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In the final post of the wonderful trip to Galapagos and Peru, I want to share some of the majesty that the islands offer. Ecuador does a great job of preserving the life on the islands, even after decades of human intrusion. In fact on some of the islands the pirates introduced animals such as goats and donkeys. These animals wreaked havoc on the creatures endemic to the islands. Eventually many of those goats and donkeys were exterminated or removed to protect the local life.

Some of what makes this place magnificent is the nature left to act in their natural habitat. You can see the various species making and having babies, protecting their eggs from predators, protecting territories, and catching their next meals. We saw a bird fighting off a frigate on his back who was trying to steal the eggs underneath in his nest. Nature can be brutal to their own as well. We saw Boobies warming their two eggs and were told that once one egg hatches they get rid of the next one. No spare after the heir with Boobie birds.

On one beach walk, we came across the saddest part of the trip—nature again playing Darwin’s survival of the fittest game. A cute baby sea lion was obviously very hungry as he walked around and then rested due to weakness from lack of sustenance. We could see his rib cage—a sign he hadn’t eaten in a while. His mommy may have been hurt or gone. This little guy was pleading with and slowly chasing another adult female to try to get some milk. Unfortunately they don’t do adoptions in the sea lion world so the female kept moving away from the baby. She was saving her resources for her own young.  I prayed his mommy would show up soon. 

In brighter news, the snorkeling was fantastic, and the most fun part was the sea lions swimming around you and playing. There were also marine iguanas eating the algae on the rocks under the water as well as huge turtles. The turtles were slow unless a boat or a person were coming on them and then they could scoot away. It was a bit startling at times though to turn around and see one right in front of you. After seeing some beautiful fish, we got back to the boat with white fingers from the cold water, to soak in the hot tub for a bit before our nightly happy hour.

Taking a walk along the shoreline on one island, we saw a number of frigates—the males trying to attract the females by enlarging the pouch under their chin. When “inflated” it looked like a red heart. When the ladies flew overhead, they would make a lot of noise, show their pouches, and spread their wings wide—look at me dahlin!

We also saw more sea lions and were told by the guide that sometimes you’ll see a beach boss—one guy who “owned” that beach for him and his women. If there were lots of ladies, he would be higher up on the hierarchy. On another island we saw a number of the colorful land iguanas. They moved slowly and the males seemed more colorful. At one point, two males were competing for a female’s attention.

The swimming and hiking wiped me out. Thankfully we took afternoon rides on zodiacs and saw many wonderful animals and geographical sites. On one island, we saw lots of Galapagos penguins swimming around. The ones we saw getting in and out of the water were pretty cute. It was fascinating to see penguins outside of a zoo and not in the freezing Antarctic.

Back on the boat, we had fun seeing birds that would catch rides between islands. And at one point a sea lion jumped on our stairs to catch a ride but was blocked by crew standing near the entrance. The crew couldn’t touch the sea lion but maybe their presence hindered his objective of a free ride. Later he jumped on a zodiac that was parked along the side of the boat.

Our happy hour was on the deck that night as we had a final crossing the equator party. It was beautiful with the sun setting and was our seventh crossing (six on the boat, one by plane and we had one more to go to get home). They gave us certificates with new names given to us by King Neptune—mine was Sergeant Major.

Our final tour of the trip was on land to a special tortoise sanctuary. There were some seriously big boys there. They were all over—lots of them in the mud pits. We got pretty close to a few of them. And a few people in our group climbed into big shells they had at the center to see how it feels to wear one. A bus trip through lovely scenery took us back to a dock and then on to a tiny airport for our flight back to the mainland.

A final night in Ecuador with a lovely goodbye dinner was festive. We had an amazing group—really one of the most fun we’ve ever had with Tauck. I highly recommend a trip to these two countries—Peru and Ecuador. The people were nice and interesting, the scenery was breathtaking, and the history was rich and filled with a mixture of religions and cultures. It once again grew our hearts and our compassion for our earth and the animals and people in it.

We had a few hours of sleep and a cold shower before taking a nice trip back to the states. It was exhausting but once again, mom, dad, and I had an amazing family experience. We are currently throwing darts at the map to see where we land next! Until then, buenas noches!

The sea lion trying to board without a ticket.

Kids in Peru singing a drinking song to make money off of tourists.

Sea lions hanging out on someone’s panga.

I was super excited to visit the Galapagos Islands. I felt almost rewarded after the experience of having to go through my evolution class in college and reading The Evolution of the Species by Charles Darwin. Now, before I lose you reader, please know I will not reproduce the entire excruciating details of that said publication and will mostly be talking as a tourist having fun in a magnificent environment with beautiful animals and birds.

Beach time at San Cristobal.

When we arrived at San Cristobel island we were immediately delighted at the sight of sea lions making themselves at home basically anywhere; on the steps and the platforms to the boats, on the streets, on boats (if you leave it too close and too long near the land), etc. Our guides told us you can’t touch the animals here so some of them get used to that and feel free and comfortable. Sometimes that means you have to leave them be as they take up space on the boat you are riding on at the moment.

The crazy stairs we climbed on Genovese.

Our cruise ship was very comfortable and had 22 guest rooms. My parents and I got the rooms in the stern and there was plenty of room. An early wake up found us in the northern hemisphere anchored in the Great Darwin Bay at the island of Genovese where we took a 1.5 mile walk across some hard terrain of lava rocks. Here we saw a lot of red footed and Nazca boobies. Lots of other species of birds were nesting everywhere. There were frigates, hawks, swallow-tail gulls, mockingbirds and finches. The Prince Philip Stairs where we caught our zodiac was a scary 90 ft decent and not for the clumsy types.

