Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ecuador- Galapagos Islands Adventure--Summer 2005

I flew into Quito, Ecuador on April 21, 2005 on Copa Air just as the deposed President of Ecuador was escaping to Brazil.  They closed the airport just after I arrived so his plane could depart.  This followed months of anti-government protests over official corruption climaxed by the Congress voting to oust President Guitierrez.  This was their 7th President in 8 years.

When I got to Independence Square, the government buildings there were surrounded by barbed wire and huge squads of police and military with their riot wagons and plastic shields and assault weapons along with a number of demonstrators and news media on the other side of the wire.  As people realized the President had left Ecuador, they began to disperse with a sense of victory.  I then checked into the Posada del Maple Bed & Breakfast while in Quito.    It was a great comfortable hotel that offered tasty breakfast of huevos revoltos or other egg choices, bread, cafe con leche and juice all for just $11. 

The following morning, I took a local bus for 2 hours to the nearby village of Otavalo.    

The Octavalo Indians own most of the businesses in town and are one of the few prosperous Indians in South America.  Their wealth comes mostly through their textile work, tourism, and good investments.

Most of the residents wore their traditional outfits with lace embroidered blouses, long black skirts with a white under skirt.  Their hair was long and braided and the braid was wrapped with a woven piece of cloth.  

My hotel with this courtyard and hammock were just around the corner from the big textile market.

View of the textile market from a rooftop restaurant.

In the evening, they had a celebration complete with marching bands, and performers on stilts.

On Saturday, April 23rd I went to the farmers market where they were auctioning off cattle, chickens, sheep, and pigs.  Young kids were selling some of their woven crafts and I bought a few along with an alpaca sweater since it was so chilly.

That evening I was back in Quito when I came across this religious procession for Saint Delorosa.  When a large painting of this saint came by people in the crowds threw out rose petals to mark the procession and sang beautiful songs.  It was quite a contrast as this religious procession passed by the throngs of protestors at the government buildings by Independence Square.  It looked like the demonstration was ebbing because they had removed the barb wire and there were fewer police and military on duty.

A bit of leftover protest on the muzzled statute.

On the 25th I flew from Quito to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands on Aero Gal at a round trip cost of $390.  

After landing and paying the $100 Park entrance fee, I joined up with my tour guide, Fatima, who would escort me down to the dock area for the 8 day-7 night tour of the Galapagos Islands on the Angelique yacht which was built in 1890.  It was a beautiful 96 foot wooden sail boat that had  8 double cabins with A/C for up to 15 people.  

Fortunately only 12 had signed up so I had a private cabin with private bathroom to myself.  Eventhough it was a sailboat, we motored throughout our tour.  I had found and signed up for this tour on line with Kempery Tours and paid $1,100 for this tour which would include an onboard guide during the entire trip.

After leaving Baltra, we traveled to the following islands and locations:  Genovesa, Sullivan Bay, Bartolome, Charles Darwin Station, Highlands-Sta Cruz, Florena, Espanola, Santa Fe, Plazas, and Seymour Norte.  On each of these islands, our guide walked us on the trails where we would pass closely by the wildlife that gave us little or no notice. 


Animals included blue footed and red footed boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, flamingos,  other birds, penguins, sea lions, turtles, land tortoises, iguanas, and lobsters.

Since our group was so small, our tours on the islands were longer as were the times we had snorkeling before we were scheduled to go to the next island.  Larger tour boats containing 100s of tourists spent most of their time loading and unloading from the tenders.

The other tourists on our yacht are from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium Canada, and Ecuador.  I am one of the few Americans that goes on these smaller boats according to our tour guide.  She said that most Americans go on the larger boats of 100 plus passengers. 

The family of five from Ecuador celebrated the 12th birthday of their daughter, Johanna, by sharing a cake with us.  But first, after putting out the candles, and all of us singing Happy Birthday to her in three different languages, she dunked her head into the cake and got frosting all over her face.  Maybe this is an Ecuadoran tradition.  I prefer just candles.

The meals on the Angelique have been really gourmet with 
poached salmon, sea bass, lobster, calamari salad, chicken curry, beef steak--a bit tough, beet salad, sliced radishes and cucumbers in a light pickled sauce, spinach frittata, and topped off with deserts of flan, watermelon, raspberry drizzle, and cake.

One of the highlights was on Bartlomo Island where we swam with penguins, turtles, and sea lions along with thousands of fish including one 4 foot hammerhead shark.

In between islands and evenings, we enjoyed sitting in the comfortable lounge chairs on the sundeck, chatting and seeing the sights. 

While we walked among the animals on the islands, we would have close up views of the male frigate birds vying for attention from the females by building a nest and then ballooning out their throats to draw in the females.  If they were unsuccessful, they would go elsewhere and built another nest and try again.

On Floreana Island we visited the "Post Office" where sailors use to place letters for friends and families back home.  Other sailors would look at the destinations on the gather letters and take the ones that were destined for where they were headed.  I left one there and six months later, my daughter received the hand delivered letter that  left there for her.  This tradition lives on.

I got to also see Lonesome George, the oldest land tortoise and last of his subspecies , before he died in 2012.  Some say he was 100 years old, but others say he was 80.

On the morning of May 2nd we returned to Balta and I caught my return flight to Quito where I again stayed at the La Posada Maple for the night before returning to Lima by Copa Air.

Cut flowers are a big business for Ecuador and they are shipped daily to world markets.

Trip Cost
The total Ecuador trip cost for the was $1,979 for a daily cost of $164. The travel and tour costs were $1,979 with the 8 day Galapagos costing $1,200.  The lodging costs were $42 or  $10 per night, and the food cost were $25 or $5 per day for the 4 days that were not part of the Galapagos tour.

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