Russ & Mary Battisto’s | Ecuador/Galapagos Trip
January 11 thru January 24, 2020
Day One | Travel Day | Sunday January 12, 2020
After a restless night of sleep we woke up via the Google Alarm which went off on the “Home Group” as well as my phone. Kind of a double whammy… Off we went to MSP’s Lindbergh Terminal #1 just after 6 AM. The traffic was light, and the airport was not busy. We dropped Mary’s bag and sailed through the “TSA Pre” Line. The walk to Gate G19 was relaxed and the wait for boarding begins. It’s 7 AM… Boarding starts at 8 AM for an 8:40 flight.
We were early so the wait time was used up on a bunch of minutiae that needs not to be revealed. Mainly people watching and getting this log started. Around 8 AM they started calling the different classes of seats and we were third, I think. (Vets, families needing extra time and the usual first-class group). We boarded and waited for the rest of the crowd to board. Then we waited for some “paperwork” to be completed (i.e. corrected). Then we waited for the de-icing process (what a surprise). And finally, we waited for our turn to take off. We were late getting out but with a six-hour layover, no problem other than both of us had “big” people next to us taking up half our seats… Oh well…
We made it. A smooth two-plus hour trip. Landed, deplaned then wondered what to do for six hours. Well, as is turns out we did a lot of walking, shopping (one book only although it was tempting) and eating/drinking at three different places… Too much but that’s what we do until I get home and regret it… We’re waiting to board as I write this… Next stop. Quito, Ecuador. Scheduled to depart around midnight… And midnight it was so… on to the next day…
Day Two | Quito, Ecuador | Monday January 13, 2020
We landed in Quito around midnight and went thru Ecuador’s customs gauntlet which was typical. All the planes landed at one time. Go figure… We stood in the never-ending line what felt like hours but in retrospect it was only about a half hour or so because once through the line and the friendly Customs Agent we headed straight for our luggage and exited the customs area. All in all, a fairly painless gauntlet…
Next, we were to look for… “The Booth.” Kind of like Cozumel, Quito airport has an “official” taxi service with reps waiting for us tired and confused tourists to walk out of the airport looking for a way to get to wherever they are going. In our case it was downtown Quito and the JW Marriott Hotel. I’d read it took 30 minutes from the airport to downtown Quito, but it didn’t sink in until we hired a cab ($25) and jumped in for the ride into town. What a ride. The Quito airport is at 13,000 feet ASL (above sea level). Quito is at about 8,000 feet ASL give or take depending on where you are in the city of 2.7 million. We went downhill for a LONG time on perfect (new) roads until we hit the old part of the city and a toll stop to help pay for the airport’s new road, apparently. Once thru the toll booth we hit much older roads as we approached the downtown area.
The new airport is only 3 years old and ten times larger than the original airport located down in the heart of the city. We saw the old airport (now a park) while touring Quito. I don’t see how the large jets ever landed there. Apparently the old airport was one of the more difficult airports to land at back in the day. We arrived at our hotel and checked in, took the elevator to room #728 and crashed for the night. It was 1:30 AM.
For all of our pictures and videos
(there were way too many to insert…)
you can go to my shared folders here:
Album #1 | Album #2
Day Two (continued) | Quito, Ecuador | Monday January 13, 2020
We headed down for breakfast around 10 AM to an empty restaurant. We got our breakfasts as the waitstaff was beginning to clear off the breakfast selection. Talk about sleeping in…
Next stop? The Concierge.
As Mary refreshed our room key cards (long story) I headed over to see Andres, the Concierge on duty. He was very helpful getting us a private tour of the city.
We finished up and headed back to the room to get ready for the tour. With camera and all the other stuff needed for the tour in hand we headed back down to the lobby to see Andres again.
He was waiting for us with Juan, our tour guide for the day. Juan lead us out to an older KIA minivan and our driver for the day. I didn’t get his name. He was very quiet, so I think he didn’t speak English as well as Juan and he only spoke when needed and only in Spanish. Juan, however, was very fluent in both so it was nice to have someone who could explain everything, and we could understand it.
Off we went.
First stop, the equator in Ecuador. Turns out there are two. A “fake” touristy one and the “real” one. We went to the real one and had a very nice tour with a very nice young lady (I didn’t catch her name) tour guide that did a great job explaining the many things involved with why Ecuador was the most famous place to “celebrate” the equator and all of its special meaning and history. Very informative and a fun hour.
The tour also covered some of the history of how many cultures had “input” into figuring out the equator and how it came to be so important in all of our lives. Much fun. We picked a perfect day. Sunny, warm and a little breezy but not too much.
The only cable car ride in Quito.
Once a popular tourist (and local) attraction the ride has become somewhat oversold and underused. What once took two hours to wait your turn for has turned into a relic of its former self. We walked right up and had no delay getting on. The cable car heads up to 13,000 feet ASL and give you a GREAT view of all of Quito and all the surrounding areas. What a beautiful trip. If you thought I was breathing heavy at 8000 feet wait to take a few steps at 13,000 feet and see what you feel like. I know I’m getting older but still consider myself in average shape for my age. Even Juan was breathing heavy as he tried to keep us informed of all the interesting points on the tour.
We really enjoyed this tour and appreciate the beauty Ecuador has to offer. We finished the tour and jumped on the next available gondola for the trip back down to the base. We rode down with a mom and her 7-year-old son from Queens, NY. We had fun interacting with David (the 7-year-old). He was quite the handful. Looked and sounded like mom could handle him though…
Next Stop? Old Quito Town and many of the multitude of churches, convents, monasteries, government buildings, statues, cathedrals and you name it, Quito has it. Turns out all of those invaders tried to import their religion, worship rituals as well as culture into Quito.
The prevailing thought was Ecuador being the highest (closest to the sun) and therefore “god,” was the perfect place to erect your special form of worshiping monument. And there are MANY! We drove and walked for hours and saw only a small portion of the seemingly unlimited structures in this area.
Around 4 PM we had enough touring for the day and with it being hot, dry and sunny I was ready for a beer and a bar stool. We headed back to the hotel, paid the bill and said our goodbyes to Juan and our driver then headed straight for the bar and did just that. One beer only and we were ready to go up to the room to freshen up and figure out what to do for dinner. But first we stopped back by Andres to thank him for setting us up with Juan for the day and by the way, where would a good place to go for dinner? I wanted to do a local joint to see what kind of cuisine Quito had to offer but as it turns out we have an Argentinian Steak place here in the hotel and it’s 50% OFF night tonight. Guess where we went…
We went back to the room to freshen up and take a quick nap. I did but Mary was up pretty fast again. We headed back down to dinner at 6 PM as we wanted to beat the rush but more importantly, we wanted to turn in early as we have an early flight tomorrow. We enjoyed a great “La Hacienda” Platter for two and a bottle of an Ecuadorian “Dos Hemisferios” red blend that was great! Way too much food but a great meal and very good service. We skipped dessert and/or an after-dinner drink and headed back to the room to repack and get ready for our travel day tomorrow.
