A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: nutmeg2000

Galapagos Day 18

Mindo hummingbirds

I woke up today feeling considerably better and ready for action. Luckily I did have the presence of mind to look into transportation options the night before when I was still suffering from altitude sickness. Juan, our taxi guy, was able to get a van to hold the four of us comfortably for the 2 hour drive to Mindo. On the way, we stopped at a gas station and I couldn’t believe the prices for gas! $1.65 for diesel and $2.39 for unleaded…per gallon, not liter!

Unfortunately, two of the places I had picked to stop at, the hummingbird/orchid place and the chocolate place were not open or out of business. Luckily our driver was able to ask around and get some alternatives. We went to Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo where they breed butterflies and release some to keep the area populated. This was very cool and well worth the $7.50 admission! They had plates of ripe bananas and if you got some banana on your finger you could get a butterfly to sit there since they “taste” through their legs. One of them landed on my dad’s mask and hung out for several seconds. They also had racks of cocoons in various stages (I saw two butterflies being “born” out of their cocoon) see pics. We were startled to learn that some have a lifespan of about 2 weeks and the larger ones still only last about 2 months before their wings start to break up. They also had a koi fish pond and butterflies would sit on lilypads teasing the fish like squirrels taunting dogs. The fish would open their mouths but would never get close enough to eat the butterflies. Check out the video here.

Next on our list was Hostal El Descanso where for just $4, you can see tons of hummingbirds flying around and squabbling over rights to the feeders. We were in an open viewing area and a few times got “buzzed” by a speedy hummingbird. It was so amazing to see all the different kinds of hummingbirds and even a few other birds. I finally got my first good pictures of the gibnut I first saw in Belize (squirrel face, body a cross between a rat and a pig with a snub tail), which are called paca here. The owner of the hostal puts out bananas for them to eat. He is also clearly passionate about birds and pointed out several non-hummingbirds that were further back among the trees. (see pics and here is the video)

Then we tried to find our chocolate place but it was closed down so our driver suggested an alternate, Yumbos Chocolate, where they hand make all their chocolate. It was a bit pricey at $5/bar, but it is handmade, as opposed the to Trader Joe’s that I’m accustomed to. They had 100% dark, 85%, 70%, and 60% as well as ones flavored with chile, ginger, coffee, and coffee with milk. The free samples were quite good so I am hopeful the bars are good too if I can get them back without melting.

Our last stop was on the way home about 20 minutes closer to Quito called San Tadeo Birding. At this point, the rest of my family was tired, hungry, and had had their fill of birds so they sat down and had a hot dog with fries for just $1! I found a similar bargain where for only $5 I was first brought to the bird viewing area, offered tea and cocoa, then once I sat still and stopped making noise, a variety of birds came out. (See pics) Then she guided me down steps to the hummingbird area. The feeders were set up mostly on the left but one was almost above me and a couple more near the pathway I had just taken. This created a situation where the birds were occasionally flying through the viewing area or stopping very near me to drink nectar. I think the larger number of feeders also made the hummingbirds less territorial because these seemed more willing to share (see pics)

As we returned to Quito, perhaps it was the 2 hours in the car on a winding road, but I started feeling unwell and exhausted, which I personally attribute to the elevation (Mindo is about half the elevation of Quito). By the time we got to the hotel, I was mildly nauseated and had zero appetite so I stayed in the hotel lobby while everyone else went to dinner across the street. At 10:15 Juan showed up to take us to the airport, and we got there shortly before 11, which was perfect since they opened the United check in counter at 11pm. We sat down and got our luggage in order, then noticed red lettering appearing next to our flight info. Delayed, oh no! Until 3:55am (originally 2:30). That sucked. It sucked even more, minutes later, when we realized we would likely miss our connecting flight out of Houston because of the delay. We did manage to check in around 1am so we could at least wait in a Priority Pass lounge with food, drink, and comfortable chairs, but pretty much every second until our flight left was spent praying that 3:55 would come so I could get to the pressurized atmosphere of the airplane. I managed to sleep about an hour on the plane ride, despite United having very little recline and the rows so close together that you have to be a contortionist to get your bag out from under the seat. I managed to do it but tweaked a muscle in the process.

Once, we got to Houston, my aunt and uncle raced to their gate to try to catch their original flight and avoid an 8 hour delay getting home. I’m happy to report that they made it! There were no Priority Pass lounges open, but Craig gave us his passes to the United Club lounge so dad and I happily rested there, tired, but at least not nauseous since we were finally at normal altitude. They had wonderful individually wrapped snacks like fruit and cheese and veggie wraps.

