Bob and Joyce
Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Adventure
October 22 - November 9, 2003
Trip Email Notes
While we were away I sent some notes of the trip to Family and Friends. I am including them here for some real time (at that time) perspective:
Bob and Joyce - Ed and Linda in Ecuador ---1
Thu, October 23, 2003 7:05 pm
Dear Friends and Family: (If you prefer not to receive our travel notes, please reply and I will take you off the distribution.) We arrived in Ecuador last night (Wed, Oct 22). I found an internet cafe near the hotel for one dollar per hour. The planes went from Washington to Miami and then on the Quito - all on time and without incident. We had a great view of Cuba which I had never seen before. Large and green with many farms and only a few visible towns. The weather was a little bumpy and we had to divert some storms around Panama. But still we arrived 15 minutes early. The approach to Quito is interesting. The city is really just a long single runway in the center of the city. So many city lights and then touchdown! We got all our bags after only a short delay. It was really exciting to see someone standing there with a sign that said "Graf and Ellis". Gonzalo met us and took us to the waiting van. Our driver, Franklin, drove about 15 minutes to the Sierra Madre Hotel. It is a little hotel (24 rooms or so). Linda and Ed Ellis , our travel partners, have a balcony room just above our balcony room. Lots of good drinking water in jugs in the hallway. The city is at 9600 feet above sea level so air is a bit limited. We were told to drink lots of water, take an aspirin if we get a headache, and if possible eat some chocolate (one of the basic food groups). I like that kind of medical advice!! So far after almost a day - we are all OK. This morning we had a nice breakfast and went on a city tour with Gray Line. Besides the 4 of us, we had just one other person, a medical doctor from Albuquerque. We went up to the Equator which is about 15 miles north of here. A big monument there with a bright orange line across the land that marks the equator. It is possible to put one foot in the North and one in the South hemisphere. I have a picture of me sitting down on the line with a cheek in each half of the earth. Very cool! We went through a museum where we learned about the major regions of the country: coastal, sierra , and Amazon rainforest. Very extensive and our guide Carlos explained it all very well. How will we ever remember all this? From the top of the tower we could see the flat top of the largest active volcano in the world. In the other direction we could see another volcano. There are others in the area. The weather today was very pleasant. About 80 with a light breeze and a few clouds. None of the rain that has been here recently. They say the weather changes very fast and all 4 seasons may be seen in a single day. Goes down to about 50 at night. We drove into the city. Visited a huge statue of an angel that overlooks the city. Then went to the main square where we could see a cathedral and the presidential palace. A little like the one in Washington without the jersey walls and barbed wire. Lots of police around, some with big dogs and big guns - all seemed to be quite pleasant. We visited four churches - lots of statues and gilding of the altars. I forget how many tons of gold they used to decorate one cathedral -(several). The traffic is abundant. This is the capital city with about 1.2 - 2 million people. There are 12 million in the whole country. This is the 2nd largest city. We went looking for lunch about 3 pm. We found one place and the owner encouraged us inside. Then found that nobody spoke any English and no menu. She asked how many of us and I said "cuatro". Out come lunch for 4. It was good. When we finished, I went to pay and it came to $5.60 for all four of us! How nice. I will finish with a few interesting tidbits: 1. Water pressure in low in the city so we are encouraged to put used toilet paper in a separate provided container. 2. While in the subject of toilets, the water goes clockwise at 15 miles south of the orange line. 3. Electricity is 110 volts - just like USA. 4. Money is the US Dollar, but the small change is in centavos. US coins can be used. 5. The sun comes up at 06:00 and goes down at 6 pm all year round. At noon it seems directly overhead. Our routing is available at http://www.regraf.com/gi Feel free to write. We will respond when possible. Bob and Joyce - Ed and Linda Adventurers in Ecuador
Bob and Joyce - Ed and Linda in Ecuador ---2 Sat, October 25, 2003 7:21 pm
