Tag Archives: ecuador

Ecuadorian journeyman – 2019: Quito and home!

Hi folks!

After our excursion around the Galapagos Islands, it was time to return to the mainland and to Ecuador‘s capital – Quito for a proper look round. We’d flown over it a few times already, and stayed in a few hotels en route to or from the airport but not investigated the place on the ground.

Maybe there are parts of the city that are well-designed, well-built built, with lots of greenery and leafiness and overall pleasantness; however, we only saw such a place once – the city’s central square.

The rest of the city – at least those parts we saw – leave a lot to be desired. Untidy, ungroomed, seemingly no plan for town-planning ever, and traffic worse that Moscow’s – and that’s saying something. The old town looks much better and there are some neighborhoods that are interesting (for example, where our hotel was located), but even those – I’d hardly call them charming. Alas, the city is lagging behind other Latin American capitals I know of.

One aggravating factor the city’s huge population all crammed into one relatively small area. To compare, Quito covers nine times less area than Moscow, but its population is just 5.8 times less. But Moscow is a city of practically nothing but high-rise buildings; Quito rarely gets much above two floors across the whole city.

Here are some tourists lapping up Quito’s suburban sprawl. It’s not quite a favela, but it’s getting there. There are some places where the houses are better, but they still seem to be made of non-standard materials and hardly ever painted.

I have a simple rule when visiting a new city: the best way to get a proper feel for it is by taking a stroll through it. First decide on a route, then follow it. Here in Quito it went from the Virgin of Quito monument back to our hotel. Alas, I didn’t get a pic of said monument; you’ll have to make do with one I found on the internet:

Read on…

Quito’s volcano: we couldn’t say no.

Since Ecuador itself and also its Galapagos Islands are both crammed with snowy-peaked volcanism, you might have expected that, after a full two-week expedition there, we’d have been to the top of at least some volcanoes. Well, I guess I would have expected the same too. However, we were on a take-it-easy, contemplative/meditative trip – not a high-octane, stamina-stretching, intense, head-down, onward-and-upward marching one. And one other not unimportant reason – actually, more important than the one just given – is the fact that the snow-capped peaks here are all almost stratospheric – clocking in mostly above five, and sometimes even six thousand meters high. And as any keen volcanist knows – that means acclimatization needs taking very seriously and lots of specialized kit is required; but, like I said – we were in chill-mode throughout the whole expedition, not serious-mode.

However, we did get one teenie-weenie bit of volcanism in – up the ‘easy’ volcano that shrouds Quito: Pichincha. Here are some pics therefrom:

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Ecuador-2019: Cotacachi/Cuicocha, Otavalo, Puertolago.

Our tour of the Galapagos was over. All that was left to do was fit in our traditional few days of ‘decompression’ after the extreme part of our expedition before we were to head back home. This was to take place back on mainland Ecuador…

…So much for the ‘decompression’ bit: for our next Ecua-dish on the menu was… volcanism ). Yes, we headed over to Cotacachi Volcano and its lovely caldera/lake called Cuicochahere – around two hours drive from Quito.

The height of the caldera differs depending on whom you ask – among locals, various internets, and our own GPS locators. Our locators gave us figures which tallied with what the locals told us: from 3100 to 3450 meters, making the lake around 3km above sea level! And it all looks something like this:

A fairly easy path runs the full way round the lake, which takes around four or five hours if walking at a gentle pace (decompression, remember?:) – or six or seven hours if non-stop-stopping for snapping the super scenery, which is of course what we did. It’s a wonderful day’s walking, and the path is helpfully dotted with clear signs:

Read on…

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GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 9: Now you’ve seen it all.

Our oh-my-Galápa-gosh adventure was fast drawing to a close; just one day, one night and a morning, and we’d be heading home. Though this unwelcome end to the trip loomed heavy on our minds, inevitable Ecuad-awesomenesses still lied ahead for us…

Next stop: the northernmost point of Rábida Islandhere. Dark brown-red beaches and rock, and lots of fur seals. Sure, they lazed around on the beach alongside tourists also lazing about on the beach, but we were used to that already. No, here there was a bonus – a very special, unforgettable bonus – which also served as the day’s Ecuad-awesomeness: they’d swim together with us in the ocean!

Swimming with fur seals is insanely fun. They twist and spin and turn around you for a while, then go off and do the same around another tourist, then come back for a repeat performance, perhaps with the addition of some crazy acrobatic somersaults – and it goes on like that forever! They never stop!

And we even got them on video:

Ahh. So much fun and positive vibes.

And ashore – all that Martian redness: fairly monumental:

And of course, lots and lots of cacti, which turned out to be Opuntia. Sure – I’d seen cactuses shaped like that on windowsills back home, but it was only when we got up close to them here did we realize just how massive they are here:

Suddenly, mommy pelican feeding her little one. Oh my gastroscopy!

