaching to anyone passing by. And with his loud booming voice he is reaching everyone in a three block radius. It is all in Spanish so we don’t understand much of what he is saying.
Chris
City street
Vicky
City street
Sunset
The group decides to dine together. Jorge takes us to a nearby restaurant, La casa del asado de Anibal Garcia. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but it definitely had a local atmosphere to it. Vicky and I decided to share the “Mixed Grill” as does Jason and Chris. The plate is a huge pile of food including lobster, shrimp, octopus, and chicken. A stray dog is patiently waiting next to the table to see if any scraps come his way.

Jason and I try the “craft beer” from Ecuador but I was not very impressed. The flavor was off and the beer was unfiltered making it very cloudy. We decide we’ll grab a bottle of wine from the local mini-market on the way back to the hotel. Chris finds a coconut ice cream for dessert and Vicky picks up a chocolate bar.
Dinner
Sunset

Ecuador 2017 – December 16, 2017

January 13th, 2018 Comments off

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Last night we had a much better night’s sleep. There was less noise, but the curtains did not block the light from the streetlamp just outside our window. And throughout the night a mosquito was pestering me by dive bombing my ear. But all-in-all a good night’s sleep.

Breakfast was at 7:00 and consisted of toast, scrambled eggs, coffee, and a yet unidentified juice. Not quite the spread as yesterday, but we had been warned that everything has to be imported by boat and so oftentimes certain foods can not be obtained. After breakfast I spend a few minutes to catch up the journal.
Journal
After breakfast Jorge met us at 8:00 where we walked to the docks to catch our boat to today’s snorkeling adventure. But before the snorkel, we stopped for a nature walk where we saw countless sea lions, many frigate birds, some blue-footed boobies, and marine iguanas. The wildlife here is just incredible.
Boat ride
Boat ride
Blue footed boobie
Frigate
Frigate
Frigate
Blue footed boobie
Blue footed boobie
Sea lions
Baby sea lions
Sea lion
Sea lion
Sally lightfoot crab
Blue footed boobie
Baby sea lion
Baby sea lion
Baby sea lion
Baby sea lion
Sea lion
Frigate
Frigate
Sea lion
Island
Marine Iguana
Sally lightfoot crab
Marine Iguana
Marine Iguana
Blue footed boobie
Blue footed boobie
Blue footed boobie
Marine Iguana
Frigate
Marine Iguana
Blue footed boobie
Blue footed boobie
Blue footed boobie
Blue footed boobie
Blue footed boobie
At one point we saw a young blue footed boobie on the side of the path. He paid us no mind as he patiently awaited his mother’s return. Before long the mother returned with a fresh catch that she regurgitated into the young’s beak. Within seconds 3 frigate birds were on the scene trying to steal a fresh meal. This is the way the frigate birds make their living. They have no oil to protect their feathers so they can’t really fish much for themselves. They can skim the water to pick up small fish on the surface, but they are masters at stealing a meal.

We make our way to a small dock where the boat picks us up to take us to our snorkeling spot. We get suited up and jump off the side of the boat this time. The cold water is a bit of a shock, but I get acclimated and start taking in the scenery.
Boat
Boat
To the left is the rocky shoreline where most of the fish are; to the right is a sandy bottom. Within a few minutes, a blue-footed booby dives into the water just 10 or 15 feet away from me leaving a trail of bubbles in its path. I pop my head above water just in time to watch it fly away. I have no idea if it was successful in its catch or not, but very exciting to see.
Snorkel
The fish are countless and colorful: wrasses, blennies, surgeonfish, angelfish, and parrot fish are everywhere. Before I even realize it a sea lion is swimming just 4 or 5 feet below me. She didn’t stick around but it is an amazing experience to see such diversity of wildlife on land and in the water.
Vicky selfie
Snorkel
The group comes upon three sea turtles and we spot a few rays on bottom. We also spot a puffer fish just before it is time to return to the boat. After an hour in the water, we are all pretty chilled even with the wetsuits. After getting situated on the boat, we are taken to a secluded beach where we can relax and warm back up in the sunshine. We spent some time sitting on the rocks just watching the crabs. Did you know that crabs can jump?! Yes, about 6 inches from one rock to the next with the incoming wave rushing below. I’ll call him Knievel Krab.
Sea turtle
Once everyone is warmed up and relaxed, we board the boat for the trip back to town. I think more than one of us was ready for a nap. Upon docking we have just a short walk to the Mockingbird Restaurant. Everyone is served yellowfin tuna with rice, fries, and coleslaw. It seems that no meal is complete without two starches being served, usually rice and potatoes, but also yucca and plantains are common.
Lunch
After lunch we get to retire to our rooms for hot showers and catch up on the journal. We take opportunity to repack our belongings since we will be moving to another island tomorrow. The internet here may as well be nonexistent! It is so sloooooooooooow! It says “connected”, but really?