Dear Friends and Family, The expedition is progressing nicely. Friday we got up early and stored some of our baggage in hotel storage for an overnight trip. Our guide, Gonzalo, and driver picked us up. We made a stop to get some wet suits for the Galapagos trip. That was a quick adventure in itself to be told another time. Then we drove north towards Otavalo, a mostly Indian village about 55 miles away. We stopped first in the town of Calderon to visit a little shop that make little figurines made from a base of bread dough. A craftperson was was designing little roses and lace from red and yellow material and putting little dolls together. Very fast and beautiful. Attached with something like Elmers glue. The shelves were filled with little dolls and Christmas decorations with incredible detail. Joyce and Linda, our designated buyers, could not resist. Gonzalo bought some guava (I think) on the street. Looks like a string bean about 3 feet long with a white fruit and big seeds. We ate and enjoyed. Continuing our journey we stopped at the equator again. I was sorely disappointed to find that there was no big orange line across the Pan American highway. We know that road as Route 1 in California. It goes from Anchorage in Alaska to the Panama Canal. A short break in Columbia (for ecological reasons) and then down to Ushuaia at the tip of south America. At the point we visited we could see that the equator crosses an active but quiet volcano , Cayumbe. Later we stopped at a view point where we could see the active volcano, Pichincha. This erupted in 1999 with much violence and covered Quito with lots of ash and shut down the airport and much of everyhing else for a time. We stopped at a very old Hacienda Cusin (1615). It has been opened as a hotel and conference center. We met the gardener who also turned out to the owner - a Englishman who lives every other month in New York city. Nice man who does much for the Indians in Ecuador. (We met him again today at another property he owns). This Hacienda has fabulous flower and vegetable gardens. Many artists come to stay here to get away from reality...or maybe this is reality. A place of choice for a large wedding. We stopped for a grand lunch on the Lago de San Pablo (Lake of St. Paul) It sits at the base of another Volcano. The farms go way up the side of the mountain. It is very small (17,000 feet) so no snow at the top. It is also dormant. The water was great and the food was, also. Our next stop was to drive up to a lake much like crater lake in the US. It has two cinder cone -based islands which are all green now. the depth of the lake is really unknown (meaning deep, at least 800 feet). Since the edges of the lake go straight down, there is no place for fish to lay eggs so no fish. We hiked for a time around the top edge of the caldera. The diversity of vegetation is amazing. Many different kinds of orchids growing in the wild. Ferns, flower, cacti, bromeliads, etc. Since there are no seasons here and lots of rain, things just grow and mix all together. We next stopped at the town of Cotacachi at the base of the Cotachachi volcano. We visited a nice leather shop. This town is really focused on leather so many shops had all kinds of belts, hats, handbags, coats, horse saddles, briefcases, and more. One leather shop after another. We invested some more money in the Ecuador economy!! At 5 pm we went to our Hacienda Pinsaqui for the night. We went met at the door by the gracious staff who unloaded our bags and showed us to our rooms. The estate has been in the same family for 5 generations. The hacienda got partly erased by an eruption about 125 years ago, but has been built up to be a luxurious place today. Different from Cusin that we saw earlier in the day, but wonderful in its way. Much more private , intimate. Gardens, little ponds with hammocks just inviting relaxation in the waning light of the day. People have horses here and have many trophies for jumping. Our room was about 15 feet square with another side area for our servants (who did not join us this trip). The bathroom was spacious with a huge old style bath tub, toilet and bidet. The shower was grand. Windows all around and almost full width of the room. Oh, also a fireplace and holders with wall candles as well as the electric lights. We were invited to a welcome cocktail with an Indian music band of six people. The general manager, invited us to line dance and showed us how. It was lively and fun. The fireplace started getting low so one of the staff put on some fresh logs and helped it along with about a liter of kerosene. whoosh! Sure beats paper and bellows. We had a great candlelight dinner. I think I will do Saturday in another edition...... Bob and Joyce Adventurers in Ecuador
Bob and Joyce - Ed and Linda in Ecuador --- 3 Sat, October 25, 2003 8:08 pm
Dear Friends and Family, We started out Saturday without even going to breakfast. We drove a short distance from the Hacienda Pinsaqui to the Otavalo Saturday market. The animal market starts at 06:00 (sunrise all year round). We arrived at 07:30. This is a sight to behold. A large field is filled with people and their animals for sale. Pigs near the gate, cows, chickens, goats, who knows what else. It costs about 10 cents per animal to get in. The pigs and cows are all on ropes. The people are in a huge variety of native costumes. Little babies and many children and may older people. Everybody is buying or selling (or taking pictures). Food is for sale, of course. Ice cream, drinks, eggs, roast chicken and pork. An auction is going on all the time with a woman taking bids on toys, dishes, clothing, and whatever. The sounds, smells, and sights work on every sense. For those of you that know me well, you will know that I took a few pictures. Probably no more than 250 pictures in the hour I was there. I have carpal finger syndrome! The dirt was quite fertile as you might imagine --- no, you canīt imagine. We went back for breakfast at the Hacienda at 09:00. Then we drove up into the hills to visit some Indian villages. We