Day Three | Quito to San Cristobal, Galapagos | Tuesday January 14, 2020
It was one of those nights. Mary and I both knew we were traveling in the morning and combined with a great steak, a bottle of wine and the high altitude neither of us slept very well. But we were up before the alarm anyway headed down for breakfast by 6 AM then back up to the room to finalize packing then back down to check out and await the transfer to the airport for our flight over to The Galapagos. The bus was waiting for us and as it turns out, many of us.
Apparently, it wasn’t just our tour group but anyone at the hotel heading for the airport. We hopped on the bus for an hour trip back up the hill to the airport for our flight. The transfer went well considering the number of people they had to keep track of. We went through several gauntlets including getting all the necessary paperwork to be accepted on the Galapagos Islands. It’s a pretty strict place to access. Lots of rules and regulations mainly so we don’t contaminate the islands any more than we already have.
We finally got to the gate only to find it had been changed from the “A” Terminal to the end of the “D” Terminal. Not a long walk but another hoop to jump through. We got on the plane, an older Airbus A320 via a bus ride and manual staircase to climb. After the usual delay for paperwork or some such thing we headed for Guayaquil for some fuel and a few more passengers before we headed for the Galapagos Islands. The layover took about 45 minutes then off we went to our intended destination, San Cristobal Island, Galapagos.
We landed and went through, yet another gauntlet called Customs to be sure our luggage didn’t have anything in it to contaminate the natural habitat and to pay $100 each for the privilege to access the islands. Gathering our luggage, we headed out the door with our “tour guide,” Pablo and the minivan for the five-minute trip to the peer at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and the boat, the “Natural Paradise,” a very nice boat indeed.
At first glance this is a luxury boat with all the amenities. We took Pangas (Zodiacs) out to the boat with the luggage following close behind, all signs that this is a well-run operation.
Once on the boat it weighed anchor and began to move to our first site. After a brief orientation, lunch and quick tour, we selected our snorkeling gear and headed back out on the Pangas for our first snorkeling trip.
And what a trip it was! I decided not to bring my camera on the first snorkeling trip and I’m still wondering why. I missed shots but I will admit the shots from above won’t do the subjects justice…
Snorkel Trip #1: Kicker Rock off of San Cristobal Island
No Mary this time. (Tired and recovering from a bit of altitude sickness) The snorkelers donned our gear and headed for the Pangas for the short trip to the guano-covered small island called Kicker Rock (outcropping sticking straight out of the water. No beach…) near where the boat is anchored.
There are two islands next to each other and the “plan” was to swim between the islands but, as usual, the plan changed. We jumped in and tried to swim toward the area between the islands, but the current was so strong that we (the second Panga) had a tough time getting to the area. So, after some confusion, the Panga picked us back up and got closer to the other group so we could join them and stay together. This time we got close enough to the island that we could see the lava along with many fish. Next, a turtle drifted by under us.
Suddenly, the group got excited as a couple of hammerhead sharks were seen nearby. I missed that one… Continuing we saw more turtles, reef sharks and this time I saw the hammerheads drifting by out a bit deeper but still visible. It looked like a small one following a larger one (about 5 feet long) heading to deep water. A quick sighting but a good one.
The turtles ranged from small to quite large and the reef sharks were small (2 feet long). They looked a bit like a “tough” looking nurse shark. Pablo mentioned “Galapagos Sharks” which I was aware of but never observed before (Dah!) We were in the water for about 45 minutes when the Panga drivers recalled the group and we headed back to the boat for a rinse and a nice beach towel to dry off. This is a well-run boat!
After settling in we had some additional orientations talks, an introduction of the passengers and crew along with a “Welcome Cocktail” to celebrate the beginning of the trip. After that we headed for dinner (bacon wrapped rib-eye or salmon). After dinner the group split up, some continuing a family scrabble game and some to get to know each other. By 8 PM I was the only one left. Mary went to the room (#5) to get ready for bed. I finished up checking emails and catching up on the day’s activities in this log. I joined Mary around 8:30 PM, sleeping by 9 PM…
Day Four | San Cristobal to North Seymour & South Plaza, Galapagos | Wednesday January 15, 2020
It was just showing signs of sunrise (darker because it was cloudy) between 5:30 AM and 6:00 AM so we could see the island we were at. North Seymour is just across to the north of Baltra. Pablo gave us our orientation for the morning trek on the island as we ate breakfast. With a short break to get ready, off we went via our two Pangas to the island.
Hiking Trip #1 | North Seymour Island just off Santa Cruz Island:
A short boat trip but an interesting place to jump off the Panga. The driver kept the Panga in gear with a little speed and pushes against the rock we’re supposed to jump on to. It worked but in choppy seas (which it was today) the driver had a tough time keeping the Panga in place. We did it just fine, but it was dicey with some of the older, less agile folks.
Once on the island Pablo directed us to a gathering area for additional instructions and off, we went to our first stop. The combination of structure, landscape and wildlife was almost overwhelming. Pablo stopped several times and each time he gave us additional insight into how the Galapagos is the perfect paradise for the species lucky enough to have ended up here. Here’s an incomplete and shortlist of the species we talked about:
Different types of Frigate Birds, indigenous types of Sea Gulls, Galapagos Cactus and why it was very important, several types of Iguanas and a multitude of other birds and land animals. We discussed the rat population and how they are controlling it. We discussed so many things that my mind is numbed by it.
And all within a span of two hours and 4000 steps. Quite the morning trek. Tiring but not hard.
We had snacks, showered and changed into swimwear and waited on the top “sun” deck for our next trek, to see what was under the water instead above water.
What a morning!
Snorkel Trip #2 | South Plaza off Santa Cruz Island
The snorkel trip to South Plaza (this one Mary joined us) was quite different from the first trip. This was off a rocky beach so we could always see the bottom and the water was warmer. At first, I thought this would be a bust but after about 15 minutes we started to see some life. Schools of smaller fish including the famous “Dory” fish moseyed by along with the usual parrot and other common fish.
Then someone saw a lobster and I thought I got a shot at an octopus scurrying around the rocks below (but my picture can’t prove it so it might have been a figment of my imagination).
But the BIG one was next, at least two large white tipped sharks and a smaller Galapagos shark swam by. I did gets shots of those, so they weren’t a figment… After that all was small change and Mary had had enough so we headed back to the Pangas to await the rest of the crew to climb on board so we could head back to the boat and lunch. Much Fun!
We ate lunch then headed to our room for a quick nap. I got up earlier than Mary, so I grabbed my TabPro and headed up to the dining room to transfer pictures and catch up on this log while checking email and putting out a little POS Printer “fire” at work. All is well at the shop as far as I know but you know the s**t will hit the fan upon my return…
Next up? Our second land trek of the day at South Plaza…
Hiking Trip #3 | South Plaza off Santa Cruz Island
This was another interesting hike.
