part 1 | part 2 | part 3
Day 7 - June 17: Islas Plaza/Isla Santa Fe
Visit South Plaza, one of the smallest islands in the Galápagos, which has one of the largest populations of land iguanas. Walk along a path through a cactus forest and view a combination of dry and coastal vegetation on this lively island, home to a wide range of fauna, including incredible birdlife. Spot red-billed tropicbirds and indigenous swallow-tailed gulls resting on the cliffs, and sea lions playing in the waters.
Isla Santa Fe
Lace up your hiking boats to explore the island's flora and fauna. Trek toward the cliffs along the island's northern shore to see a forest of giant prickly pear cacti (Opuntia). See endemic land iguanas lounging in their favourite forest, and feasting on Opuntia pads and fruit.
i rolled out of bed at 7am for breakfast (cranberry-watermelon juice again, a favorite), then at 8 we disembarked for a dry landing at south plaza island. it looked like the noobs made us have our first rainy morning, but it dried up before we left the boat.
we hiked the stones all over the tiny island, seeing nazca boobies & lots of land iguanas - including a couple baby land iguanas. i photographed a ton of them, & caught a video of an iguana eating a piece of cactus, who then had to defend her food from another iguana! excitement abounds. at the top of the cliffs we saw the "bachelor sea lions", who stunk like rotten ballsac; we were told that's their pheromones to attract the ladies, & only then could i fully be sure i'm not a heterosexual sea lion.
we were also told of the cactus regrowth program, that Generally Sexier Guide doesn't agree with - he likes the tortoise re-population & the care going into reinstating a certain type of finch, but both of those endangerments were caused by humans. the cactus dying out on this island is part of the nature of things. i couldn't disagree - this program is trying to hold onto what we like of the islands, not trying to fix the errors past humans made.
on the way back down, i spotted a thing that was maybe a dead snake, but maybe a branch. Smarter Guide told me it was a tiger eel, probably brought ashore by a sea lion playing with it. AWESOME. that made two snake-like things found by me. ^_^
back on the boat, we had lemonade & two kinds of plantains - smashed & fried, & big moist hunks fried in a thin dough. both were delicious. we then sailed for a couple hours until lunch: vegetable soup; chicken with shredded coconut, fingerlings, asparagus, & carrots; & a square of frozen blended strawberry thing that tasted a lot like the frozen strawberry pie my grandmother used to make.
i had several hours between lunch & the next departure since i skipped snorkeling again, so i lounged in my room, enjoyed the waves, & watched a movie.
leaving to santa fe island, i immediately spotted sea turtle tracks (confirmed by Generally Sexier Guide), then watched sea lion babies frolic. we came across some satanic rituals (you'll see), & i found a hermit crab booking across the sand. my replacement sandals hurt my toes, but they did the job & i climbed up into the hills to find several fat land iguanas of a different species than at south plaza. (there are three species of land iguana in the galápagos - we missed the pink iguanas that live only at the northern tip of the longest island - we went nowhere near, sadly.) the lava lizards on santa fe were perhaps the cutest of all the islands - each island has them, but they vary slightly on each.
we had our briefing for the next day, our last full day in the galápagos, & then had a dinner of green bean soup; prawns in cream sauce with zucchini rice; & vanilla pudding cake. i retired back to the room to write & read.
galápagos land iguanas eating & fighting; a minute of ocean.
music: yo la tengo, "always something"
Day 8 - June 18: Punta Pitt/La Galapaguera
Enjoy amazing wildlife watching and interesting geological formations on this fascinating expedition. Arrive at a quiet cove on the eastern tip of San Cristóbal to explore Punta Pitt. Made up of volcanic tuff substrate, it's the only site in the Galápagos where it's possible to see three species of boobies and two species of frigatebirds.
