Posted on July 1st, 2010 at 10:46 PM by admin

          From the Galapagos Islands I flew to Guayaquil (a bit further south in Ecuador).  After spending a day in the bus terminal I took a night bus to Loja and promptly hopped on another bus to Vilcabamba.  Although completely exhausted after all the busing and lack of sleep, I perked right up to the green mountainous landscape surrounding all sides of this beautiful little town.

Wow...is all I can say!

The most cooperative stick bug you´ll ever meet!

          Upon arriving I met a fellow traveler and made some collective plans for the day. After sharing breakfast with my new travel buddy I met my soon-to-be second travel buddy who was my roommate.  We all ended up going into town together and afterwards a refreshing hike and lunch. Afterwards I rushed back to th hostal for a much needed 75 minute $18 massage.  God I want to live in this place!!!  That night I had a  drink with Danny and Annabelle and hit the hay.

          What happened the next day I was in no way prepared for but that is nothing new for what has become an impromptu mad dash of a trip through South America. The three of us wanted to go zip lining in the mountains and off we went for several hours on horseback to reach our  lunch destination. Once again I got the crazy fast horse which was fun a first but down right scary at times. My leg muscles and knees were already killing me after th horserid but then we took off on foot to find the zip lines. The trail was rough to say the least – Annabelle lost hr balance on a tre trunk bridge and was told by the guide that she was lucky the tiny mettal wire she used to catch her balance actually held. This was crtainly not th only accidebt/injury of the trip, but I wont bore you will the details.  After hiking for about an hour we arrived at a very disappointing display of 2 small zip lines.  It was hardly worth the hike and on the way back my tendonitis was killing me from such a demanding day.  After all that my two friends decided not to say the two extra days in the mountains as they´d planned and returned that night with me. I was more than a little perturbed that we had to ride the horses back down for another 2.5 hours much of which was in th dark and the guide left many of us on our own and when we finally arrived it was 2 hours later than planned.  Having said all that, it wasn´t all bad- just hard to focus on the good due to poor planning and execution of the tour overall.  I still am in lov with this town and am grateful to have bonded with two great people.  Until we meet again Annabelle, Danny and VILCABAMBA!

Me and my new friends at our ¨highest¨point

Posted on June 27th, 2010 at 10:39 PM by admin

          Although not quite feeling like I had enough time for Quito, I continued on my adventure and headed to The Galapagos Islands.  I must admit that I was a bit worried, not having had time to plan any accomadations or tours ahead of time but I figured I´d show up and see what kind of deal I could get.  Luckily enough I ended on first-class yacht that holds about 16 people and I´m certain I paid less than the passengers that booked it in advance.  The cruise was one extra day in The Galapagos and I made the compromise in my schedule by pushing my return flight out one day so that I could make the most of my time there.  I arrived on a wednesday and was to join the other people on the cruise the following day.  Of course I did what I do when I have a day to spare – figured out the town, ate and went to the internet cafe to update my blog with the previous destination.

          Since I arrived in the Baltra airport, my first day was spent on Santa Cruz island in the city of Puerto Ayora.  It was a cute little city and I ran into a guy in the street that offered me a private room for $15/night.  I walked about 30 feet down the street with my 40lbs of luggage thinking I was going to find something else and promptly turned around to take him up on his offer. The hotel/hostal was called Hotel Elizabeth and the friendly gentleman did deliver on his promise. I regret slightly not going to the Charles Darwin Research Station but I really just wanted some R&R before I embarked on the ¨super cruise.” I know i´m young and all but this thing was so jam packed that I started wondering if I was going to fall asleep right in the middle of a snorkeling session!

          So let´s talk about this jam packed yet highly enjoyable 3 day cruise. In Santa Cruz we went to a park area to see the giant tortoises and what a sight they were!  We also went to see a large crator with lush vegetation. The daring Australian, Tom, and I followed the guide down a crevice that led to the face of one of the sides of the crator.  The view was spectacular and I was happy to engage my rock climbing skills even if for only a few minutes.  Once we returned to the boat I was presently surprised by the very lovely dinner the cook had prepared. My time in Ecuador has made me a lover of plantains cooked and prepared in every way possible.  There seemed to be no trouble avoiding wheat products – YAY!

The giant tortoises that can be found on Santa Cruz Island

          Day 2 was my first full day on the ship and it kicked off with a bang, well a rooster call, at 6:15am by our very entertaining guide. First we went to Rabida Island to check out the sea lions, full seals, pelicans and crabs. Once we returned from this little early morning excursion we quickly suited up in snorkeling gear to sea the rest of the animals that live underwater. I unfortantely do not yet have an underwater camera but I did see a white tipped shark, a black manta ray and many beautifully colored fish. Later that day we headed to Santiago Island for some more snorkeling.  At this point I finally started getting used to  only breathing through my mouth and I even dared dive down 5 or 6 feet to get some closer looks at my water loving friends. For the last event of the day we ended up on Chinese Hat Island. Being one of the more recent island´s created by the ever continuing volcanic eruptions from a hot spot that lies beneath The Galapagos, we were able to see how the lava had formed the island.  What a day!!!

