Archive for August, 2016

Last Galapagos Post: lizards and iguanas

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

The tan iguanas are land iguanas; the red and black ones are marine iguanas (or in one case an ex-marina iguana). There’s also a photo of a hybrid between the two, using its marine parent’s climbing abilities to climb up a cactus-tree and eat the fruit – there are only 18 of these known. There’s also a little lava lizard, an iguana skull and a whale skeleton, plus a couple images of a fairly young lava flow (about 100 years old) just for texture. As always, click on any photo to see it bigger.

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Galapagos 4: bird photos

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

During the trip, we saw the Galapagos mockingbird, lava gulls, albatrosses (freaky!), blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, various finches, short-eared owls, frigatebirds, red-billed tropic birds, brown pelicans, great blue herons, cattle egrets, yellow-crowned night herons, penguins swimming by very fast, and even flamingoes (at quite a distance). We don’t have photos of all of those, but…

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Galapagos 3: Photos (tortoises and sea lions)

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

OK, time for what I know everyone wants to see – the photos. I want to include too many to do it all in one entry; I’ve debated about whether to split them by day, location, or what, but I’ll be mixing together two sets of photos, mine on the iPhone and Ted’s with the DSLR and zoom lenses, and it’s not always obvious which island what photo is from. Also, all the tortoises would have been on the first day anyway, since the only ones we saw were in the high-altitude rainy area in the middle of Santa Cruz island, as we were driven from Baltra airport to Puerto Ayora where we met the ship on our first day. So instead, I will divide them up by subject – tortoise and sea lion photos the first day plus crabs and scenery shots, then birds, then iguanas and lizards. (We also saw sting rays, lots of tropical fish and a couple of penguins, but those were all in the water and we didn’t have a waterproof camera.) You can click on any of the thumbnails to make them bigger.

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I took the first one below, then turned around 180 degrees and took the second:
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Also, bonus sea turtle! This photo wasn’t taken by us, but by another person on our trip who was smart enough to bring a waterproof camera. (Posted here with permission.)
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Galapagos Trip: About the trip

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

We visited the Galapagos islands aboard the Reina Silvia, a 91′ ship, along with 10 passengers (including us), 7 crew members and our amazing guide Fernando. Fernando is a marine biologist, former member of the Galapagos National Park Service, diver, and the guy who runs the Galapagos Challenge triathlon, so he pretty much knows everything about the Galapagos – it was obvious when we met him that we were in good hands.

Our ship’s passenger list included a doctor, a music teacher, a choral director, a lawyer, three engineers of various kinds, two retirees, a nice Jewish family, a speech language pathologist, three generations, a brother and sister, one single woman, three married couples, two women and a man whose significant others didn’t come along, two people even shorter than I am and one only barely taller, a triathlete, a swimmer, two rowers, two river rats, a couple of skiers, and ten people who like to travel. (There are a total of ten people included in that list above.)

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The Ecuadorian government strictly controls who comes to the Galapagos, where they can go and when they can be at each island. There are two basic itineraries, eastern and western; we took the eastern route, visiting more of the smaller islands.

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Fernando kept us busy – here’s a sample agenda for just one day.
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Galapagos Trip: Quito

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Finally, a real travel entry! (I know, I’ve fallen way behind on the wines.) For Ted’s parents’ 50th anniversary, they asked us to plan a family trip. We decided to go with them to the Galapagos – they’re birdwatchers, and it was a place we’d wanted to see. Ted decided to do the thing up in style – so when his parents drove up here the evening before, we kicked off dinner with a champagne toast, to a cumulative 73 years of happy marriage, theirs plus ours, and the hope for as many more. Before dawn the next morning, we were picked up by a stretch limo for our trip to the airport (sorry, no photos – the parents are in all of them, and don’t want their images used in an identifiable way on the Internet). For their next surprise, we’d cashed in our airline miles so that the four of us could travel in comfort up in Business class. Good thing, because it was a long trip – one five hour flight to Atlanta, then another to Quito.

We finally arrived at our hotel at 2AM, so we took it easy the next day, just walking around the Mariscal area close to our hotel, which has restaurants and galleries. This included a visit to the local artisan market, where we got most of our souvenir shopping out of our systems. The next day, we elected to skip the canned tours and go on our own to the colonial city center, which has a bunch of churches dating back to the 1600s. Our first stop was Santo Domingo; in a lucky stroke, Ted’s mom asked if there was a map to the attached museum – there wasn’t, but the attendant closed the museum door and conducted us personally through the old monastery that serves as a museum, including several areas that are kept locked. From there we walked to the City Museum, which was very good, sat down in their cafe to enjoy a coffee (tea for me), then to the other old churches: San Francisco, the Society (of Jesuits), and the Cathedral in the Plaza Grand, the square at the heart of the city. We finished up with our first meeting with our fellow passengers and a guide (who turned out not to be ours, just filling in) then a quick dinner to get ready to head out to the islands!
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