14 Sep - Toronto to Santiago, Chile

Itinerary: Chile, Ecuador and Peru

Friday, September 14th, 2012

On our way! Our cab came right on time at 8pm, and whisked us to the airport. We easily found our places, waving to Cathy David, Elsie and Brock as we passed through Business Class. We were surrounded by a couple of ski teams, heading for the mountains for practice, making Larry very jealous that he couldn’t go with them. We had a small dinner then both of us were able to sleep for much of the flight. Later we heard that life wasn’t so grand in Biz Class – only one washroom working and that with no water for hand-washing. None of us had tea or coffee, but at least in Tourist Class we had functioning washrooms!

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15 Sep - Santiago, Chile


Saturday, September 15th – Santiago, Chile.

Our guide Hernan and driver Marcos met us at Santiago airport and drove us to the very nice Plaza el Bosque Park and Suites Hotel. After checking in and finding our suites, we met up with Ruth who’s been here a few days, and headed for the central market to have lunch at El Galeon. It was wonderful! Seafood to die for! We toured the fish market afterward, then on to the private horse racing club. At that point, Cathy discovered her shoulder bag had been slip open – luckily nothing of great value had been taken, but the bag was ruined. So we were back on track for the city tour. After a trip up one of the hills for a panoramic view of the city we stopped at a large wine store to stock up. As we were about to pay, Ruth discovered that her wallet, with passport and a good sum of cash was missing. Dropping the rest of us at the hotel, Hernan took her to try and find it. No luck at the restaurant or market, so she reported it to the Canadian consulate. She has to make a police report tomorrow, and fill in some forms, have a photo taken and see the consulate on Monday for a replacement passport. Poor Harnan – he’s done this jobe for 7 years without incident, and then 2 in one day! We ended the day with a hall party in Cathy and David’s suite. Lots of good food, drink and company. Sally-Jo, Lynn and Myrna arrived from Peru with great stories and big smiles, in time to join us for a drink and nibbles.

16 Sep – Santiago, Valparaiso, Isla Negra.

Sunday September 16th – Santiago, Valparaiso, Isla Negra.

We were to meet in the lobby at 9, so when we didn’t awaken until after 8 it was a bit of a rush to eat breakfast and get ready. Larry ran across the street to an ATM to get pesos. Hernan and Marcos brought a larger van so there was plenty of room for all 10 of us. They also put a Canadian flag in the window of the van “so everyone will know we’re not Americans”. We drove toward the coast through beautiful misty valleys lined with vineyards. At a pit stop we saw other tourists having a wine tasting even though it was only 10 am. The fruit trees are in bloom and most others are just faintly green. We admired prolific orange and yellow small poppies along the roadside and bright mauve flowers on otherwise naked trees. Many eucalyptus and pine groves – soft, fast-growing wood exported to China to make paper. Our first stop was Isla Negra, the home of Pablo Naruda, right on the edge of the Pacific. Cathy had been reading us translations of some of his beautiful poetry on the way. It’s a fascinating place and he was obviously a very interesting man. He collected everything from ships’ figureheads to wine bottles to snail shells. He built the house to resemble a ship or a train. He and his third wife are buried overlooking the sea, on the grounds. From Isla Negra we moved on to a lovely restaurant in Vina del Mar, where we enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner with a panoramic view of the ocean. After a stop at a lapis lazuli store and a short tour of Valparaiso we headed back toward Santiago through wine country as the light began to fade and the western sky lit up with pink. Somehow, once again, we’ve arrived in a country at the time of the national holiday. September 19th is Chile’s Independence Day and most people have the whole week off for one long party. We had to detour through a parking lot in one village where the main street was blocked off by a huge crowd. There were food stalls and entertainment. We saw a guy in a clown suit performing in a busy intersection, hanging off the side of a taxi as it drove by. There are flags everywhere.