The landscape is rocky and lava rocks are not easy to navigate. But life on this hike was spectacular once again. We had fun with Sea Lions, big and small including one nursing its mother, playing with SeaGulls and looking at more cactus.
Can you say the words, Sea Lion and Iguana? It was amazing! These things are so used to people and not worried they just go about their business and never mind we’re walking by them so close we can tell their gender… (Gina calls them “Water Bubbas” and I agree. Their mannerisms and some of their sounds remind me of our own Bubba.)
We headed up a hill and found out how narrow this little island is. The other (windy) side is near and the sheer cliffs were something to stay away from. More Frigates and Sea Gulls along with other species too many to list. We finished up the trek only to find out we had to return the same way we came so we turned around and headed back to the pier to jump back in our Pangas only to find the Alpha Male Sea Lion laying on the dock so the Panga came back and nudged the pier near where the “Alpha” was laying across the pier and he moseyed back into the water after making a noise I’m sure meant he was annoyed…
So fun to watch and take pictures of… We jumped back in the Pangas getting the “hairy eyeball from the Alpha and off we went back to the boat. Much Fun!
“Back at the ranch” we snacked, showered (again) and relaxed before dinner. We had our orientation for the next day’s activities then headed for dinner which was excellent once again. After a raucous and loud dinner exchanging stories and finding out more about each other we broke up the party at around 8 PM. Some went to bed, some hung around and relaxed, some continued their Scrabble game and Mary and I had an “after-dinner-drink” at the bar while I downloaded the day’s pictures and catching up on this log. Oh, and I also caught up on what the heck was happening at home. WOW! Seems there be some snow headed their way this weekend. Maybe a lot of snow…
Luckily I have Matt scheduled to take care of that should it actually happen. We’ll see…Good Night!
For all of our pictures and videos
(there were way too many to insert…)
you can go to my shared folders here:
Album #1 | Album #2
Day Five | Rasida & Bartholomew Islands, Galapagos | Thursday January 16, 2020
Apparently exercise helps you sleep. We both slept well. We both got up before the alarm to the sounds of the boat coming to life so we dressed and headed up to find a cup of coffee and see what the day would bring. It was cloudy with a good chance of rain. The clouds were low over the hills. After a cup of coffee others began to show up and breakfast was served. After breakfast we went to the room to prepare for the first trek of the day, Rabida Island and the red lava tour with some snorkeling off of the beach.
Hiking Trip #4 | Rabida Island just south of Santiago Island
This was an interesting trip as I’ve never seen a red sand beach but the lava here is different. It has more iron in it than most lava so it’s naturally red as compared to black or brown lava which needs centuries to “rust” and turn reddish. Interesting… It looks rare as we’ve not seen this on other islands, but I digress… We landed on the beach, jumped into the shallow water and brought our gear up onto the beach above the tide level. We had both our trekking (dry) gear as well as our snorkeling (wet) gear. The beach had some sea lions resting and some pelicans fishing but not much else. There was nowhere to set it down than on the red sand so red sand became part of us for the day. It was all over… We put shoes on and headed to our first stop of the trek, a lagoon behind the beach.
This lagoon is brackish (salty fresh water, a combination of rainwater and sea water from high tides. There were ducks and flamingos in the lagoon, a small body of water that looks shallow. Pablo explained why the Flamingos were “Orange” as compared to what we usually think of them as “pink.” There were other birds, shoreline birds with long beaks that fed in the sand. I don’t remember their names, but I’ll figure that out later. We continued along the path and happened upon a Galapagos snake, non-venomous and small. Apparently rarely seen but this one was just at the edge of the path and never moved away so it was being “friendly.” It looked like a garden snake to me… We continued along the path up a hill for a better view of the island and beach area. A beautiful view of the surrounding area. Along the way we were informed about the different plants, cactus and trees in the area and what they “contributed” to the balance and ecosystem of the island. Very interesting. I see why they are trying to preserve this last bastion of earth. Good luck with
After we finished up this short trek it was time to head back down to the beach for our next activity of the day, snorkeling.
Snorkel Trip #3 | Rabida Island just south of Santiago Island
We took off our shoes and shirts donned our “shorties” and headed for the kayaks for a little tour. The Pangas brought us out to the kayak and got us settled in. For some reason they don’t allow kayaks on the beach. Even Pablo couldn’t explain why… We did a tour along the path for the snorkelers then turned back in deeper water to the beach where the sea lions were. Three kayaks with 6 people were doing the same thing in different directions but all of us seemed to meet at the beach area where the seals were resting. At this point the Pangas came toward us which was a signal that it was time to let some of the others have a turn. Next, we retrieved our fins and masks and headed to the water.
As we approached the water Mary decided this wasn’t for her, so she headed back to the beach to watch the festivities while I headed out along the rocky shoreline looking for creatures. The first thing I came upon was a baby seal just laying along the water. It looked like it was waiting for mom to drop by. A sandy bottom at first turned into a rocky lava reef as we got deeper. Not many fish until I was ¾ along the designated course then the schools of fish appeared along with some of the larger varieties and a stingray sitting on the bottom playing in the sand. I continued until one of the Panga drivers came over and indicated I’d gone far enough. I’m not sure if there was current or some other reason for this or if it was because I was alone and quite a way out from the beach. No matter. I turned around and took a deeper path slowly back to the shore looking for bigger creatures. Not much there although I heard later form others there was an eagle ray and a small shark meandering by. I missed that.
I returned to the beach and found Mary and Cheryl debating whether to keep John and I after us “abandoning” them but somehow, we prevailed and were allowed back in the group.(John and Cheryl are from Perth, Australia. He’s an electrician and used to own the company but the sons run it now. He shows up to keep everyone “honest.”) The group gathered and exchanged experiences for a short time before gathered our gear and jumping back on the Pangas for the ride back to the boat just in time for lunch.
Once the feeding frenzy was over, we had some down time before our next activity, so we went up to the sundeck to relax and enjoy the breeze. The sun was trying to burn off the morning clouds, but it was taking its sweet time. No matter, it was easy to relax in the partly sunny “sun deck watching the world go by. Next up, another snorkeling site. This time on beautiful white sand. Mary decided to stay onboard, so I loaded up my gear and headed out once again.
Snorkel Trip #4 | Bartholomew Island just east of Santiago Island
Back on to the Pangas for the trip to the beach. This time only the wet bag and myself along with the others joining me on this trip. We landed, hopped out, donned our fins and mask and headed for the water. This time we were on a mission to see penguins. There is a small colony of them on this island so snorkeling over to their suspected location was the goal.
There were many schools of little fish on the way over as we went around the outcropping at the edge of the island. I saw another stingray at the bottom flapping its “wings” in the sand along with many other types of fish, big and small. Some colorful, some, not so much. The suns rays were at a good angle for pictures, so I hope they come out OK. We rounded the corner into the shallows and found there were three things to get excited about.
