Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador Wednesday January 25, 2017

Today we were going to spend the day with Duncan, our guide who took us to visit the Darwin Museum and the fish cleaning on the docks. See that building in the middle of the picture? That is Picaya, a new luxury resort for those people who want to stay on land. We weren’t given the option of staying there on our trip. I wish we would have as they have their very own super deluxe yacht for their guests. I have looked up their price point since, and it is very high. Oh well. If you want a review, I suggest you head to TheGoodTheBadandtheLuxurious.com. It is a fantastic blog about luxury hotels. As we did not bring enough water with us for our walks we stopped off at the little mini mart for water. Only 60 cents for a bottle of water! Yay, my Ecuadorian grocery store! Another notch on my belt!

We drove further into the highlands to see some coffee trees.


Come along for the walk up the hill to enjoy the vista.

I forgot that I wanted a panoramic shot, but this will do.

We went back down the hill and got in the van, and saw this guy crossing the road. As he wasn’t a chicken, I didn’t bother asking him why he was crossing the road!

They were big, this one was shy.

Here is Duncan, you can compare the size of hunky man and tortoise!

This was another one down the road. He was pretty curious.

We went to see a crater, but thankfully only looked into it!

Here is a blooming prickly pear. See the yellow flowers?

These two trees are unusual to see growing near each other. The prickly pear on the left usually grows in the desert. The tree on the left generally only in the Highlands.

We went to the beach to do some sea kayaking. Let’s just say that we did it once, so I never had to do it again. It was a most unpleasant experience. My hips don’t like to be in a sea kayak. I was in a lot of pain and Steve had to paddle most of the time. We did see a few birds. From now on if sea kayaking is suggested we just say “No!”

Steve and I came back to the Royal Palm Hotel RoyalPalmGalapagos.com for lunch. Steve is trying to give me goo goo eyes because he knows I am all set to go off on a toot.

And lookie here. This is the alpha female of the foursome that hogs all the best spots. She came back from her morning’s adventures and is back, on the one table on the veranda. They sit here all breakfast, are here for lunch, and they will claim it again this afternoon to discuss the next day’s events, and then eventually order dinner. They were on the boat yesterday and one of the group gets on the boat first and nails the prime spots on the prow of the boat. Last night I asked the waiter if we could reserve the table for dinner tonight. This is why we usually don’t go on group tours. I am extremely sensitive to other people’s behaviors. My behavior of course, is exemplary. (Well, maybe not all the time!)

Steve and I only take less than an hour for dinner. What would have been nice, is if every group took turns sitting at the table. There were only six of us staying at the hotel at the time. So, it was quite annoying that they were able to sit at the table outside all the time. They could have sat at the table while planning the next day’s events, then had cocktails around the pool while we had our dinner at the table , and then they could have returned to the table for their dinner. But NO, it didn’t work out that way!

This was the lunch we had back at the hotel before our afternoon adventures. That hamburger has some seriously gloppy cheese on it!

Hmm, I wonder what foursome had their belonging strewn all over the chairs, but were no where in sight?

Lava Tunnel picture from the hotel website.

I took this picture. Our adventure of the day continued with explorations of a lava tunnel on the grounds of the Royal Palm. The former owner was said to have stored either his wine, or mozzarella cheese or both. I wasn’t sure what the real story was.

There were helmets and flashlights waiting for us in the bag.

Here we are, all helmeted up and ready to go! Steve always looks like the camera lens is off in the distance behind the camera. I, on the other hand am always ready for my close up!

This is a lava tunnel. It formed over 1 million years ago when a lava flow crusted over and hot lava continued to flow under the crust which is 2-3 feet thick. This tunnel has a nice path made by the hotel. Much easier going that’s the tunnel on Easter Island.

Here is a picture of what is called coral lava. It is not made from coral, it just looks like coral.

Here we see an upper and lower portion of the lava tunnel.

These are not stalactites, just lava that dripped and cooled as it hardened.

Here we are near the end of the lava tunnel. It was a much more pleasant trip than the Easter Island Lava Tunnel!

Up the ladder and on toward day light.

Next we are going to visit Ranch El Manzanillo, a coffee farm that has Galapagos Giant Tortoises on it! I call that a Double Play! Perhaps we might be able to make it a Triple instead! You can see the red coffee beans. They are all picked by hand. It is quite labor intensive.

We then drove off in search of the Galapagos Giant Tortoise. Did you know that the word Galapagos derives from the Spanish word for Tortoise?

The back feet are more stocky, and the front feet more flexible.

This is tortoise dung. You did want to see it, didn’t you?

It’s pretty big!

Tortoises can’t swim but they can float. They love to cool off in the water.