September 16 Photos

17 Sep - Casa Blanca, Chile

Monday, September 17, 2012 – Matetic Vineyards, Casa Blanca

We left the hotel shortly after 9 – again a challenge for us, as we slept in once more – and drove out the now-familiar road to Casa Blanca. We stopped at a delightful roadside restaurant (for a pit-stop only) where we saw meat and corn pies being cooked in outdoor clay ovens. The servers wore local dress and we sampled a local wine. Sally-Jo and I managed to get close to some of the roadside poppies we’d been admiring for photos. At the Matetic Vineyards we had a fascinating tour of the wine-making process, with a description of the organic and biodynamic operation of the vineyards. We could see the vineyards stretching across the slopes of the valley, and the grazing animals who contribute their manure to the operation, as well as keeping down the weeds and pests in the vineyards. Our guide, Tabitha, was interesting, personable and very well-informed. We all thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the wine-tasting that followed. Lunch was a Chilean barbeque – absolutely delicious chicken, pork and beef accompanied by a wide choice of really tasty vegetables, then fruit, flan, and crème caramel for dessert, all accompanied by wine and coffee. Back at the hotel we were all ready for a rest before heading out for dinner at Como Aqua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) restaurant. Dinner was great fun, but the food was nothing special. Of course we’d all enjoyed a wonderful midday meal, so were not terribly hungry, but still…I don’t think any of us would have given it the 7 forks it displays out front. The server was pleasant and tried hard, and probably our expectations are off-course for a Chilean restaurant. There was some confusion and misunderstanding (the blaring music right overhead added to this) but eventually we all were fed and as I said, we had a great time. Got back to the hotel around 11 ready for bed.

Photos 17 Sep

18 Sep - Santiago-Guyaquil

Tuesday, September 18th. Santiago- Guyaquil.

A slow, quiet day – we lounged around until 9:30 before going for breakfast. We figured everyone else would be long gone, but surprise! We were all there! Packing up was challenging – stuff seems to multiply and of course we had a few bottles of wine to squeeze in. Let’s hope those survive the trip. We said goodbye to Ruth, who will get her passport on Thursday or Friday and then fly to Guayaquil to meet us Saturday. Hernan saw us through the formalities at the airport, and has promised to make sure Ruth is OK and gets what she needs. The flight was longer than we had expected but the LAN aircraft was extremely comfortable (are you paying attention AIR CANADA?) and most of us had empty seats in our rows. We were still tired when we got to Guayaquil and through the numerous formalities of customs and immigration. Our local representative, Mabell, met us and carried us off to the Oro Verde, a nice hotel, but after the Plaza El Bosque suites, a little confining.

A Photo-free day

19 Sep - Guayaquil-Cuenca

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 – Guayaquil – Cuenca

Oro Verde was just for sleeping anyway, as we were up, had a great breakfast and met our guide, Wilson, and driver, Marco, at 8:15. Wilson explained the geography of the area we’d be visiting in Ecuador, from Guayaquil to Cuenca. A huge variety. To begin with, Guayaquil is hot, humid and cloudy most of the time. It is also at sea level. We passed fields of sugar cane, cocoa trees, bananas and rice as well as various types of fruit trees and grazing animals as we left the city and drove toward the mountains. We stopped at a cocoa farm, where the lady of the house showed us how the pods are cut from the trees and hacked open. Scary operation with very sharp knives!! She also pointed out a number of other kinds of fruit trees she grows and we watched two men extracting the cocoa beans and spreading them to dry. We met her great-grand daughter, Juanita, a cute little 3-  or so-year-old. As we drove up through the transition area into the beginnings of the Andes, we were right into the clouds. The road was not bad, but twisted and turned its way upward. There were a few crazy drivers and the visibility was limited. Suddenly, though, we were out under blue sky and warm sun. What magnificent vistas we saw. We stopped at Tres Cruces, the highest point of the highway at 4167 metres above sea level, and gasped our way up to the overlook point – well worth the effort for sure. The sign informed us we were 2 degrees, 46 minutes south of the equator. This is also the continental divide, though the Atlantic is 5000km in one direction and the Pacific only about 80km in the other. A little farther along we had a pit stop at a nice little restaurant called Mirador de Los Andes
 with amazing views, as well as pigs, and ducks and a shrine across the road. At Toreadora Lake in the Parc Nacional Cajas, at an altitude of 3978 metres above sea level, we walked down a flight of steps and along the Camino de Garcia Moreno, a path that used to be the only way to travel (on foot or with pack animals) from Cuenca to Guayaquil or Quito. Indeed, in the 1860s when it was built, it was a great improvement over simply walking uphill and down through wild country. Wilson is very knowledgeable about the flora of the region and pointed out many interesting plants. We caught glimpses of one of the unusual local birds. Our last stop on the road was for a very late lunch at another lovely spot Dos Chorreras
  – trout ponds and gardens, lots of light and great food. It wasn’t too much farther to Cuenca, a large and busy city with a wide variety of architecture. Our boutique hotel, Mansion Alcazar, is just lovely. Larry and I lucked into the best room apparently. It’s very big and luxurious, and there are rose petals everywhere. I guess it’s the honeymoon suite. The hall party was in our rook tonight. Everyone wanted to relax a bit, so we met in the bar for our free welcome drink – Cuenca Sunrises – then came back to our room to share peanut butter, twizzlers, nuts etc. and lots of wine. Another long day!

