Days 5-10: Landing on San Cristobal Island, instantly SO hot! It’s a bit of a ass-pain (airport) to get into the Galapagos as I suppose it should be since it’s a National Park, Marine Reserve home to so many extra-special animals. Once there, you really only have 2 choices on a modest budget: 1). to stay in one spot in a hotel and take a very fast and bumpy speed boat ride every day to an island for your adventure…OR 2).to stay on some sort of a “big” boat/ship where they sail you during the night to the next destination, saving you the time and back pain of the speed boat ride which are over 2 hours each way. I was afraid of the big boat option due to my propensity to get car/sea sick so easily, but after calculating the options, it made more sense to cruise…so Cruise we did! But first, one night in a harbor-side hotel.
After settling in at our hotel, we decided to go on an adventure to a beach that we could see on the map, but could not find a road to. We bushwhacked a little, much to Cliff’s chagrin, and when we arrived at this beach it was truly awe-inspiring. As the path opened up we can see through a clearing that the beach was covered in marine Iguanas, August’s first choice “animal to see in the Galapagos”. They are draped all over (rocks, sand, your towel if you let them!) & SO close to us and because they have no real land predators. They really do not avoid you, it’s our responsibility to stay a respectful distance. Later, just swimming around there, we missed a good view, but others saw several sea turtles swimming around with us, again, so close. Unfortunately, we only brought goggles..they had mask and snorkel- snap!
The cool thing about these Islands is that the culture has shifted to respect the animal, I mean really shifted, in part I imagine because there is enough money made from it, but the local people have a different kind of respect for the animals here. It’s hard to believe that some species first had to be pushed into extinction; or that only a few hundred years ago the Tortoise went from hundreds of thousands to less than 100. The G-Islands are home to the only remaining Giant Pinta tortoise on earth. These giants can easily live up to 150 years and weigh 595 pounds. The last one was named Lonesome George he was considered the ‘rarest creature’ on earth and died in 2012. He was thought to be~ 90 years old and seemingly unable to reproduce when all the mating attempts had resulted in infertile eggs -until Diego came along. Diego, another male seemed to shift (the mood?) something and the results were wildly successful. At rock bottom there were only 30 left! Apparently >100,000 were killed off by the Pirates in the 16th century while they hid out in the Galapagos and used the tortoises as a source for food. Later whalers did the same. Now, thanks to Diego and Lonesome George and a huge conservation effort, there are over 15,000 but still threatened by invasive feral animals eating there eggs. We are grateful to have witnessed these enormous, gentle giants and to see a real symbiotic relationship with the people on the islands. Spanish sailors who discovered the archipelago in 1535 actually named it after the abundant tortoises; the Spanish word for tortoise is garlápago (says National Geographic.com)
In Quito. Gus is a bit ‘off’ with all of the changes and the elevation. Plus early on in the trip and on a few occasions since (like once a week) I really needed his help in Spanish with something important, like things that I would not typically ask of my kids: ‘please explain that I don’t have a PIN number, I would like a cash advance!’, ‘tell her we just want it notarized and yes we are a family even though we have different names.’,’double check ,but I think she said that you are going to the school tomorrow, we will drop you off at 7:20am, but I have no idea what happens next because they have not given you a schedule and they do not let parents come into the building once the school year starts except by appointment’…what?!, it’s true. Growing up fast.
Splitting up our initial homepage into smaller posts.
Heading North for a day w/Xavier extraordinaire (he’s taking this photo above). We met him from the hotel (Casa Joaquin), which was a great boutique but in the heart of gringo-land, which I wouldn’t recommend due to the noise and distinct sense you are in a tourist area & because it’s very expensive.However, to us it was worth it because: we met Xavier, The breakfast is great (a blend of N American &Ecuadorian food and safe to eat) and the staff was excellent (especially once we all came down w/a bug) AND they held our stuff safely for a week while we traveled in the Galapagos! Overall, I found Ecuador in general to be very expensive. It’s beautiful though, such diversity and really rich colors, but their currency is the dollar and their economy is not great, though apparently much better in this last decade.