This tortoise is not very old. You can compare his size to Duncan’s leg.

They eat a lot of grass.

They bend the front leg over when they walk.

Sneaking up on a Galapagos Tortoise. Duncan knows just the shots to take!

In captivity a full grown Galapagos Tortoise can weigh up to 900 pounds! In the wild they are 500-600 pounds. It is said that they can live up to 200 years, but some of the data is anecdotal.

This guy is walking in shallow water. You can tell the female from the male tortoise as the female’s shell is muddier and scratched from wild Tortoise sex. No, we didn’t get to see any tortoise copulating!

Here you see a little video of the Galapagos Tortoise. Enjoy!

The Dashing Duncan Devine brought us to see Sr. Guerrero and his sugar cane distillery and coffee farm.

Here is Sr. Guerrero showing us where the sugar cane is crushed to make rum.

The sugar cane goes into the machine and out comes the juice into a metal bowl. The donkey that normally turn the wheel was not available so Steve and Duncan acted as he-men to push the wooden poles around. I got to try and feed the cane while Steve and Duncan pushed. I then tried to push while Steve fed the cane into the machine but it ended up “seizing up” and nothing happen. Steve’s family has stories about machines “seizing up”, I will likely have a chapter in my book about that!

The cane juice is put through a strainer.

It’s mixed with fresh ice and is ready to drink. The juice looked clear at first, but was a cloudy green when it was mixed with the ice.

This is Sra Guerrero with Sr. Guerrero.

We also got to try the sugar cane booze straight up. It was 60% alcohol or 120 proof. Steve says it’s called rum, not sugar cane booze.

Some of the rum cut with the sugar cane juice. It was refreshing, but packed a wallop!

The juice from the sugar cane is boiled down to a molasses.

Then it goes into the silver still.

And then into the wooden barrel. Salud!

We also got to see how coffee was roasted. Enough about how adventure, let’s go back to the Royal Palm.

We had a beautiful sunset again!

The hotels signature drink, called the Bachelor’s Delight. I told them I was renaming it the “Happily Married Woman’s Delight”!

So since the ugly American table hogs went to dinner in town, we got to sit at the outside table. Yay! You can see the tables in the background where they could have sat and done their planning for the next day. I am doing the crazy happiness pose for Steve. Since our stay the hotel has added more tables for people to sit at, and comfortable chairs to hang out on. I had suggested this when we checked out of the hotel.

The snapper we had for dinner was excellent. Too bad only the vegetables look good!

On the way back to our room we looked at the stars and saw Mars, Venus and Uranus! I would call the day a home run, we saw Galapagos Giant Tortoises wandering about, visited a coffee plantation, saw how rum was made and scored the coveted outside table!

Why can’t we all be friends?

Have you ever seen Galapagos Tortoises having sex?

Do you call it rum or sugar cane booze?

Do you have a cave to store wine and cheese in your back yard?

Guayaquil, Ecuador to Galapagos, Ecuador Monday January 23, 2017

This was the breakfast buffet at the hotel. They actually had a roast turkey, if you wanted to eat something heavy in the morning. I sure didn’t!

What I did like the best was the display of breads. This hotel was the preferred hotel for one of the airlines. There was a hotel table reserved for the flight crew. When we went through the sliding doors to exit the terminal last night our guide told us to hurry to the awaiting car. It turns out there were lots of flying insects. This morning while waiting at the gate to get on our plane to the Galapagos a man next to me started to jump up and down like crazy, and look down on the floor. I asked him if he had dropped anything. “No, there was something in my pants!” I looked on the ground and saw one of these crickets on the ground. Looks like the cricket got through security! This the flight path to Baltra Island in the Galápagos Islands from Guayaquil. Baltra Island is also know as South Seymour.

This is our snack on the flight.

These appear to be dried banana chips. I didn’t have a window seat so I asked my seat mate if I could use some of her pictures from her phone. Here is another one of the islands. I don’t know the names of them.We have landed!

This is a map of the Galápagos Islands. We are doing a land based adventure as we have no desire to be trapped on a boat with people that we won’t like. Don’t try to click on any of the islands as there are no direct links. We will be staying on Santa Cruz Island and taking some day trips. We will only be able to go to few of the islands that are close to Santa Cruz. For the people that stay on catamarans or the larger boats you have a choice of which island groups you want to see. The stops on the islands are heavily regulated by the government, no spontaneous stops allowed!. Steve is off to the terminal. Here the dogs were sniffing for taboo items. Like drugs! The mad scrum for luggage after the dogs were done checking for illegal substances. Then we got ready to board the bus.After we paid our processing fee of $100 cash to enter the Galapagos, and got our luggage we boarded the bus. No, that is not El Chapo behind us! You can tell that we have real teeth and not implants as our teeth are not optic white and large. Did you know that some people do get implants that are just a wee bit irregular so that they look more natural? True!

