Ecuador – 2014

Holly and I shared a bucket list item – the Galapagos Islands.  We checked this one off on a Spring Break trip in April.  We combined a week in the Galapagos with a week in the Amazon Rainforest.  We also spent a couple of days in Quito.

Holly and Six overlooking Quito. Quito is almost at ten thousand feet of elevation so it isn’t hot, even though it is on the Equator.

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The actual line of the Equator sits just outside Quito. There is a touristy, but fun, museum and attraction there.

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At the Equator Museum there was a display of the indigenous tribes of Ecuador.  Here is a rainforest dude with some pretty sparse clothing.  Not sure why they strap their equipment up like that?….

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Here is a painting of the Last Supper in a Quito Cathedral.  Notice that the supper consists of local delicacies not found in the Holy Land.  The plate in front of Jesus is Guinea Pig (a local delicacy called Cuy). Funny, but historically speaking no less ridiculous than Jesus being portrayed as white.

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From Quito we flew out to the Galapagos Islands (600 miles out to sea).  We spent a week on a boat called the Eclipse with about thirty other passengers.  Had a fantastic week.  Each day we went for hikes and snorkeling trips, as well as spending time on the boat cruising around the different islands.  We visited many of the Galapagos Islands.

Here are our Naturalist Guides.  They were knowledgeable, helpful and really funny.

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Blue Footed Booby.

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Red Footed Booby.

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Green Footed Booby. (Bad pic.  They really are green).

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Frigate Birds getting ready to make a baby.

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Six and a Land Tortoise.  These guys can live 200 years!

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Six being a Land Tortoise.

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Tons of Sea Lions everywhere in the Galapagos.  Here is a Momma nursing her baby. The sucking sounds Baby made were LOUD!  Yes, I was four feet away.  The animals don’t care in the Galapagos.

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The animals get along with each other as well.  Here a Marine Iguana and a Sea Lion are getting sun tans together.

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I tried to join the party but these Marine Iguanas just ignored me.

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Pelicans galore (and beautiful views).

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Land Iguanas.  These guys looked badass but were harmless.

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Went to a fish market one day.  This wild Sea Lion was like a pet to the fishmongers. Others would come and try to steal fish and would be shooed away.  This guy only ate the scraps they fed him.

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When the women would clean the fish he would hold his mouth right under the side of the table and they would scrape the scraps right into his open mouth – garbage disposal style. So cute.

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We crossed the Equator by sea and everyone got a certificate.  Here is Holly with one of our Naturalists, Cristina.

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Lots of crazy plants in the Galapagos as well.  Here is Lava Cactus growing right out of the Lava.

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We met some really amazing people on our boat.  Here is a family from Mexico City, Marco and Anna Lorena with their two boys Alonzo and Cristobal. (I called Cristobal Crystal Ball for most of the trip).  We became very good friends with them and plan to visit them in Mexico City and have them visit us here in the States.

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I had a serious man crush on Marco.  He founded and runs a mining construction company in Mexico.  Really a great guy and we had lots to talk about.  Can’t wait to spend more time with he and his family.

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This couple, Pal and Sharon from Tennessee, were awesome.  They told me a hilarious story.  He was 45 when he met Sharon (she was 29).  She said, “I’ve never dated anyone as old as you”.  He said, “I’ve never dated anyone as old as you either!”

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We spent a lot of our time in the Galapagos in the water – either swimming, kayaking, or snorkeling.  We saw tons of fish, turtles, penguins and sharks.  (I even had three huge Hammerheads swim ten feet below me!).  Holly was a bit afraid of the sharks.  Anytime she saw one she would cling to my back, twist me to the front, and offer me up for bait. I’m not kidding!

After the Galapagos we flew over the Andes for an Amazon rainforest adventure.  Here is our water taxi down the Napo River (a major tributary of the Amazon).  It poured rain during our three hour journey down river.  The Napo River is HUGE.  Hard to believe the Amazon gets even bigger downstream.  The Napo flows down through Peru before heading to the Amazon in Brazil.

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Our Lodge – La Selva – was on a lake off of the Napo. Only way to get there was by Canoe. Very remote – just the way we like it!

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Here are our fantastic guides. Diana, from Quito, was our Naturalist and spoke perfect English. Our local guide, who was born and raised in the jungle, walked as quietly as a Jaguar and could spot critters like an Eagle. Notice the rubber boots on Diana.  We all wore them as the jungle was very muddy and full of things that loved to bite.