The next flight again on United had small seats but this time they were small in the width. The guy next to me spilled over a bit with his arm in my seat area. Luckily, we realized there were a number of open seats around us and he moved to another row where he would not be next to someone. The seats are truly narrow. I saw a family of three (parents and a teenage daughter) squished into their seats like sardines. We were very glad to finally arrive at home in SFO, and also pleased that we were picked up at the airport by Joe and taken directly to my house so we could rest and recover from our long journey! The trip home was exhausting, though the rest of the trip was unforgettable, the best family trip yet! Thanks Dad!

Picture Collage: https://drive.google.com/file/d/15UneLn_rlJIDmRIXzwpKJDAeZQ9FKQv3/view?usp=sharing (< ERROR: the link title is too long!)

Posted by nutmeg2000 07:47 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galapagos Days 16-17

Disembark and fly to Quito

Sept 11, Day 16

Today we had to leave the cruise ship and head to the airport to fly to Quito. We are really going to miss all the wonderful crew on the Celebrity Xpedition. They treated us so well, anticipating our every need!

At the Baltra airport there was al large garden area that had birds and cactus in it when we saw a large land iguana! He was heading towards the wall to make a break for it, so we rushed outside to take pictures, but he eventually thought better of it and stayed inside. After security, we found a number of shops to get last minute souvenir shopping done.

Upon landing in Quito, we gathered our luggage and went to find the Covid testing center so we could test to reenter the US. It was all very organized, and they got us our results both online and printed out in about 30 minutes. I am amazed how in so many countries I visit, they make use of what local materials they have, but it’s so nice compared to what we would have. For example, in the airport bathroom in Quito, they have this beautiful stone carved into small hexagonal tiles for the walls (see pics).

We took a 50-minute taxi ride to the Wyndham Garden in downtown Quito. During the long ride, Craig practiced his Spanish with the taxi driver and made a great connection. Juan is now our “taxi guy” in Quito. He took them back to the airport that night for $20 (the standard rate is $25). We relaxed a bit then grabbed dinner at a restaurant across the street. We searched for one that had lots of great reviews, but apparently it closed during Covid and so we ate at the new one that opened in the space. They were very helpful and welcoming. They did not have an English menu, but the one person who spoke some English interpreted and gave us good suggestions. They also gave us some wonderful bread and appetizers. The food was great though I didn’t realize until 3am when I woke up with altitude sickness that I shouldn’t have forced myself to finish the last 6 bites!

Sept 12, Day 17

Today was quite unpleasant for me with mild nausea, a headache, insomnia, and tiredness. Finally around 11am after 12 hours of “sleeping” dad and I finally got up to join Aunt Helen and Uncle Michael who as always were up very early and had already gone out and gotten some pastries for us. We really wanted to see hummingbirds since this area is known for them. Before taking a 2 hour trip to Mindo, we decided to try the Quito Botanical Garden as they often have hummingbirds. Luckily, the park was just a half block from our hotel. It was quite a joy to wander through it! First of all, on Sundays (maybe Saturdays too IDK) they close one direction of the street next to the park so people can run, skate, and bike. As we crossed the street, we saw the first sign of how fun the park is: a wild bright green centipede train driving along the street, winding across all the lanes of the road around the park.

Then once we were in the park itself, there were families everywhere enjoying the day. Some families were playing a small game of soccer. Others were picnicking. Others were strolling or walking dogs. They also had a man made lake with fountains where they rented paddleboats. There were vendors along the side selling everything: giant cotton candy, bouncing balls, churros, friendship bracelets, bubble blowers, you name it! It was just like a fair with all these families walking around. (see pics) We found the botanical garden and wandered through it. We did see many plants and a couple of nice fish ponds, but only one hummingbird (which may have just been a small bird, hard to tell since it was partly hidden in the tree). As we left the park, we even saw a bounce house and some small cars for kids to play with. It was a true child’s paradise! If I was 5, this would be the place I’d want to go.

Clearly the park has a Jekyll and Hyde thing going. When we checked in the night before, we talked about walking to dinner and receptionist went wide eyed and she admonished us to not walk through the park because it was not safe. We asked if it was safe during the day at which point her expression relaxed and she said of course, it is fine during the day. Just not after 6. Pause. Or 5, not after 5 or 6. From this I gathered that it is not safe after dark and since sunset is at 6, she decided to add a “stupid gringos” margin of error and tell us to be out by 5. Though honestly her expression and the slight panic in her voice was enough to keep me well away from the park after dark.

After our pleasant outing (well before dark), we dropped dad off at the hotel to watch football while we went shopping at the artesenal market. At first there wasn’t much I wanted to get, and it was largely the same items as Cusco (they even had the small stuffed alpacas and guinea pigs). I did see a nice woven scarf but since I never wear scarves it seemed like a terrible thing to get. However, after a little thought I remembered I’ve been wanting a tablecloth so I went back there and bought one. I also couldn’t resist a cute ceramic and silver hummingbird and a $5 Galapagos t-shirt.