Photos 19 Sep

20 Sep - Cuenca

Thursday, September 20, 2012 – Cuenca

We had an early breakfast in the small dining room. There wasn’t as much variety as other places, but everything we need. We walked a bit around the neighbourhood before joining the group for the city tour. The early morning streets are not too interesting, with roll-down shutters over every store front. When Wilson met us, Lynn still didn’t feel up to touring, so the other 8 of us went off and let her rest. We had a really great tour of the Homero Ortega Panama Hat factory. The hats are hand-woven at home by individuals, mainly out in the countryside. They bring huge batches of them to the factory, where they are selected by quality. Then the many following processes take them into and out of the factory a few more times until there is a finished product. I think only 3 hats were bought by our group but several of us got handbags and jewellery. I got a nice brown bag and earrings. After a drive along the river and past several points of interest, such as Inca terraces and a museum we must go back to, we got out to walk near the main square. It is lovely, with old and new cathedrals on each side and many large trees, paths, flowers, statue, benches and so on in the middle. We went into the huge and extravagant new cathedral and sat while Wilson pointed out the way the images meld the local traditions with Christian symbols and stories. Then we walked to an amazing flower market and enjoyed its sights, sounds and smells for awhile. We tried a drink prepared by the Carmelite nuns, but none of us liked it much. By then it was after 1 pm and we were ready to look for a restaurant. Wilson found us a nice one and went on his way. After lunch Brock, Elsie, Larry and I went in search of ice cream and then back to the hotel for some quiet time. The altitude here is about 2500 metres above sea level. It’s enough that we notice some breathlessness and we tire more quickly than usual. At least that’s our story and we’ll stick to it.

