Kinda back

Thinking about it at least. Definitely going to try to be part of the 3fc forums again. As for this space, we’ll see…

Pity Party

I’m depressed. Not clinically, just generally. Ben thinks I’m suffering endorphin withdrawl and while I think there’s something to this, I don’t think it’s everything. I feel like a phony–as though I’ve spent my life pretending to be smart and now the mask has been ripped off (yes, this is related to my dissertation, but it also has to do with being around some quite smart people for the past two weeks and suffering degree/alma mater envy; then there’s Ben himself, but that’s a constant nagging feeling of inferiority/insecurity). I’m also very tired of being around people. After two months of it, I just really (I mean REALLY) need my space.

On the other hand, I’ve joined a bunch of new meet-ups, taken up quilting, and volunteered being a literacy tutor.

In terms of diet and exercise… Well, I still fit into my size 10s, but the waist is getting tighter. I’ve not at all been counting calories, keeping carbs low, definitely not avoiding alcohol (I’m on my 3rd rum and coke of the night, after having had a few glasses of wine and a white russian). But, I did go on a 20 mile bike ride today.

People (we’re currently on the Cape and have guests) want to play cards now, so I should go be social. Hopefully no hurricane tomorrow.

Oh, and right now I really identify with the Angry Little Girls bag “I Hate People”. Ben did buy me the “Nerds @-”;&&;@ rule” one. I think he didn’t want to encourage (or advertise) my misanthropy too much.

Wedding Pictures

I know I haven’t posted in quite a while, but I’m just popping in to say that some actual wedding photos have finally been uploaded here. I’ll try to write a real post in the next few days.

Our First Full Day in Quito

Today we decided to take it easy and I think we’re both very glad that we did. We slept in (only until around eight, however) and proceeded to have a very large, but good, breakfast at our hotel. There was a little bit of confusion over the shower (basically, it can only heat a very small amount of water at a time and we’d been turning the tap too far), which the proprietor resolved for us. I have to admit, while this isn’t the nicest hotel we’ve been in on this trip, certainly the staff has been excellent: very friendly, helpful, and constantly cheerful.

As we were heading out, the proprietor intimated that it was likely to rain starting around noon. We decided it wasn’t worth the bother of taking rain gear (anyway, we only have one raincoat between the two of us), but did opt for doing the TeleferniQo (Quito’s cable car) earlier than we’d planned. Catching a taxi (not an official one—I was duped by the yellow, neglecting to look for the proper tags, but all was well in the end), the drive through the city made me very glad we had never contemplated renting a car here. While I can’t say I was particularly concerned, certainly the traffic is chaotic, lanes are optional, people board and deboard buses in the middle of the street, park wherever they choose, and certainly never signal turns or merges.

The TeleferniQo was incredible. The views from the top (a good 4,100 meters above sea level) were just astounding. The city of Quito sits in a mountain valley and runs 22 miles long but only 2-3 miles wide. From the top of the mountain, we were able to really see what this meant for the layout. The day was gorgeous for views: not too cold and with only partly cloudy skies. We saw various volcanic peaks, though I don’t know which was which. We stayed up at the top for a good thirty to forty-five minutes before the altitude got to us sufficiently to cause us to want to descend once more. Ben’s been feeling the altitude since we got here last night, though I only really noticed it up on the mountain. Still, we saw no reason to overexert ourselves.

Taking a tourist bus back to the Old City, we proceeded to spend the rest of the day wandering around and looking at the old churches. Our first stop was the basilica. Neither of us will ever get over how amazing gothic architecture is. Though photography was not permitted inside, I did manage to get some shots of the façade, in particular the gargoyles. I have to say, loving gargoyles, these were some of the most fun I’ve seen: tortoises, crocodiles, anteaters, dragons, and iguanas were all there, ready to help with any runoff.