Heading North for a day w/Xavier, Taxi driver extraordinaire. We met him from the hotel (Casa Joaquin), which was a great boutique but in the heart of gringo-land, which I wouldn’t recommend due to the noise and distinct sense you are in a tourist area & because it’s very expensive.However, to us it was worth it because: we met Xavier, The breakfast is great (a blend of N American &Ecuadorian food and safe to eat) and the staff was excellent (especially once we all came down w/a bug) AND they held our stuff safely for a week while we traveled in the Galapagos! Overall, I found Ecuador in general to be very expensive. It’s beautiful though, such diversity and really rich colors, but their currency is the dollar and their economy is not great, though apparently much better in this last decade.
Xavier is in the middle. Excellent to meet such a good human early on our trip. It’s also one of the most important security concerns in that the taxi services are not regulated in most countries and it’s a real legitimate risk. We read/hear about horror stories (really just tourists being held hostage or at gun/knife point until they give over their PIN number and have their bank account emptied),& then the policia ‘unable to help’. So arranging transfer and land travel ahead of time with your hotel/hostel is really important and a solid source of income for the local community.
Off we go, to Quito, Ecuador (direct only 4 hours ) from Miami. Thanks for ride my dear sister Janie!
This blog goes back to Jan. 26 from Miami to the present, BUT I am being asked mostly about what our day-to-day life looks like SO, I created this collage (below) that shows our kitchen, what we see on our everyday walks, etc. Of course no one takes pictures on the miserable days and or the gross stuff, but rest assured those days are there for us, as most of us experience in the routine of life. As you continue down through the photos, it’ll take you back in time and then to the present day again. muuuah! xo amy
our patio 3rd fl
look close to see loros
our mornings w/Mt Misti
never enough bread
Now back in time…Quito. Jan. 27,2016.
The real deal archipelago
Heading out on the final night, we are slowly sailing and getting ready for bed, it’s around 8-9 pm and we get a knock on our door. It’s a new friend of ours Igne, living in Quito and from the Netherlands. She says “Hey I didn’t want to bother you all but I really thing Gus would want to see this- the Ship is completely surrounded by hundreds of sharks, come look!” So we hustle up on the top deck to look down, the captain had a couple of areas where he has turned on the bright flood lights so you can see the water. It’s TRUE. There are hundreds of different sized sharks, some huge rays and occasionally a sea lion darting around down there. I never held on to the railing of a boat SO tightly in my life! It was really cool but was hard to get Gus to settle down to sleep that night (and I had nightmares!). My iPhone photos do NOT cut it, sorry, and the cool video Gus took won’t upload.
We learned that the next 3 days were CARNIVAL, a big fiesta celebrated by a lot of people in S A, were they try to get to the beach for party-ville…so we decided to avoid the crowds and find our way back Quito and onward.
Unfortunately we picked up a bug in Ayampe and though we were lucky enough to have antibiotics and Imodium, we were still pretty miserable for 3+days. Decided to skip the mountains for now ( Quilatoa loop). Gus was feeling upset, missing his life in Portland, friends, his bro and sis and ready to settle down, plus we were all pretty stomach-upset. So we took the next flight out straight to Arequipa, skipped Lima (Gus really dislikes big cities), all pretty sick and exhausted. We hope to return to see the high lakes and hike the Loop, Meera says it’s beautiful.
We had 2 nights in a hotel before the start of our homestay which we had been advised by out friends to try “Casa de Melgar”. It is beautiful and the prices are half or 1/3 that of Ecuador. The rooms are huge with high ceilings and lots of fun areas to explore.