Penguins, Sea Lions and a lone Octopus out of the water until we got there. Once we approached, he crawled down the ledge, into the water and kept going until he reached the bottom and disappeared into a crevice. I got a couple of shots, but he was moving fast so there was little time to do him justice… Next, we turned to the penguins in the area. There were at least three I saw, some saw four, but they were up on a ledge just far enough away to make it tough to get a close look at them. I swan around for a while trying to get a better view. I shot some pictures but am not sure if they will turn out. I guess I’d better look at them at some point here. Right? We snorkeled back to the last known location of the octopus, but he was nowhere to be found. We took a few pictures of the sea lions resting on a ledge nearby then headed back to the beach to gather our gear and return to the boat via the Pangas. It was a great time!
Back on the boat we freshened up and prepared for our next adventure. The “dreaded” 390 steps up to the top of Bartholomew, 150 meters above sea level…
Hiking Trip #5 | Bartholomew Peak (overlooking the “Master & Commander” film location)
Back in the Pangas with our dry bag, camera and Mary we headed to the entrance to this iconic site on Galapagos. Turns out from the top you can a lot including where portions of the movie “Master & Commander” were shot. Cool!
The climb started out innocently and felt like no problem but wait, there’s more… Luckily, there were half a dozen stops along the way so Pablo could fill us in on what we are seeing and what we should look at. He was very informative to the point that some of us started to get a bit bored but, no matter, the information Pablo gave us filled in a lot of blanks as to how and why this paradise exists and should be preserved as much as possible. With only two relatively flat areas the rest were long inclined steps or steep stairs, the last one the most challenging.
Mary made it but not without problems breathing. This was a tough climb, but we all made it with only heavy breathing and relief we’d made it to the top. As Pablo filled us in on the surrounding area including the movie reference, we enjoyed spectacular views.
We spent about 15 minutes at the top until someone from the boat radioed Pablo to see where he was and suddenly, he was on a mission to get back down this steep hill. We had to watch ourselves as we descended. Some of the steps and boards are not in good shape and even broken so tripping was always a possibility if you weren’t paying attention.
We managed to get everyone back down without a hitch and return to the boat, but first…
As we motored back to the boat someone looked over to where we’d been snorkeling earlier and noticed some penguins on the rocks nearby so we headed the Pangas toward them and had another chance to get some more good shots as they decided to pose for us. We drifted near them for a few minutes then headed back to the boat.
Back on the boat we freshened up and gathered for the next day’s orientation before dinner. Sounds like the next (and last) full day will be another memorable one. Dinner was fabulous again. I took it easy as all this rich food is bound to catch up to me no matter how much exercise I manage to get.
We finished up but loitered around the dinner table comparing notes for the day and swapping stories. After a bit we decided to head upstairs to see if anything was playing around the boat. The lights usually attract all kinds of creatures and tonight was no exception.
The sun deck was pitch black so we had to turn on our phones to find our way to the forward portion of the boat and an edge we could grab to look over the side. Almost immediately we were rewarded. Two huge sharks were patrolling around the boat staying in the light, looking for food. They were interested in the fish life but what got our attention was when a lone sea lion came by and basically taunted them. (Here’s a shot of a shark I got the next morning to show how big they were: Shark! | Sea Lion.
When both sharks turned toward the sea lion he scurried off as fast as needed to escape becoming dinner. Wow! That son-of-a-gun was fast! And he returned several times just to piss-off the two sharks. Lot’s of action. When the sharks were chasing the sea lion the other fish nearby were literally jumping out of the water or going so fast that they lit up the water as they moved. The “luminescence” effect that we often see while on a night-dive. Much enjoyment for us but probably not so much for the critters being chased except for that frisky sea lion……
I then laid down on the nearest sun deck lounge chair for a look-see at “Sky Map” to see what was up there in this part of the world. Some familiar names but a lot of names I’ve not seen since we went to Fiji and I doubt that I had the capabilities I do today thanks to “The Googles.” I played with that for a while until I was invited downstairs to the “common” area for an after-dinner drink with Mary, John and Cheryl our “Aussie” friends. We sat down and discussed life and our similarities and had a very good conversation. I was struck by how much we had in common. He owned a small business so we had a lot to talk about, but the girls didn’t want to talk business, so we said our good nights and the girls headed for their cabin. John and I stayed up until 10 PM then headed back to our cabins. A great finish to a good day…
Day Six | Santiago & Santa Cruz Islands, Galapagos
Friday January 17, 2020
We set the alarm for an early wake-up call (5:30 A) but I was up at 5 AM again. The night’s sleep was OK, but I had a few times I’d wake up for different reasons. Noises, a bad dream, too hot… you know, a typical night… I got up and tried to be quiet while I dressed and found my PC etc. so I could log my day for yesterday’s activities as I didn’t get to it with all the evening’s excitement. I exited the cabin and headed up the stairs to find a perfect spot to lay out my toys, the dining room table, right at the top of the stairs. I got everything prepared and found my first cup of coffee and continued my daily trip log.
With pictures and videos backed up to the PC and the coffee close at hand I was set. At around 5:30 AM the first of the crew arrived from upstairs so I figured I’d let Mary sleep until 6 AM as nothing was happening and nobody was around except me and the crew member that was doing some cleaning to get ready for the day. No other crew or passengers were up and moving around yet. I had a solid 45 minutes of logging time before I decided to go down to roust Mary, but she was up already, so all went as planned… Well sort of…
A mini orientation about the morning activities was next followed by the usual frenzy at the back of the boat. We donned our life jackets, as usual, and headed over to a “new” lava-flow. Only 115 years old…
Hiking Trip #6 | on Santiago Island
We landed and toured the flow looking at the history and the future. We also found “Hope” the lone cactus on the flow that we could see. This is a good thing, apparently. We ended up
comparing notes with a group of Scientists from the “Pirata,” (the Pirate Ship) finding out what they were studying on the flow. Turns out they were studying the effects of people on the lava flow to see if we were damaging it in any way. Seems they were trying to get some of the rules limiting the numbers of people visiting this site relaxed because, so far, they couldn’t find any evidence that the lava flow was being damaged in any way by the people visiting this site. The rules were established in the ‘70s so it was time to update them. They had a drone up and running around the area. I couldn’t tell why, and Pablo didn’t ask why so that remains a mystery.
Maybe taking pictures of the “evidence” for future reference. Who knows except them at this point…? We finished up and headed back to the Pangas for the trip back to the boat.
Note: It was interesting but not too exciting. In my world, “you’ve seen one lava flow…”
Once back on the boat it was time for a late breakfast and a one-hour break (regulations) before we could continue our days activities. Mary and I ended up on the Sun Deck for a little break. Mary took a nap and did some reading while I brought my PC up with me to transfer some pictures and catch up on this log. When our “hour” was up I headed down to catch the Pangas for our next snorkel trip. Mary decided she’d rather stay onboard for this one.