Like in Europe, many of the buildings retain bits and pieces of earlier architecture: an old doorway, a small cross. I suppose it’s unsurprising, but much of the buildings and their layout reminded me of various places in Europe. It made Quito feel surprisingly familiar. From the basilica, we walked over the Place de la Independencia, which is bordered on its four sides by the archbishop’s palace, the government palace, the city hall, and the cathedral. We had lunch a few steps away at a charming little restaurant that came with (deserved) good reviews in our guide book. Feeling refreshed, we wandered quite a bit more, though within a five-block radius of the main square, continuing to look at old churches and squares. Toward the end of the day we ambled down La Ronda, an old street at what used to be the edge of the city retaining much of its original character—though unfortunately all the traditional shops we were promised seemed to be closed.

After relaxing for a time back in our hotel room, we headed out for dinner. Tonight was the first night we did any real planning around this what is normally a major event for us when we travel together. I found what looked to be promising places just a block from our hotel: good, cheap food and great views from their roof terrace. It was in a hostel run by a French and Australian family. Unfortunately, the online reviews did not bother to mention that dinner is served all at once and we were well over an hour too late. Heading back down to the street, we decided we’d go to the Teatrum restaurant. It had very good reviews online, though was said to be far more expensive than other places in Quito. Still, $30 a person did not seem so bad, and after all, it is our honeymoon.

We were not disappointed. The setting was extremely nice, though we were a bit concerned upon entering when we were asked (twice) whether we had reservations. They seated us without them and as only one other table visible to us had patrons (there were a couple more in use behind a screen, though not many), we didn’t feel too badly about it in the end. The food was incredible. Very high quality and fresh. This was the first time since we arrived over a week ago that I’ve actually agonized over what to order. Before, it could be a challenge as nothing looked especially exciting. Tonight, everything sounded delicious: rabbit risotto, duck ravioli, crab and mascarpone ravioli with a coral emulsion (no idea what that would be), and so much more. I ended up selecting roasted chicken with blue cheese ravioli and a red wine-blueberry reduction. Ben chose marinated pork chops with a potato pie and oven roasted pear. He also started with a squid appetizer: squid, sausage, and lamb in a squid ink and herb vinaigrette. He tells me the squid was done to perfection—not chewy at all. The appetizer and bread course (which came with complimentary balls of something: cheese and meat from what we could tell, but oh so good!) was followed by a sorbet in celery juice to cleanse the palette. Then dinner. I have never in my life, that I can recall, been served an entree which was brought to the table with a dome cover, smoothly whipped off and just the right moment to reveal the wonders within. Certainly worth it, as the presentation of the food was very good. The taste was better. I’m not a fan of blue cheese, but this ravioli was fresh and the flavor of the cheese was quite mild, mixing wonderfully with the other flavors of my dish. Ben was just as happy with his meal, though having tried it, I’m glad I ordered the chicken. Since dinner was so good, we knew we had to try dessert. I selected a lavender crème brulée with lavender ice cream and mango slices; Ben, naturally, chose the chocolate tasting menu that included four different kinds of chocolate ice cream. While both desserts were good (though the mangos were swapped for peaches, I choice I was happy about), neither lived up to what they could have been or what the dinner promised. Nevertheless, I think we were both very pleased with the meal and were half-seriously contemplating returning for tomorrow night on the walk back to our hotel.

Miffed

Well, looks like the photographers took down the video they’d put together of some of the photos. I’m a little irked that we had no warning–I was still hoping to share it with some people. That, and they want $100 for a copy of it. Not shelling that out. They got enough of our money as it stands, no matter how good the photos are. Besides, my ring was upside down in one of the photographs.

Grrrr.

July 31st and August 1st

Other than having to get up at 5am for a very choppy, two-hour long boat ride from Isabela to Santa Cruz that made Ben a little queasy, yesterday was a very relaxing day. I think I may have even saw a whale’s or dolphin’s flipper during the crossing, though it’s had to be sure. After getting off the speed boat, having breakfast, and putting our things away in the hotel, we clambered into two trucks and drove up the side of a mountain, which we then proceeded to bike down—for 10km. Unfortunately, my bike was not very cooperative. The seat post liked to slide down, helped along by the first 3km of bumpy, unpaved road. What was more, the bike had disk breaks, which, frankly, were more like yields than brakes. Going down some of the steeper sections I had the hand levers clamped all the way down and still the tires kept turning. Anytime I wanted to actually stop I had to put my feet down and skid a bit.

