Peru/Ecuador Journal

Introduction and Preparation

Here we go again – another bucket list item for Mom. She “twisted” my arm into going with her to Peru and the Galapagos. We looked at several tour groups but ended up going with “Best Peru Tours”. Mom’s friend Rose had discovered this company. We liked it as the itinerary could be easily individualized and they were reasonable in cost. David Ochoa, our travel agent with the company, was available and responsive to our needs and questions.

Money matters: Peruvian money is the Nuevo Sol made up of 100 centimos. 1 US dollar is approximately equal to 3 sols. We decided to get some money exchanged before leaving the US so we wouldn’t have to worry right off the bat about getting local currency.

Passport: It needed to be renewed for me. The first set of pictures belonged immediately in the trash whereas the second set was at least passable (a scarf was strategically placed to distract the viewer from my “saggy” neck issues). No visas were needed for US citizens.

Electricity: They use 240 volt as most of the world does except the US (don’t use a hairdryer from the US!). I bought a multiplug adapter which included 2 USB ports and of course could be used for future trips. It turns out that we didn’t need to worry about plug adapters as their plugs worked for both European and US plugs. Ecuador has US style plugs so we were in good shape.

Health matters: High altitude will be an issue as we will be flying from Lima (sea level) to Cusco at over 11,000 feet elevation! I researched the following for prevention of altitude sickness:

Ginkgo Biloba (hey it can’t hurt to improve cerebral circulation as well)

Motrin the day of transitioning

Coca tea – this was available everywhere and the locals swear by it. We even had it on the plane. The loose leaf variety supposedly was best.

Finally we all had a prescription for Diamox

I decided to take them all – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

A medication to prevent malaria was prescribed to everyone except me as the Northwest Travel clinic did not feel it was needed. The main area of concern was the northern coast of Peru on our itinerary.

Books:

  1. Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham: This was a really great firsthand account of the challenges of traveling in the area and finding Machu Picchu. A little immersed in too much detail at times but it gave some good background for this trip.
  2. Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin: This gives details about his experience in a variety of places encountered on the boat named the Beagle. I just focused on the Galapagos and found his description of the Islands and their inhabitants quite entertaining.

Maps:

May 14th, Thursday: Fly from Portland to Lima

My flight left from Portland at 6 am! Butch had the bright idea of taking me to the airport the night before so I would be there in plenty of time (and of course he would avoid having to get up early the next morning). Needless to say he was joking (I think), so we both got up bright and early that morning of the flight. He did have a rather silly grin on his face as I left. Could he have been thinking about the next 2 weeks of being on his own? Upon arrival to the airport my watchband immediately broke and my 1 dollar water bottle leaked. I guess you get what you pay for… I know that I will be looking at my wrist the whole trip to see what time it is.

My flight was full! They are no longer fussy about having phones or tablets on at any time (as long as it is on airplane mode of course). I’ll have to get the United app as I could have used the WIFI for movies and such… We had beautiful thunderclouds as we came in for a landing in Houston. Unfortunately the plane “parked” wrong and was too far away from the ramp. OK, everyone sit down again so we can repark this plane.

I had a 4 ½ hour layover in Houston so I made good use of my free United Club Pass. The lounge was nice with a variety of free snacks, wine and other liquor. I then met up with Mom and her dancing friends Rose and Steve Blevins. They seem really fun - I can already tell we are going to have a good time together!

The 6 hour flight to Lima went by fairly quickly as we had our own video system in the seatbacks and also were provided with dinner. We had the usual customs and passport checks and were united with our luggage. Our guide was waiting for us with a sign and off we went to our hotel while he provided us with tidbits of information. A few facts:

Peru gained independence from Spain in 1821

Lima has a population of 11 million or so!

It is the 2nd driest capitol city after Cairo. There is very little sunshine from March through December because of a heavy sea mist called “garua”.