Snorkel Trip #5 | on Santiago Island
Next up, the last snorkel trip of this tour. This time both Mary and Cheryl didn’t make the trip, so John and I were on our own. We headed out via the Pangas to another “wet landing” on the beach. This time I was prepared better by donning my socks before we left the boat so all I had to do was throw my wet bag n shore, put on my mask and fins and head for the water. At first glance this beautiful white-sand beach looked great, but the snorkeling was just bad. I moved around the area looking for something, anything to look at and/or shoot. It was “slim pickens” for a while. Suddenly there was some excitement close to where I was. Turns out there were two penguins up on a lava ledge just looking at all the tourist activity around it. I got as close to them as possible and took a couple of shots. Not close but enough to make out what I was shooting. Snorkelers couldn’t get close because of the reef between us and them. Tourists on land not connected with our group were able to get closer but still not close enough for a good shot without a telephoto lens. Too bad. I thought this was it so I continued to the next area to see what I could find. With little warning four or five penguins swam by me. I was not prepared to get a shot of them and probably did a poor job of it. I’ll look later… Much to my surprise they circled around and headed for me again. This time I was semi-prepared. The camera was on
“video” and I was ready, but they were moving so fast it was difficult to keep them in the frame. Then an amazing thing happened. They stopped in front of me. I presume they were looking at my red camera wondering if it was food or something but once they figured out it wasn’t food they moved on. This was enough to get some video recorded. I’m sure this will need editing, but I plan on making the best of a great encounter. Very friendly and fast moving. That was enough for me. I slowly headed back to shore to await the end of the snorkeling trek and get back to the boat. On the way I passed another penguin standing on a lava ledge looking at me and the world. I got as close as possible and got a few more shots just to “top-it-off.” I returned to the beach rinsed off myself and my gear but as soon as I throw the mask and fins in the wet bag there was sand all over (as usual) Oh well… John and I took a little tour of the areas beyond the beach to see what we could find. We got some shots of a pelican and some cheeky orange crabs.
They stick out like a sore thumb but have no predators so they can… Once the group was ready to go, we gathered up our gear and headed for the Pangas.
Back on the Pangas for the ride to the boat we handed in our wet bag and shorty as that was the last snorkel tour of this trip. Although I prefer to be down with the critters (diving) I can’t complain. It was great to be back in saltwater swimming around with a camera. Fun!
Back on the boat we “weighed” anchor and headed from Santiago Island to our next destination. The usual snack was waiting for us and once the feeding frenzy was over, we gathered for an orientation on our next land trek on Santa Cruz Island. Just after the orientation, lunch was served. Too much food… but I made the best of it and only ate too much not way too much… The boat trip was supposed to be two hours, but it took a bit longer because we had an “encounter” with a school of dolphins. The boat did a slow 180 and the dolphins came over for a look-see. We headed to the sun deck to watch them
frolic near the boat. I got a few videos but it’s difficult to catch them clearly because they only come out of the water occasionally. No matter, we enjoyed the encounter. After about 20 minutes we resumed course for Santa Cruz Island. We arrived and anchored just in time for our next land trek. The Pangas were ready so all of us headed over to the island to see a different combination of topography and a bunch of iguanas.
Hiking Trip #6:
on Santa Cruz Island
When we landed and disembarked from the Pangas I was struck by the lava flow on a white sand beach. I’m sure Pablo discussed this, but I don’t recall why/how the lava flow can be on top of white sand as the two don’t belong together. I’ll have to get some assistance from my favorite geology professor on this one to set me straight. But I digress… We continued along a path from the white sand beach to another lagoon and low and behold another flamingo was resting (on one leg and head tucked in) just for us. I wish I could balance as well as he does. The typical format on these “hikes” go something like this: We walk for a short distance, stop and listen to Pablo point out the many points of interest. Once questions are answered we move on to the next stop unless someone asks a question… And so on… We made the HOT trek around to island with many stops including one at the top of the “hill” for a view of the area. Interesting and beautiful but, in a way, barren. Most of the islands we visited are lava flows that take millions of years to develop and these are relatively new so the structure can look somewhat barren but with a lot of potential. We finished up and headed back to the boat to cool off and have a snack… again…
Once back on the boat it was time to skedaddle from the north end of Santa Cruz around to the south side of the island to our last destination on the “Natural Paradise: Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. The group had lots of time to visit on our last night and compare notes. We also had plenty of time to celebrate with our favorite libations. Mary and I had gone relatively easy on “spirits” this week, but we managed to go through a bottle of Cabernet between returning to the boat and packing. Don’t worry, the rest of the group didn’t hold the horses either. Much fun and a good conversation was had by all.
Some of the stories we exchanged were helpful in filling in some of the blanks we created during the week. We finished off the bottle at dinner. We arrived and anchored in the harbor shortly after dinner and had a nice calm night to pack and sleep without the noise and movement of the ship overnight.
Day Seven | Santa Cruz to Baltra to Quito to Cuenca, Ecuador
Saturday January 18, 2020
We woke up to the alarm and jumped out of bed to finish packing and freshen up before the big travel day. We set our luggage outside the door for the transfer to the airport. Mary was ready before me, so she headed upstairs only to find we’d had some faulty information. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… or crew, or passengers… Turns out my phone somehow thought it was back on Ecuador mainland, not Galapagos. Strange. That usually only happens to Mary. We got up an hour early… So, I “adjusted” my phone back to the actual time and fiddled for a while until the rest of the boat began to
stir. Once we were back on Galapagos time, we tried heading back to the dining area and low-and-behold there was life. It really makes a difference when you are on the correct time. We had our coffee just in time for breakfast and with little delay we were back on the Pangas for one last time, this trip, for the transfer over to the dock and our ride to Baltra.
