Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Steak in Baños

Up early, 4:40am, and walked to the road in front of the Black Sheep Inn. We waited and waited and waited, but no bus came. The bus finally rolled by at 6:15. $1 for the bus ride to Zumbahua. In Chugchilan, the bus stopped, and pigs were loaded onto the roof of the bus, squealing and kicking, as they were dragged by a rope around the neck to the roof.In Zumbahua, had to switch to a different bus. Packed, Kirsty and I had to stand. Bus was also super tiny, when Lisa stood, she had to hold her neck crooked. We also got charged tourist prices. All the locals were paying $1.25, he charged us $2.50 each. Lisa confronted the bus dude, and everyone else on the bus was behind us, asking the bus dude why we were paying more, and the bus dude didn't have an answer, finally telling Lisa he'll talk to us at Latacunga, when the bus stops. At Latacunga, Lisa had a talk with the bus dude, and ended up getting $3.00 back, so the bus cost us $1.50. Lisa couldn't be bothered to try and get the extra 75 cents back. The bus dude totally assumed that we didn't speak Spanish, and could get away with it. Fortunately, Lisa is totally fluent in Spanish.We had to change buses in Latacunga, then do yet another bus change in Ambato.Arrived in Baños around 1:00ish, went to Plantas y Blanca Hostal and stayed in a 4-bed dorm for $6.50/night.Walked around town, I bought an Ecuador soccer jersey ($9), we checked one of the hot pools. This town is like Queenstown in New Zealand, very picturesque and full of adventure activities.We napped for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Then met Jason (from Black Sheep Inn) for supper for awesome steak, then to bed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Waterslide of Death

Kirsty and me decided to do a "nothing" day, Lisa decided to do a hike from Quilatoa back to the Black Sheep Inn with four others from the hostal. They left on a rented truck with a guide at 9:00am.Kirsty and me lounged in the yoga room, listening to music and reading all morning, had a cheese plate for lunch (there's a Swiss trained cheese factory out here in the middle of nowhere), then played a round of disc golf, the highest disc golf course in the world. Great course, very steep, and hazards include sheep, mules, cows and pigs.Lisa got back around 3:00, then a bunch of us wanted to do the waterslide. The waterslide is made out of concrete and starts at the tp of a hill and goes down into a pond. It's steep, with twists and turns. You go down on a plastic mat. Andres (owner of the Black Sheep Inn) said it's the highest solar powered waterslide in the world. I went first. HOLY CRAP! AWESOME! It was so good, I had to go a second time.A bit later, some of us did the zipline, which was fun, but not nearly as exciting as the waterslide.At 7:00 was supper, then we paid our bill, as we have to catch a 5:00 am bus tomorrow morning.There's a younger American couple at the inn, and at supper time, they mentioned to Andres that they don't have enough money to pay. They've been splurging, having wine with meals, staying in a private room, wanting to do a horse trek the following day. They asked Andres if they could pay with Paypal. Andres was quite upset, because they were specifically told that they HAD to bring cash (there's no bank machines in Chugchilan, and the inn doesn't accept credit cards). So, Andres kind of reemed them out, telling them they have to make some decisions considering their financial issue. Andres ended up letting them pay with Paypal, but it was an issue. Everyone else in the inn thought it was a "typical American" thing to do.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Black Sheep Inn