We had cycled down to a beach where we had about 45 minutes to amuse ourselves before having a traditional bbq lunch. Ben and I wandered a bit, looking at the crabs that scuttled under the rocks and kicking around a soccer ball that some kids had left on the sand. Joey and Lisa found some sting rays in the shallows. It took us a few minutes to spot them. I was looking for something black, like the larger rays I’d seen when snorkeling, but in fact these were brown, blending in perfectly with the brown sand kicked up by the incoming surf. At first what we mistook for leaves turned out to be the flippers of the ray. Awesome and freaky at the same time.

Lunch was, hands-down, the best we’d had the entire trip. Hummus with fresh veggies and bread toasted on the grill, baked potatoes, salad, grilled tuna prepared to order (I can’t do anything but well-done with my tuna), and delicious blondies to cap it off. As we ate, mocking birds continually observed us, hoping to find an opening in our defenses. We held them off valiantly. The wasps were a more dangerous foe, but their breaches were minor and left no lasting damage. (Which only reminds me that my wasp stings bloody hurt!)

We were supposed to do kayaking after lunch, but the man who runs the kayak rentals had to go home early for a family emergency. While I wish him and his family well, I’m rather glad that we didn’t go. I frankly had no desire to get everything wet again when we only had one night on the islands left, meaning things were not likely to dry. Others were in agreement. Instead, Viktor, our guide (who, after having done this for twenty-five years, struck me as a bit jaded by it all), took us to a very large laval tunnel. Called the tunnel of love, it runs 8km underground, though much of it has caved in, so we were only able to walk one kilometer of it. Still, that was pretty awesome. Slowly, lichen is beginning to grown inside it. It was certainly unlike any other cave I’ve ever been in. For one, there were no notable stalagtites or stalagmites, though there was plenty of dripping water.

In the late afternoon, we roamed the town a bit before dinner. I enjoy poking my head into souvenir shops and ended up picked up a few items for people. I really wanted a kitchen apron with blue-footed boobies on it (reading “I like boobies”), but they were all sized for kids. Luckily, the internet has everything. On our way back, we noticed that the restaurant we were to eat dinner at had “crazy hour”: two drinks for the price of one. Running in to Joey and Lisa, the four of us agreed we should head over there early to get some drinking in before dinner. While in the end we didn’t get the discount, they did comp a round of our (many) drinks due to the very loud, rather obnoxious drunks at the table next to ours whose rowdiness and numbers meant our food was significantly delayed. Drinks on the Galapagos are made very strong, which led to what I thought was a fantastic series of conversations (even if it did lead me to the face-palm moment of saying, in response to a drink called a Blow Job, “I don’t know what that is”). The upshot of all the drinking was that I stubbed my toe in the hotel room when we got back and bent my knee the wrong way when I stumbled into the bed. So now I have two blue toes, though thankfully no damage done to my knee. Worth it in the end, I’d say.

Today began with our heading over to the Charles Darwin Research Center where we finally got to meet Lonesome George. Ben and I had been under the (largely correct) impression that George had been refusing to copulate with the various female tortoises they’d provided for him (he’s the last of his species, so they’re hoping he’ll breed with someone). When we got there, I noticed that there was a second shell underneath George. He was going at it (slowly, he is a tortoise after all), though we don’t yet know if it’ll take. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to have seen it (that came out wrong) and to think that we could perhaps say that we were there on the day Lonesome George finally procreated. The Center overall was reasonably interesting. We got to be in the pens with some of the tortoises, getting our pictures taken (no touching, obviously), and saw some land iguanas for the first time: huge orange and yellow buggers.

Afterwards, we flew to Quito and the five of us went our separate ways (Asha actually deplaning in Guayaquil). We hopped into a taxi (I made sure, after Asha’s and others’ warnings, to get into an official one, though the man at the taxi stand tried to put us into an unofficial one at first) and drove to where we thought our hotel was. Turns out, the map they’d sent Ben was wrong. It took a lot of searching, asking for directions, getting bad directions, and finally calling the place and having them come get us before we at last arrived. This would have been annoying but okay but for two things: 1) we never really had lunch, except for a light snack provided on the flight; and 2) it was thunderstorming, so we were drenched and unhappy. In the end things turned out fine and our hotel seems nice enough. It has internet, a shower, and even complimentary ear plugs (there seem to be some noisy dogs across the road).