It doesn’t take much to generate a party: “The cat died” or “Grandma is pregnant”

May 15th Friday

We have a free day in Lima which was very nice as we arrived late last night. Note that since most of our miles flown were north to south we don’t have a big time difference! (Lima is 2 hours ahead of the time back home). Nevertheless we became confused about the time in the morning as there was no clock in the room and of course I no longer had a watch available. We weren’t sure if the phone had updated its time yet. To top it off we called the front desk and they said it was 10:30 am! Oh no – this meant the crisis of missing breakfast! We eventually were able to figure out that it was only 7:30 am.

Unfortunately Mom has discovered that her Kindle Fire did not come off of the plane with us and was undoubtedly left in the seat pocket. This has happened to her before so she knows just what to do….

There was terrible coffee in the room and we found out later that they charge for it! Things were better downstairs at the buffet. There were a variety of fruits, scrambled eggs, undercooked bacon (that’s how they do it here) and tough tortilla pancakes. There were some dessert pastries too – actually not a bad spread. Coffee in the hotel breakfasts in Peru is like mud – we had to dilute it a bunch with warm milk or water.

Our hotel is in a fairly upscale area of Lima called Miraflores. The women in our group went on a walk determined to find some shopping areas. Mom’s glasses’ string loop was bobbing away as we walked down a really nice protected walkway in the middle of the street.

We subsequently figured out how nice this really was as a pedestrian in a crosswalk is fair game. There is always lots of traffic with honking horns everywhere in Lima! We went shopping at the Inka market and I found a very colorful pair of slippers with alpaca fur inside.

The “Shopping Mall”

The shoppers

The results of my shopping

We walked back through Kennedy Park which was named after JFK. It is kind of a “cat garden”. There were friendly cats lounging everywhere.

Later on we went out for dinner at one of the many “Chifas” in Lima which are Chinese restaurants. We found out on this trip that very few Peruvians speak English and the menus typically are entirely in Spanish. It has been a very long time since my Spanish classes so I wasn’t much help to the group. Fortunately Steve, Rose and Lenna could help out with recognizing a few of the items on the menu. Pointing to pictures also worked to a certain extent. At any rate dinner was accomplished with Chinese fare similar to what we would have in the States. We finished up the evening at the bar in the hotel where we had a free Pisco Sour – a Peruvian drink.

May 16th, Saturday

Today we were off to Trujillo (note Lenna and Rose’s last names…). We had to get up very, very early at 2:15 am as there aren’t other flight options except the very early flight to Trujillo at 5:50 am! We made it in plenty of time - though there was a small delay as Steve got stuck going through the turnstile in security. It amused us all but of course we pretended not to know him when it happened.

The Trujillo airport is quite small with only one big runway. We had to do a U turn after landing to get back to the small airport terminal. Our guide and driver were right there to pick us up and drive us to our hotel. All of our rooms were not ready so we left our bags in one room and proceeded to see if we could crash the breakfast room for at least some coffee. We noted that the staff was asking to see room keys. Let’s see now….one room key for one man and 4 ladies?? This might look kind of funny….

Then we were off to see some archeological sites. First we saw the gigantic “pyramids” of Huaca Sol and Huaca La Luna. The Huaca Sol in the tallest adobe structure of the Americas and is 1250 feet in length and 135 feet high. These were kind of like the Russian embedded dolls in that there were several layers built outside of each one with the newest of course on the outer layer. Inner layers were protected and better preserved, not surprisingly. Both structures were part of the former capital city of the Moche people, a civilization that ran from 100 AD to 800 AD, and was based at the foot of Cerro Blanco (White Mountain). Unfortunately they were extensively plundered by Spaniards looking for treasure leading to significant destruction of these structures. Note the lovely hairless Peruvian dogs we encountered at this site also.

Lovely Peruvian Hairless dog

Part of Huaca de la Luna (Cerro Blanco in back)

Part of Huaca de la Luna ruins

“Earthquake proof”

Inside Huaca de la Luna ruins

Massive Huaca del Sol

Our group from viewpoint with Huaca del Sol in background

We then headed to Chan Chan. This large complex was constructed by the Chimor who grew out of the remnants of the Moche civilization. It was a huge adobe city built around AD 850. We walked and walked and walked through the ruins. Though not as colorful as the previous ruins it had interesting patterns and the sheer size was impressive. Neither of the above civilizations had any sort of written word so there was a lot of postulating about their civilization based on the designs, drawings and the layout of the buildings.