Photos 20 Sep

21 Sep - Cuenca

Friday, September 21, 2012 – Cuenca

This was an action-packed day for sure. We travelled a large circle out from Cuenca through villages and towns in the valleys and slopes between the Eastern and Western ranges of the Andes. It was an opportunity to see the people, their lifestyles and their beautiful surroundings. The countryside is more densely populated than I had expected. Most of the people are subsistence farmers, in essence. They have small plots of land and raise vegetables, fruit, herbs and some livestock. We saw cows in fields, yards and on the road. The roads we travelled ranged in quality from “good highway“ to “poor logging road”. Wilson pointed out many large houses that he explained are built by local people who have gone abroad, usually to the U.S. and sent back money to build the house. Often these people have travelled illegally, at great expense and risk, and work as illegals for years. A large proportion of them never come back to Ecuador to live in the houses, and they just sit. Some are unfinished. At our first stop in St Bartolomé. We visited a home where we saw the garden and guinea pigs. They have a clay oven to bake bread, which they also rent it to others who wish to roast a pig or other large job. Inside we were served coffee or tea and cookies that were made of cornmeal and molasses. Very nice! In the main square were interesting decorative fountains, with no water, featuring guitars. The area is famous for the manufacture of guitars. Our next stop, in fact, was at the workshop of José Uyaguari who makes beautiful guitars with meticulously detailed inlays. Wilson played one of the guitars and sang some Cat Stevens for us. He’s pretty good! Next we visited the main square of Chordeleg, a jewellery-making centre. In the little museum we saw examples of weaving and tatting as well as silver filigree jewellery. We wandered and admired but there were very few purchases. The jewellery is lovely, but most of us already have more than we can use. In Gualaceo we visited the food market. Most of the food is either cooked ready to be taken home or served on the spot. Some of us sampled pork but some of us passed on it. Outside the doors there was a fish market. From there we drove to Hosterie Uzhupud where we enjoyed a very nice meal in the courtyard. We backtracked a bit to Ecuagenera Orquideas for a tour and explanation of the process of raising orchids. They had many beautiful specimens. Our final stop was Turi Mountain for a view over the city in the twilight. Then back to the hotel for a hall party in our room.

Photos 21 Sep

22 Sep - Cuenca to Guayaquil

Saturday, September 22, 2012 – Cuenca to Guayaquil

After breakfast and some crazy packing – trying to get all the Galapagos needs into one suitcase – we took a cab to the Museum at the Banco National and enjoyed the morning there, finding out more about the history and culture of Ecuador. A fabulous place and no entry fee! We looked around the terraced area, dating to the Incas, then made our way to the restaurant to join the group for lunch, before we all headed back to the hotel to meet Wilson and our bus. He got us through the airport formalities very efficiently and it was time to say goodbye to Cuenca. It was a really good place to spend some time, and of course Wilson was a wonderful guide. I recommend both to anyone coming to this part of the world. The flight to Guayaquil was short and smooth. We could see below us places we had visited in the last few days. Mabell met us at the airport and we were back at the hotel in no time at all. There we found Heather and Dennis waiting to greet us in the lobby, and Ruth arrived shortly after from her city tour. The whole group is together at last! Heather’s tooth is fine and Ruth has both passport and money, so we’re all set to go off on the big adventure tomorrow. We’ll all have dinner together at a local restaurant and then be ready to go early in the morning. OFF TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS.

Photos 22 Sep

23 Sep - Galapagos Islands

Sunday, September 23, 2012 – Guayaquil to Galapagos

Galapagos Tour Overview by Dates

We were up early and Mabel got us to the airport and found our escort, Erica. She accompanied us to the airport on San Cristobel Island, where our guide Pepe took over and got us on board the Flamingo I, our home for the next week. The accommodations are a bit tight, but it’s all very comfortable. After lunch, we spent some time finding wetsuits and swim fins to fit, then had an evacuation drill. We put the equipment to good use, snorkeling at one of the beaches nearby on San Cristobel. We saw turtles, sand dollars, stingrays and numerous other kinds of fish. Sea lions were everywhere, and the water was cool enough that we were glad to have the wetsuits. Back on board we were served a snack and juice, rinsed our equipment and suits and finished unpacking. Pepe suggested the sundeck as the best point to see The Sleeping Lion (or “Kicker”) Rock as we cruised around it. Then we proceeded to another small island where we anchored. Along the way some frigate birds cruised above the sundeck, putting on quite a show. We saw boobies and various other birds as well as turtles in the water. Dinner was lovely and we all retired early.