The bus took us to a ferry that was taking us to the island that our hotel was on.

To another bus that would take us to our hotel -The Royal Palm. Steve and I both suffer from seasickness so we didn’t want to go on a cruise. Plus, I get a little claustrophobic and being trapped on a boat for a number of days was not too exciting an idea to me. I figure if I am on land, I can always walk around the property, even though I can’t leave the islands until it is time for our next flight.

Here are containers at the ferry dock watching to be brought to town. On our way to the hotel I noticed a long line of vehicles. They were a combination of busses, taxis, and delivery vehicles waiting for the next ferry from the airport to arrive.Here is the view from the back of the bus of the airport way in the distance on another island. The white speck is the airport. Where we were located on the island they get a lot of rain.There are several areas in the Galapagos where it is desert like. Our hotel was in the highland area of Santa Cruz. Most people who visit the Galapagos take cruises of the islands. Either big boats of about 90 people, or catamarans of under 20 passengers. The Royal Palm would be our stay for the next few days. It was considered a five star resort when it was first built. Would it remain so? Stick around and you can make your own judgement. A picture of the reception area from the hotel’s website. We were given glasses of refreshing juice at check in. There were bowls of sea sickness pills in quite a few areas of the resort. This is a map of the grounds. We would be staying in villa 4. The resort had a beautiful pool. There was a tennis court for those that wanted to play a few sets while on vacation. We were staying in a Highland Villa. The outside of our villa. I think our villa was the furthest from the main dining area and pool. I didn’t like the walk at all. I am indeed lazy. Let’s go in, shall we. This was the view of the room as you walked in. Living room before you, and an enclosed porch beyond that. Another view of the villa. The main entrance was the door on the left. Although there was a fireplace, I don’t know if you would ever need it. Our bedroom was through the bifold doors. The bed was very attractive. There were plenty of outlets next to the bed. One thing I noticed about Ecuador is that the beds are very hard!

This is the bathroom. The shower was the door to the back left. They had plenty of bottles of water. We could not use the tap water to drink, or brush our teeth. You needed to use bottled water. The enclosed porch was very strange. There was a deep soaking tub. The chairs encouraged a view, but it was just of the grounds. You really couldn’t see the ocean in the distance. The room was very hot, there was no air conditioning in this room at all.

We were met at 3 by a taxi to take us to the Darwin Center in Puerto Ayaro. It took us about twenty minutes to get into town. It took us about 30 minutes to take us to the ferry to the island where the airport was.

This tortoise is called Diego. He is about 130 years old! Diego is an Española tortoise. He is from the San Diego zoo. It did take me a bit to figure that out why he is called Diego. I am only smart on certain days. He has had about 1700 offspring! They are hoping to release him into the wild in the next few years. This is a land iguana. He is orange as it is breeding season.

I got pretty hot outside so we went into the visitor center. Here is Steve and our guide. This picture of Darwin was made from …Stamps!

Look at the size of this tortoise shell! These are the three types of tortoises. Saddleback, dome shaped, and intermediate. The tortoises from the Galapagos are the largest in the world. The males can weigh as much as 900 pounds. They are the longest living of all vertebrates (animals with backbones).

After we cooled off a bit our guide asked us if we would like to see the fisherman cleaning the day’s catch in town. Birds were flying all over to catch the scraps!

It was fun to watch them fight over the pieces of fish guts. Just click on the arrow!

A sea lion showed up to join the party and even an iguana!

Here is more video. It was fun to watch until a few of the pelicans got pieces of fish get caught in their throats the wrong way down their throats. Then they would hack and try to barf up the fish carcasses. Sometimes the birds die as they choke to death because the pieces of fish are too big and they get stuck.

Back to the hotel for a drink. Sunset is always a good time for a Pisco Sour! They had a fire going in the restaurant although it was really hot!

On the bus to our hotel this morning we met a lovely couple and asked if they wanted to join us for dinner. Of course, they said yes! They live in Quito Ecuador. Unfortunately Quito is at an elevation of 9450 feet and they live on the 14th floor of their building so we won’t be able to check out the views in her apartment. I don’t tolerate high altitudes at all. Although she and her dashing husband Washington have an apartment in Miami. I may have to meet her there. I will tell you tomorrow why her husband is called Washington. Good night everyone!

Are you a vertebrate?

Do you have implants? Teeth or Breast?

Do you refuse to stay in a room without air conditioning?