Then we went to a restaurant with a view of the ocean. We had delicious seafood while we gazed at the surfers.

YUM!!

May 17th, Sunday

We had breakfast at the hotel which included breaded chicken and pork and “sweet bread”. We were in an area that does not have a lot of tourists much less English speaking Peruvians. We were faced with a crisis of almost running out of toilet paper. So…I sent mom to the front desk to make an attempt to notify them of this issue. She made a valiant try short of making any obscene gestures and was rewarded by being handed the password for the internet (which we already had). After trying again we discovered they delivered new towels in our room. Mom finally slipped into the supply closet on our floor and just grabbed a roll. What a challenge!

Then we were off to another archeological site: El Brujo which includes ruins from the Moche civilization and others. This is located a little north of Trujillo and is within site of the ocean. We spent some time tromping through the ruins with our guide Mercedes (who was excellent by the way). In the museum we saw the well preserved body of Senora de Cao – a priestess of the Moche culture. Her skin was so well preserved that you can make out her tattoos on her arms (yes… they apparently liked tattoos even way back then….)

El Brujo ruins

Scattered human bones around

Stones used for building with “signatures”

Our guide noted that these were male figures!

Resting place of Senora de Cao

After we returned to our hotel we had some time to walk around. A central plaza was located near our hotel. This is a common feature of all of the towns we see in Peru and is of course a result of the Spanish influence. There was also a walking mall (which of protected us, the pedestrians, from the worrisome traffic).

Mom and I walked down a street near our hotel to look around. This was apparently the central location for all of the eyeglass shops in town. Here are a few other quick notes about Trujillo. Cock fighting is legal – we passed one of the sites where this is held on our way in from the airport. Traffic is terrible with lots of horns honking, some near misses and watch out if you are a pedestrian! There is a beautiful mosaic mural depicting the history of the area along one of the main streets. And then there was Lenna taking pictures of all things Trujillo….

Mosaic wall in Trujillo (extends quite some distance on either side up and down the street)

Next we were next taken to the bus depot for our ride to Chiclayo. It was a nice bus with little foot rests and comfortable seats. We were on the second level right smack in front of the bus. Now this might seem like a pretty prime location for viewing the scenery but we soon found out that it also provided a premium view of scary traffic issues. This was a very, very busy 2 lane highway with lots of trucks and the need for frequent, often seat grabbing (like that helps) passing. There were numerous “close calls”. There were times when we were passing behind someone else who lollygagged along to make it fine around cars for themselves but not for those behind them. Needless to say this was one of the most “exciting” bus rides I have ever had.

And then there was the window shade incident…. This pesky shade proved to be a technical challenge to operate and it kept Mom and I befuddled and busy for quite some time. Finally mom spotted a cord, I grabbed it and SNNAAAPPP!!!! There was an extremely loud noise as the window shade snapped close. Of course I am sure the whole busload of people heard it (including downstairs) and if they didn’t they had hearing problems. What could you do but laugh and laugh some more.

Later we were served a boxed meal and opted to try the popular carbonated yellow Inka Kola drink made of lemon verbena. It was different…. Finally we gave up our front row seats to Rose and Steve so they could experience firsthand the thrilling and scary view out the front window.

After checking into our hotel we went out on the town to the central square to find a place to eat. It is certainly a crowded busy place! Our first restaurant was very busy and we left after not receiving service for some time. That was ok as we found a restaurant near our hotel which served fabulous fries and barbeque chicken! There are lots of motor taxis around. We were not brave enough to try one as our guide advised against it…

May 18th, Monday

The weather was sunny and hot again. We had our usual sort of breakfast at the hotel including cheese and lunch meat (which also was our snack for later). Their coffee was as usual very thick requiring extensive dilution with warm milk.

We were unable to go to the Sipan site today as there were protests going on there. But not to be discouraged, our enthusiastic and excellent guide took us to an alternative archeological site that dated back some 5000 years! A group of school kids came in just as we were leaving.