Now we’re simply relaxing, catching up on the news and movie trailers, and planning to have an easy two days of it here in Quito before we leave for Canada.

Replies to Comments

Some quick replies to comments and more diety thoughts, in reverse order.

I’m very glad I’ve slimmed down for this trip. Asha and Lisa are daily rocking it in their bikinis and while I’m nowhere near being ready to wear one myself, I feel relatively good about how I look in my swimsuit now (well, if you don’t look at my thighs). This was particularly emphasized when Julio helped teach me how to surf. There I was, lying flat out on the board in my swimsuit with him behind me holding onto the board until the right wave came along. I know my rear is no great sight to behold right now, but it would’ve been a lot greater six months ago (if you get my drift).

I can also tell that the working out has paid off. My only trouble with the 10-mile hike was that my hip flexors were bugging me by the end (and I needed to use the facilities and didn’t want to tear off any leaves from native plants). The next day, doing the kayaking, biking, then surfing, I still felt as though I had tons of energy when the day is done. Yesterday, we biked down a 10km slope from the near-top of a mountain to the beach. It was great (except that my bike wasn’t), but a part of me really, truly wanted to be biking up that massive hill. Crazy, no?

Food-wise, I haven’t been doing so well. Putting aside last night, and the night before, and the night before that, when I had several drinks (last night being the worst/best, depending on yoru interpretation of these things), it’s been difficult to eat on plan. While I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep to my strict diet while on the islands, having fries served at lunch and dinner every day is just far too much temptation. Throw in the drinks (they make them quite wonderfully strong in the Galapagos) and my will-power is simply decimated. However, I’ve been eating a lot of fish, which is good for me and all of that fun stuff, so hopefully it won’t take me too long to get back on track.

Pepagirl: I originally did a lot of traveling with my parents, then with Ben. He has a good salary, which is something of a necessity, and for our work we occasionally get to travel to exciting places (not infrequently with a good portion of it being paid for). Next summer we’re looking at being in France, Wales, and China. This trip was the first one we’d every done through a travel agency. I admit, it was really nice not having to worry about the hotels or how we were going to be getting around and having everything paid for in advance. How do you find the cruises? We’ve never done one but are tempted.

Munchberry: What kind of diving does your husband do? I love your story about the woman in the kayak, though thankfully there were no great whites in this area. Other than one taking a brief interest in Ben, they largely ignored us. We did end up swimming with penguins – I got a shot of one in the water while we were kayaking, but they move so darn quick! There’s also an underwater shot of an iguana. Don’t know how well it’ll turn out, though. What do you have against sea lions, anyway? They’re so adorable!

Beat the Heat

1. What have you done this week to work towards your goals?

Nothing. I’ve been in the Galapagos, having an absolutely fabulous time, so I haven’t worried about them one bit.

2. What have you done to make yourself feel fabulous?

Simply enjoying myself on my honeymoon: swimming with sea lions, learning to surf, marveling at how cute baby giant tortoises are.

3. How are you finding your goals this challenge? Do you still think you can achieve them?

Well, since I haven’t been working on them the past several weeks, probably not. Certainly not those that called for doing something every week, like exercising. But I don’t want to duck out now.

4. Freebie! If you want to change one goal change it. Explain your decision even if you don’t change any.

I have been a quitter too many times in my life. I may not succeed at this challenge in the end, but I would like to keep trying.

5. Fun Question: If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Your funds are unlimited!

That’s such a difficult question. I’d love to live in London or Paris, preferably in an old castle. But I’d also love a place in the mountains. Or a nice home in Boston. I don’t know. I want to be in a place that makes both me and Ben happy. That’ll be good enough for me.

Pic of the week: Ben and me at the edge of the Sierra Negra volcanic caldera on Isabela Island in the Galapagos.