Sweet slumber of a sea lion on Chinese Hat Island

Loving the iguanas on Santiago Island!

          After day 2 I wasn´t sure if I´d make it through day 3 but I still managed to get up early wanting to catch some good pictures of the sun rising.  Completely unbeknownst to me there was a beautiful view of the moon at about 5:35 am.  Closer to 6 am came the sun and I was happy having had a 2 for 1 photo op.  After the morning rooster call and blaring music, the first stop on day 3´s agenda was Bartolome Island where we climbed to the top of the highest point of the island, with the help of some wooden stairs, to see a beautiful few of some near islands. Here I spent much time trying to master the jumping off a fence picture.  I finally get a descent picture but my quadraceps are still sore from how many times I jumped!  Afterwards we went snorkeling again.  I didn´t see many new things in this snorkeling excursion but I did chase down a swimming penguin which was one of the highlights of my day.  I was swimming nearly as fast as I could just to keep up with the penguin who was swimming casual. I didn´t realize this of course until he sped up and was out of sight in about 3 seconds.  After that hard work I had a much deserved break laying on the beach after a brief trip to see some sharks swimming near a nearby shorline.  Having walked around in my bathing suit most of the day I managed to get many mosquito bites on my back and upon returning it was quite apparent that I was about to break the island rules of not carrying sand from one island to another.  I had sand EVERYWHERE and even after the unexpected hosedown upon returning to the boat, I still had sand in unreachable crevices that I will spare you the mentioning of.

Sunrise from the cruise ship

The life of a pelican on Bartolome Island

The view from Bartolome Island...along with my 43rd jump!

          Day 4 was really only a morning excursion but I found it to be one of the most enjoyable.  We took a dingy, just like every day, to North Seymour Island, where we went on a little hike to see frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, sea lions and iguanas.  I was able to get some great pictures of all of the above and I truly enjoyed playing with my settings on this day to get great pictures after having learned from all my mistakes of the previous 3 days. Photographer in progress but I still have much to learn!  I will miss the warm weather, the amazing scenary and animals, the very entertaining guide and all my newly made friends on the Yolita II.  Thanks everyone for making it a memorable experience!

The first thing I saw on North Seymour Island was this friendly bird who clearly wanted to tell me something!

Frigate birds - the male is trying to attract the female by puffing up his little red balloon

Posted on June 24th, 2010 at 12:09 AM by admin

          I arrived in Quito on Fathers Day and not surprisingly had very little to do.  Having read a bit about Quito during my layover in Santiago I knew that the city was pretty darn cheap.  But as a foreigner, I have to admit, that every single taxi driver tried to rip me off. I got out of one cab when the  driver refused to give me a fair price and on my way to the airport upon leaving Quito I pretended I didn’t have the extra 40% “stupid foreigners fee” and left this taxi driver awfully upset with me.   In any case, let me back up and talk a little bit about my experience in Quito.

          I kicked off sunday night with a few drinks with my host, Luis, and promptly went to bed. Monday was the first day I could really do anything. It was very cloudy so I opted to explore the historic downtown. Some of the architecture was quite stunning and I must say that I love that so many of the buildings are painted in beautiful bright colors. Charming. My tour was cut short by rain clouds but it was a good thing I had just bought some rain gear!

I love to see the mix of the architecture with historical monuments!

This street was particularly colorful and cozy

          Tuesday I wanted to do EVERYTHING but the late start that I got having felt the need to sleep in a bit definitely prohibited me from doing it all. In any case, I first went to the TeleferiQo – a tram that takes you to the top of Cruz Loma (4100m). The view was great and the weather was also much better than the previous day’s. I took some pictures, had an empanada verde (cheese empanada made from plantain instead of wheat), and strolled around a bit. I would have liked to have hiked but time did not allow it. On the tram ride down I met some very nice ladies from Guayaquil (an ecuatorian city south of Quito) who were also heading to my next stop – La Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World). Yes, for those of you who haven’t worked it out yet, this would be the GPS point 0′ 0′ 0′. No doubt it’s an excellent tourist attraction. Here I had a wonderful lunch (2 course meal for $2) with my new Guayquilian friends, watched a planetary show in Spanish and went to the museum inside the  monument that is to represent the center of the world. The museum depicted all of the indigenous peoples in various parts of Ecuador. It was very interesting to say the least since I knew next to nothing about these cultures before.  And let’s not forget the mountainous view from atop the monument – spectacular as always!

The view atop Cruz Loma

My new friends from Guayaquil that accompanied me to La Mitad del Mundo

Me straddeling the equatorial line

          That night Luis and I had indian food and beer (or rather I had the two and he just had beer) and shared our views on life, people, happiness. I felt such peace in knowing that there are people all over the world that share my views. Suddenly geography seems so insignificant. And i´m off totThe Galapagos Islands!