We went to yet a different site in the afternoon in Tucume where a traveling German joined us on our tour. We looked out over a number of the many huacas at this location (pyramid type structures though shaped differently) and explored a nearby museum. Pyramids were built around 1000 AD by the Lambayeque people.

Note huacas in background

Wow – they used big earrings!

On the walk to one of the excavated huacas we spotted an owl.

Hoot, hoot

Excavated huaca with symbols

While on the road today this truck was in front of us. Fortunately it managed to keep its load on board!

Our free pisco sour drinks were certainly welcome later in the evening. We went for dinner at a Chinese place (“chifa”) and when we walked back Lenna spotted a group of local Peruvians using sign language. She lit up like a Christmas tree and enthusiastically “talked” with them. Apparently sign language is a lot more universal than the spoken language!

May 19th, Tuesday

Tuesday was a day of museums. In the morning we traveled to Lambayeque to visit the Tumbas Real Museum of Sipan. Even though we missed the Sipan site yesterday we were able to see the fabulous treasures of gold, silver and copper and other artifacts. We learned about the Sican culture in the Sican Museum.

Interesting mirrored entry to Sican museum

Elaborate funerary mask with gold

We all had lunch together with our guide at a local Peruvian restaurant. The fish with seafood sauce on top was delicious!

We finished walking a distance through town to see various sculptures. Then we were off to the small airport at Chiclayo where we took off for Lima.

A couple of additional notes: Chiclayo is a very busy city with lots of traffic and what seemed little regard for pedestrians even at intersections. We quickly figured out that if you can get right behind some locals you just might make it safely to the other side. There was trash everywhere on the sides of the road as you left town. We were told by our guide that apparently the mayor was a corrupt sort of individual who was using money for personal gain rather than paying the “rubbish” collectors and other essential city needs. Dogs are everywhere in Peru but they don’t take any great interest in humans so we didn’t feel threatened by them.

Finally I would just like to point out that Steve was doing a great job so far in “herding cats” and making sure we all go where we are supposed to… I told him it was excellent practice for his upcoming trip with ELEVEN or so women to Italy this fall.

May 20th, Wednesday: Cusco

We were up early for our flight leaving the hotel at 7:30 am. It was wet and drizzly (a condition known as “garua”). Happy news! Mom hunted down the United office and was reunited with her kindle she had left on the plane. Our plane was delayed about an hour but off we went on a bumpy flight to the high altitude city of Cusco (over 11,000 feet). Coca tea leaf tea was offered on the plane and in our hotel lobby in an effort to help prevent altitude sickness. We also could have gotten 5 minutes of oxygen free at the “oxygen bar”. I had the unpleasant surprise of finding that my conditioner and lotion had “exploded” in my bag as a result of the change in pressure. Fortunately I confine stuff like that to protective baggies so the mess was somewhat contained. Then I helped mom open one of her containers and SPLOOSH it went right towards my eye. I must have pretty quick eyelid responses as not much was allowed into my eye.

We had a free afternoon so we decided to explore the city. First I had to locate my very important money pouch. After wasting time looking for it I happened to notice that mom was wearing TWO money pouches. (In her defense our money pouches are identical). Of course she hadn’t noticed this and in fact I think at one point she was even assisting me in my search.

We negotiated the cab fare to the downtown plaza with the advice of our guide and mom, Lenna and I were off. (By this time poor Rose was feeling under the weather so she and Steve remained back at the hotel). Cusco is a beautiful city with homes and terracing on the surrounding hills and mountains.

There is none of the trash problem and overall the standard of living looks to be better. Once we arrived at the plaza our first order of business was to find a restroom. We spotted a Starbucks of all places which was unfortunately located up a tall flight of stairs. So up we went huffing and puffing. We certainly noticed the effect of the altitude!

We wandered around the beautiful Plaza de Armas with its Spanish influence, old buildings and beautiful flowers and landscaping. The streets are brick and quite narrow in places. We are now in a tourist area of course so there were plenty of locals pushing their wares at us. The weather is beautiful – bright and sunny.

After some searching we found a suitable place to eat – the highest altitude Irish owned pub in the world! We had delicious appetizers and cold white wine and then headed back to our hotel.

