We´ve been in API Call ErrorBaños for a couple of days, and have spent some of that time resting in the very nice room we found – it overlooks a lovely garden, and has plenty of hot water! Baños hasn’t quite been the town that I expected it to be – instead of being a sleepy tourist town in a quiet and beautiful mountain setting, it is a noisy, trafficy town in a API Call Errorbeautiful mountain setting. Many of the tourists here appear to be Ecuadorian – we had heard that it´s a popular weekend destination for ‘Quiteños’, and it most certainly appears to be. There are odd theme-park style trains running around the town in the evening, complete with loud theme-park music. Lots of motorbikes, quads, and dune buggies, which do look like a lot of fun, but are quite noisy. I´m kind of thinking it’s like the Ecuadorian Disneyland (it even has weird API Call ErrorDisney character heads on top of the garbage cans). It’s an interesting town, to be sure, but not the serene town I was for some odd reason expecting.
Just a quick note to say that we are boarding the boat today, the Estrella del Mar II, and will be back on solid ground come Monday. Don’t expect to hear from us until Tuesday evening, when we’ll be back in Guayaquil (on the mainland), though maybe if we’re lucky we’ll find some ‘net on Monday.
We arrived in the Galapagos on Tuedsay morning, and have been having a great time. The first night we stayed in a not so nice motel type place, but have since moved to a very nice hotel, complete with air conditioning and hot water – aren’t we spoiled!
We were planning on travelling over to Isabela island, but decided against it for less travel time, and more bumming around time. It was a good decision.
The first day we pretty much walked around town, got a feel for the place, watched the local wildlife – API Call Errorpelicans, API Call Errorsea lions, API Call Errormarine iguanas, crabs, etc. We took a walk over to the Charles Darwin research station, which was nice, but crowded with tour groups (one of which I’m sure we’ll be a part of on Friday). We got to walk through a couple of enclosures with the giant tortoises, and got some really nice pictures (as above). The better photos will come once we’ve returned home, as the files from the Canon are very large, and cumbersome to upload, and we’re not sure that these computers can handle raw image files. Unfortunately, there were a couple of tour groups at the centre that were not really obeying the ‘don’t get too close to the animals’ rule, and were getting right up close and personal to one tortoise in particular so they could all have their pictures taken.
The town of Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz (the main island), has a very nice small town feel to it, despite all the tourism (ie, gift shops and overpriced tourist restaurants). The people have been very friendly and welcoming, and have been humouring us with our broken and minimal Spanish. Though we are improving. Today is our last full day on Santa Cruz, and we’ve finally figured out where all the local restaurants are hidden – sort of on a side street a few blocks away from the main strip. We had a set lunch there today, including pop, for $8, which is less than what one main dish costs at most of the restaurants on the main strip. And it was quite good.
Yesterday, we switched hotels and signed up for a snorkel trip. About 20 minutes or so out by motorboat, to a small island, and along the way we watched marine iguanas swimming in the bay, and saw a couple of blue footed boobies along the rocks. The snorkeling was really nice, once I got over my water panic (tends to happen with me every time I try diving or snorkeling – it takes a few minutes to convince my mind that I CAN actually breath under water). We saw many colourful fish, including a large school of them that swam all around us – what a neat experience. The second stop we made was near a small cove – we swam around the rock outcropping, then got out and climbed over some rocks (not easy in bare feet!), and back into the cove, where we swam near sharks and tortoises! We missed the tortoises, though our guide borrowed the underwater camera (thanks Beth!!), and hopefully we’ll get a picture. We did see the sharks, and I must say, that’s a bit of a freaky experience. They were about 1 to 1.5 meters in length – not huge, but not exactly small either.
The last stop was at another part of Santa Cruz, where we hiked a bit to see some sea lions, and many marine iguanas, sunning themselves on rocks. We got to see what the inside of a large cactus looks like, and I regret that we didn’t have the camera to take a picture – the inside looks a bit like a beehive, except instead of individual cells, the cells are formed by long ligaments that touch in intervals all the way up the stock. Very fibrous.