Having fulfilled our shopping quota, we returned back to the hotel and I rested awhile since the days exertions had made my altitude sickness return to an uncomfortable level. We tried the hotel restaurant for dinner and it was fine, but not as good as the restaurant last night, Experiencias. I was mindful of my situation and tried to drink water and eat carbs (suggested remedies). My appetite was still gone so I managed to take 4 bites of spaghetti before heading up to bed. I did notice that on one of the TV’s in the bar area they had a soccer match going on, and surprise, it was a women’s professional league match! The teams were from a Latin country, but I am not sure which. No wonder other countries are starting to catch up with the US Women’s team if they have pro leagues too.

Picture Collage: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pm2utrvOWDvpESx3Oklxpn_d7BrJkZWj/view?usp=sharing

Posted by nutmeg2000 07:43 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galapagos Days 14-15

Genovesa and Santa Cruz Islands

Sept 9, Day 14

El Barranco, Genovesa Island
Today we went to Genova Island, which I think of as fluffball island. The whole island is a nursery for red footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and frigate birds. There are no predators like hawks on the island so you can see nesting boobies and babies everywhere. The babies are all giant white fluffballs (see pics). We also went to an area where there are often owls and while other groups reported seeing no owls, our eagle eyed guide, Fadi, managed to spot one that we could barely make out as they blend into the brown colored terrain. She then managed to spot not one, but two more! I got some pics of one sitting and flying (see pics). Truth be told, I was just pointing in the right direction and snapping pics as the darn things blend so much it was hard to see them unless they were moving. I got lucky three times and those are the pictures you will see.

Afterwards, we did the last snorkel of the trip. We saw some fish, one turtle, and out of the water on the rocks were a bunch of fur seal sealions (sealions that resemble seals so they are called fur seals even though they are a variety of sea lion). However, the fur seals were very lazy and we couldn’t coax any of them into the water with us!

Darwin Bay, Genovesa
We skipped the afternoon excursion as it was a wet landing, and we all had had enough of wet landings, plus there was nothing on the walk to see that we hadn’t seen already. All the days of non stop going was starting to wear on me a bit, and an afternoon off was much needed! Apparently we missed some great times with playful sea lions.

These smaller ships are not as stable as the usual giant Celebrity ships we go on so there is a fair amount of rocking side to side, even when we are anchored off an island. Usually the 5th floor is even more stable as there are 9 decks above it, but here we are the second highest floor. It can make going to the bathroom very challenging, but even worse, it makes me more susceptible to seasickness. Around 11:30 at night I was working on my photo collage when we went through a rougher area and the boat was really rocking, making me nauseous. I put a scopolamine patch on behind my ear earlier that day, but perhaps it had not taken effect yet. Out of desperation, I took my laptop downstairs as low as I could go (almost to the 2nd floor) as the lower levels don’t move as much. I startled a few of the crew members who passed by, but I felt a whole lot better. The medical officer was kind enough to get me some Dramamine and check with the captain to find out when we should get to smoother waters. The night before was also bad and a fellow passenger actually rolled out of bad and suffered minor injuries so she had to miss the day’s excursions.

Sept 10, Day 15

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island
Today we were back on Santa Cruz Island. First we walked through a forested area where there were gigantic craters from the collapse of ginormous lava tubes probably thousands of years ago. Then we got to see giant tortoises in the wild. A land owner saw many tortoises eating on his property so he decided to dedicate 8 acres to them so they could prosper. We saw lots of small and several large tortoises there. We also got to sneak up behind them so they wouldn’t pull into their shell and pose for a picture (no touching or feeding tortoises allowed). We had lunch there and then in the afternoon, we went to a tortoise conservation breeding center.

At the center, they collect eggs found in the wild so they don’t get destroyed or eaten, and incubate them until they are about to hatch. Then they put them back in the ground at same distance as they were buried so they have to dig their way out. Next each baby tortoise is numbered and placed into enclosed areas with their egg mates to grow without predators. Once they are large enough to be “hawk-proof” they are released back in their original location. In addition to the babies, they also had some adults of various types and that was where we saw some saddleback tortoises (see pics).