May 21st, Thursday: The Sacred Valley

Today we loaded up in a bus and headed for the Sacred Valley. Our first stop was to see some weavers at work and some llamas and alpacas.

We next drove through the Urubamba valley and were amazed by the beauty of the mountains (some with snow) and the extensive terracing on the steep sides of the hills. The terraces allowed the Incas to make use of otherwise inaccessible growing areas and varied altitude levels meant a greater variety of crops.

We went to the Pisac Incan ruins and wished we had more time to wander around! The terraces were impressive and part of the Inca trail came through the area.

Lots of walking on this trip!

Next we went to the Pisac market and I found a scarf with baby alpaca fur to buy and many other items to look over. There was a small group of guinea pigs in an enclosure at one of the food stalls and I wondered if that was where you could pick out your meal. Guinea pig is almost always on the menu.

Come and shop!

Dinner anyone?

Lunch was at a nice restaurant with a buffet lunch. I liked this as I could try llama meat without committing to this as a single entree. It seemed ok but was a little tough.

Beautiful restaurant and grounds

In the afternoon we went to the town of Ollantaytambo which was established in the mid 1400s by the Incan emperor Pachacuti and sits at a little over 9000 feet high. The terraces of Pumatallis are part of temple hill. After some discussion we decided to climb the many steps alongside of the terraces with our guide. I should point out that since mom decided to climb I could hardly say no at that point. We could definitely feel the effects of altitude but it was worth it for the views and our guide’s discussion of the area.

Looking up the terraces…….

And looking down…..

Just look what she got me into. But we made it!!! High altitude and all! .

The temple sector is on the south side and showed how skillful the Incas were in cutting and fitting the stonework together. No cement used here!

On a mountain across from us we could see impressive Inca storehouses built right into the side of the steep mountain. The cool temps would help preserve their grain. Apparently they would pour it in from the top and collect it later from the bottom. There was also the profile of Tunupa (the messenger of the creator god) on the mountain which has some specific light angle on the summer solstice. We came down on the other side of the terraces following a small part of the famous Inca trail (which would involve a 4 day, 3 night hike in its entirety).

Storehouse on the side of the mountain

Can you see him? Look at his big nose

Our hotel tonight was in an old beautiful monastery.

Rose was still ill so a Peruvian doctor and his nurse made a house call and prescribed some medications – all for less than 100 US dollars! Hopefully she will feel better soon! Our dinner was good but there was some commotion afterwards as Mom and Steve had left the credit card(s) behind and had some challenges sorting out the bill with the staff. In the end all was well and we turned in for the night.

May 22nd, Friday: The Vistadome train ride and Machu Picchu

We were up at 5am to head to the train station. My bag was maybe a little bigger than ideal but the train personnel didn’t bat an eye and placed it in the back of the car with other luggage. We had a beautiful ride on the Vistadome through a valley and following the Urubamba river. There are beautiful mountains around and some are high enough to have snow.

As we came closer to our destination the landscape changed to a more lush jungle like appearance. We arrived at the small town down the hill from Machu Picchu called Aguas Calientes and dropped off our luggage at the hotel. Then we went on one of the buses and headed up the hill on a very windy switch back road with sheer drop-offs. We safely arrived and met up with our guide for the afternoon. From the entrance you walk up a small hill to a small passageway to Machu Picchu. Once we were through the passageway the view of Machu Picchu opened up before us. It was the most awe inspiring place – it just takes your breath away. We had beautiful weather with some clouds hanging around here and there but no significant rain.

Our guide took us through the ruins showing us the extensive stonework, irrigation system and other features of the ruins.

Old irrigation system

It still works!

Fits together like a jigsaw puzzle!

Note shape of doorway

At one point one of the llamas in the area posed for a picture.

We were all very, very tired and returned to our cold rooms. We had to request a space heater for the room which helped a little.

May 23rd Saturday: Machu Picchu

We had a lot of time to kill before our train left so we decided to go back up to Machu Picchu. We had a nice time just walking around on our own and taking pictures.