All in all, sunburn aside, it was a very fulfilling day. The water was fairly warm, and wildlife amazing, and the excercise felt good. The air is clean and fresh, and we’ve been taking a very relaxing pace. And the air conditioned room has done us worlds of good!
Thus far, coming here has been a great experience. There’s all sorts of amazing animals around. Today we took a walk to the API Call Errorbeach, an hour long slog which was great fun going out at 8:30, when the sun was still low in the sky. There were API Call Errorchirping birds that will come right up to you (I later had trouble with one at the beach that wanted to API Call Errorland on my foot – not the most comfortable experience). They even seem to be happy to pose for pictures. At the first beach along the path (you can’t swim there, due to currents), there were probably 30 or so API Call Errormarine iguanas hanging out sunning themselves. They’re really strange creatures to watch, as they kind of waddle to get around. The iguanas at that beach were probably the most active we’ve seen, since most seem to prefer just to stick to their rocks and sun themselves ’til the tide comes in. The walk back at noon was not nearly as fun, as the sun was overhead in full force – we were happy to get back to our A/C and shower.
We’re off on our cruise tomorrow. We’ll see how well it goes…we’re a little concerned we might end up with a tour group with whom we have absolutely nothing in common – a lot of the cruises seem to be filled with people who freak out when they get asked a question they don’t know the answer to. Either way, though, it’ll be a great chance to see some of the other islands.
We awoke today to pouring rain. Pouring.
The rain stopped around 10, about the time we stepped off the most sardine-packed tram I have ever ridden in my life. But that’s part of the adventure. We wandered around Mariscal Sucre, also known by some as Gringoland, or the tourist district. Travel agencies abound! We were in search of one, though one in particular that had been recommended. We did inquire at the travel agency located in the hostel, but didn’t think the offered deals were really great.
We ended up at the Galasam travel agency, where we booked our Galapagos cruise – 4 days on a first class boat, for $700 USD each. That was a much better deal than others we’d seen, albeit a day shorter than we were hoping for. I think she said regular price for this was $1300. She offered us 8 days, which would have been great, for $2200 each – and that was the last minute deal. Ouch.
So we leave for the Galapagos first thing tomorrow morning, will spend a couple of nights on our own on a couple of the islands (there are local boat ferries between some), then hop on the cruise on Friday morning. Yay! We’ll also get one extra night on the island of San Cristobal at the end, and fly out from there.
We’ve also changed our plan a little bit, in that instead of flying back to Quito afterward, we will instead fly to Guayaquil, then maybe make our way over to Cuenca, which we initially thought we wouldn’t have time for. From there we’ll head north, making our way slowly back to Quito. There is the possibility of a brief jungle excursion, but we haven’t figured that out yet.
Or rain. But hopefully sun.
We are off to beautiful British Columbia for a week. Lots of ambition to go cycling, canoeing, kayaking, spelunking, hiking… but chances are there will be a whole lot of laziness and reading involved. Either way, it’s good to be getting away for a few days, especially since Neil didn’t get quite the same holiday as I did back in May, as he worked for a good part of the week, while I was enjoying museums and parks and such.
Speaking of work, a quick update on Kathy’s ever-changing employment status – I have just accepted a one-year contract at Epcor, in the accounts payable department. A great company to work for, and I’m excited about the long-term prospects. The short term will be good, too.
So, off to BC we go, with about 70 pounds of luggage in tow. Good times! Of course, we’re renting a car, or else we’d have to re-evaluate the luggage!
We may or may not get the chance to post and upload photos as we go, so check back in a few days. I intend to practice lots with the new camera.
Sorry for the delays in posting; at first we were feeling a little lazy (and under the weather), and then internet proved to be a difficult find in the rural parts of the country where we’ve been hanging out for the past week or so.