could see the way they grow crops here. Not unique , but the corn and beans are planted mixed together so that the land does not deplete as quickly. This is very fertile land, but also hilly so not many tractors. Just plow with animals or till by hand. The buildings are constructed so that if the owner does not have enough money, the rebar sticks out of the top of the house so when its time, the next floor can be added more easily. We visited a shop where the proprietor was making high quality felt hats. Interesting to watch. He was using an iron (like a steam iron) except it was heated on a propane, open flame stove. It takes him about 2 hours to build a hat from raw materials. Interesting to watch him work. Since a number of places make hats we stopped at another shop. This time the design was more to our tastes. So we invested in some nice hats. I donīt stand out so much in a crowd with my new hat. I was wearing my red baseball caps which is not in style here. Seems like many wear no hat or a felt hat - both men and women. Some women do have another head covering which is really a piece of flat material to keep out the sun. It is possible to determine the marital status of women by the type of head covering. This is surely convenient to many. Our next stop was a shop doing weaving. Beautiful art work. There were two kinds of looms. A "standard" loom and also a "back strap loom". We invested in some of this excellent products. Then we went to the Otavalo market. Enormous is the only word to describe. Many streets filled to the edges with booths. Every possible kind of clothing, T-shirts, leather, foods, pots , pans, CDs, paintings. Bargaining is expected. We invested some more money in the economy. This is a social gathering as well as a commercial opportunity. It happens every Saturday, and I suspect on a smaller scale every day. We took many pictures of the goods and people. The children of all ages were a delight to watch and experience. Our Spanish is improving a bit. After the market we returned to Quito. Tomorrow we go to the Galapagos and there will be no more messages until at least next Sunday night. We are excited to go. The first land portion has more than met our wildest expectations. A kind word about our travel consultant---Great ! http://www.galapagosonline.com Hope you are all well. See expected details of our journey at http://www.regraf.com Interesting observation: 1. The country back roads are often made of cobblestones. The government levels off the new roads and then brings in the rocks. The citizens are expected to put the rocks into place to make the road. The quality is dependent on local pride.. The roads are a bit rough as you may expect, but quite nice. Not built for going 50 mph. Bob and Joyce with Ed and Linda Adventures in Ecuador
Bob and Joyce - Ed and Linda in Ecuador --- 4
Fri, October 31, 2003 12:57 pm
Dear Friends and Family, We have been in the Galapagos Islands all week. The ship and arrangements and weather have been wonderful. We have seen at least 8 volcanoes (but none erupting). Swimming with sea lions and penguins. You wouldn't believe how many pictures - hope at least 1% come out OK. We arrive back on mainland on Sunday PM. We will make more reports then. Happy to report that the Finches are alive and well in the Islands. We have seen most of the 15 varieties. Today we saw big Tortoises - some of whom may have been around when Darwin visited .. hard to tell. Today we are on Santa Cruz Island. Several more to go. Hope you are all well. Bob and Joyce with Ed and Linda Adventurers in the Galapagos
Bob and Joyce - Ed and Linda in Ecuador --- 5
Sun, November 2, 2003 7:27 pm
Dear Friends and Family,
Alas, great happenings must come to an end. We have arrived back in Quito tonight after our week in the Galapagos Islands. As you may imagine, words will not describe what we have seen. I will list a few notable items for now and follow with pictures when we return--
1. We observed and identified 40 different types of birds.
2. We observed 12 different kinds of animals-- some of these are unique (endemic) to the islands like marine iguanas and giant tortoises.
3. We swam closely (within 2 feet) with penguins, sea turtles, sea lions as well as numerous fish and even a sea horse.
4. Saw at least 8 volcanoes (none erupting, but some recently active).
5. Watched the mating rituals of the waved albatross from 10 feet away.
6. Visited 8 significant islands in the archipelagos.
7. Traveled about 50 hours by motor yacht in the 7 days.
8. Slept in luxury in memorable (rolling) sea conditions.
9. Met some interesting people from USA and other countries.
10. Crossed the equator 4 times by boat.
11. Learned much about biology, history, geology, and equatorial climate.
12. Ed took 5 hours of video. Bob took over 800 pictures (1500 so far on the trip).
We did NOT----
a. Experience enough rain to use rain gear ( only a little mist)
b. Touch any animals (except humans)
c. Get sunburned
d. Get seriously seasick (maybe just a little)
Tomorrow is a holiday here. We are going to rest and do a little walking before continuing. We have to learn to tolerate the 9600 foot altitude after being a sea level for the week. It is cool here tonight, but
All arrangements have been excellent. There have been some moments of
faith, but it all works smoothly.