Up about 8:30, had breakfast.At 9:30, Lisa, Kirsty and me left for the cloud forest hike. We are situated on the east side of the last mountain range before the ocean, so hot coastal air rises up the mountains and produces the Andean Humid Forest. It's an ecological reserve, but there's no control in the area.The hike goes up over the paramo (3500 metres), then down the other side. When you're up on top of the paramo, you're above the clouds over the forest, so it's way cool. As you descend down, you can walk under the canopy of the cloud forest and explore. We had lunch (provided and packed by Black Sheep Inn) under the canopy at the edge of a steep ravine, and watched the clouds roll up the valley toward us.We hiked back via a different route, amazing views.Got back around 3:15, showered. At 4:30, some children from Chugchilan did a dance presentation (for tips). It was real good.There's so much to do here, zipline, Waterslide of Death, Fred Flinstone weight room, sauna, hot tub (which is funny), yoga studio, volleyball court, horseshoe pits, disc golf.Kirsty's camera "lost" most of her pictures. Another guy had his Macbook Air, so we checked her memory card, her camera moved most of her pictures to a different folder. I used his laptop to backup all my pictures to a 2nd memory card.7:00 was supper, then read, then to bed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Quilatoa is sooooo windy. It howled all night lng. I had dreams of the roof blowing off of our hostal. It was cold last night too, but they provided lots and lots of thick blankets.We got up about 6:30, they said that's the only time of day to see the two sisters ad Cotopaxi without clouds, but it was quite unimpressive.Back to the warmth of the bed and slept again until about 9:30. We got up, got breakfast, packed, then sat around, played cards and whatever. We're heading to Chugchilan, but the only bus rolls through between 1:00 and 2:30 in the afternoon.Around 11:30, we backpacked to the lodge where the bus wuld stop. We waited in that lodge, got some tea, played chess.This town is quite depressing. It's sooooooooo windy (and apparently always like that), cold and dry. It's nice to move on.About 1:30, we moved out to the road and waited. The bus rolled up about 2:00. It was packed, no seats, and there's cement, pop, building materials, bananas and everything else a local might need packed in the aisles. A sheep was tied down on the roof with all the other baggage, two other sheep were stuffed into the rear baggage compartment.We had to stand, cramped, for part of the rid, but eventually seats became available. The road was dirt, potholed and rutted, sheer cliffs, very exciting.Got to Chugchilan and walked the half kilometre to the Black Sheep Inn, an eco-tourism resort. The dorms are $32/night. That includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.We did a short hike to the plateau, a plateau overlooking an impressive canyon, about a 2 hour hike, with nice views all around. There's lots of hikes to do around Chugchilan.Supper (family style) was at 7:00. It's all vegetarian, and quite good.The toilets here are amazing. They are dry composting toilets, you go poop or pee, drop in the toilet paper too, then put in some "dry stuff", and it all composts, and they use it on their fruit trees. The toilets also have great views, I have another entry for my Worlds Greatest Thrones website!After supper, I read, ten to bed around 10:30ish.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Up early, about 7:00, showered and had breakfast. Not in a hurry, the first bus to Quilatoa doesn't leave until 10:00am.Walked to the bus depot around 9:30 and almost had to stand on the bus, we arrived just in time to get the remaining seats. 2.5 hour bus for $2. The guy (local) sitting beside Lisa had bad armpit smell.Got to Quilatoa (elev. 3850 metres) around 12:30 and a little boy convinced Lisa to come to his parents hostal (Hostal Pacha Mama), $12 each, includes breakfast and supper. It's pretty cold here, gaining lots of altitude.We wandered around town, which is nothing more than one street and maybe 20 buildings. Lisa and Kirsty each bought a sweater from the local market, then we ate.Quilatoa is a tiny village, population 50 people. It's a tourist place because of a crater lake. Most hostals are just extra rooms the Quechan locals have in their homes. You're really staying with the locals here.We then made arrangements for horses to take Kirsty and me back up from the crater lake. $5, and so touristy, but oh well. Lisa decided to hike back up. The three of us hiked down, about a 30 minute hike, quite warm on the way down, out of the wind. Once down, we waited for our horses, then went back up. My horse was nursing a foal, Lisa figured she was not being fed enough and she was pretty slow getting me back up. I was the last out of about 12 horses to get back to the rim.We then visited a local artisans shop and bought some small paintings, then hit the local supermarket and bought some Oreos. You can find Oreos anywhere on this planet, along with Coke and Heineken.Watched a game of handball.About 5:00, back to the hostal, wrote in journal, played cards and made protest signs supporting the new elephant statue at the Calgary Zoo. ("We support all elephants!", "Keep Ganesh at our zoo!", "Equal rights for all gods!")Electricity and running water only in the evenings here. He turns it on for us to shower, but it was off all other times. We collected quite the mix of pee in our toilet. Fortunately no one had to poop.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Slept awesome last night. Woke up about 8:30, 10 hours sleep or something.We got our laundry, had breakfast, then we (with Rafael) took a taxi to the southern bus depot to catch a bus to Latacunga. Rafael is going to Riobamba. Bus depot is brand new and is amazing. It's like a brand new airport.Caught a bus to Latacunga (elev. 2800 metres), 1.5 hours for $1.25. Buses to Latacunga leave every 5 minutes.Found a hostal (Hostal Tiana) that we happened across while looking for some listed in our guidebooks. $10/night, includes breakfast. Had some lunch, then wandered around town. Huge market, I bought a light jacket, because I didn't bring one. $12. Lisa tried to buy jeans, but none would fit her properly.Then we walked around town, seeing some other somewhat uninteresting sights. They have some pretty nice urban parks here, though.Back to hostal, I used internet and whatever. We had an amazing hot chocolate and started planniing out what we wanted to see in Peru. I need more time!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Galapagos Day 10

