Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Galapagos Islands & Lessons Learned

I am finally getting around to typing up a bit about the last leg of our journey...the Galapagos. Since we came home a few days ago, we have been busy getting back into the swing of things and I have been feverishly grading papers that are due tomorrow at midnight. So I am happy to sit back and look back to the journal that I wrote in while we were in the Galapagos. It was an awesome place.

Day 8: Quito--> Baltra
We took an early morning flight (getting good at those) to the Island of Baltra in the Galapagos. We got picked up at the tiny airport and taken to a small pier where some dinghies came to bring the guests onto the boat a few at a time. On our way to the boat we saw some sea turtles mating in the water right next to us...obviously didn't care if we were there! It was super organized and really went off without a hitch (the boat ride that is...though I am sure the turtle sex was organized too). We checked in, got to our room and relaxed for a bit before heading to a nice buffet lunch and then to our welcome drink and introduction lecture. There we just learned the basic rules about what not to do on the islands since they are in a protected national park.
After that, we got to take a short nap and then we were already off to our first excursion. We hiked around North Seymour Island for a few hours and that is probably where we saw the most wildlife out of all of our stops the whole cruise. It was awesome. There were huge frigate birds (who were mating...and those are the birds who have the red chests that puff way out when they are mating), tons of different iguanas and lizards, blue footed boobies, a bazillion sea lions...so cute, and many more. Our tour guide, Valerio, was awesome...he was super knowledgeable about everything and he was very interesting to listen to. We did have a few annoying people in our group who asked some ridiculously stupid questions and got way too close to the animals (which they talked to us about only hours earlier) but strangely and magically all those people happened to be in a new group the next day. Valerio must have had some seniority. Good stuff.
When we got back on the boat, they had an ice cream social where we met a few new people and then we checked out the boat. It held 100 passengers plus crew so it was like a mini cruise ship. We liked it a lot!
Here are a few of the bullet points I wrote in the journal that night (pretty entertaining to read back on)
*I want to keep a baby seal as a pet (seriously they were so freaking cute...they loved people)
*I couldn't believe how tame the animals were....just walking around, unphased by us being there.
*There is a really strange couple sitting at our dinner table...Jason thinks they are just your typical New York couple....but I suspect much worse...(I of course end up being right)
*There is a really cool young couple at our dinner table which might make up for the other really strange couple at our table...they are from Australia and near our age. (they did make up for the other couple and were really awesome)
*Had a 'spirit of Ecuador' drink that I would come to regret later that night
*Ecuadorians say 'boobies' in a way that makes me and Jason giggle everytime...again evident that we are in the younger crowd
*Jason did laundry in the bathroom sink with hand soap...what a man
*I watched the beginning of the movie 'Up' on the plan ride to the Galapagos and it made me cry (if you remember...the old lady and her husband's dream since they were a young couple was to go to South America but they never made it...made me feel so lucky we were here)

On the screen on the plane...headed to the Galapagos!

Our identifying badges

On the dinghy headed for the boat!
Our room

The inside bar

The outside bar

Sea Lion just chillin'