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Like this HUGE, Harry Potter-like spider we saw on a night hike.  One of the couples in our small group of nine had a big, hairy Tarantula in their shower.

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Some of the ants in the jungle were monsters. It would definitely ruin your day to get bitten by one of these beasts!

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La Selva was an incredibly nice lodge and we recommend it highly.  Here is the great room where we ate all our meals.  It had beautiful views into the jungle and lake. I’m taking this pic from the observation tower on top of the main lodge.

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Here is the lake in front of the lodge.  It was full of Piranhas, Caimans, and those nasty fish that swim up your penis when you pee.  We swam every day and Six and I still have our penises!

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Our cabana was down to the left.  The lodge is literally in the jungle.  It is amazing to sleep with the sounds of the jungle right outside the screens of your cabana. We could hear Howler Monkeys making a deafening roar every night and early morning.

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Six chilling out at our cabana.  The kid has a tough life.

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There are many hikes and trails around La Selva.  They built this amazing canopy observation tower that doesn’t touch the tall Kapok tree (no nails). Very eco friendly!

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A view down from the top of the observation tower.  It was WAY higher than it looks here. Sweaty work getting up, too. Lots of parrots and other jungle birds could be seen up here.

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Holly’s pic of Toucans from the canopy.

Toucans - Holly

Tarzan swinging from a giant vine.

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Leafcutter Ants. These guys were SO cool. Their trek from plant to anthill could be incredibly long. This line was at least half a kilometer. I could look at them for hours.

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We saw tons of monkeys, but my iPhone wasn’t so hot at snapping them.  Here is one of Holly’s pics.  Unlike the Galapagos, the critters of the Amazon are very shy.  Holly’s telephoto lense was required to see most of these guys up close.

Holly Monkey Pic

Holly doing what she do. We also did lots of early morning, evening, and night paddles to see the flora and fauna.

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Sunset on our lake.  Stunning – every night.

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La Selva had a few Kayaks.  I went exploring alone almost every day – either by trail or Kayak.  The jungle is an amazing place to be alone, just like the mountains.  Don’t get me wrong – I love people, but there is something about being alone in nature that can’t be beat.

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Lots of amazing plants in the jungle.  I ate one of these mushrooms on one of my solo hikes to see if I would trip out.

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Here is what the jungle looked like for the rest of that hike.

jungle

Note to kids reading this post: The last pic was a joke.  Never eat mushrooms in the jungle!

We took a trip to a local village and saw this little girl, who was not yet two years old. She could chop stuff up with that big ole knife like you couldn’t believe.  She had just sliced the yellow fruit to the right in half with one chop!

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Her first Selfie.  They like to photobomb in the Amazon Rainforest just like anywhere else!

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The locals taught us how to use a blowgun.  We pretty much sucked.  I pointed to a fruit hanging way up in a tall tree and dared the guide standing behind Six to shoot it. He nailed it dead center on the first shot!

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One of the local delicacies in the Amazon is Beetle Grubs.  My, don’t they look tasty? Note: These grubs wiggle and squirm with unreal muscle strength.

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They look a little better after they’ve been fire roasted.  In this pic our guide, Diana, had just plopped one into her mouth.  The chef, and Grandmother of the little girl with the knife, is behind her.

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Six and I decided to try one. Six’s face says it all.  It wasn’t bad once you got over the explosion of nasty grub goo in your mouth. That said, my grub eating days are officially over.

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La Selva has an amazing Butterfly Farm.  Here is a huge Owl Eye inside their farm.

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Another butterfly out in the jungle (caught by our local guide).

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The farm had these amazing cocoons to show all the types of butterflies in their farm. They look like a rack of earrings for sale!

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Closer look.  Some look like plants or leaves.  Amazing camouflage.

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Others look metallic. Who wants to eat metal?!!

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On the way back upriver with our good friends Liz and Paul from Canada (but living in the States).  They were both expert photographers and spent lots of time kibbitzing with Holly.  (They were the ones with the Tarantula in their bathroom).

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Ecuador was amazing.  However, we never saw a Giant Anaconda, or a Jaguar, or a Jaguar fighting a Giant Anaconda.  Guess we have to go back!

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