Up early, 6:00am, for breakfast, then to Charles Darwin Research Station to see tortoises and Lonesome George, the only surviving tortoise of his species from Isla La Pinta. They tried to mate him with close species but he shows no interest.When we were getting into the dinghy to go to the research station, Daisy was driving the dinghy. She's the bartender on the boat. When I got on, I said to her "You drive the boat?" She replied, "Si." I then said "Tengo miedo!" ("I'm scared!") She laughed and said "Oh no, it's you like to swim?" Everyone laughed.To the airport around 9:00, bought some souvenirs. Our flight doesn't leave until 11:00am.Back in Quito, Consuelo, Suzanna, Raphael and Masako came with us to our hostal. We took the trolley, very cheap, 25 cents. There was a pick pocket on the train, and he tried to get into three of our bags.Back at the hostal, showered and crap, went to bank, went to the observatory to ask about viewing times, the guide lady went to check and came back and told us 5:30-6:00. We thought that was early (still light out), but she said she checked with the physicists. We went back at 5:30 and the security guard told us 6:30. So, we left and went back at 6:30. No dice. They're probably all laughing at us.We (all of us, except Masako) went to Marsical, the hip area, via bus, had supper, then back to hostal and to bed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Galapagos Day 9

Up at 6:50, breakfast, then did a wet landing on a beach on Floreana Island. Here we saw pink flamingos, sea turtle's nests and had some beach time. Cloudy and cool, but there were lots and lots of rays at the beach, you could stand in knee deep water, and they'd swim around you. They feel really weird when they touch your feet.Then did some snorkelling from the dinghy. COLD!! Lots of fish, great visibility. Our guide then took us to another snorkel spot, and told us we can swim only for 10 minutes. That's it, as soon as he says go, we go, but then get back into the boat within 10 minutes. I thought it was because the government puts restrictions on the times that boats can do things, but I later found out that our boat was not authorized to snorkel in that spot. But that was our guides favorite spot, so he wanted to take us there for a bit.We headed back to the boat and had lunch, then headed to Post Office Bay. This was setup by the whalers way back in the 18th century. Whalers heading out would leave messages in a barrel, whalers heading back to Europe would go through the letters and if there were any near where they lived, they would take them back.The tradition continues today. You're supposed to leave a postcard to yourself, and go through the postcards, and if there's any that are near you, you take them and hand deliver them to the person. I left a postcard to myself and also one to my parents, as they'd probably like that. I wonder how long it'll be before someone from Moose Jaw happens by the Galapagos Islands! We didn't find any exist postcards for Cagary that needed to be delivered.Also at Post Office Bay, the boat crews have setup a soccer pitch. Boat crews then play soccer against each other. Our boat lost. The Galapagos Gods shined on us while we were at the beach.Back to the boat at 2:00 and headed back to Puerto Ayora.After supper, went to town, used the internet, then we went to a pub for a few beers with everyone. It's our last night on the boat together.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Galapagos Day 8

We got to sleep in a bit this morning, breakfast was at 7:30 instead of 7:00. We went to Esponola Island over night.Went to the beach about 8:00 to hang out. Cloudy and cool today, but the sun came out for a bit at the beach. Got an awesome picture of a pelican hitting the water, fishing.Back to the boat and dinghy snorkelled. At the first spot saw a turtle and a couple of rays. Second spot had tons of fish. Super strong current at the second spot.After lunch we headed to Suarez Point for a 2.5 hour hike. Very nice. Albatrosses, blue-footed boobies, doves, iguanas, etc. And an awesome blowhole. Lots of nice views on this island. This is the oldest of the Galapagos islands. Also saw a seal that suffered a shark attack.Back to boat, briefing, then supper, the left early for Isla Floreana.In the evening, we found a little bird on the upper deck of the boat just hanging out. We thought it was injured, Mehmet and me wanted to tell our guide, but Evan picked it up and threw it overboard. It started to try and fly back to the boat, but hit the side of the boat, and into the water. A few minutes later we found another bird (or the same bird?) on the upper deck. Evan left this one alone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Galapagos Day 7

