Category ‘01.09 – Ecuador’
Here’s a few things Ben and I did while hanging out in the Galapagos Islands after our cruise…
Volcano Tour – By Horse
I’m no fan of horses. I guess it’s because I had a bad experience as a kid, but still I just don’t see the point. I’d rather walk than put my life in the hands of a strong-minded animal. So naturally I was disappointed when I learned that the only way to see the huge active volcano on Isabela Island was on horseback. But I really wanted to see the volcano, so I convinced myself that I could do it.
Long story short, we both survived and it was worth it. The horses were very tame and we didn’t have any problems, although I was completely terrified the entire time.
After our 4-day cruise, Ben and I stayed 6 more nights on the Galapagos islands. Our primary reasons for staying longer were:
a) we had time before our flight out of Ecuador
b) we heard that you can stay on the islands cheaper than a cruise and take day trips.
So we ended up on the main island, Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) and another island Isabela (Puerto Villamil) for three nights each. Staying on the islands gave us a completely different perspective of the Galapagos. When you’re on the cruise, you see these pristine, uninhabited islands with the native plants and animals – virtually unchanged for millions of years. The guide talks about history and preservation and you almost feel like you’re getting a secret glimpse of another planet. It’s not that this impression is misguided, it’s just a very different picture than you see from the Galapagos towns.
The Galapagos Islands are home to a range of very unique animals. They traveled here millions of years ago and have been extremely isolated ever since. Most of them have never had predators, so they are not at all spooked by humans when we’re around. This makes it easy to see lots of animals and get really close to take photos. On the island of Genovesa, the birds are so dense that our tour guide even said to “be careful not to step on any birds.”
Here’s some of the animals we’ve seen on the Galapagos:
The symbol of the Galapagos, these birds are found everywhere. Unfortunately we didn’t witness their funny mating dance, but I’m sure we can find it on youtube.
The Galapagos Islands are a totally unique place on Earth, so we decided to check them out while in the neighborhood (they’re off the coast of Ecuador). To see the different islands and animals, you have to take one of many expensive cruises. We found a great last-minute deal on a short 4-day cruise, and then decided to extend the trip by staying 6 more nights on the islands themselves.
We were lucky to get (more…)
Not every adventure is a rollicking success. The first warning sign for this particular outing started when the taxi driver who took us to the bus station expressed great surprise that we were headed up to Las Cajas. He kept saying “muy frio” and mimicking shivering. The next warning sign came when the bus dropped us off along the side of the road, deep in the Andes and there was no big “Buenvenidos a Las Cajas” sign to greet us, no visitor center and gift shop bustling with tourists. Just cold wind and rain and a shack with “abierto” (open, like a store) written on a piece of paper stapled to the door, some chickens out front and rocks holding the roof on.
After two weeks of Spanish classes, I found three new friends to travel with for a week in Ecuador. I’ve mentioned Stephanie in previous posts; she’s from DC and quit her job to travel Ecuador and Peru for 6 weeks. Jaime and Gareth are from England and like Ben and me, are traveling around the world for a year. In fact, our paths may cross again in Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia!
My favorite day in Quito was probably Tuesday, January 19th. Here’s a run-down of events…
|7:00 am||Woke up to my alarm|
|7:30 am||Breakfast with Pancho & Ignacio. Coffee, scrambled eggs, bread, cheese, jam, and yogurt.|
|8:00 am||Private Spanish lessons for 2.5 hours|
|10:30 am||30 minute break, sat outside in the warm sun with Stephanie, Jaime & Gareth to discuss our travel plans for the following week.|
|11:00 am||Final hour of Spanish lessons|
|12:30 pm||Lunch with Pancho & Ignacio. Mushroom soup, Chicken with white rice, veggies, and Sprite.|
|1:30 pm||Met Stephanie and Troy to explore the Old Town in Quito. Stephanie is a friend I met in Spanish school from DC. Troy is a fellow travel blogger and photographer who currently lives in Quito – check out his site: FOGGOdyssey.com|
|3:00 pm||The three of us visit the Basillica (a gothic church on a hill in Quito) and climb precarious stairs and ladders to get to the top of two of the towers. The sun was out, the city was beautiful, and we had fun climbing around and taking photos.|
|5:00 pm||Returned to Spanish school for what I thought was a friendly soccer match with schoolmates. (more…)|
The last two weeks have flow by; it’s hard to believe I’ve completed my last Spanish class and homestay in Quito. My Spanish has definitely improved and I’m having fun trying to speak it. I hope to continue to practice for the next month while I’m in South America.
I can’t say enough great things about my host family here in Quito. They welcomed me into their home and made me feel like part of their family. They have a lovely house just a block away from the school and very close to La Mariscal, a popular area for tourists with restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops (in fact, it’s sometimes referred to as “gringoland” since there are so many white foreigners).
In the house, I have my own room and bathroom upstairs with everything I need. When I arrived there was a huge bouquet of beautiful pink roses in my room as a belated birthday gift!
My host mother Dolores is so sweet (more…)
Baños is a small town in the highlands of Ecuador, about 4 hour south of Quito. Last weekend I took a school-organized trip with about 14 other students and a teacher. Overall it was a great trip and I had a good time, but it wasn’t necessarily perfect…
- Location – Baños is a beautiful city nestled in a valley with lush green mountains, a river, hot springs, and lots of waterfalls.
- Friends – The group was really fun and we all got along well despite the cramped conditions in the van (see below). I roomed with my new friends Stephanie from the US, and Christina from Germany.
- Activities – There are tons of fun activities to do in Baños. On Saturday we road bikes and explored a few of the waterfalls. Two of them we hiked right up next to. Sunday I indulged a little and got a great 1-hour massage, while others went ziplining and horse-back riding.
The bad: (more…)