Archive for January, 2011

Santa Cruz

Posted on January 31, 2011 by 1 Comment

On the fifth day, we woke up anchored off Puerto Ayora and were summoned to breakfast with the ringing of a bell. In just a few short days we have been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to respond to the bell for every meal and activity. We get hungry as soon as we hear it.

Then, it was off to the Darwin Center and to see some turtles. It’s worth mentioning that the town here has a population of about 10,000 – mostly created to support tourism. A big town is not what I imagine when I think of the Galapagos – this island even has a long asphalt highway crossing it. As a result, the animals and humans have to compete for space.

Still, there are protected areas here, like the Darwin Center. Home to Lonesome George: the last of his species. They have tried to mate him with other species, but so far no luck. It was a bit of a sad moment explaining to Bode that once George died, there would be no other animals like him on Earth.

Later, we made a trip to another preserve for giant tortoises where Bode introduced himself to a Swedish girl with the following line – “Did you know that giant tortoises have two penises?” Talk about an ice-breaker. It worked.

That little bit of trivia was supplied by our guide, but I don’t think it’s actually true. Still, it’s an attention getter.

From here, some of our ship-mates headed back to the mainland and we returned to the boat to meet some of the new gang and crew. Then, point the boat north to Isla Santiago.

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Day 4 – Isla Floreana

Posted on January 29, 2011 by 4 Comments

A morning featuring a double rainbow is pretty much a guarantee that the day is going to be a good one. Our first stop was Post Office Bay, where in the late 1700′s pirates placed a barrel for mail to be delivered by other sailors passing through. Kind of an honor-system mail service. The old barrel disintegrated and has been upgraded since, but you can still place your mail there for eventual delivery by other passer’s through.  Most people in our group sorted through some post cards and looked for something to deliver back in their home country, but we headed back to enjoy the beautiful desolate beach.  If you don’t get your Galapagos post card from us, it’s still in the barrel (really.)

Later we crossed the island of Floreana by foot. We stopped at the dried up lagoon in search of flamingos, but they had flown to better lakes. Across the island, we could see tons of sea turtles from the beach.  We also managed to find our first eel, but it was being eaten by a crab. I think I know a few people who would pay a lot of money for an eel-stuffed crab.

Next up was snorkeling at Devil’s Crown. They didn’t say why it was named this, but Jason and I decided it was due to the strong currents. Luckily, Dina had decided to stay on the boat with Bode, because he wouldn’t have been able to swim here. Strong currents do make excellent places for fish to live. And, for sea lions to play diving games with you. Three sharks, too!

That night, we anchored off Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz – the largest town in the Galapagos. It was a pretty quiet Sunday night, but we did find an alley where they set up food stalls. We plopped down with some of our our shipmates for some cervezas and soaked up the local scene. We intended to get back to the boat early, but Bode fell asleep on dad’s lap and we decided to see how long the street food would keep coming…

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Isla Española

Posted on January 28, 2011 by 8 Comments

The days here in Galapagos just keep getting better. Today, aside from fantastic views, we got to see some of the birds that the Galapagos Islands are famous for.

First, we saw a rare hawk circling for prey. From a distance we saw him swoop down and catch something in his talons for lunch. Later, we found him resting and caught this photo.
We also hike near a nesting area for albatross. We saw some of the eggs still on the ground that had been left for some reason or another. These birds are huge, the photos don’t show the scale.

Finally, we saw what Bode had been waiting for; the blue-footed booby. There are 4 types of boobies, Galapagos has 3, and we got to see two of them today. The masked booby and the famous blue-footed variety.

We were told that the blue-footed booby dives deep into the water to fish. Seeing the splash, the fish scatter. But they have reformed in their school by the time the booby has turned to go up to surface and they are able to snatch the fish on their way up.

This is baby booby time of year and the parents are splitting up the egg sitting duty. We got to witness a couple changing shifts. There are also lots of fuzzy babies about. No blue feet, but they look like they are made with feather boas. We also got to see a mother feeding a baby.
That is what’s so special about this place. The animals seem to look at you as a curiosity, but aren’t frightened by you. They just go about there business.

Bode is having a grand time being able to look at these animals so close up. He’s even interested when we find the skeletal remains of some of them. This trip is bound to cover all the kindergarten science he should be learning this year.

As every day here, there are still hundreds of lizards, iguanas and sea lions to entertain us. If you get sick of sea lion photos, imagine how many we went through to edit it down to these few. Cute as they are, these guys are more amazing in person.

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Day 2 – Islas Santa Cruz and Santa Fe

Posted on January 27, 2011 by 4 Comments

Each day on our cruise included hiking and snorkeling. Each island and reef offered something unique. Even the iguanas were different from island to island.  It was egg-laying season for the lizards, and we’re told it takes them two weeks to dig a 40cm hole to lay their eggs. We got to witness an iguana fight between two females competing for a good nest. Location, location, location.

Every island had sea lions, though. And, the babies were only a few weeks old and very curious. The little lizard here is known as a Lava Lizard. Bode’s favorite fact about them; they eat each other.

Santa Fe island had one of the most vivid landscapes of the islands we visited.

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Galapagos Day 1 – Isla Baltra

Posted on January 25, 2011 by 3 Comments

In yet another brilliant use of frequent flier miles, our friend Dina decided to come out and join us for a few weeks in Ecuador. First up was our trip to Galapagos.

A direct flight from Quito got us to the island of Baltra, in the Galapagos Archipelego. There, we met up with our guide, William, and the 12 other passengers about our tour boat. We were also welcomed to the islands by a group of sea lions who had taken over the the boat dock.

The boat was nice enough, and although the cabin was larger than the van (and had a bathroom!) I’d still label it minuscule. The rolling ocean made it difficult to maneuver, but by the end of the week Dina and I learned to dance around each other to get to the bathroom or our bunk. I was not allowed in the ‘boys only cabin.’

On day one, we quickly met the crew and other passengers and headed to the nearest beach.

The white sand beach had fresh sea turtle tracks from activity the previous night and it wasn’t long before we were surrounded by more sea lions. We scampered around the rocks looking at the bright red Sally Lightfoot crab and did our best to avoid stepping on marine iguanas.

Then, into the sea to take our first peek under the water.

Back on board, we had a ceremonial toast from the crew and a surprisingly good meal. Overnight, we motored south.

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Galapagos

Posted on January 14, 2011 by 4 Comments

By the time you read this, we will be floating on the waves around Galapagos and looking for blue-footed boobies. A last-minute deal has come through and we are booked and ready to leave the first thing in the morning.

First, a flight from Quito to Galapagos via Guayaquil. Then, 8 days onboard the Darwin for lots of who-knows-what. We’ll spend several days after the tour just bumming between some of the islands on our own. If you don’t hear form us… well, that’s why. Adios!

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Vamos!

Posted on January 13, 2011 by 2 Comments

Mario from the Ecuakombi Club offered to give us tour around Quito, so again, we just could not refuse. Bode and Mario’s son Benjamin hit it off quickly and we set out to go see some of Quito’s loftier sights.

Of course, this required navigating Quito’s labyrinth of streets and climbing lots of hills. The bus barely made it up a few of them. We kept our finger’s crossed the whole time.

Another great trip with some super-friendly VW club people. We continue to be really grateful for so many wonderful folks in our VW famalia for helping us and making us feel at home in their country. I just couldn’t imagine what this trip would be like if we were driving any other vehicle.

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