Up at 7:00 for breakfast, then a hike on South Plaza Island. Once again, this island is very different, very beautiful. Saw Galapagos shearwaters soaring, large colourful Galapagos land iguanas, and loser male sea lion colonies. A male sea lion has a harem of females, and other male sea lions try and fight to become the dominant male of the harem. If they lose the fight, they retreat to here to recuperate and try again another day.After lunch, Sante Fe Island. Snorkelled in the bay, the water was very cold, but very clear, good snorkelling. There were sea lions playing with Rafael, jumping out of the water, right over him. There was also a male sea lion swimming around, right by me. He was HUGE!!!!! And scary, when he looked at me, I just had to back away, it was pretty frightening. Snorkelled with a turtle as well.Later in the afternoon, did a hike on the island, more sea lions, yellow land iguanas, Galapagos snakes, Galapagos doves, mockingbirds. Also saw a black bird walking through the shrub. I asked our guide about it, he said it was impossible, there are no black birds on this island. Evan (Aussie guy) saw it too. Our guide took out his picture guide book and showed us a picture of an ani (and introduced bird species), and it looked like it could've been it. He said it's bad news if the ani is on this island, as it's very destructive to other bird species. He was concerned.Coming back to the boat on the dinghy, we saw rays and a shark and lots of turtles.Afer supper we had a dance party again.Before going to bed, I watched a sea lion swim around our boat, then back to our wooden dinghy, take a look inside, then he jumped up into the dinghy and fell asleep inside. Haha.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Galapagos Day 6

Up early for a walk around North Seymour Island. Saw male frigatebirds trying to attract females by inflating a large balloon sack on their throat. Also some some humpback whales from a distance.Back to the boat for breakfast, then we boated to Baltra to drop off passengers and pick up new passengers.I gave Glenn and Sarah (Aussie couple) some postcards to mail for me, then just as they were leaving the boat, I remembered that I didn't write addresses on them. Doh! I got them back before they left.We went to Baltra beach while new passengers boarded. Tried snorkelling, but very murky, not much to see.Had a few hours to kill before going to Bachas Beach for a hike to see pink flamingos (only three this time of year) and a great heron. Then hung out on a beautiful beach for snorkelling and swimming. At one point, a massive flock of birds all took off from behind a rocky outcrop and flew overhead, thousands of them, heading to the far end of the beach, where they appeared to be gorging on something in the ocean. Consuela (Italian girl) was walking down the beach, and tsome pelicans came in very low over her and she had to duck to get out of the way of them. It was hilarious. I happened to take a great picture just as this happened. Also saw Sally Lightfoot crabs.After the hike, we had an unexpected briefing back at the boat. Gustavo, our guide, was leaving, and we were getting a new guide. Over the past couple of days, he had gotten in trouble from other guides for letting us wander off trails and such. Gustavo even took us off the path at one point to see an iguana. We suspect other guides reported him, and he was being called back for reprimand and re-training. Or maybe losing his job.We had a briefing with the new guide at 6:30pm, then we had a toast with the crew. They were all dressed up in their mariner uniforms, such a change from the dirty t-shirts and jeans we've seen them in up until now.In the evening, after dar, watched fur seals and pelicans fish using the help of the lights on the boat. The sea lion would start chasing a fish, the fish would jump out of the water and 'fly' along the water, trying to get away. Sometimes they'd slam right into the side of the wooden dinghy....BONK. BTW, Google Sky Map is amazing, I'm glad I brought my phone.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pictures courtesy of Lisa

Hey all. I probably won't be uploading any pictures until I get back, but Lisa and been uploading some selected pics of our travels so far.Check them out at:

Galapagos Day 5

Up at 7:00am for breakfast. Steamed all night to Genovesa Island. Huge waves, had trouble sleeping again.Did a dry landing at Philip's Step. Saw red-footed boobies, blue-footed boobies, nazca boobies, tropicbirds, Galapagos doves, striated heron and frigatebirds (and probably others). This is the only island where red-footed boobies are found, I believe.Nazca boobies mate almost all year, so there were lots of young ones. The nests and the young ones are everywhere, even right along the edge of the walking path. You can walk right up to them, stand 12 inches away and take pictures. If you get closer, some will try to bite you, but they don't really care, and don't try to get away or anything. It's amazing how they see humans as absolutely no threat to them. Needless to say, I'm getting some awesome pictures. It's so easy!After the hike at Philip's Step, we went back to the boat for some dinghy snorkelling. The seas were rough and we're in a bay, so unfortunately lots of garbage collects in the waters here. It's also one spot where hammerhead sharks like to hang out, but unfortunately they were not around for us today.When we were getting ready for the snorkel, Daisy (the bartender) was helping us get into the dinghy's at the back of the boat. Our guide (Gustavo), in his wet suite, picked up Daisy and gave her a big bear hug, her feet were off the ground. The cook saw the opportunity, ran across the boat, onto the back platform and pushed Gustavo and Daisy into the water. They cook then ran and hid, laughing (as we all did too). Daisy was not impressed at that moment, but once she swam back to the boat, she was laughing too.The food on the boat is amazing! There's breakfast, lunch and supper, and mid-morning and mid-afternoon, Daisy always has snacks for us.The afternoon outing was a wet landing at a beach on Genovesa and a walk to see more sea lions and birds and amazing views.Every outing just continutes to blow my mind. It's absolutely amazing that none of the animals has any hear of us. We can walk right by their nests, a mere foot away, and they don't care.We swam at the beach after the hike. On the beach, I was watching a bird fly to the beach, land, pick up a black lava rock and then fly over to a rocky outcrop and put it down as part of the nest. His mate stood nearby and watched. I was curious about the nest he was making, so walked over to it. While I was watching, a couple of others came to watch too. There was another bird couple there, they were both looking for rocks for their nest together. The male bird picked up a black rock in his beak, the female looked at it, threw her nose up and walked away in a huff. The poor male, he dropped the rock, stood there, alone, looking at it, thinking, 'What's wrong with that rock? It looked fine to me.'Back at the boat, the crew were preparing fish for supper and throwing the head and guts overboard. There were sharks in the area, they came to gorge! Big sharks, coming to the surface, it was awesome. It would've been more awesome to snorkel with them, but I think these guys were not friendly sharks. They were not hammerheads, someone said they were grey sharks.We had supper, then the briefing for the next day. We have an early start tomorrow, 6:00am, because we're dropping off passengers and picking up new passengers.The stars are amazing at night, with no light pollution, and the phosphourence in the water at night is equally amazing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Galapagos Day 4