Hope you are all well.
Bob and Joyce - Ed and Linda
Adventurers in the Galapagos Islands
Bob and Joyce - Ed and Linda in Ecuador --- 6
Fri, November 7, 2003 10:18 pm
Dear Friends and Family,
A few highlights of the past few days.
On Monday we relaxed a little in Quito (the capital) with no fixed
agenda. We walked around the city and rode on public transportation. A
highlight was trying to draw money from an ATM when the directions were only in Spanish. We decided to keep trying different places until we found one that worked in English. Our courage stretches just so far.
On Tuesday, we drove on cobblestone and then gravel back roads up to
Cotopaxi, the largest active volcano on the planet (over 20,500 ft.) It is not expected to erupt for several more years. The volcano was not visible due to an ongoing thunderstorm. We had lunch at a wonderful resturant used by climbers to get accustomed to the altitude. We took a nice stroll at 12,500 feet to look at the flora and fauna. Later we visited a lake where we observed some new birds that are unique to the high Andes Mountains. After a time, the Cotopaxi made an appearance in all its grandeur. Snow from 16,000 on up to the edge of the caldera. Awesome.
We spent the night in a country inn that has a reputation for being
haunted with ghosts. It was about 300 years old. Very elegant. No ghosts, but an awesome sunset view of Cotopaxi and a sneak preview of the next volcano on our route.
The next day we drove to Banos, a little resort town high in the mountains. I rode across a river gorge in a little cable car basket powered by an automobile engine. It went to a waterfall called "Bridal Veil Falls". Very nice ride across and back.
We went to our resort about 800 feet above the town of Banos. The view
from our rooms was spectacular. And just outside our room we could look up to the ash plume of the erupting volcano. It has been erupting for about 4 years. The town was evacuated in 1999, but after the expected catastrophe did not occur after 100 days, the residents returned (some with machetes to force the issue) and demanded that the government let them back home. The orange alert is still in effect, but the people are going on life. Last week the ash fell in town. It is black, fine dust and went everywhere.
Joyce and I went on a horseback ride up to a ridge within close range of the volcano. We could hear the sounds and roar, but alas, the clouds obscured the view. We have lots of pictures from other times with no clouds.
We walked down the very steep 2 mile pathway into town and visited a
church that had paintings of many of the eruptions from Tungurahua Volcano over the years. Really something. We also saw the escape route newly opened to get out of the town, just in case it really gets going. A taxi ride (5 miles) back to the top was a welcome treat. We enjoyed the spa at the resort, including a volcano ash mud bath for Joyce.
This morning we woke to rain and fog and the wonderful view of the town was mostly just clouds. Interesting to see the tops of the clouds outside our picture window.
We rode back to Quito - stopping for a delightful lunch of roasted guinea pig, a delicacy here. We also had ice cream in a town where it seems every store sells ice cream. We also passed through a town that specializes in making blue jeans that look remarkably like Levis.
Tonight, it rained hard in Quito - the first rain in the capital for us and the second rain storm of the day for us. We visited the archeology museum (very good, with English descriptions) and another private museum and shop that was very impressive.
We are coming to the end of our Ecuador adventure. Tomorrow we leave Quito for the USA. Ed has 2 minutes of video left out of 9 hours. I have taken 2000 pictures. Hope we can find a few pictures that will show the essence of this charming country.
Tonight the temperature at the equator is 54 degrees F. I understand that it has been quite warm back home. Must make sense somehow. Sunset in the rain was still 6 PM. Sunrise is at 6 AM, just like always.
We really appreciate the arrangements by Teresa, our travel consultant. It all worked as promised. http://www.galapagosonline.com
Look for more details and pictures at http://www.bobandjoyce.com after we return. If you missed any issues of the travel log and would like to get them all, let me know the number of issues you did not receive.
Bob and Joyce with Ed and Linda
Adventurers in Ecuador
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