At the time of the last post, I (Kathy) was feeling a little under the weather with some back pain. Took some pain killers and decided that there wasn’t much a doctor would be able to do for me other than prescribe pain killers, so we didn’t bother. Last Saturday evening, we learned by way of emergency room that I had a couple of infections that I apparently didn’t know about. I thought I might have been a bit under the weather, but certainly no symptoms like in Egypt. As we were out in the country, and doctors generally don’t work on Saturday evenings, our host was kind enough to drive us to the hospital in the city. We were also very fortunate that his friend joined us, as he was able to translate things for us very well. So now we know what the inside of a Communist-era hospital looks like, and I sure hope it was a once in a lifetime glance! The standard of care was probably as good as they could give, but the facilities were certainly worse for wear – the WC was a toilet at the back of a storage closet! Not to worry, the needles were sterile (I made sure of that!). So the docs prescribed Cipro (for those counting at home, that’s the second round I’ve taken this trip!), some painkillers (presumably for the back pain), and some Vitamin C!! Yes, it has been more of a challenge finding fruit here than I would like, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I’ll get to that in a bit.
We’ve been a little lax on the blogging lately – apologies. We’ve just been enjoying our surroudings – a lot.
So we did the day trip to the API Call ErrorRila Monastery from Sofia. It was a long day. The monastery is certainly beautiful, but we weren’t able to go and see ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak. Not at all like the sort of living museum set up of the monasteries at Meteora in Greece. So we saw the API Call Errorbeautiful church, and one of the museums that was all in Bulgarian, and contained mostly crosses, and a few robes, a few books, a little of this and that. Not quite what we were expecting. The setting was absolutely gorgeous, though. I can see why hiking is such a popular activity in Bulgaria – there’s hardly any scrap of land that isn’t scenic and breathtaking. Well, cities aside. It is possible to stay at this monastery, but we didn’t look into it. Dunno why, we just didn’t.
Since our last post, we spent 2 nice quiet nights in API Call ErrorDelphi, the site of the famous API Call ErrorTemple of Apollo. The ruins were much the same as many that we’ve already seen, but each site still has something unique about it. There were a couple of buildings that were interesting, and an interesting stone wall. The downside was that though there is a little train that supposedly runs between the site and the town, we’re not convinced it actually goes to the site – we saw it several times around town, but not once on the trek to or from the site; so we ended up walking a fair bit more than we expected to. As a side note, we have both lost enough weight that our pants are too baggy!
We arrived by ferry on the island of Lesvos (Mytilini) Monday evening, sans guidebook or map. Customs was the easiest yet, we walked right through, and as there were fewer than 30 people on our ferry, there was barely a line.
Mytolini appeared to be a nice port town at first glance, though we quickly tired in our search for a hotel (we walked by 2 without even seeing them – they like big signs on the roof, but lack in little signs by the door). We finally found a room, paid too much for what we got (it’s a port town, and the hotel was right near the harbour – we didn’t know where else to look). By morning, we realized that it’s as nice a little town as it appeared – for 25,000 people, the traffic is insane!! We had trouble crossing even little side streets! At one point a nice local man helped us across… awwww. The town is also littered with vaguely marked one way streets, which made for a fun time getting out of town once we rented a car.
We’ve been a little lazy for blogging of late, our appologies. Since we don’t feel like writing a huge entry about the little that we’ve done since getting off the short cruise, here’s quick story about how much of a sucker I am for cats.
Two nights ago I ordered a really yummy steak for supper at the pension; there were 2 cute cats hanging around, one of which we’d been petting before supper, and I’m a sucker for cats. I gave the little imps a couple of fatty scraps from the steak, and once as I did so, one of them swiped at my hand to get it and left a nice little gash. While in the room cleaning myself up (totally my fault and I accept full responsibility), one of the little buggars jumped on the chair and stole the remaining steak so fast nobody even really saw it happen. So there. That’s the story, there’s even a little warning sign now in my honour.