Lots and lots of big waves last night, the boat was rocking like crazy. I had trouble sleeping and had really weird and disturbing dreams.Up at 7:00am for breakfast, Lisa and Kirsty feeling 100% this morning. They slept for about 14 hours straight!First stop was a wet landing on a beach on Rabido Island. We're the only boat here, one of the advantages of coming in low season. Lots of sea lions on the beach, you can walk right up to them, stand beside them for pictures, it's amazing. They have no fear of humans in any way.We snorkelled from the beach and along a rocky cliff, where the sea lions would swim around us, come right up to our face, look at you, swim away and generally very playful with you. AWESOME!!!Back to the boat around 10:00am, and left for Bartolome Island.On the way to Bartolome Island, we passed other volcanic islands. Very barren and beautiful. Black lava rock, devoid of life, some older parts where cacti or lichens have started to take root. Large frigatebirds would fly along with the boat and land on our roof and hitch rides.Lots of boats at Bartolome Island.After lunch, snorkelled from the dinghy. Saw some penguins, but they were not swimming unfortunately. When we were getting back in the dinghy to head back to the boat, a sea lion came right up the dinghy and started sniffing around, right in front of me.A bit later, did a hike to the primary volcano that created Isla Bartolome. The whole island looks lifeless, but on the island are small lava cacti, lava lizards, small plants that lizards eat and of course, along the shores, various birds and sea lions. Weirdly beautiful.It's soo cool to watch how some of the birds fish. Pelicans, for example, usually swim around, or sit on a rock or the boat, staring into the water, waiting for a fish. They'll then lunge at the fish with their massive beaks into the water to catch the fish. Boobies, on the other hand, fly high over the water, when they see a fish, they dive straight down, wings outstretched so they can adjust their downward flight, just until they are about to hit the water, then bring their wings right in, and dive into the water super fast. Another type of bird flies overhead, when it sees a fish, it tucks it's wings in right away and dive bombs in.After supper, we had a briefing for tomorrow (heading to Genovesa Island). After the briefing, the crew and guide had a dance party for everyone and taught all of us how to do the meringue. It was fun.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Galapagos Day 3

Lisa and Kirsty were up all night, sick. Both diahrrea and Kirsty was throwing up. I had to listen to it all. I didn't get that much sleep. They figure it was the shrimp they had from the restaurant last night. I had the beef, and I was fine.We checked out of the hostal, left our bags at reception until we could board the boat. Lisa and Kirsty just went to the park in front of the pier and laid out on the benches there, unable to move much. I walked around town, used internet and bought a picture book of animals of the Galapagos. Lisa and Kirsty are not in a good way right now!At noon, me and Kirsty went back to the hostal to get our bags. Lisa was too sick to move, so I had to carry her bag and mine down to the pier. We got on our boat (Guantanamera), Lisa and Kirsty sat at the tables on the upper deck, their heads on the tables. I explored the boat a bit, got things organized in my room, then went back upstairs, and both of them are sprawled out on the floor now. They moved to the sun chairs at the front of the boat, they were more comfortable to be sick on.From noon to 2:00, other passengers boarded.At 2:30, we took a bus to the highlands of Santa Cruz, to Rancho Mariposa, to see lava tubes and huge tortoises. (Incidentally, tortoises are on land, turtles are in the sea.)Back to the boat for supper, then around 6:30, a bunch of us went to town to rent snorkel equipment for the trip and then to the pub. It's cheaper to rent snorkel equipment in town than on the boat. After the highlands tour, Lisa and Kirsty retreated to their room, and were not seen after that.There are two older American ladies on the cruise. They're religious, they were here on a mission, helping to put a roof on a church in some remove village or something. I found it ironic that these two women, very religious, presumably creationists (God created everything) are doing a tour of the Galapagos, where the theory of evolution is firmly rooted.There's also a French guy (Rafael). At supper, I was a the table with the two older American ladies and Rafael and Mehmed (Swiss guy), and we were talking, and Rafael was swearing periodically as he was talking. The looks on the two religous ladies faces was awesome, I think they were shocked.At 11:00pm, the boat left port for Rabodi Island.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Galapagos Day 2