Photos 23 Sep

24 Sep - Galapagos - San Cristobel Island

Monday, September 24, 2012 – San Cristobel Island

Nice breakfast, then we piled into the pangas for a tour around (and through) Cerro Brujo. This huge rock was formed volcanically and has eroded areas and other cracks that have filled with lava. We went deep into a couple of the cracks and through and arch that reminded me of Percé. Along the way we saw some juvenile pelicans, a marine iguana, thousands of Sally-Light-Foot crabs, a great blue heron, frigate birds, sea lions and a flying blue-footed booby. We couldn’t see his feet though. We had a wet landing and walked along a white beach among sea lions. We found a female in labour. Usually baby sea lions are born very quickly. This, however, was a breech birth, not going well. We watched for awhile, but the baby’s flippers stopped moving and the mother was still struggling when we left. We enjoyed some snorkeling from the beach, swimming with the sea lions some of the time. We didn’t use the wetsuits since the water was fairly warm. Then into the pangas and back to the Flamingo. We were greeted with party sandwiches, vanilla cake and juice. A half hour or so later we had a hearty lunch. No fear of experiencing hunger on this boat! The planned deep-water snorkeling was cancelled because of rough water, so we relaxed for awhile before our wet landing at Point Pitt. The climb was pretty rough, but at the top we saw red-footed boobies. We were all very grateful for the walking sticks we carried.  Heather decided it was too treacherous and turned back to sit on the beach watching the sea lions. WE met one other group on the trail, from our sister-ship Eric. We did get quite warm, but it was somewhat overcast, so at least not terribly hot. We saw marine iguanas, many birds including yellow warblers, lava lizards and lots of different plants. There was some fine mist in the air. At the summit, we had a great view and could see Nazca and red-footed boobies flying and by looking over the edge we caught sight of red-footed boobies—babies, juvenile and adult. The climb back down was, of course, even tougher than the one up. The pangas met us at the beach and we were greeted with a snack, had our briefing and dinner. A school of dolphins put on a performance for us around the boat. They leapt and frolicked, twisted and turned. Once again we turned in early.

Photos 24 Sep

25 Sep - Galapagos - Espanola Island

Tuesday, September 25th  Espanola Island

This was a very tiring morning, but well and truly worth the exertion. We had a dry landing at Suarez Point on Espanola Island. The path is extremely roky, but we had all been warned to wear our sturdiest walking shoes and we all had sticks. We saw so many species it was amazing – a glimpse of red-footed boobies, lots of great looks at blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, Galapagos hawks, Darwin’s finches, marine iguanas, Sally Light-Foot crabs, albatrosses, and so on and on. Shortly after landing we came across a very young infant sea lion, still with an umbilical cord. We really enjoyed watching the “engagement” ritual of a couple of newly-mature Waved Albatrosses. It is a dance involving “bill-circling”, “bill-clapping” and “sky-pointing”. They mate for life but at this point are not breeding, just pair bonding. Breeding will happen a year later. We saw several of the juveniles who will fly out to sea in December and not return to land until they mature in 5 years. Beyond the albatross area we rested at the top of a cliff where there is a blow-hole. Galapagos hawks flew very near us. At one point several people screamed my name as one appeared to be dive-bombing me – perhaps attracted by my outstanding red sun hat! We saw sea lions even under bushes, very far from the beach and when we came back to the landing many young ones were frolicking in the surf. Back on board we had a snack, some quiet time and then lunch. Cathy, Lynn and Myrna went kayaking for a half hour or so and reported the water to be fairly warm. Shortly after, the 3 of them plus Heather, David, Larry and I went by panga to Gardner Island in Gardner Bay for snorkeling with Pepe. Larry, Myrna and I decided not to wear wetsuits and got a little chilled but it was good. Some small sea lions came and played, and we saw sea stars, green and brown sea urchins, and lots of little fish. After we came back Brock, Elsie, Ruth and Sally-Jo went to the beach, which they said was the best yet. Beautiful fine, soft sand and lots of animals. Then it was evening briefing and dinner followed by a few rounds of Bananagrams before bed.
We are enjoying life on the Flamingo I. There are just the 12 of us on board with 10 crew, including Pepe our guide. There’s lots of variety in the meals. Always a fish and meat choice at dinner, and so on. Of course there are snacks always available and at least 2 or 3 fancier ones every day. Luis serves the tables and tends bar with friendliness and skill. Maria, the magic woman, has our rooms made up almost as soon as we leave in the morning for breakfast. The panga drivers are skilled and funny. Each of our 4 singles has her own cabin, which is good since they’re a bit tight.