Honeymoon: Day 6

It must be getting boring, hearing that every day we had a fantastic day. This morning, we began by kayaking around the bay. The kayaks were unlike the type I’m used to, being fully open and seating you much farther forward than is typical. The upshot of this was I felt far more unstable (at first, I eventually became used to it) and each stroke of the paddle turned the kayak, as opposed to merely propelling it. The kayaking enabled us to see pelicans, marine iguanas, penguins, sea lions, and some other birds whose names I don’t know. I think the sea lions were the best. They’re really extrememly playful and loved to swim along side, around, and under us – occasionally splashing us, which I think was intentional. It’s no wonder people saw them and thought they’d make great circus animals. Asha (another woman on the trip) and I were bemoaning our lack of a beach ball to toss to them.

During the kayaking we also not only saw penguins sunning themselves on the rocks, but swimming in the water. They’re tough buggers to get a picture of, given they move so quickly and are not as naturally camera-happy as the sea lions. Still, it was really neat to see them up close. We also played a bit with some bigger waves that came in, riding their momentum (or however you convey what we were doing – catching the waves). I admit, they made me a tad nervous. I wasn’t so concerned about capsizing, being a decent swimmer and not far from land, but my camera is not waterproof and so when we got to this point I stuck it in the waterproof bag they had provided for us. I felt a bit better about my kayaking skills at the end, however, when Julio, our guide, capsized on a wave coming in to the beach at the end. He was fine and was in shallow water (no rocks).

After lunch (which, when we eat it at a restaurant, always consists of grilled fish (very good), french fries, rice, and salad) we went for a bike ride out to the Wall of Tears – a massive pile of rocks constructed by Ecuadorian convicts for no other purpose than to keep out the Mongolian hordes, or create shade, or because the guards are bloody vicious assholes who should be kicked in the shins repeatedly – for starters. Along the way we stopped to see Lovers Beach (very picturesque), a lava tunnel (in formation, techincally, though the translation called it “in training,” which amused me to no end), an estuary where four types of mangrove trees grow (freaking amazing root systems), and a volcano from the top of which we had great panoramic views of Isabela Island. To be sure, the cycling wasn’t the easiest. The uphills weren’t too bad, in my opinion, but we were cycling (or biking? given they were mountain bikes) on gravel roads, sometimes heavy gravel/sand mixtures, which made momentum a hard thing to maintain. We also encountered several giant tortoises along the way – the first we’ve seen in the wild. Watching tortoises/turtles eat is just awesome.

On the way back, I got stung three times by a wasp. From what I can tell, it got sucked inside my shorts by the draft as I was biking downhill, causing it to become aggitated and sting me in frustration or retaliation. I debated stopping (we’d had a conversation about how some people, after having been stung in the past, develop severe allergic reactions the next sting round) but figured the best thing for it, should I actually have issues, was to get back to town as quickly as possible. While I had no troubles in the end, there was a bit of tension when returning the bikes. The first people to arrive didn’t speak Spanish (that includes me), but once Ben arrived we seemed to figure out that the guy was asking for ten dollars each for the bike rental. We had understood this to be part of the cost of the trip, already paid for, but Julio had not yet come back. Turned out he got a flat tire right as we were about to return. He claimed, once he showed up, that he ran back the entire way with his bike in tow. I’m skeptical – he didn’t look a bit out of breath and it was a good 6 km.

I still had a lot of energy after the ride and Julio was offering us complimentary surfing lessons, so I took him up on the offer, though Ben declined. I enjoyed it, but can’t say I’m likely to do it again. Long boards are definitely the thing to learn on, though, in case anyone reading is tempted to try. The short boards are harder to steady in the water when learning and it’s more difficult to get your feet into position to stand up.

As today was Lisa’s birthday, the five of us (Asha, Lisa, Joey, Ben and myself) went out for drinks (deliciously strong, fresh pina coladas) and dinner. Ben and I had intended to have a romantic dinner just the two of us at a spot we’d found last night, but it turned out not to be open for dinner until tomorrow. Still, we had a good time with the others. Ben ordered chicken coca-cola, which was surprisingly savory.

I think that’s a fairly decent recap of the day, and as we have to leave (not wake up, but be ready to depart) at 5:30am and it’s quarter past 10pm now, I think I’ll leave it there. I was going to do a bit of a post on diet-themed stuff and reply to comments, but that will have to wait until tomorrow as Ben is eager to get to sleep and I’ve yet to brush my teeth.