Up early, 7:00, to get to the dive place for 7:30 leave time. Cloudy and cool this morning.We dived at Isla Floreana for two dives. The water was very cold, I ran out of oxygen on both dives before everyone else and breathed on the dive masters spare.The coolest thing was a huge school of rays (about 70 in total) swimming by, saw lots of turtles, lots of other rays, and a reef shark hanging out in a cave. Not really any coral here, probably because the water is so cool.After I got back (about 6:30), we went to the street restaurants and had an awesome supper, then to Limon Y Cafe, one of the clubs on the main street, for 2 beers.I'm feeling like crap during and after the dive, dizzy and kind of upset stomach.Tomorrow we leave on our 8-day cruise. Don't expect any updates for over a week!What I learned today:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Galapagos Day 1

Up at 7:30 to catch our 7:45 pickup to the airport, which didn't come. Hostal lady called the tour company and they gave her the runaround, so we ended up taking a taxi to the airport.Caught our flight and landed in Galapagos around 10:50. From the airport on Baltra (a former US airbase during WWII), it's a short bus ride to passenger ferries crossing over to Isla Santa Cruz. Two seals were sunning themselves on the buoy anjd we pulled withing 5 feet of them and they didn't care. As we pulled up to the dock, 2 pelicans were fishing, literally, 2 feet from the boat. No fear of humans. Way cool.Caught a bus to town and found a hostal (Hostal Salinas), $15/night each. We walked around town scoping out dive operators, buying postcards and then had some lunch.I settled on a dive operator, and then we went for coffee around 5:30 to El Chocolate. Lisa and Kirsty are planning on renting bicycles tomorrow, while I dive.The north end of the island is very dry, cacti everywhere, everything very brown, starving for water. Then all of a sudden, it's very wet (misty) and everything is super green, when you hit the highlands. It's very bizarre how it changed in the blink of an eye.In town, there's a small fish market near the harbour. When the catch is brought in, seals come up, along with numerous birds (blue-footed boobies, cormorants, pelicans, etc.) all fighting over scraps the fisherman throw at them. The whole time, tourists are snapping pictures.Went to El Chocolat for evening coffee/snack, then to bed early.What I learned today:
Tiene Cambio

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to Quito

During the hike yesterday to the waterfall, there were little flies of some sort, biting us on the legs. Well, last night they got sooo itchy, all three of us were scratching like crazy. And it they continue to itch today.We got up around 8:00, had breakfast and walked to the bus depot and caught the next bus back to Quito. About a 2 hour bus ride, then took a taxi back to Hostal Marsella. The hostal is located between the old town and the new town, so it's a great location.We walked to the Old Town part of Quito. Very cool, small streets, not unlike you'd see in older towns in Europe.We saw La Basilica del Voto Nacional, the tallest church in Ecuador, done in a neo-gothic style. It was awesome.We had lunch at a restaurant in Plaza San Fransisco and saw lo9ts of old architecture on our tour.I hit a bank and too0k out $500 for the Galapagos trip. Back to hostal around 4:15.I used the internet, Kirsty and Lisa went to the SAE clubhouse to use the internet, but it ended up closing 5 minutes after they got there.At 6:30, we went back to the astronomical observatory, but the security guy told us it's only on Tuesdays-Fridays it's open to the public. Foiled again. Maybe when we get back from the Galapagos!We headed (via taxi) to La Marsical area for some dessert and coffee. It's the very touristy area of town, clubs and restaurants. Expensive!
What I learned today:
Bano (squiggly over the n)
Puedo salir?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Seeing Condors!