We took the Vista Dome train back to Cusco in the evening. They had a fashion show in the aisles showing various alpaca products and a costumed dancer bounded around also. Of course Mom, never missing a chance, also put on a bit of a dance show as she made her way back to the bathrooms. She did receive some applause! We went back to our original hotel to hook up with our luggage and spend the night in Cusco.

May 24th Sunday: Fly back to Lima

Today was a commute day. We flew to Lima (the hub for everywhere you go within and outside of Peru!). The plane had some pressurization problems resulting in plugged ears for Mom and Steve. They both looked like a couple of fish trying to open them up with mouth movements. We relaxed and had our last night out with Lenna and ate out at Tony Romas. While in Lima we went to a grocery store near the hotel. The buyer should be aware as they did not place all of the items we bought in the bag!

May 25th Monday: Fly to Quito, Ecuador

We had most of the day in Lima so the tour company graciously paid for our afternoon tour around the city. Unfortunately mom was experiencing some issues with diarrhea so she lounged on the deck on top of the hotel by the pool. They showed us a pre-Incan pyramid from about 2000 years ago made out of very small adobe bricks not too far from our hotel (the Huaca Pucllana). This was an important ceremonial and administrative center at the time.

We visited two beautiful plazas (Plaza San Martin and the Plaza de Armas) and saw the president’s palace with marching guards. Finally we stopped and toured the monastery of San Francisco and viewed the catacombs (lots of bones, human bones).

Statue of San Martin (Peru’s liberator)

Cathedral of Lima - construction began in 1535

Palace guards

Monastery of San Francisco

We returned for dinner at the hotel and then off to the now very familiar Lima airport. Our flight was listed as “on time” though of note it had been changed to an hour later. When we arrived after midnight in the Quito airport we were the last in line going through customs. One couple and their child were at one of the desk agents practically the whole time. Apparently there was a problem with the woman’s documentation and later we only saw the man and child leaving the airport. Someone from the tour company met us once we were through customs but we found out that we had no place to lie down and sleep as the “VIP” lounge could only be reached after checking through security. We could not do this until a couple of hours before our flight but we tried to doze in chairs at the lounge when we finally arrived. We only had 45 minutes or so to do this – what a night!!

May 26th Tuesday: Fly to the Galapagos (about 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador)

We tried to sleep on our flight to the Galapagos without a lot of success. The plane was full of VERY excited school kids on what is presumed their first flight ever. They were extremely excited when the plane actually left the ground and cheered. We left the airport in the Galapagos only after handing over the 100 dollars apiece in cash required for supporting the Galapagos National Park. After taking the ferry over to Santa Cruz Island we met up with our guide and off we went in a van to begin our tour. It was quite warm and tropical – big surprise, after all we were on the equator! The island is dry appearing but more vegetation appears as we climbed up and through the center of the island. We visited a very large lava tube (after all, the Galapagos are volcanic islands) and a large turtle reserve. There were some good sized tortoises in the park as we mucked through some muddy areas to find some.

Entering the lava tube, hope he makes it back!

WOW – this is a big one!

Finally we went to visit the Charles Darwin Station and viewed the animals. I was surprised that there wasn’t some type of museum with information about Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution (though maybe this doesn’t match up well with the country’s religious beliefs?).

Whaaaaat?

The ever present sea iguanas

We were exhausted as we arrived at our hotel in the small town of Puerto Ayora (a reminder: we lacked a bed and sleep the night before). The hotel had an outside restaurant which came complete with a sea iguana. There was also a visiting sea lion that we saw periodically by the pool and beautiful crabs. (These are quite tasty but they are no longer allowed to trap or eat them).

Ahhhh, we are tired but looking forward to our meal

Pool and eating area of our hotel

Watch your feet!

Can you see him?

There he is!

Colorful crabs!

Our room was large but dated with only basic furniture. Unfortunately the night was less than ideal as the power was scheduled to be out for maintenance (?) that night and it was certainly one hot night.

May 27th, Wednesday: Tortuga Bay and Boat tour

We went on quite a hike on a nice paved path to Tortuga Bay. The beach was beautiful with white sands and green mangroves. Mom, Rose and I floated around in the warm water of the bay for quite a while. The birds were unafraid of us and surprised mom by assisting her in eating her apple.