But first a diversion to El Chato Ranch, the Tortas farm on the way across the island. We got off the us at the farm, took a tour to see the huge turtles and learned the differences and types of tortas there were. They had a nice setting for the Naturalists (Pablo) to give their presentations. They had sample tortas shells to look at and touch if you wanted but not sit on… After a short stay it was time to resume our trek from south to north up through the middle of the island on the way to Baltra. We arrived at our destination, a barge. We got off our bus and jumped in a public barge for the short crossing over to the island. It was packed with all kinds of people and their luggage was stored on the upper deck (ours had left ahead of us and who knows how it got to the airport). There were locals, us tourists and even a policeman and a military guy. I think Army. The trip took about 10
minutes across the short stretch of water before we all got off and jumped on a public transport bus for the ten-minute ride to the airport. Our luggage was waiting for us when we got off the bus, so we retrieved it and headed into the small terminal to check in for our flight back to Quito (via Guayaquil). It was a relatively painless process and the wait-time to board the plane was short, so we sat around and discussed the trip with some of the
other passengers from the boat. It was interesting to hear about where they came from and where they were headed from here. Anything from “back to work ☹” to “we’re headed to Antarctica next ��”. The flight was under two hours to Guayaquil with a 45-minute layover to swap out passengers and refuel. Then back in the sky headed to our destination, Quito, Ecuador. We landed (a bit bumpy), deplaned, retrieved our luggage and back to the ticketing counter upstairs to check-in at the TAME counter for our next flight to Cuenca. This layover was just under 3 hours, so we had lunch and a glass of
wine. I caught up on this log while Mary fiddled on her phone. A bunch of texts were beeping in my phone as I was included in the exchange with Gina. We headed over to Gate A1 to board the plane and off we went in an Airbus A319 fully loaded with mainly locals headed for Cuenca. The flight was short, smooth and uneventful. Like going to Chicago from home…We had a smooth landing, retrieved our luggage and headed out of the very small airport to look for Randy and Noreen. And just outside the exit, there they were. We greeted each other and started looking for a cab back to their place. This was a bit difficult seeing as though everyone exiting the plane was trying to do the same thing. We split into two groups (boys & girls) to see who could hail the cab first. The girls won. We all jumped in and headed to the Ewald residence. A beautiful two-story apartment in the “Historic District” of Cuenca. We walked upstairs and got the “cook’s” tour of their place before we put our luggage in our temporary home, the guest room. With a full bathroom and bedroom (as compared to the boat) this will be very nice. We decided to have a drink and a snack so we walked down to La Cofradia “The Brotherhood” for a beer and a light meal. Mary and I had a late lunch so we weren’t as hungry as we thought. We split a hips and cheese plate but got through half of it and gave up. It wasn’t what we were
looking for anyway. We finished and headed back to have a nightcap at the firepit on the rooftop. The weather is cool here. High fifties and partly cloudy. The light breeze made the fire pit feel good. I took a couple of shots of the cathedral overlooking the historic section, a perfect view from the rooftop. This is a very nice place. Easy access to every convenience and centrally located. We caught up with each other for a bit longer, said our good nights and began the unpacking process to get ready for bed. I think it was around 11 PM by the time the lights were out.
Day Eight | Ewald’s | Juan Jaramillo 9-38 | Cuenca, Ecuador
Sunday January 19, 2020
After discussing the morning activities I thought I’d be smart and set an alarm to be up first. Well coma… It went off. I wasn’t ready so I turned it off and went back to bed, probably disturbing Mary as well but she never mentioned it. After another half-hour or so we heard activity upstairs where Randy and Noreen’s bedroom is so we got up, took showers and came out for coffee and pastries. We packed up the backpack for the day’s activities, a tour of the Virgin Del Rocio Church at Ingapirca Ruinas near Biblian. The tour started at 8:30 AM. Shortly before 8:30 AM we loaded up, locked up and went down to meet Randy and Noreen’s friends, Brian and Deena, who planned the trip and invited us along. Shortly after 8:30 AM a van showed up with Edwin, our guide and driver for the day. He was very nice, soft-spoken and profession. We loaded up and the tour commenced. After driving northeast for an hour & 40 minutes we stopped at our first stop of the day, the Ingapirca Ruinas (Inca Túpac Yupanqui & Hatun Cañar Ruins) in Canar, Ecuador.
Side note: There was a cycling event along our route. When we made our first stop at the ruins there were lots of Policia and other officials honking and getting people out of the road. We didn’t know what was up at first until the first group of cyclists went racing by. They were on dirt bikes and in the rain and wet conditions it looked like a real challenge just to stay upright. We watched them for a couple of minutes before we started our ruins tour. These ruins show off the difference between the two different cultures. The Canari worshiped the moon and Inca worshiped the sun, among many other differences. Another difference is the way they built their structures. The Canari used mortar and did a lot less stone cutting so the stones they used were round and didn’t fit very close hence the use of mortar. The Inca cut their stones so they could build their structures with little to no mortar. The tour was very interesting. I wondered where the stones came from and it turns out they were hauled in long distances. Lots of slave labor… We finished up as it began raining and continued on to our next stop. We drove a short way only to be stopped by a big yellow, green & white striped, “do not cross,” police line manned by several officials, again waiting for the cyclists we passed on the way up this road. We waited for a minute until the cyclists passed us by, waving as they went, and rounded the corner ducking under the police line as they continued their climb up the road we were on. The cyclists veered off the paved road onto a dirt path just beyond the barricade. After they were off the road the officials began to remove the barricade and off we went up the hill on our way to the next stop. As we ducked under (OK, they lifted the barricade for us) and continued up the road, there were only a couple of vehicles behind us. However, the line of cars and trucks waiting to go down the hill was over a block long and that semi
we saw wasn’t going to just “duck” under that barricade. He’d have to wait until they remove it or break it. I think it was just tied around two trees so with a slight delay I’m sure everyone was back on the move in minutes.
Lunch was the next stop along the tour. The restaurant, “DON Coffee” (then long name: Hacienda Los PINOS) was a nice local place. We had lunch, the girls had hamburgers & I had the local special and a local brand of beer, a “Pilsener Grande” on Randy’s recommendation. After a nice break we headed off to our next destination, the church on the side of the mountain, El Santuario de la Virgen del Rocío. Virgin del Rocio or the “Biblian Church” is literally built onto the side of a mountain overlooking a beautiful valley with towns, farms surrounded by other mountains. I call them mountains instead of hills
because we were at approx. 10,000 feet during this tour. Biblian Church has approx. 200 to 400 steps depending on how far up you go. About 200 steps gets you to the top of the church. About 400 steps gets you to the top of the mountain the church is built on. Most of us went the 200 steps in the rain. That was enough. Brian and Randy had to go the “extra mile” and see the top of the mountain. The top steps were really ramps, not steps and they were slippery because of the rain. I declined as I was wet enough and I didn’t want to slip and break something. The “chickens” made it safely back down to the base after touring around the church at several levels along the 200 steps and waited for the ‘bravehearts” to return from their trek all the way up the mountain. We were all wet from the constant rain and mist. I think we were in the clouds and wondered if this was “normal” up here or if it ever cleared up and became sunny and warm. Edwin assured me it didn’t hide in the clouds all the time. We hopped back into Edwin’s van and headed home via a short-cut through the mountains on a dirt road. It probably saved us a half hour. We met up with the main road and went back into town to clearing skies and lots more traffic. Edwin dropped us off around 3:30 PM. We relaxed at Randy & Noreen’s house for a few hours and exchanged stories and caught up until it was time for dinner. We discussed the many
options and decided to “hit the easy button” and go across the street to “Sofy Glocal Cuisine” a local Ecuadorian restaurant but they offer a wide variety of different meals. Very good but as usual too much food. We finished up and headed home for a couple of hours of conversation while we taught Randy and Noreen the “10,000” dice game. Noreen learned quickly and won two in a row so we admitted defeat and crashed for the evening.