Slept in late, 9:30. Could hear the fiesta music all night long from various festivals.After breakfast, walked to Peguche, supposedly a big weaving village, but there was nothing going on when we were there. Everyone was probably in church.Walked to La Cascada de Peguche, a quite nice waterfall as far as waterfalls go. It's a popular place for locals on weekends, but we got there before noon, so wasn't quite that busy yet.Walked back to town for some lunch, then a 5km walk to Parque Condor, a rehabilitation centre for birds of prey. It's run by a Dutch guy, and we lucked out by arriving shortly before a fying demonstration, which was AWESOME! To see huge hawks flying just over your head and in front of you, over an amazing view of the land was sooo cool. They never capture any animals, they only take in injured or donated animals, and then release them back into the wild when they are ready. The first hawk had been found with all his feathers removed, so he was just learning to fly again. It was quite windy, so he was having some troubles. But some of the other birds were soaring. He had a few Andean Condors, and they are HUGE!!!!!!!!!The flying demonstration was in Spanish, so Lisa and Kirsty kept translating for me.We started walking back, and a local who was at the Parque Condor offered us a ride in the back of his pickup, so we rode in the back, to the main highway. He was going to a different town, so he dropped us off, and we caught the next bus back to Otavalo (20 cents).We went to a pizza place for supper. While we were waiting, the families kids were playing, one girl and boy were playing with a balloon. The girl was screaming, really excited, and the mother came and grabbed her, presumably because she was being loud for the guests in the restaurant. She went back to the kitchen and pouted. So the boy kept playing with the balloon, and started playing with some other gringos with it. After a bit, he got bored with that, so he hid in the kitchen and started throwing peas at us. There were peas all over te floor. After we got our pizza, the grandmother (I think) picked up the balloon, walked up the little boy, popped the balloon right in front of his face, then walked away. No words were spoken by her. The little boy started balling and balling for like 10 minutes in the corner, but everyone (mother, grandmother, older sisters) completely ignored him. After about 10 minutes if crying his eyes out, he decided he wasn't getting anywhere, he stopped, and went up front to where his mom was and started crying again, to no avail. It was hilarious.After that, went back to the hostal, I read, then to bed.What I learned today:
Una mas

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Off to Otavalo

Up about 8:00, breakfast and took a taxi to the bus depot. Took a bus to Otavalo, $2 for a 2-3 hour bus ride. Otavalo is famous for a huge Saturday market.Arrived around noonish and found a hostal (Hostal Valle del Amanecer) for $9/person. After checking in and paying for two nights, we headed to the market. It's huge, it starts at the central square and goes in all directions for blocks and blocks and blocks.Lisa and Kirsty are starting to force me to fend for myself when it comes to Spanish. They tell me the words, then I have to order food and ask for the bill and whatnot. I'm learning fast!BTW, the weather in Quito and Otavalo is quite nice during the day. When we arrived, it was low 20's, but the last couple of days it's been hitting the high 20's. Around 4:00-ish, it starts to really cool down, as you'd expect in a mountainous area, and a sweater is a definite must. Long pants are even needed in the evenings, after the sun goes down, it gets quite chilly.We had a late lunch, then back to the hostal and lounged until about 7:30. There's a huge festival in Otavalo right now, Fiesta del Yamor, that goes for the first two weeks in Septiembre. So, we walked to the festival grounds and experienced yamor (a drink made from seven types of corn and prepared over 12 hours), Ecuadorian hot dogs (not that good), choriza (sausage) on a stick (very good!), aquardiete (spirit made from sugarcane) with blackberry juice, and huge bottles of Pilsener for $1.Lisa and Kirsty were very disappointed in the fiesta, finding Ecuadorians very reserved. They expected the locals to be hooting and hollering and dancing around the streets, but that was certainly not the case at the festival.Finding Ecuador cheap. Food & drink are a bit cheaper than Thailand, but accomodations is more because you pay per person, not per room.Back to the hostal around 10:30pm.What I learned today:
La quiente, por favor?
Cuanto cuesta?