Now to explore the city at bit…
OUR NEW HOME AWAY FRIOM HOME… Pasaje Angamos 217
This is (Tia) Blanca. She is the sister of the mom of the house, Roxana. Roxana and Hugo are the homeowners and parents of 3 grown kids: Carla, Igor and Sebastian, one of whom’s room we took over. When we first arrived to our homestay the hosts were on there way out to the coast to have an end-of-summer holiday, so Roxana asked her sister to come by and make us breakfast. This was good because neither party had any expectations and noone spoke english….time to sink or swim! Blanca is an passionate cook and thankfully not afraid to talk to us in Spanish. I understood about 40%, Gus- about 80%, so we were ok. She was the first person to emit genuine open hearted love for us, mostly Gus. She is why we fell in love with the warmth and lightness of most things latino. Anyway, it’s been a nice transition from the unrealistic life of traveling into the routine of our new home.
The short and very sweet story is that after looking around at different apartment options, we were offered an opportunity to stay here and we accepted. Ideally, we wanted a place closer to Gus’s school (~1 mile away) but we were not finding much; either there was NO furniture, or it was a dump (rats level dump), or way too much for us (cost and stuff) or too far away from school. We were hoping to live really simply, (but no rats) – one or 2 rooms, possible kitchenette or shared kitchen, maybe a decent neighborhood but close to school so we could walk with Gus each day. After returning home frustrated and sweaty day after day, still paying top dollar for this homestay which we had arranged through a Spanish school we are attending, Roxana offer the most gracious deal in all of Arequipa! Spoken through her multilingual and endlessly patient son Igor, she said “If you would like to stay here, we can clean up the bigger room on the 3rd floor and maybe put in a stove and you can live here for much cheaper, ~1000 soles”(with internet,utilities laundry and our own bathroom). That’s a great deal & we know that the only reason she’d consider this, aside from the fact that she’s super kind and generous, is because she/they love(s) Gus. He has been speaking to her from the get-go and they are friends. She and Igor have been incredibly helpful, even driving me to the store and helping us negotiate a possible gym membership where Gus can take archery and martial arts. We’ll see how that goes, they want documentation from 1991, (not kidding!).Sebastian quietly helps us get the last minute items needed for Gus’s school and beats him in FIFA.
Anywhoo, the are happily settled here on the 3rd floor for the next 3 months: Pano-
Outings I’ll touch on next time – Colca canyon and a local futbal game – Melgar
This is at the highest point (over 4800 meters) on our way to the Colca Canyon- the place was peppered with cairns which are called APACHETA. Cairn is also Gus’s middle name, so we started calling him patchy, hence this blogs title*. Cairns are the spot where a hiker/wanderer needs to know to turn and is identified by a stack of rocks. They are also placed in honor of the Incan spirits by the Quechua.
Now we are now finally settling into our routine. It’s been an incredibly full almost 5 weeks and we are mostly enjoying ourselves, but we REALLY miss our family and friends. Now that I’ve started this blog it’ll be much easier to keep it up to date, at least w/ photos, and our lives are a lot less exciting now that we are all just trying to learn spanish, finding volunteer work where you can be spanish illiterate, and relaxing.
We’d love visitors, hint hint. We miss Meera and Hogan so much I can’t think too long about it or i start pricing tix home. Meera’s having the time of her life in Nepal and Hogan is a working man in Portland.For now our plan is to stay put in Arequipa until June with 2 excursions 1). Cusco, Machu Picchu and Manu (Mid May) and 2). Lake Titicaca (March 24-25). On our way back home it is our hope that we can have one more high mountain hiking trip and stop in on my mom in Florida before heading home. We hope to get away a few weekends but we are finding that incredibly challenging and time consuming, and since Gus is having some fun with his soccer and ultimate groups, we end up staying put a lot.
And now that Gus is in school it’s been a little less fun for him, honestly. The school that we chose is a good one but it’s an intense one. I’ll keep you posted on how he settles into it, but he has never loved school and this one is a lot less fun than any other he has attended. Lots of spoken (loud and clear) and unspoken rules and this is not exactly the most warm and fluffy age of the developing human. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with his attitude and openness to all of these changes. Cliff and I know we are lucky, but I know he is feeling the separation more than we are, so if you are feeling like reaching out to him, please do! either here or privately : firstname.lastname@example.org