Photos 25 Sep

26 Sep - Galapagos - Floreana Island

Wednesday, September 26th Floreana Island.

Before breakfast we were treated to a bit of a show by 3 young sea lions. One had caught a crab and the others played at stealing it. Our first excursion of the day was a wet landing at Cormorant Point. A young sea lion was nursing and others lying about. Pep explained some of the flora – with samples, so we might recognize them later. Along the trail we saw (and smelled) incense tree, Galapagos daisy, sunflower tree and black mangrove among others. When we reached the edge of a brackish lagoon, we could see a half-dozen flamingos feeding in the distance. We moved on to a vantage point above the lagoon, where we could see all of it and the surrounding area. Next we moved to another beach to see small rays tumbling in the surf. At first we couldn’t see them, then suddenly realized they were nearly around our feet. Back on board Flamingo I we donned bathing suits and some of us put on the wet suits so we could snorkel at the Devil’s Crown. We saw Tiger Rays, a blue sea star, and many many small to medium sized fish. Some saw a shark or two under the edge of the rocks. We rode an ocean current while the various formations and creatures appeared below us. Pepe did a great job of drawing our attention to t interesting things. After we returned to the panga and stared toward the boat we saw a very large flock of shearwaters, cute little black and white duck-like birds. Once again we enjoyed a delicious lunch and some restful time before afternoon activities. We took off in the pangas for a tour of this part of the island’s waters. In one little lagoon we saw a few sharks and at least one ray. On an island were boobies and possibly a turtle. When we landed we went to a clearing that holds a barrel used as a mail box. People leave cards and letters for others to pick up and hand-deliver. We went through a few hundred of them but found none from the Toronto area. Then in wet suits or not, we put on masks, snorkels and fins and went into the water in search of sea turtles. I saw three before I became chilled and called the boat over to pick me up. Besides the turtles, we got a good look at sea urchins, and lots of other growth as well as many colourful fish, pencils, a pelican on the edge of the surf. Along the way we saw huge cacti on one island. Another good briefing and delicious dinner, long conversations and early to bed.

Photos 26 Sep  


Thursday, September 27, 2012 – Isabela Island.

After breakfast we boarded the pangas for the run into Puerto Villamil, where we were met by a small bus to go to the Highlands. We had decided the night before not to climb the volcano, since we were unlikely to have a view because of the mist. It would be a long muddy climb for nothing. However, we did hope to see the elusive vermillion flycatcher. Pepe warned us that it would just be a “speck of red”. I was the lucky one looking in the right direction at the right moment and wonder of wonders, when we backed up it was still there! Larry and Heather both got good photos before it flew away. We also stopped to get a good look at and photos of the angel’s trumpet or datura flower. Back at the dock we got a really good look at a tiger ray. On the way back to the boat in the pangas we saw another ray, and a group of penguins on a small island with a blue-footed booby. At lunch (which was after the delicious morning snack) we had a cantaloupe carved in the shape of a swan. Very pretty. Back on the island after lunch, we headed straight for the tortoise centre. We saw several kinds of tortoises from different volcanoes on the island being raised to about age 5, when they’re carefully returned to their places of origin. Others stay at the centre for breeding. This is all necessary because introduced predators make it almost impossible for the young to survive in the wild. Near the centre we saw many flamingos in a lagoon. They were closer than the others we had seen, and shared space with gallinules and other birds. We wandered through the town and met up with most of the others for a beer at a sidewalk bar. Some people had seen a funeral procession going by. Back to the boat for our snack, briefing and another great dinner. We all retired early as we were on the move and it was somewhat rocky.