Continue to visit The Galapaguera for opportunities to watch the mythical Giant Tortoises and explore the marine life in a snorkeling excursion.
strawberry juice & a frittata started this day at san cristóbal, wherein i was tricked into hiking again. Generally Sexier Guide (who graduated to responding "hola, lola" when i called him trouble) said this was a "walk", not a "hike", but this "walk" had like six hundred feet of elevation gain, so whatever? it wasn't as tough as the caldera hike, but it was more than expected, though i did enjoy climbing around on the huge rocks. anyhow, it was worth it to see the red-footed boobies & all the red- & blue-footed booby hatchlings, plus yet another adorable variation of lava lizard. oh, & there were huge veins of cobalt running through the rocks! it reminded me of the copper i saw in antarctica. orange juice & plantain fries were waiting for us back on the boat.
lunch was an interesting buffet - an avocado-heavy salad, mashed potato cakes with an egg in the middle, rice & beans & beef, & some kind of giant corn that had the texture of shrimp. (like, inch-long kernels? witchcraft.) i also got to try a delightful pink ecuadorian soda, & they gave us a fruit salad for dessert that was in some kind of thick papaya syrup.
the second landing for the day was la galapaguera, & was full-on described as a hike. there was a 50% chance of seeing more giant tortoises in the wild, with a slightly different shell than the last group, but there wasn't a way to just hang out on the beach unsupervised or to just do part of the hike, so i gave it a miss. i lounged & watched movies while the rest of them hiked through the hottest part of the day for not even a definite chance of wildlife. (indeed they saw a few. i didn't regret relaxing.)
we had another farewell drink with the crew - banana slushies this time - & we ponied up our tipping envelopes, then went for dinner. it was again a buffet spread - chicken & mushrooms, salad, steamed cauliflower & broccoli, some kind of cold pasta thing i wasn't into, & an eggplant ratatouille. we also had bowls of strawberry & that eggy vanilla ice cream, with a couple of cookies hidden within.
i packed in the room & greatly looked forward to returning to email.
Day 9 - June 19: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno/Quito
San Cristóbal Island
Learn about the history of the Galápagos Islands from the very beginning of their volcanic origins through to today's conservation efforts. Tour the Human History exhibit to learn about the islands' discovery and colonization, and discover the natural history and variety of flora and fauna that make the Galápagos so fascinating.
i left my luggage in the hallway & went up to breakfast. the cantaloupe juice was a lovely texture but a terrible taste (i barely tolerate cantaloupe on its best day). i took my carry-on bag with me while Generally Sexier Guide took our passports & checked baggage to the san cristóbal airport.
we arrived at the centro de interpretación, which was in poor repair (half the exhibits were broken or had graffiti; the restrooms didn't even have paper) & really boring. the high point was hanging out with a huge lava lizard that had wandered inside. i opted not to catch him despite his inability to move quickly on the tile - i didn't want to end such a lovely lizard-heavy vacation by terrorizing one of them. but i did carefully guide him outside & onto a cactus & away, so no one else would be tempted to scoop him up.
with an hour before the airport, they dropped us at the little town where i immediately bought snacks. i found another blueberry aloe juice, & was tempted by guanábana but it was all syrup & frozen, so i passed. i also managed to not buy ice cream to get a wifi password, instead enjoying my last hour in the galápagos. (i was itchy, but hotel wifi drew ever nearer.) i spotted a guy wearing a seattle shirt - i told him i'm from seattle too, & he quipped, "hey, at least it's not raining!" righto.
the tiny airport was simple (aside from the giant CNT on the wall??? okay), & we went on our way. they gave us a light lunch of this super amazing, flaky, buttery, mozzarella & tomato empanada that was so good i'd buy it on the ground. i also had a peach juice, which was everywhere & rather good.
my triumphant return to wifi was had at the same hotel we started at, the hotel hilton colón. instead of sharing with janet or someone, this time i had a huge king-bed room to myself, with extra soft sheets & fancy as fuck pillows. after catching up a bit online, i went down to the café colón, where i ate the first night. their cerdo asado, pork medallions served in a "bittersweet sauce", was spectacular; the mango juice i ordered was a waste, but that pork (with asparagus & mashed yukon golds) was so good i took the leftovers with me for a midnight snack.
joyously, i discovered that season four of OITNB had come out, so i pirated that & knew my long ride home would be soooo much better.