Day Nine | Ewald’s | Juan Jaramillo 9-38 | Cuenca, Ecuador
Monday January 20, 2020
I was up first this morning so I headed to the kitchen to make some coffee, check my emails (few because the new week was just getting started) and tried to catch up on this log. Mary was next up so she jumped in the shower and got coffee and lotion, as usual. Next Noreen came downstairs to retrieve her class books (Spanish Class) and a jacket. Without any coffee or breakfast she was out the door just before 8 AM. Mary and I got our second cup of coffee (after brewing a second pot) just in time for Randy to come down. I jumped in the shower, dressed and joined Mary and Randy in the kitchen for a few minutes until it was time to leave to meet Noreen after her class. We walked to Sunrise Cafe, a “gringo” hangout for breakfast. It was crowded, but we found a table for four up front and sat down. We got our coffee and ordered for all of us (including Noreen) and had to wait only a few minutes for Noreen to show up. We had breakfast (too much once again) and headed back to the house to prepare for our next activity, a “walking” tour of the historic section of Cuenca.
We headed for Calderon Park. Our first stop was to go on a guided city tour but it was raining so we decided to put it off for a day. Hopefully it won’t be raining tomorrow. Next stop, the “New Cathedral” or Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The newer of two “main” cathedrals in the area. There are many churches in town but these are the main two. We signed up for the guided tour and waited for a short time before our guide, Andres, came over to greet us and get the tour started. He was good. We had a tour of the main level and took pictures and learned a lot. Once we finished the main level we headed for the upper levels, about 155 steps to get to the choir level and organ level. You’ve got to WANT to sing or play the organ in this church. You have to climb these steps to get there every time. No elevators for you…
We finished up and headed to our next stop, Raymipampa Restaurant nearby for a snack and a beer. Next up, we had to check out the coconut ice cream at the local ice cream shop next door. I was raving about the coconut ice cream in Cozumel so we ordered a cup and… I hate to say it but I think the coconut ice cream in Ecuador is as good as it is on Cozumel. Much better than anything I can find in the USA. Next stop, Mercado 9 de Octobre. We walked through the Mercado looking at all of the many items for sale. I was in awe with all of the choices available. From whole animals like pigs to every fruit and vegetable known to man. They have a “restaurant” on the top floor in case you are hungry and again, the variety of things available was astounding. We finished our Mercado tour and headed over to the old Cathedral for another tour. The difference between the old and the new is startling but easy to believe because of the time difference. The old church was built over 500 years ago and the new church was started “only” 150 years ago and finished in, what I would call modern times, 1967. We didn’t do the tour but this one is smaller and easier to get through ourselves. We finished up with some pictures and headed back home for a break to cool off and catch up on work for Randy and emails and this log for me. The girls had no problem keeping busy while the boys fiddled. We decided on El Santo for dinner so we freshened up and headed back out for the short walk to the restaurant. By the way, we discussed the amount of walking we’d done the last few days so I looked at my watch and found we’d hit eleven-thousand steps today alone. Wow. At least the walking will keep us from gaining too much weight on this trip. A lot of good food and always too much… El Santo was no exception. A very good Mexican Restaurant with a great atmosphere and food/drink selection. I ordered my usual “beer & a bump” while the rest of the group ordered a pitcher of margaritas. The meal was great. The crowd in the restaurant shorted to dwindle as we finished so it was a bit quieter except for one gal who didn’t need a microphone to speak. Everybody in the place knew what she was saying to the point where I couldn’t hear what our group was talking about. She left with her partner so we had a few minutes of peace and quiet before we left. As we were paying the bill a huge group walked in and needed to combine some tables to get everyone seated so we helped put our table in with the others needed, said our “goodbyes” and headed home.
It was time for a slideshow of our Galapagos pictures so Randy and I fiddled with his TV and my phone and with a little bit of effort and luck were able to cast the phone to his TV but not before getting some heat from the girls. You know, it’s never fast enough… Oh well.
The slideshow was long because the pictures were raw and unedited so along with all of the questions, comparisons and exchange of stories about our respective trips, we had a long presentation to the point that we were all ready for bed.
Day Ten | Ewald’s | Juan Jaramillo 9-38 | Cuenca, Ecuador
Tuesday January 21, 2020
This morning we slept in. Well almost… I got up and made the coffee while checking email and catching up on this log. Mary was next up so she jumped in the shower. Randy and Noreen were up shortly after so as it became my turn for the bathroom, Noreen came down to get breakfast started so I cleared by gear off the table and headed for the shower. Breakfast was homemade pancakes thanks to Noreen and Mary this morning. They were great! Canadian Maple Syrup and another cup of coffee and we were ready to head out for another day of touring. First stop was the “City Tour” that we attempted yesterday but the rain made it a washout. Today was warm and sunny, a perfect day for the tour. We gathered and signed up for the tour. There were two gals and it turned out one took us on the english speaking tour and the other took whoever spoke spanish, on the tour.
The City Tour stops included:
1) Hotel Cathedral, close to where we gathered for the tour. Cathedral overlooking the hotel.
2) Seminario San Luis, a covenant/seminary next to the Cathedral with “haunted” stories.
3) Salón del Pueblo, Casa de la Cultura, the Culture Center where there was a traveling painting exhibition in which one painting had been cut cut out of it’s frame and stolen. It was recovered but no one caught yet.
4) GAD Municipal del cantón Cuenca, the government center with three levels of court systems.
5) Ending at Mercado de 10 Agosto, another Mercado with several floors and everything from soup to nuts and everything in between including what we actually planned on coming for anyway, avocados and a few other ingredients to make guacamole. Yummy!
We went back to the apartment for lunch. Noreen and Mary made the guacamole and brought out the chips while the guys were fiddling on their computers. We snacked on the guac and discussed the rest of the day’s activities. While we ate I noticed Randy was working on a “Super Bowl Pool.” I didn’t know he was a bookie… I decided to join so I paid for two squares on the second pool. Mary got to pick one of the squares and with Randy’s assistance (strategery) I picked the other square. Wish us luck…
Randy had a problem he needed to repair for one of his customers so we left without him. The plan was for Randy to meet up with us as soon as he was able. We headed out to our next stop, Museo de los Culturas Aborígenes, the museum of the origins of Cuenca and the people who lived here in ancient times to recent, past history. We toured the three floors including the “money” section on the lower level before heading outside and behind the museum where the bird sanctuary is located. We walked around a bit but decided the extra 2 miles and 2 hours wasn’t worth it this trip. We walked back to the apartment and freshened up for dinner. And what a dinner it was! We met up with Brian and Deena, the friends of Randy and Noreen’s we took the tour with on Sunday. We walked to Tiesto’s Cafe Restaurant and met up with the chef, Juan Carlos, a famous chef known for some very creative dishes as well as an artist. We sat down and Randy ordered their “usual,” the chef’s special. Juan Carlos was excited. He put his waitstaff to work setting us up and getting ready for the feast. Juan and I discussed wines. He suggested a white (Sauvignon Blanc) for the first part of the feast and a red (Malbec) for the balance of the meal. I agreed even though I’m not a big fan of the white selection. I’ve had some good Sauvignon Blancs but not many. But, Juan knew what he was doing, the selections were great. So good, even Noreen joined Randy, Mary and I once she tasted Randy’s glass. He laughed and quickly ordered an additional glass before she confiscated his glass… Once the wine and bread were served we started the feast. Three things struck me; the coordination of the waitstaff as they served all of us simultaneously, the originality of the food and the multitude of flavors and combinations, not to mention the beautiful presentations. The plates were decorated by Juan himself and they were works of art. You didn’t want to touch the plate, just look at it. But temptation prevailed so we dug in and destroyed Juan’s creations. Courses included:
1) Shrimp Soup with 8 different spice selections. You were directed to take one bite of soup, some with a piece of shrimp and some just soup and add different spices on them for a different taste each time. A bit putsy but the varieties of taste, all good, were amazing.
