Sunday, May 5, 2013

Post 89C- Ecuador & Galapagos Islands!

San Cristobal to Isabela Island to Ecuador (Quito, Otavalo and back to Quito)

We were up early and headed to the airport for a 40 milute flight from San Cristobal Island to the small town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island. 

Isabela Island, shaped like a seahorse, is the largest island in the archipelago, comprising half of the total landmass of the Galapagos Islands (1771 square miles). The island is composed of six linked shield volcanoes, five of which are still active, making this island one of the Earth's most volcanically active places.
Since the airplane that held eight people was broken, we split up and five of us took the first flight (Felipe, our guide accompanied us), the plane returned and picked up Mike and Joe for the second flight out.
A view from our little airplane.
We were met at the Isabela Airport by this vibrant and lovely man.
The upscale Iguana Crossing Resort was our home for the next three nights.
The fantastic view from the bar/lounge overlooking the pool.
We had a beautiful second floor room.
One more look at our beachfront resort. Note the partially covered patio on the third floor.
The hotel's name of Iguana Crossing truly represented what happened each day. The iguanas would crawl across the road from the lagoon to the beach, into the sea, for seaweed and algea.
"The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is an iguana found only on the Galápagos Islands that has the ability, unique among modern lizards, to live and forage in the sea, making it a marine reptile. The iguana can dive over 9 m (30 ft) into the water." (wikipedia)
"As an ectothermic animal, the marine iguana can spend only a limited time in cold water diving for algae. Dives of more than 15 m may last up to half an hour. Afterwards it basks in the sun to warm up.Until it can do so it is unable to move effectively, making it vulnerable to predation. Marine iguanas become highly defensive when in this state, biting at potential threats. During the breeding season males assemble large harems of females, which they guard aggressively against rivals." (wikipedia)
A colorful lava lizard rested on the lava rocks along the beach.
We visited a tortoise breeding center on the island.
It is exhausting living in a breeding center....

"The Galapagos Flamingo is one of the most colorful birds in the enchanted Galapagos Islands.
The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) lives around the brackish waters of some lagoons located in several Islands of Galapagos." (
The Black-necked Stilt. We watched them go from very short and close to the water when looking for "a range of aquatic invertebrates – mainly crustaceans and other arthropods, and mollusks – and small fishtadpoles and very rarely plant seeds" (wikipedia) to very tall when their legs are fully extended.
We had one last snorkling outing.

The only four Galapagos Penguins we saw.
"The Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is a penguin endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild. It is the third smallest of penguins and considered endangered." (wikipedia)

Later we saw numerous White Tipped Reef Sharks. Fortunately we were out of the water looking down at them.

Sanderlings walk along the shore.
An Oyster Catcher cruises along the beach.

Instead of living on the lava rocks that line the shore as do the Sally Lightfoot Crabs, the Ghost Crab lives in holes they dig in the sand along the shore.

On our way to the Sierra Negra Volcano we hiked uphill on a dirt trtail through lush vegetation including giant ferns and palo santo trees. There were spider webs all along the route.

This volcano possesses the second largest caldera in the world. When we got there it was filled with fog and we couldn't see anything....
But it cleared nicely and we had a great view of one of the most active of the Galapagos volcanoes. Its most recent historic eruption was in October 2005. 

We returned to the Iguana Crossing for a lovely cocktail hour on the upper deck. (Karen and Joe arrived shortly after this photo.)

Loading our luggage into a water taxi to take us to our boat from Isabela to Baltra. We then caught a plane back to Quito.

Our beautiful modern room at the Le Parc Hotel in Quito.

Out on the town again we set out to enjoy Quito's rich colonial history and dramatic mountain setting.
We visited Quito's colonial center in the "old town" filled with churches, museums and monuments. 
I'm not sure who this is but I suspect he doesn't appreciate the artwork upon which he is standing.

Our next stop was the Awakening Valley, home of the Otavalenos, one of Ecuador’s most beloved and recognizable indigenous groups.

"Otavaleña women traditionally wear distinctive white embroidered blouses, with flared lace sleeves, and black or dark over skirts, with cream or white under skirts. Long hair is tied back with a 3 cm band of woven multi coloured material, often matching the band which is wound several times round their waists. They usually have many strings of gold beads around their necks, and matching tightly wound long strings of coral beads around each wrist. Men wear white trousers, and dark blue ponchos."(wikipedia)

The women are beautiful and all those we saw around the square were impecably dressed down to their patterned stockings. They use a basic bedsheet to carry their children on their backs. 
Most were selling beautiful textile products for which the Otavalens are famous. This child is more than half the size of her mom!

Felipe, our guide, took us to a cookie store! He bought us a sackful of his favorites and they were delicious!

In addition to the women carrying their children on their backs, both the men and women carry huge loads of 'things'.
We went to a market square where the most beautiful textile products were being sold.
I bought a few things and now wish I had purchased more!

Not only textiles, but Panama hats (which actually are made in Ecuador) and fruits and vegetables were available.
Our next "hotel" was Hacienda Cusin, a restored 17th century Andean estate at 8500'.

The gardens were lush and gorgeous!

We were thrilled to have made a stop at a local animal market which is held two times a week. The frenzy of activity was absolutely amazing as were the number of different animals avaliable to buy. Unfortunately we were in a bit of a hurry or I could have stayed for hours watching all the goings on.
There were wonderfully dressed women, carrying all sorts of farm animals, primarily live chickens. 

Some sheep too....

 I loved this young girl with her pull toy and guinea pig bag. Guinea pigs typically are raised for food. 

This woman has live chickens in her front and back 'bags'. It was just so incredibly amazing to watch these beautiful folks just doing what they do.

More live chickens.
We saw a lot of pigs on leashes; this has to be my favorite.
After the animal market we went to a 'higher end' weaver that Felipe knows. He had beautiful tapestries for sale. We actually bought the one on the wall on the right behind the loom.

I was able to get more local flavor photos as we drove this last day in Ecuador. I never tired of seeing the clean laundry drying in the sun.
I loved seeing this woman washing her clothes, dressed with her traditional hat.

This was a scene we saw all over Ecuador and the Islands. Folks are not able to afford to build multiple stories at the same time so they set the rebar and cinder blocks in preparation for when they have the money to complete the next story.

I caught this photo out the bus window.

These are industrious and hard working people.

I loved this street scene with the man working the sewing machine and the woman doing hand work.

Everyone loves McDonald's french fries!
I did notice that frequently it was the woman carrying the loads.
I think these pigs were living in the back of this pickup truck. The floor was covered with sawdust.

The final photo - all of us, with Felipe and Jorge our driver, on our last night in Ecuador. We would be in bed by 10:00 PM for our 2:30 AM departure to the Quito Airport for our 6:05 AM departure back to the U.S.

I am so thankful we had the opportunity to make this trip. It was the trip of a lifetime with wonderful friends.