Day 10 - June 20: Quito to UIO to PTY to LAX
Depart at any time.
i woke a bit early so i could ride the cable car to the top of quito - the teleférico looked awesome. after a free hotel breakfast, including amazing little cinnamon rolls with dried fruit in them, sausages, & tiny empanadas, as well as excellent pulpy orange juice that tasted fresh, i took the best cab ever (it smelled of basil & wonder!) for fifteen minutes up the long hill to the entrance. it took twenty minutes to climb the pichincha volcano in the cable car, & i sat with two germans & an ecudorian who were all swapping oddly between german & spanish. watching quito appear as we topped each set of trees was exceptional.
at the top, i only had about ten minutes to run about to all the vantage points so i could get back down the volcano, down the hill, & back to the hotel to pack before leaving with Amazon Settler & Prattles - we were on the same flight to panama & were sharing a cab. i took a million pictures & panoramas, & actually got lightheaded - maybe it's not a great idea to run where the air is thin. i was fine though. the one big regret was the sign that pointed towards caballos - horse rental. i usually ride everywhere i go, & i didn't leave time this trip; i would have LOVED to ride around up there on horseback. but oh well, i have to come back to ecuador in the future anyhow.
i rode back down alone & found my cabbie waiting for me - he'd let me know when he dropped me off that cabs don't really show up, & i'd do better to hang onto him. for the sake of short time, i agreed, knowing it was probably a cabbie trick... but he was right, & it was convenient to have him there. he took me back to my hotel - i photographed some crazy chicken electronics graffiti on the way (later i determined this must be a picture of "fried chicken"...) & an "american burguer" restaurant with some [i]truly unidentifiable[/i] crustacean-like side dish - & he ended up asking me for only $20 despite holding him nearly two hours, which was basically half price. sweet guy, so i gave him the job to take us to the airport, too. :)
i met up with Amazon Settler & Prattles, who were so glad i'd arranged a cab that they paid for it. ^_^ at the airport, i had one last guanábana juice, mixed with milk & pretty tasty, & bought a sandwich for the flight.
at panama, we split, as they went on to toronto & ontario. (Amazon Settler & Prattles said that, after the animals, i "made the trip" for them. they called me cool. BOY DID I FOOL THEM.) panama airport was a friggin' mall, full stop, with a ton of horrible shops everywhere. one of the snack shops i looked in had a huge display of condoms - are they so necessary at the airport? (i think i'm missing out.) i found my gate, & sat for a minute, but was asked to go through a metal detector AT the gate. i did, including shoe removal, & then was able to go sit in ...the same seats that i'd been sitting in pre-scan. okay, panama? at least i had a window & the copa flights were on time this round.
i watched OITNB & tried to nap for my upcoming all-nighter with phil. :D oh, & i was also confused by the mathematicians in the pacific ocean.
descending the teleférico in quito, ecuador
music: fountains of wayne, "sink to the bottom"
Day 11 - June 21: LAX to SEA
phil came to get me around 12:30am when i finally got through customs. the poor dear had been sitting in the cell phone lot for over an hour, but driving directly to izzy's made up for it. we had our late breakfasty dinner & chatted about everything, then moved on to canter's because egg creams were necessary. we really only had a few hours, so no king's quest was played. & despite the short time, phil still let me have an hour's nap back in the cell phone lot when i became super spacey from being way too old to actually pull all-nighters anymore. phil's a good boy.
the flight home was quiet - i sat next to a cutie who was watching "drawn together" & "rick & morty", so we chatted a bit about shows, but he mostly slept adorably while i finished OITNB. back at seatac, four strangers walked with me to ask about my hair - a new record - & the light rail took me the rest of the way home.
it was a wonderful trip & i dearly loved all those little lizard faces... but next time i'm going somewhere with wifi everywhere, damnit. X)