our boat

Forget Dora...Jason the Explorer

Frigate...obviously frisky

blue footed boobie...a duh


an iguana family

mama and baby
Day 9: Floreana
As I may have eluded to...the welcome drink or whatever parasites still existed in my body...did not do me well the first night on the ship. I didn't feel sea sick...despite major wavy-ness...but I did get sick in other ways. So sadly we missed the first hike of the next day. But it was apparently ok because people said they didn't see much.
We slept in, ate lunch, laid out in the sun by the pool and later and since I felt better we then headed to Floreana Island for some hiking and snorkeling. It was a beautiful place. Although the Galapagos were not as lush and green as I expected (mostly due to the season) the water was a stunning color...always changing...and Floreana was a perfect example of that. When we got to the side where the dinghy dropped us off, we saw some greenish gold sand and some darker water but as we hiked across the island we came to a bright blue water and white sand beach. We could not snorkel on that side however, because the beach was covered with sting rays.
The only disappointment was that we didn't see flamingos and this was the island they were most prevalent on. It was super interesting to hear stories about how pirates had lived near these islands at one time and the wild pigs, donkeys, etc. that they brought with them are still alive on the island today...although we didn't see any.
We walked around the white sand beach once we reached it and saw more sea lions (go figure) and a ton of colorful crabs (sebastian!)
When we got back to the side where the dinghies dropped us off, we stripped down and grabbed our snorkel gear and were off to snorkel. I didn't know til literally the moment we were walking into the water that this was the first time Jason ever snorkeled in the ocean in his whole life! I couldn't believe it! A Floridian who hadn't snorkeled...Anyways it was pretty cool (and the water was cold!) we saw sting rays (eek), sea turtles, and tons of fish. It looked just like what it was...a crater of a volcano...you could totally tell the rocks were dried lava under the water so that made it even cooler. I remember at one point I came up, took my mask off and looked around and was in awe. It was that beautiful and like I said...felt like we were in the middle of a crater of a volcano, partially filled with water.
That night we had a BBQ dinner on the deck of the boat which had a beautiful view and then later got to know our new Australian friends a bit better and stayed up to play some cards with them...it was really fun! : ) We were glad they were there. Gab (the girl) and I bonded over the fact that we knew our husbands were going to be the most embarrassing dads ever someday. And when Russ (the guy) said his dad role model is Peter Griffin...I knew we could be good friends. Haha.
A few notes from that day's journal:
*Tummy issues again...shocker!
*Eating lunch was a mistake too...stay tuned
*Bri is not very good at playing Presidents and Assholes
*The couple from Australia is super nice and it is confirmed...the New York couple is SUPER weird
*Sleeping in was necessary today
*Had fun ''star-gazing'' after the bbq dinner...good thing we had an iPad app to help us with stars because the staff didn't know much about stars! Haha

The green sanded side of Floreana

gosh he's cute

Valerio, and our new, NOT annoying group!

a little lizard buddy

I love the blue

sunbathing...anticipating a swim

He decided to go for it!

Our view for the night time deck BBQ


Why would I choose a blue margarita when I was finally feeling better? Good question...

Some cards...Jason was my shuffling bitch. Everyday he's shufflin'
Day 10: San Cristobal
As you may have again suspected, I again got sick that night. If it's getting old to read about...trust me that's nothing compared to how I felt (and frankly still feel). And this night was even more wavy...like afraid I was going to fall out of bed wavy. I felt bad for our poor Australian friend since she gets sea sick easily.
So like the day before we missed the morning hike on this day too. Jason was also not feeling well so we knew our bodies just needed some rest. And rest we did. Man we can be bums.
That afternoon we went to San Cristobal Island to see the turtle hatchery and protection area. This was the only place where I felt terrible during a planned activity...but I made it through. The turtles were pretty big and they reminded me so much of dinosaurs for some reason. It was pretty awesome to learn that scientists think they can live up to 250 years long! Crazy!
When we got back to town, we had time to walk around and get souvenirs, get a drink, whatever we wanted. I had a few tours of different bathroom locations so if you're wondering I have some great suggestions for you. ; )
There were sea lions everywhere in this place. It was the only populated (with people) island we went to that actually had stores and homes on it. But the sea lions just come on up on land and sleep in the middle of a plaza, on the playgrounds, and even hop into people's boats anchored in the bay for their afternoon snooze. It was pretty sweet.
When we go back to the boat, I skipped out on dinner and the nightly activities and just rested...I was NOT feeling good. But Jason got to say goodbye to his favorite New York couple at dinner...I was so disappointed I missed that.
if you look close you can see a sea lion in one of the boats

gorgeous water

hey...i'm a turtle....turtle, turtle!


a minor road block...

like I said...just hanging out

a mom nursing her baby under the swing set

very pretty!