Picture Collage: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vOIE5qxodcHkt5X81519mo_3n5lxaPnI/view?usp=sharing

Posted by nutmeg2000 07:41 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galapagos Days 11-13

Sept 6, Day 11

Tagus Cove, Isabela and Espanoza Point, Fernandina Island
Today we started with a zodiac ride followed by a short hike aided by our sturdy walking stick for balance. From the zodiac, we saw a baby fur seal sealion splash into sea, swim a few feet, then pop back up onto his rock and struggle back to the top section. He looked really tiny, but we were a pretty far away so probably he was an average size (but still super cute). We also saw some flightless cormorants and a couple Galapagos penguins in the water and one standing up on a rock! (see pics)

Today we had two snorkel sessions, but I went with only the second one as I didn’’t want to get in and out of a wet wetsuit even a shortie. I may have chosen wrong as my brother in law Joe caught some penguins on camera swimming in the morning session, and all I saw in the afternoon was a turtle, some fish, and a sea lion.

Sept 7, day 12

Urvina Bay, Isabela Island
This morning was a wet landing and a particularly rough one. A wet landing is when the zodiac pulls close to shore, then one person at a time, you swing both legs over the side, and when the timing is right as the waves ebb and flow moving the boat, you slip off the side into the water and then walk onto shore before the waves slam into you. Usually, they are mild and no timing or big waves are involved, but today we all got a bit wet. Once on land it was perfectly calm and we saw a ton of yellow land iguanas and 4 land tortoises. One land iguana tried to scare us off by aggressively bobbing its head to claim territory, but it eventually gave up as this just resulted in us excitedly snapping more pictures.

Vicente Roca Point, Isabela Island
On the afternoon snorkel we saw tons of sea turtles and I once saw 8 around me though our guide said there were at least 30 in the bay as they like to feed on the algae bed there. I also saw a sea lion but he apparently had no time to play as he just whipped by us. On the way back to the boat we saw a huge manta ray! Later on the zodiac ride through that same area, in addition to all the turtles, we saw an adorable adolescent flightless cormorant swimming in the water. He was attracted to the fringelike ropes hanging from the zodiac and starting playing with them. (see pics)

Sept 8, Day 13

Bartalome Island
Today in the morning, we did a dry landing onto Bartolome Island and then walked up 380 steps to the top. Once there, our efforts were rewarded with a beautiful scene below of two bays with a narrow strip of land between them. It was gorgeous (see pics). Afterwards we went snorkeling off Pinnacle Rock in Bartolome where we saw a couple penguins on rocks, a couple reef sharks, a turtle, a sea lion, and a stingray!

Daphne Island
For the afternoon, we went back to Santa Cruz Island and did a walk along Bachus Beach to a brackish pond where we saw a lone flamingo as well as a blue heron.

Picture Collage: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MqEw6_5iuehiNM5xs7_GFqlSscj88oMA/view?usp=sharing

Posted by nutmeg2000 07:25 Archived in Ecuador Tagged islands isabela fernandina bartalome Comments (0)

Galapagos Day 10

We got up for a hike in the morning on Rabida Island where we saw our first flycatcher bird. The hike was followed by a snorkel where we saw many fish and got to swim with a couple of sea lions again. I tried doing a somersault in the water but was very ungraceful and I think all I accomplished was splashing the snorkelers around me and confusing the sea lion. I later tried doing one sideways with the snorkel side of my head out of the water and sort of making a circle on the surface and he seemed to respond to that. He did some of the same, but then tried to teach me how to do a bunch more interesting things which I was completely unable to do. He was very sweet (see pics)

The afternoon activity was another nature walk, this time on Santiago Island, where we saw our first land iguanas and our first fur seals, which aren’t really seals. They are just sea lions that are smaller and have fur so everyone calls them “fur seals.” They were very cute. Two of the differences between seals and sea lions are that sea lions have their ears and reproductive organs on the outside whereas real seals keep all that inside. We also witnessed a mother sea lion that had two babies, one newborn and one from a previous year that was still drinking milk. The older one was persistent in trying to get milk, but the mother was not letting it. Then the newborn (a few weeks old) tried to come over for milk but the older sibling attacked it and drove it away. The mother tried to go to the baby, but again the older sibling drove away the baby. The mother kept trying to fight with the older one to get it to leave her alone, but it wouldn’t. (see video) Hopefully it gives up in time for the newborn to get milk. One of the previous guides I had said that sometimes the new babies don’t make it because the older ones hog all the milk, and a mother can have as many as 3 babies (one born every 9 months or so) at a time. I’ll post video of the mom and two babies:

(note: the current guide was not one of our most knowledgeable so he said only one pup at a time, which is incorrect according to google and previous guide). It’s heartbreaking, but again the Galapagos way is to not interfere unless to fix a problem created by man.

Photo Collage: https://drive.google.com/file/d/19Ayt_z6Dv4ZzDdiRCfrdH85VweTXXIAi/view?usp=sharing

Posted by nutmeg2000 06:07 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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