Playing with the seals.

In the afternoon we took a short beach walk on the other side and then went for a snorkel. It was a very busy and physical itinerary. The snorkeling gave us views of colorful fish, barnacles, and a very rare eel. The most fun thing I liked on these snorkels were the sea lions. They would swim around you and play, coming up close to you then spinning away at the last second.

Marine iguana getting warm.

Our next stop, back down in the southern hemisphere, was to Santiago, an old pirate stop. We started off up some rocky stairs avoiding the baby sea lion and his mama on the rocks and took a long stroll through the paths in the island seeing a ton of lizards and birds. And also along the shoreline where the sea lions would climb up (how I’m not sure) into cozy spots to sleep. We had to watch our step because the marine iguanas were everywhere. They look like prehistoric scary predators but in reality were algae-eating, slow moving, sun-soaking, and fascinating to observe. All of the animals would co-exist and sleep near each other including Sally Lightfoot crabs who had beautiful red markings. The terrain was very interesting and full of lava formations, low trees, and random rock formations.

Our days normally consisted of walks, rides in the pangas (zodiacs) along the coast lines, and swims. Next post covers some more back and forth across the equator and around the islands.

They look like killers but they just hang out in a “mess.”

Cool rock formations where pirates used to store their riches.

Can you spot the sea lion and guess how he got there?

Pelicans were everywhere and beautiful in flight.

Sally Lightfoot crabs crawled all over the rocks, other animals, etc. Black as babies, they get colorful as adults.

Lizards (or salamanders?) scurried across our path. The females had red heads and the males would do push ups to try to get their attention.

Red-footed booby bird.

The red-footed booby has a beautiful blue face.

 

Male frigate. His pouch is deflated–time to eat.

Tons of birds fly around on Genevosa.

 

This guy stands on one leg.

Sleeping in the sun on an abandoned boat, because we can.

A rare glimpse at an eel while snorkeling.

Our ship the Isabella II.

Swimming with my new friends.

Curious kids entertaining our train and hoping for some handouts.

The Peru and Galapagos trip continues with our final days in Peru. With my Fitbit registering a ton of steps and my knees sore, it was a relief to go by bus and train from Machu Picchu back to Cusco. The train had to stop a few times and we would see some locals asking for money. It’s always a reminder of how well off we are and how just a few dollars can make a difference to their day. We saw a local women who looked elderly and her back was bent pretty bad—probably from years of hard work.

So many of these people like to be self-employed. We met a few of them all over the Cusco/Machu Picchu region as they were friends of our tour guide. They called themselves names such as Diana Ross and George Washington. As a marketing professional, I can say I am impressed by this tactic.

Street vendor.

On the way and throughout the trip we would see kids and women in tourist areas with lamas, alpacas, and even baby sheep because they looked cute, dressed up to take pictures and collect money. We noticed the kids would get upset when they weren’t picked for the photo or didn’t get a U.S. dollar if another did. I got my photo taken with some kids who started singing a song. I asked our tour guide what the words meant and he said it was a drinking song. (See below for video of them singing.)

Coca leaves to chew on to help with the elevation were in a big bowl at the airport. I preferred the candy and tea versions.

Back in Cusco, the elevation was making me take deep breaths and hurt my lungs and head a bit. Our hotel was really interesting—it was an old monastery and each room had a lot of character. We took a tour around town to a cathedral and enjoyed a big party and parades going on around the main square. We saw military members walking with those old German type straight steps, guys dressed in cowboy outfits shaking beer and spraying it around, college groups dressed in black and white business clothes, and more. We were told there are so many “holidays” that get celebrated there were too many to count or know all of them.

We went to a lama/alpaca farm where they let us feed them. There were also demonstrations by locals who learned the tradition of weaving the wool and making the wonderful cloths they sell today. Baby alpaca is the first “shaving” of an animal and is softer, costing more. There were several breeds of both kinds of animals and all were fun to and interesting to see.

As we went through a beautiful church, we learned how the Peruvians really mixed their pagan traditions with Christianity. There is lots of that all over the world; however, I was somewhat shocked that they didn’t only observe old traditions, they still “worship” pagan symbols. At the risk of sounding judgmental—I’m surprised they can’t see the outright contradiction with the first commandment. For example, there was a stone from pagan religions that sits in a glass near the door. On Sundays, the people line up after service and put their hands on the stone and pray. The priests say “it’s just a door stop” but the people believe it’s more. There are other symbols including statues and paintings depicting Mary in clothes that are like triangles (mountain shaped and hiding her feet)—she symbolizes Mother Earth who they worship. And paintings of her pregnant that contradict the Catholic religion, but not Protestant. Throughout the trip we were told of many other pagan worship rituals that still happen. While a little disconcerting, it was a good lesson of their culture and I found their architecture and people to be quite beautiful.

Dad and I did our traditional shopping trip around town and then went back to rest before dinner and another very early morning wake up to catch the flight to Lima and then on to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We landed in Ecuador and took a short city bus tour. Our hotel rooms were big and we explored the main street around us—not really finding anything but banks, disease-welcoming restaurants, tiny mini markets, pharmacies, etc. Our next morning was brutally early and back again to the airport to catch a flight to San Christobal in the Galapagos.  Goodbye beautiful Peru and more on the islands to come!

 

 

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