2) Several types of small salad sides to choose from. I could tell this was going over the top but, Oh well…
3) The prawn dish with potatoes. The huge prawns came out in a steaming hot bowl. The waitstaff served each of us in turn, added a little of the juice they were cooked in but used the remaining juice to mash and mix the potatoes into. WOW! That’s the way I like it! How could it be bad with all that butter sauce mixed in to the potatoes. Wonderful.
4) the Medallions of Beef was next. They served it the same way. Served up the Medallions and added a bit of the juice it was cooking in. At first, we started to go after the potatoes remaining in the prawns but they stopped us and did the same thing with the steak juice, mashed and mixed the remaining potatoes into the remaining juice and served them up. Once again the combination made the potatoes fantastic.
There is a problem here. So much great food, so little place to put it. I was running out of room but didn’t want to stop. And then…
5) Dessert! Two perfectly decorated plates. One with a multilayered cake I couldn’t identify the flavor but I guarantee it was wonderful. And two, a huge piece of ice cream, again great taste but no specific flavor. Juan’s genius is the blending of ingredients to create their own combination of flavors. All of us complained of being full but somehow the desserts disappeared, I don’t know where. We stumbled out of Tiesto’s, walked the short distance home and crashed. I was worried that I was too full to go to bed but that turned out not to be a problem. I slept well considering…
Day Eleven | Cuenca to Quito | Ecuador
Wednesday January 22, 2020
Believe it or not Mary and I got up at the same time and Randy was in the kitchen making coffee. I didn’t figure on that. But I recovered quickly. I set up in the kitchen as usual and allowed Randy to concentrate in some work-related projects he was involved in while I check emails and the news and weather at home. I was going to start on this log but it was time to get a refill on coffee and bring some to Mary for our morning routine. Back to the log for a short time, Noreen came down to leave for her spanish class. Randy and I got off on an upgrade tangent and ended up giving me the new version of DL4 as well as upgrading the operating system on our server to the newest version. Only one glitch later and everybody (including Gina) was happy. By this time we were running late to meet Noreen for breakfast at San Sebas Cafe. We tried reaching her to tell her but, it turns out, the “local” phone was in the apartment and on silent mode so she never got the memo. We headed over anyway and found her waiting for us at a table. We split a Huevos Rancheros for breakfast along with an interesting (and I don’t remember the name) mix of blackberry and another local fruit. Both were very good. At least we split breakfast so we weren’t as full as usual after a meal here…
Here’s a list of our next stops for the day in and around the “El Sagrario” section of town:
1) Plaza de San Francisco, where we stopped to look at the famous flower garden where they sell some beautiful flowers among other attractions in the plaza. They were setting up a tent in the middle of the plaza for an event but we didn’t know which.
2) Museo de Sombrero De Paja Toquilla, where Mary and I found and purchased an authentic “Panama Hat.”
3) Miguel Illescas Art Gallery, a beautiful museum of artwork including pictures and structures by the artist, Miguel Illescas. Wonderful offerings that are tempting to purchase. Randy and Noreen have purchased several pieces from Miguel in past visits. We just looked today. Beautiful!
4) Museo Pumapungo, a museum combining indoor exhibits about local culture & ethnography & sprawling, open-air Inca ruins.
5) From the Museum we walked down to the river and intended to walk for awhile before heading to our next stop but it was threatening rain so we hopped in a cab for the ride back up a mountain to see a church (again). OK, I’ve had enough churches to last me a while…
6) Mirador de Turi is the location of the Church of Turi, another church at the top of a mountain. They seem to do that here a lot. It’s actually “Iglesia Católica de la Santísima Virgen de La Merced de Turi” Church and it’s beautiful and old. We checked it out then headed over to the nearby bar with a view for a beer.
Once we taxied back from Mirador de Turi to the apartment to finalize packing and putting the bed back together after washing the sheets. Once done we decided to play a few games of dice again to kill some time and to give Noreen another chance to dominate like she did the first day. Well, she took one away from me but Randy won one and Mary won one. I was the lone loser today… We headed out to El Sagrario Brewery for a beer and dinner. Unfortunately the dinner and beer we wanted was not available. Apparently, they had had a good day before we got there. No matter, we ordered hamburgers and and an alternate beer and all ended up just fine. We finished up and headed home to collect our luggage, say our goodbyes and grab a cab to the Cuenca airport.The airport was under 15 minutes away so we paid for the taxi, retrieved our luggage and walked into the almost empty airport. The whole process, ticket counter, their TSA gauntlet and finding our gate took less than 15 minutes so we walked around and found an Outback Steakhouse to have a glass of wine and kill some time before we boarded the plane to Quito. Once we got close to boarding time we headed over to the Gate and waited for our turn to board. We had seats in Row 22 so we boarded through the rear entrance stairway and settled in for the hour flight. It was smooth and uneventful for the duration. We landed in Quito and headed to our next ticket counter, TSA gauntlet and Gate (A5) to await our next flight. We had Comfort+ seats 16 C & D on a new Boeing 757 with plenty of room to spread out. It looked like a 3/4 full flight. Mary and I had only the window passengers in our row so the middle seat was empty. We took off and settled in. Meals were offered. I accepted, Mary declined. She had a bit of altitude sickness again so the flight wasn’t as nice for her as for me. We both slept after the cabin was cleared and the lights went off.
Day Twelve | Atlanta, GA to MSP | Home
Thursday January 23, 2020
We woke up to the pilot announcing we were making our descent into the Atlanta, Georgia area for a landing in about 15 minutes. A smooth landing brought us to Gate # F8 a bit early so we surprised the ground crew a bit and had to wait for the ramp to be positioned for us to deplane. But deplane we did and began the gauntlets of customs, connecting baggage, another round of TSA BS and finally going all the way from the “F” Terminal to the “A” Terminal to reach our gate at A15. We found some coffee and a snack (lemon bread for me and a pastry for Mary.) We’re awaiting the next and final leg of our trip. It’s scheduled to leave in about an hour and a half as I write this. Welcome Home???
The flight from Atlanta to MSP was smooth and uneventful. Mary and I dozed or read in-between announcements and flight attendants with snacks and drinks. We landed a tad early and deplaned, retrieved our luggage and waited for Aunty Beth to arrive for the trip home. It was a great trip! May they all be that wonderful…