I LOVE this picture of Jason...he's so cute!! : )

on of our many dinghy rides

they were everywhere!
Day 11: Baltra --> Guayaquil
The next morning we packed up our things and after a lunch on the deck of the boat and goodbyes to our new friends...we headed to the airport and on to Guayaquil. It was very nice because all we had to do was put our bags outside our room by 730am and then we didn't see them again til we got off the plane later that afternoon...now that's what I call service!
We bid everyone farewell and off we went...(I was very jealous of Russ and Gab who were in South America for 5 weeks and not going back home til after New Years...spending New Years in Rio...awesome). I hope we can see them again someday whether it be in Australia or here!
bye bye boat!

Russ, Gab, and us
bye bye Galapagos!

After that we were off to Guayaquil. I had never even heard of this city but it is the largest in Ecuador. Our travel agent told us we had to check it out and it really did end up being pretty cool. I was feeling a lot better thank goodness so we walked all around the city...at least 6 miles we calculated...and along the river. It had a beautiful walkway all along the river with restaurants, lookout points, ponds, etc. and it made Jason and I both wish St. Paul would do something similar...it would make it so much more fun! Our hotel was the nicest of all our hotels and our driver told us they had an amazing restaurant there which they did...it was deelicious...so good we ate there twice!
That night we packed up, laid low, and watched some TV after all our walking around. We reflected on our awesome trip and definitely considered it a success.
From the river in Guayaquil

part of the river walk

one of the lookout points

some guy practicing acrobatics on the side of a pirate ship...random

one of the many pretty trees!

The next morning we grabbed a bite to eat in the restaurant and Jason just looked at me and said, ''this has been so awesome...we've gotten to do so much stuff'' and I of course got teary eyed and totally agreed (man I cry a lot it seems) I couldn't believe it was coming to an end already.

We discussed a few things throughout the trip and here are some key points we would like to share:
*We are going to become douchy world travelers and start using foreign coins and fanny packs wherever we go in America just to pretend to be cool
*In Ecuador they use the Sacagewea coin instead of dollar bills and this elated Jason, so he would like to make that cool again here...we will see how that goes
*All club sandwiches in South America seem to include chicken instead of turkey and most importantly a fried egg....which is REALLY freaking good! I recommend you try it. This was the only food that seemed to sit well with me while we were there for some reason so I tried SEVERAL of them and they were all good!
*All Cocacola was served in glass bottles...which seems to taste so much better for some reason. We are going to bring that back into coolness too...(uh huh)
*Boobies, when said by an Ecuadorian, continues to be hilarious
*Unplanned happenings on trips are always the most fun...(drunk and lost in Lima)
*It IS possible to have a super successful and nice trip planned out by a travel agent...we had nice hotels, very nice tour guides, and all at a very reasonable price considering everything we got to do!
*Traveling opens your eyes to different ways of life which is of course expected...but the pace is so fast in the U.S. and we sometimes forget that it's ok to slow down. I was so happy that when I went to the post office today I didn't get all bent out of shape by the longest line I'd ever seen there. I just took it as it came...I am not going to die waiting in line a few extra minutes than I planned. It's alllll good.
*We are EXCEPTIONALLY fortunate to have had this opportunity. I truly never thought we would get to go on this dream trip before we had children. I am SO happy we went now, it was amazing, life changing, and wonderfully bonding. Traveling is a must for us and we know now what we like...more adventure than just laying around : ) Who woulda thunk...this beach bum likes to do stuff...she likes to hike gosh darn it!
*I can now die a happy woman (but hopefully not for a long time....)


  1. Thanks for another peek into your trip! Your personal insites make it fun. Makes me want to be a little more adventurous. Peggy

  2. I am so glad you liked it Peggy! Thanks for your nice comments!! : )

  3. Oh my gosh...so much to talk about, so I'll wait til in person, but just wanted to say now that I totally laughed out loud while reading your turtle picture comment (hey, i'm a turtle...turtle, turtle!). I could just hear you saying it in my mind! :)

  4. Haha you have no idea how happy that makes me! : )