Honeymoon Update

Today we only had one scheduled activity: a ten-mile hike along a caldera and over a volcanic field. It was, quite simply, not what I expected. Not in a bad way, mind, just very different. Before we arrived (it was a forty minute drive to get to the start of the hike), Ben and I had been anticipating a lot of walking over bare rock of the lava-flow type we’d seen when we first arrived on Isabela Island. Instead, we drove through a very lush area and started our hike in a region that supported guava trees and elephant grass. On the drive, we’d already passed by orange and banana trees. So from the beginning I had to revise my expectations.

We had good weather for hiking. It was cool and drizzly when we began, which made for a muddy beginning. After a time (I’m really not sure how long; it was definitely over a mile of walking, perhaps two) we came to the rim of the caldera. The Sierra Negra volcanic caldera is the second largest (active) caldera in the world. At first, however, we didn’t realize that we were at its edge: the sky was overcast and a heavy mist had settled into the caldera. Although Julio, our guide, continually assured us that the weather was going to cooperate and that we’d get some good views, I admit that I was skeptical. However, after ten minutes or so of walking along the rim, the mist did indeed begin to blow away and we were able to look down into it. The picutres we have really don’t do it justice. The river of lava from the most recent erruption looks like a road or landing strip running straight through the basin. On the opposite side of the path we were able to look out into the ocean and seen various other islands that form the Galapagos.

From the caldera we proceeded to Volcan Chico, a series of parasitic volcanos. Here the landscape was much more what I had been expecting. We passed out of the caldera region and into a lava field that was first 3,000 years old, then one that was 32 years old (1979 was the last erruption, if I remember what Julio said correctly). When I was younger, my parents took me to Mount Saint Helens and this reminded me a lot of that, at least in terms of the porous igneous rock. What I don’t recall and what was absolutely stunning was the melted nature of so many of the rock formations, particularly factoring in the various colors from the different minerals present. One spot in particular looked like it was being continually illuminated by the sun, but in fact had an awesome orange and yellow coloration from the iron in the rock. Julio brought us to a small vent, into which he encouraged us to stick our hands. The steam pumping out of it was uncomfortably warm, verging on hot, giving a true sense of how active the area still is.

We had lunch on the trail under a large, gorgeous tree (in a spot aptly named picnic area, what with all the benches and little table) on our way back to the van. The hike was long, but not particularly strenuous. I’m very glad, however, that the weather remained cool and the sky overcast as there was little shade to be had (none, really, once we were on the lava field). We took a lot of pictures, even with the poor lighting, though as you can see from the photos I’ve posted it’s hard to get a good sense of what it was we were seeing. Still, I think Ben and I both really enjoyed ourselves and the hike gave us a chance to walk and talk together apart from the others in a way we haven’t been able to until today. We like the people in our group (and find the excitement expressed by Joey and Lisa, who’ve never traveled abroad, refreshing compared to everything we now take for granted).

Since on Isabela Island we don’t have meals provided by the tour company, we decided to take tonight away from the group. After relaxing in the hotel for a few hours after the walk, we went out for pizza at a local restauarnt, then began a bit of bar hopping. It was the first time on the trip I’d really had anything more than water to drink and the relaxation was well-deserved after today’s hike. In the process of walking along the beach after dinner in search of another place to try local cocktails, we came across a rather up-scale resort hotel that had a tasty-looking menu posted. We’ve decided that tomorrow we will eat there. The pricing here has worked out such that, with things generally being cheaper in Ecuador, but more expensive on the Galapagos due to having to import so much, we’re paying approximately what we’d pay for dinner at a US resturant. Given that I’m used to European pricing (particularly Britain and France), it’s a pleasant change of pace while traveling abroad.

Tomorrow we begin the day with kayaking and then, after lunch, cycle to the Wall of Tears. I’m looking forward to that last one.

Below is Ben’s description of yesterday:

Our first order of business was switching islands; we were picked up in the morning by a pick-up truck (this seems to be the dominant mode of transport for us), went to the airport and took a flight to Isabela Island. I’m not sure what I was imagining this flight would be like, but I certainly didn’t expect what I got. This was a tiny plane with 6 seats (including the pilot’s; Joey sat next to him in what I think of as the copilot’s seat), so obviously there was no one but our group of 5 on it. The flight was certainly an experience, though a bit on the side. Still, it was cool to see things from the air, especially the landscape of Isabela as we came in to land.