Photos 27 Sep


Friday September 28, 2012 – Bartolomé and Santa Cruz Islands

We needed to make an early start, so were in the pangas by 7:45. A dry landing set us down at the bottom of the 386 steps (I counted!) plus several long ramps to climb to the top of the island. This area had its most recent eruption in 1904 but still looks like a moonscape. There are some pioneer plants such as cacti and Galapagos tomatoes but they are very sparse. We could see plenty of collapsed lava tubes and secondary volcano cones. It was very windy and overcast but we still got hot on the climb. It took 50 minutes to get to the top and about 30 to come back down. The pangas took us directly to a sandy beach where we struggled into our wetsuits, fins and snorkels for a swim around Pinnacle Rock. This was the best snorkeling of the whole trip! My favourite was a brilliant blue sea star. We also saw rays, sharks, many colours of sea stars and fish of every hue. Just great!!!! Back to the boat to motor to Santa Cruz Island.
There we had a very long panga trip into the unnamed harbour and into a rather nice mini-bus for a trip into the highlands at an altitude of about 1300’.  The road was good for much of the way.  At first the landscape was dry, but from 600’ upward it became lush and green. The lane into our destinations was very rough. Along the way we saw many crops growing, as well as cows and horses in the fields. Soon we began spotting huge tortoises, and some smaller ones, in the fields. The road was lined with bananas and impatiens and other growth. We walked into fields where tortoises were grazing. It was so muddy we were provided with rubber boots. Besides the tortoises we saw many birds: the female vermillion fly-catcher, yellow warblers, pintail ducks, egrets and many finches. From that sanctuary on a private farm we moved along to a lava tunnel, which was very large and featured small stalactites. At the entrance was a barn owl which was nearly impossible to photograph. The last stop was “Los Gemelos”, 2 sinkholes caused by collapsing lava domes. They were huge, but we couldn’t see the full extent because of the mist. We returned to the harbour, and had quite a long wait for the pangas, since the boat had gone to the other side of Baltra Island to refuel. As always, Luis was waiting with a delicious snack for us. Dinner, bed.

Photos 28 Sep


Saturday, September 29th  -- South Plaza Island and Ayora Port, Santa Cruz Island. 

We got a bit of extra sleep this morning for a later start, then went ashore for a walk on South Plaza Island. We were glad to have our walking sticks. It is the very rocky home of land iguanas, who feed on the cactus that grow quite thickly. There were, of course, lots of sea lions including one huge male who seemed to be resting from his labours and perhaps hoping someone would come and take over his harem. Lots of birds starting with swallow-tail gulls at the landing place, pelicans, a red-billed tropicbird (minus its beautiful long tail, which it had lost to a frigate bird), frigates, tiny black sharp-beaked finches. One marine iguana crossed our path. Back on the boat, we had a very rolling trip back to Santa Cruz Island. Myrna and David opted out of the visit to the Darwin breeding centre, where Lonesome George used to live until his death earlier this year. There the rest of us saw various types of tortoises being protected and/or bred. When we went back to the meeting place, no David and Myrna! The local people in the area said they’d arrived and walked toward the town. So we headed that way, even sending scouts out as far as a construction site that was blocking the main street. No sign of them. The rest of us shopped and strolled the length of the town, made our way through the construction and found them at the pier. Turned out there had been a misunderstanding and the panga driver had dropped them at the pick-up point instead of the drop-off. They had ventured out to the far side of the construction but missed most of the town. Back on board, Sally-Jo discovered that Maria had decorated her room with balloons and streamers and had fashioned all her towels into a birthday cake on her bed. Her real birthday is tomorrow, but we’ll be in transit. In the lounge, we found more decorations and we had quite a party, farewelling the crew and honouring the birthday. Galapagos Sun-Sets, champagne, birthday cake (with the added Ecuadorian custom of biting off a little corner of the cake after blowing out the candles – with the result of icing on face), “Happy Birthday” in both English and Spanish and finally “Go Now in Peace”, which we sing at the end of every trip.