A couple of hours later, Jorge gathers the group for a short walk to the Charles Darwin Interpretation Center. Here we learned a bit about the history of Darwin’s voyage and some of the early settlers to the islands. One story of note was a murder mystery on the island of Floreana that became known as “The Galapagos Affair”. With three dead of the 7 adult inhabitants in just a two month period, to this date it is unclear exactly what happened. The story is documented in the 2013 movie “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden“
Finch
Jason, Vicky, and Chris
Vicky
Family
Vicky
Sea lion
Vicky
Vicky
Eric and Vicky
Family
Sunset

For dinner, we walked to the El Descanso Marinero, recommended by Brian and Tori. The food, atmosphere, and service were all excellent. We tried one of the island specialities, ceviche, which is fish “cooked” in lime juice.
Dinner
Dinner
Dinner

Ecuador 2017 – December 15, 2017

January 12th, 2018 No comments

Friday, December 15, 2017

There was a lot of noise from the city; car horns, sirens, and such making it difficult to sleep. Ah, such is life in the city. I would have really liked some more sleep before the alarm clock goes before our 6:45 breakfast. Breakfast is a buffet with fresh fruit, yogurt and granola, and scrambled eggs, toast, and some sliced meats and cheeses.

David picks up the group at the hotel at 7:15 to take us to the airport for our flight to the Galapagos Islands. We are flying Avianca flight 1630 with a quick stop in Guayaquil on the way. There is a $20 fee per person at the airport as well as another $100 per person entrance fee for the Galápagos Conservancy – time to hit the ATM as they do not take credit cards. Oh, it is interesting that the local currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar. 95% of the land area of the Galapagos is designated as part of the National Park and this fee helps to keep this area pristine.

Upon our arrival in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Isla de San Cristobal – the capital of Galápagos Province, Ecuador, we debark our plane via steps down to the tarmac and make our way inside to meet our guide, Jorge. Once the group is gathered, Jorge takes us to our lodging at hotel Casa de Nelly on a small bus. Here two more members join our group: Janine from Germany and Githa from Australia.

Chris enjoying the island life
We are all pretty hungry as the ham and cheese sandwich on the plane just didn’t cut it. After dropping the bags off in our rooms, Jorge guides us to a restaurant in town for a late lunch.

Along the way we are already beginning to experience the Galapagos wildlife. The sea lions and marine iguanas are sunning themselves on the beach and rocks along the water’s edge. Despite the distractions, we eventually make it to the restaurant. If I wasn’t hungry before I am certainly now as it took us almost an hour to get the food after ordering. I guess we are now on island time. Then several of the orders were wrong. Janine is patiently picking out pieces of squid as she is eating her rice as she is vegetarian. Chris seems to be missing is dish of squid and rice, oh Janine is eating it. Well the waiter just takes the plate from Janine and gives it to Chris, then sets the vegetarian one down for her. Sigh.
Sea lion
Marine iguana
Sally lightfoot crabs
Sea lion
Sea lion
After lunch, we walk down the street to get outfitted with snorkelling gear. While the snorkelling gear is included in the tour, the wetsuits are not. Vicky and Jason opt for the full wetsuit while Chris and I pick out shorties. The wetsuits for us run another $200. Back to the ATM!
Once everyone is geared up, we board the bus for a short trip to the beach, Puerto Chino. The sea lions are everywhere! I am afraid I am going to step on one! Jorge has informed us of the policy to keep about six feet from them, but it seems almost impossible as they hide in the bushes near the trail. A frigate bird flies overhead and we are anxious to see what lies beneath the waves.
Jorge
Male frigate
Sea lions
Chris
Chris
Eric and Chris
Jason
Jorge gives us a quick briefing and we are off to the water. The water is quite chilly and I am thankful for the wetsuit even if it is a shorty. But the excitement takes over and I am checking out all of the underwater scenery. There is not much in the way of corals or exotic plant life. But, the fish are numerous and colorful and I feel like I am swimming in an aquarium. Suzie spots a sea turtle at the bottom and I saw a giant spotted eagle ray that swam off before Vicky got a chance to see it. I later found an eel that was on the hunt. It remained visible while I was able to get the attention of others. A couple of sea lions started swimming amongst the group for a while blowing bubbles as they swam. A few of us swam down and blew bubbles back. This is way cool!
Baby sea lion
After the bus ride back to the hotel, we return to our rooms where we find cold showers. Brrrrr! I guess 14 people are all trying to take a shower all at once.

We meet the boys downstairs to head into town in search of dinner. They reported an abundance of hot water and a prime room on the top floor, but there are three flights of tricky stairs to get to it. Tired and hungry we are not too particular about dinner and don’t necessarily want to roam about the town. The sushi place had targeted earlier in the day was very crowded and the open deck was in a party atmosphere. They are having a town celebration tonight with the official opening of a brand new pier and this deck overlooks the stage setup for the celebration. We find a restaurant a couple blocks up the road that we can get into and does not look deserted – Cri’s Burgers. The burger were good and very large!
Sea lion
Burger
After dinner we return down to the pier to see performers on stage and what appears to be the whole town out for the celebration. Parents all pulling wagons with their kids loaded in the back and lots of smiles all around. This is surely a big event for the town. We retire to our rooms and hope for a good night sleep.