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Day in Quito

Slept great last night, we got up around 9:30. I went to have a shower, turned on the hot water, and it was cold. So I waited. It got a bit warm, I had hope, then it got ice cold again, and my heart sank. So, I let it run some more, and finally, after about 2 minutes, hot, hot, hot water!We had breakfast, then walked to the astronomical observatory, about a block and a half from the hostal. It's the oldest astronomical observatory in South America, the telescope was installed in 1875, and it´s still used today. The guy told us that we can come back between 6:30 and 7:30 tonight and see the stars, it's open to the public.We walked through a couple of parks, looking for the South American Explorers Club, apparently a great resource for backpackers travelling through South America, and you can sometimes get discounts on tours or food or hostals or whatever. Kirsty and Lisa bought memberships ($60/year).We walked to a couple of travel agents, trying to plan out our Galapagos Islands trip. The second one we went to was on the list of travel agents that would give a discount for SAE members. We ended up booking an 8 day Galapagos Islands trip for about $1500 US, includes return flight from Quito. We´re also going to fly out two day early, so I can do some diving and we can bum around the island and see things that we won't be seeing on the trip. It's going to be AWESOME!! In the end, Lisa and Kirsty didn´t get a discount because the tour was already low season price, but she did offer us a free pick up to the airport Sept. 15, when we fly to the Galapagos.When we went to the first travel agent, Lisa and Kristy did all the talking in Spanish, so I had no clue what was going on. Every once in a while, one of them would update me on what they were talking about. At the second travel agent, we sat down and Lisa asked the girl (in Spanish) if she spoke English, and if so, we should, because I didn't speak Spanish. The travel agent chick said, in Spanish, something like 'Let's do it in Spanish, us three women can decide what to do, we don't need a man.', and they all started laughing. I knew they were laughing at me, so I started fake laughing along with them. It was funny. Then one of the other guys in the office said something like 'Women being the boss, that's the way it always is.' or somesuch thing, and everyone who spoke Spanish laughed again. Poor me!After booking the trip, we had two days left before we had to fly to the Galapagos, so we decided to head up to Otavala for two days, as there's supposed to be an awesome Saturday market there.Quito is just like any other third world city I've been in. Infrastructure in need of repair, tons of buses, horns going crazy, crazy traffic, crossing the street is taking your life into your hands, etc. I feel right at home!When we were booking the Galapagos trip, Kirsty realized that she didn't even book her bathing suit. So, we headed to a mall and she bought a bathing suit.We got back to the hostal about 6:00 and hung out and headed to the astronomical building at 6:30, but it was all closeed up. We asked the security guard, who said 'All the physicists, they all went away.' No telescope tonight.There's a Norwegian guy staying at the hostal, so he came with us. We then headed down to the main night/bar area for supper, and the Norwegian guy, Pol, started telling us about his trip. He's doing a year long trip, and making a tv series of his trip for Norwegian television. It's called 'Around the World in 80 Dates', and he has to travel around the world and go on 80 dates (with the local women) in all the countries he visits. As we were eating, this very attractive Ecuadorian chich sat at a table near us. After a few beers, he decided to chat up this girl and try to get a date with her. It was funny to watch. She was 19 (Pol is 35), and she kind of shot him down in the end, she was going to school, and was going to be leaving to visit her parents very soon, but said she may be able to go on a date Monday morning with him. So, he got her phone number, but he said he has about a 10% chance of going on a date with her, he figures. Haha.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Off to Ecuador!

Up at 4:30am for the taxi to the airport. Taxi came at 5:00. We're working on 3 hours sleep. On the way to the airport, I started feeling very sickly, like vomiting, dizzy, fainting. That's what I get for going out the night before. When we got to the airport, I seriously was on the verge of throwing up and fainting. I was not in a good state, sweating profusely, really dizzy. I started to think I got like swine flu or something. I tried to walk to a bathroom, but had to stop numerous times to prevent myself from falling on the floor. I drank some water and started feeling a bit better. Plane ride to Toronto was uneventful, at Toronto we had some lunch and waited for our flight to Bogota, Columbia. When we were boarding, there were lots of drug enforcement officers and a dog checking passengers for drugs. I had to stop and let the dog sniff me, I guess I looked like I might be harbouring some drugs. The dog didn't detect anything on me, so I was able to board. They were searching a lot of Columbian passengers, though, going through their bags and such. Got to Bogota, the airport isn´t anything special. Not too nice. On the flight to Quito, as we were coming in for a landing, the plane suddenly jolted. I seriously, for a fraction of a second, thought that we had crashed. I looked outside, the wing of the plane was shrouded in clouds, then the plan jolted a bunch more times. Bad turbulence, but we landed fine. We left the airport around midnight, and got a mini-bus to our hostal, hoping it would be open! Kirsty booked it online, but when she emailed back to confirm that it was ok that we'd be arriving after midnight, she didn't get a reply. We should have took a taxi, it would have been one-third of the cost. The mini-bus was $12. When we arrived at Hostal Marsella, it was all closed up. We rang the doorbell, and no one came. The mini-bus dude waited, and we rang again, and finally the owner came and let us in. He was in his pyjamas. We told him we had a reservation under Kirsty Neill, he was looking in his book, he had no reservation. He finally found it, for the following night, Kirsty had booked for the wrong night!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

South America Bound!

Hi everyone.Tomorrow I'm off to South America for two months of backpacking bliss!I'll be updating my website with stories of my travels.  I fly out of Calgary at 7:10am on Thursday, Sept. 10 and I return Nov. 12.I'll be traveling with two friends, Lisa and Kirsty.Stay tuned!