Photos 29 Sep


Sunday September 30th – San Cristobal to Guayaquil

Packing all our damp and wet clothes was a challenge, but we all managed. Then one last panga ride to the pier. We hopped on a bus for the ride to the very interesting and well-presented Interpretation Centre. Then a walk through the town with a bit of retail therapy and back on the bus to the airport. It’s less than 2 hours to Guayaquil and we were met there by our familiar friendly Mabell. At the hotel we quickly found our rooms and I don’t know about the rest, but Larry and I had 4 priorities: 1) pull all that wet stuff out of the suitcase to dry, 2) catch up on email news from home, 3) loll in the bathtub (me) and 4) update the photos and blog (Larry). Then, of course, make a stab at re-packing for Lima. 

No Photos Today


Monday October 1 – Guayaquil to Lima

Our flight was at 9:45 but the airline required us to be there 3 hours before, so we had a 5am wake-up call, early breakfast and departure from the Oro Verde.  Mabell was most efficient at shepherding us through the formalities and soon we were all in the departure lounge.  Some of us wandered through to shops and picked up a few things.  The flight was quick and we arrived in Lima to be greeted by our local guide, Fidel, and driver Jimmy. The sky was so very overcast and Fidel told us it stays this way from May to November, then the skies clear until May.  But it never rains, there’s only ever mist.  Water comes from 3 rivers that run from the Andes.
Our first stop was the wonderful La Rosa Nautica restaurant.  We and Cathy had eaten there 5 years ago and it had been a most memorable and enjoyable experience.  It was great to go back and not be disappointed.  There is an Arab summit in Lima this week, so a huge police presence.  Fidel said that all 5-star hotels are under intense security and we certainly see it at the Estalar Miraflores where we’re staying.  Unfortunately it also meant we couldn’t visit the main city square since it was cordoned off by security forces.  We were all happy to get to the hotel.  Sadley that’s when we said good-bye to Heather, Dennis, Elsie and Brock, who were all catching the night flight back to T.O.  We were delighted to find roses and fruit in our room – gifts from Claudia’s mom and dad.  We rested for a while then the 8 remaining Intrepids met for a drink.  We returned to our room for a light supper while the rest had soup or salads in the dining room.  Early to sleep in the big comfortable bed.

Photos 01 Oct


Tuesday October 2 – Lima, Peru

 We were awake fairly early, so took our time and eventually went for breakfast. We were unsure of our departure time today (for the Horse Show), so waited to hear from Cathy before going out. She let us know it would be noon, so we walked out through the park and to the Indian Market. It was just opening, so we didn’t see much, but it was nice to be out in the city. Back at the hotel we got the message that departure was changed to 11:30. That still gave us time to be ready. And what a grand time we had! Claudia’s parents, Ruth and José and brother José met us with a small bus and we travelled well out of Lima to the south. At Los Ficus Casa Hacienda we were greeted by the very lovely Alexandria who guided us through the garden ( 20-30 kinds of lettuce as well as herbs, all organic and used there and at the La Nautica Rosa). Alexandria explained the phases of training of the Peruvian Paso Horses and we saw a horse at that stage “do its things”. Finally 6 fully-trained horses rode by the best charlanes showed how well-disciplined and graceful they are – they really dance! A single rider and a woman in traditional dress did a dance together which was very beautiful and well done. And next, we had a delicious meal at outdoor tables and all the time we were getting to know Ruth and José. On the ride back to the hotel, we sand Canadian songs for their entertainment. This was certainly one of the very best experiences of this trip. We cannot thank Ruth and José enough for hosting us today.

Photos 2 Oct


 Wednesday October 3

Morning was time to pack up for the trip home and we consolidated into 2 rooms from the 4 we’d been using. At 11 we met with Ruth and José and then went off on a shopping spree at the Peruvian Markets. Most of us bought at least one or two things to remember Peru. We met José for lunch at a Peruvian restaurant which was most interesting and delicious. After lunch we walked back to the hotel. There were a few bursts of sunshine during our walks. It must be tough to live here with the overcast skies for six months of the year, but it was nice to have the sunshine briefly. Ruth and three others headed out for another round of shopping, while the rest of us flaked out. We have experienced such wonderful hospitality here! What a great time we’ve had.

Photos Oct 3