One of Darwin’s finches

We decided to take a water taxi back to our harbor rather than walking the long distance on the trail again. It started out calm enough but as we pulled out in the sea along the coast it became rough. Mind you, this was a small flat bottomed boat. The waves were especially big as we approached the harbor. Suddenly the “captain” shut off the engine and we climbed the side of a big wave and WHHAAPP we smacked down hard on the other side. We all stared at each other in surprise and hung on for dear life after that. Fortunately no one was seriously injured (one lady did complain of a sore back later) and we made it back safely to the harbor. No wonder he insisted on collecting cash up front!

For the afternoon we had a yacht tour around various sites around the harbor. We saw where sea lions were congregated and walked around an area called the “Playa de Los Perros” to see more of the marine iguanas. A nice if not exciting day!

May 28th, Thursday: Snorkeling off of Santa Fe Island

What a great day seeing the sea life of the Galapagos! We took a boat ride to Santa Fe Island and did some of the most beautiful snorkeling ever. There were a great variety of beautiful fish and sea lions that swam all around us. I especially liked the dark blue fish with tiny light blue spots that looked like small lights. In another area we saw turtles swimming in the water and I spotted a speckled sting ray. Of course things weren’t perfect as Mom’s mask leaked and neither of us had fins. The guide responded to mom’s “damsel in distress” signals and pulled her along and was constantly helping her with her mask. I kicked double time to keep up with everyone but I put a positive spin on it and decided that this was a good leg exercise for me.

Swallow tailed gull - I like their eyeliner!

3 blue footed boobies all in a row

After snorkeling we took off and dragged a fishing line after us. We were very fortunate as they caught a fish called a bonito! Later we were served sashimi (raw bonito) that was quite delicious (even though it was raw fish).

Appetizer!

We returned and went out for dinner. We had 2 for one drinks and a pasta dish with zucchini and prawns (YUM).

May 29th, Friday: Seymour Island to view the birds!

We had to take a bus ride to the other side of the island for our boat ride out to Seymour Island. The island was quite barren and hot (with of course no shade…). Land iguanas were prevalent and there were all kinds of birds and their nests. I especially liked the blue footed boobies and the “bachelor” frigate bird with their prominent red chests.

Galapagos land iguana

Can you see me?

My pretty blue feet protect my egg

Hmmph, I’ve had enough of this picture taking!

Look at me, I need a mate

Magnificent frigate bird with chick

I’m all fuzzy and white - can’t wait to grow up and be pretty

Dinner tonight: shrimp pizza! Seafood is the culinary theme on this island. They have an outdoor area set up right on the bay near our hotel where they barbecue fresh fish of the day!

May 30th, Saturday: Coffee plantation and fly to Guayaquil

Today we started our 2 day process to get home. We have a good part of the day before our flight leaves so our guide takes us to a coffee plantation. “Plantation” might be a little misleading as this was a very small family business. They showed us the process of squeezing juice out of their sugar cane and roasting their coffee beans. Everything was done by hand and was advertised to be organic. We came away with a bag of coffee beans after sampling some of the coffee. A small barn owl lived in the top part of the gazebo and was busy sleeping up there.

Steve was put to work

Coffee beans

Barn owl

We arrived in Guayaquil in the evening and walked to a large park. This was a very busy and large city.

Here we are standing in front of the “Q” of Guayaquil in the park

Our hotel room was very nice but our night was short!

May 31st, Sunday to June 1st and arrival home via Lima

By now we had become accustomed to very early departures. Our flight for Lima left at 6 am so we had to be out the door of the hotel by 3 am or so as I recall. Since our flight for the states did not leave until after midnight we had a day room in the Miraflores area of Lima. I pretty much spent a lot of time napping while mom and Rose went out for a bit of last minute shopping. Then we were off to the Lima airport one more time for our red eye to Houston and good byes as I separated for my Portland flight.

Despite the hectic pace at times, early morning flights, illness and one very long night without any sleep – it was so worth it!!! What a fabulous trip with wonderful travel companions making memories of a lifetime!

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