The Galapagos are like Hawaii; they are islands that formed over a volcanic hot spot, so as one goes west, they get younger. San Cristobal, where we had been is the eastmost of the inhabited islands, and thus the lushest. Isabela is the westmost, and still has a lot of visable lava floes. As we drove into town, I noted how much the landscape was bare volcanic rock. I asked our guide how old the floes were; he said “Oh, about 500,000 years.” I guess that stuff breaks down slowly. We later went to a 100,000 year old island that seemed to have no vegetation at all other than lichen and mangroves.

So, after being picked up at the airport (one of the great things about doing this as a package tour is there have been no moments of standing at the airport going “hmmm, where to now?” Of course, some would see that as a disadvantage), and dropping stuff off at the hotel, we headed to the giant tortoise breeding center. Well, what can I say; if there is anything cuter than a pack of juvenile giant tortoises (who are thus more the size of a big box turtle) swarming all over each other to get at a pile of leaves, I have no idea what it is. Maybe if there were tortoises and puppies and they were friends or something. They also have some adult tortoises there (kind of necessary to make the baby tortoises), who are of course, pretty darn impressive.  After that, we walked back into town through a wetland with flamingoes and more iguanas. I finally got to see some iguanas in the water (though not from underwater; still hoping for that one), as well as several crossing the road, conveniently at the “Iguana Crossing” sign.

After that, we had lunch (the food here has been basically good, though not really anything to write home about, honestly, even though that’s exactly what I’m doing), and a bit of down time in the afternoon. I must still be catching up on sleep, because I laid down to read a bit, and promptly fell asleep, which is not typical behavior for me. Honestly, I’ve been zonking out pretty early and pretty easily every night. I guess it’s because they keep us moving. After that, it was more snorkelling! Tomorrow is actually going to be our first snorkel-free day of the trip. We made a pass by some rocks with a big group of penguins. The Galapagos penguin is rather small, not like the big Emperor or King penguins that probably first drop into
mind.  Still, they’re fascinating creatures, and how many other places can you comfortably snorkel in water with penguins? We first had a pre-snorkel trip around Tintoreras Island; “tintorera” is the local name of the white-tipped reef shark, and indeed we saw some of those sleeping at the bottom of a channel (I doubt the pictures came out well, but they were quite visible just looking down into the water). We also saw a *lot* of iguanas, mostly just hanging out on the ground, though we saw a couple in the water from a distance.

Then we got into the water; honestly, it wasn’t the best snorkel. The guide moved a bit too fast, the water was a little too choppy, and the weather conditions weren’t the best for visibility. On the other hand, we had an amazing encounter with a couple of sea lions, who just danced around us in the water (sea lions seem to just be natural performers; one of the other people in our group joked about want to bring a beach ball snorkelling to see if they would play with it), we saw a couple of penguins (they were less keen to stick around, but I got within a few feet of one before he sped off), and a couple more turtles (you might think that after seeing about 7 of them yesterday, turtles wouldn’t be so exciting, but actually, it’s still pretty darn cool to see them).

After coming back (again, in a pickup truck) to town, we rested a bit, and got some dinner. For reasons that are somewhat inscrutable, on San Cristobal, our dinners were covered and the restaurants picked out for us, whereas on Isabela, we have to find then for ourselves. We went to one on the advice of our guide which was, well, not exactly bad, but didn’t match up to our expectations (as Jola put it: “even the fries were better on San Cristobal!”; incidentally, everything comes with fries here, except pasta). Jola and I were basically fine, but the other people in our group somewhat less so; also, the service, ahem, left something to be desired.  Like, I ordered a drink when I ordered my food, and they told me that they couldn’t make it when I was most of the way done with the meal. Anyways, hopefully we’ll have more luck tomorrow. As I said, the food isn’t bad, but it seems a little monotonous, like every restaurant has the same menu.

Anyways, tomorrow, we’ve got a long hike up a volcano on the menu, so I’d better get to bed.