Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm Fried

I will post more when I can but between moving, packing, job search, housing search, I'm simply tapped out at the end of the day.

Hope ya'll are enjoying your summer!!!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Leaving Santa Cruz For Genovasa

Navigation, as it is called in the boating language of Galapagos, is the traveling between spots via boat.  The Yate Floreana, our boat, left Santa Cruz after picking up our sick professor en route to Genovasa, or "Bird Island" as it is known.

I was told that there is a very narrow point on the island where some boats cannot get through.  Our captain, and our boat, were able to.

The day's events were hike, then change into snorkeling gear and for those more adventurous and better swimmers, a drop point around the corner to snorkel back to our land point.

But first, we landed and saw:

Our point for dropping our snorkeling gear was about 15' from this nursing pup and mom.  You can see how "afraid" they are of us.  :)  The pup kept nursing the entire time we were walking around.

Over my shoulder, I heard the noise that once heard cannot be forgotten.  That of:

Calling for his mate:

The male friggate birds inflate their red pouches or sacks to attract females and make this sound this somewhat like a very loud turkey call only "warblier" - if that makes any sense.  Like many females who are attractive and courted by males, this female is very non-plussed by the males in her vicinity.  :P

Walking further along our trail, we saw our first:

Who had a secret:

Two eggs were being guarded.  The real secret is the obligate siblicide that these Nasca Boobie's endure.  See, two eggs are laid, approximately 1 week apart.  If the first egg hatches with a viable offspring, it will kill the 2nd egg's offspring when it hatches.  Either the 1st will attack the 2nd outright, or it will push the 2nd out of the nesting area, ensuring the 2nd starves or is eaten by a predator.

Mother Nature, specifically in these birds, ensures that offspring are viable and the species can continue.  If the first hatched bird is somehow defective, then the 2nd will hatch and kill the first.  Parental interference is non-existant.  In many cases, the mother bird will pay no attention to the obligate killing of the other offspring.

Thankfully, I never saw this happen but I did see the remains of several outcomes of the siblicide.  Yuck!

Walking through the path, there were happier sites:

And one with a juvenile:

Not to be outdone, the Nasca Boobie showed off it's juvenile offspring, replete with downy feathers:

Then onto the lava path we went (the entire islands are lava and as I will get to later in a different post, there are some that are active).  Upon walking out onto the coast filled with lava:

Which eats petrels for lunch.  I think I'd rather have the Oreos and fried potatoes (not in that order).

Winding around the bushes and shrubs, we found a gull:

And a ground finch:

Mother Nature can be cruel.  This little pup, we believe, might be orphaned as it was found in a tidal pool area and while snorkeling, we found a dead mother sea lion.  I hope not...

Then there were sea lion colonies.  Unlike dogs which will nurse other mothers' offspring, sea lions do not.  The mothers will chase away pups that are not theirs.  The calling of the pups and answers from the moms are bittersweet.  Again and again, one would see a pup approach a mother to nurse, only to be rebuked back to the sea.

And this, is what we walked on:

After spending 4 hours hiking and 2 hours snorkeling, it was time to depart Genovasa and head for Santiago and Bartolome.

This was the last look back before we left (and why it is called, Bird Island):

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

So, It Began

Guayaquil was very interesting and once upon the Malecon river, it was gorgeous.  My expectations of Ecuador were very low.  I'd been to many countries in the past with high expectations and while oft not disappointed, sometimes, my expectations were not met.

Ecuador... exceeded all of them.

The university group with which I was traveling finally arrived very, very late (or very, very early depending on your perspective) Tuesday night (Weds morning, actually).  And with a tired group in tow, we started our trek through the city of Guayaquil with our tour guide.  If you are inclined to visit Ecuador, ask me for the name as in keeping with everyone's privacy, I won't name him.  However... well, more on he and his family later!

We toured, we ate, we left for the airport to land on the island of Baltra in the Galapagos chain.

Here, I met one of man's worst enemies.  The narcissistic, adolescent, head full of entitlement, ... turns out my son was in elementary school with her and called her a not-so-nice name, then looked at me and said, "You were on a boat with her?"  adding much more quickly, "I'm so sorry.  She is a ..." and then said a word that I will not utter.

Yep, that's how my trip started.  With "her"... and upon landing in Baltra, I considered turning around at the LAN terminal and asking how much to return to the mainland.  Nine days with her... oiy.

So, here's a learning note for me:

Don't travel in groups of 19 year olds who think that God created the planet just for them...

Okay, onward.

Baltra is the island where everyone lands.  Even Angelina and her brood have to pass through the National Parque in order to visit the islands.  Everyone has to swear they will not touch the animals, try to take plants or shells, or sand or ... you know, breathe the Galapagos air... (okay, I was kidding on that part)... before you can embark onto the boat.

Yes, for nine days on a boat without the ability to flush toilet paper... you put it in a garbage can (yes, even the ickiest, poo filled TP goes in the can, not the toilet and lest you forget, you plug up the piping and the entire thing overflows - just ask cabin 7! - I was cabin 3).

Our first visit to an island was an unplanned stop because one of our instructors was puking all the time.  So onto Santa Cruz we went; 40 minutes by bus to drop her off at the guide's house and then onto the scenery.

And here, my blog readers, things changed for the better.  MUCH much better!

Of course, that's all grand and everything but then... I saw this:

And then I zoomed in to see this:

But turning around I was intrigued by "Fang" - haha:

and then he started walking toward me.

Note:  In the Galapagos, the animals have NO fear of humans.  This becomes more and more important as the islands visits got more interesting.  The animals approach without concern about the human snapping photos but according the promise made on Baltra, one most move (if possible, this is a key point) 6 feet from the animal.  Unless of course, you can't (which I have pictures of to show that in some cases, I was literally an inch from a sea lion with no where to move).

So, I'll start you here on my trek - Santa Cruz.  It's where my smile re-emerged!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

On My Way

Ecuador has been fabulous but...

I am an American and thankful to be headed home tonight.  Thank you, Delta!

More to come on Galapagos, Montanita, and all else that is the fabulous country Ecuador!