Peek-a-boo, we see you!

More boobies in their brightly-colored boots:

A fine feathered species all on his lonesome looking out to sea. Looking for his dinner, maybe?

And the icing on the cake, or – rather – the dessert to our whole Galapagos trip – a beach that goes by the name of Espumilla on Santiago Island, aka San Salvador – here. We strolled along it, our mood still a little low since this would be the last beach of our expedition.

The definition of ‘easy pickings’? These here pelicans gobbling up these here fish that washed up on the beach with some waves!

Btw – I used the right metaphor when I mentioned ‘dessert’, for it turns out that ‘espumilla‘ is a popular dessert in Ecuador! I don’t know what it tastes like, but if it’s as nice as this beach – I want some ).

The following morning was a corker: beautiful weather and………. SEX!…

Tortoise sex, that is ).

Yes, that’s what those frisky tortoises get up to – at Black Turtle Cove – here. And why not? Only natural wanting to propagate one’s species. Perhaps we shouldn’t have taken pics; how would we have liked that? )

Not only did we take pornographic photos, we also learned all the ins and outs of the mating process here from our guide. Apparently it takes a full six (6!!) hours. And the poor female there is underwater for a lot of that time. Well she needs to come up for air occasionally – like in the following pic. Or, sometimes they swim/copulate on their sides so there’s no need to come up for air )).

Occasionally other males swim up to the action hoping to get in on it. Oh my gosh. What? Tortoises doing threesomes? Or more? Tortoise orgies? Well. Now I – and you – have seen it all )).

Meanwhile – check out the pesky voyeurs:

And on that jolly note, I end this Galapa-gosh series. Here was the day’s schedule:

Next up for us – ship, airport (for our morning flight)…

Next morning at the airport, we fancied a drink of water from the empty café in the corner. Some of us wanted just hot water, and found out it cost a full two (2!) US dollars. What?! Maybe that’s why the place was empty? )

As if to make up for the hot water extortion racket in the airport, the plane that awaited us on the apron was brand new, and it was a new-to-me airline too – Avianca:

We flew over Guayaquil once more, checking out both its poorer and richer parts, and further onward we flew…

…And back to Quito.

Now, some aromatic bitters I think, to help the digestion of all those dishes of Galapagos. And there’s no better digestive aid than… reading maps, as you’ll know ).

But first, we need to get to grips with the local place names on maps of this part of the world. See, theses islands were discovered by the Spanish, then the English, then again the Spanish, and each time (almost) every island earned itself a new name!

So, herewith, the various names of the islands we visited (going form north to south and from west to east:

Manage to digest all that?!

So totting those up – that comes to eight islands we visited.

Now for the particular places on the islands we disembarked at:

  • On Santiago: Espumilla beach / Buccaneer Cove
  • On Bartolomé: too small for place names
  • On Rábida: ditto
  • On Baltra: airport
  • On Santa Cruz: Los Gemelos / Pit Craters / Twin Craters; Cerro Dragon / Dragon Hill; Caleta Tortuga Negro / Black Turtle Cove!
  • On San Cristóbal: Cerro Brujo / Witch Hill; Punta Pitt / Pitt Point
  • On Floreana: Post Office Bay and Cormorant Point – no Spanish names
  • On Española: Suarez Point / Punta Suarez; Gardner Bay

Ok. Now, finally – the cognac and cigar! – bring out the route map!

So there you have it folks, the Galapagos Islands – from top to bottom. Highly recommended, it goes without saying. They’re a pain to get to, the whole trip ain’t cheap, and the boat rocks a bit too much for comfort for some; but the raptures, the impressions, the emotions, and the future memories – I think they more than compensate for all that. But don’t take make word for it – have a go yourself! You wont’ regret it.

Over and out from the Galapagos folks!

All the Ecuador pics are here.

GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 8: PENGUINS… AT THE EQUATOR!

I think this day was the most Ecuad-awesome of all during our boat-based excursion of the Galápagos Islands. Two islands in one day: one with brightly-colored iguanas; the other – with similarly wonderful wild animals and sensational sunsets. The latter wonderful wild animals – I’d been expecting them sooner or later as I’d heard about them before, but here they finally were, in the flesh – Galápagos penguins! Yes, you read that right: penguins! Who’d have thought it – on the equator of all places?!

Read on…

GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 7: Volcanism, Darwinism, Puerto Ayora-ism…

Hola boys and girls!

Herewith, a continuation of my reportage from the Galápagos Island of Santa Cruz, on which we’d already seen: cacti that defy, surfaces with tortoises, and banana iguanas. Next up… – my favorite: volcanism! In particular: lava tubes. (‘A lava tube is a natural conduit formed by flowing lava which moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. Tubes can drain lava from a volcano during an eruption, or can be extinct, meaning the lava flow has ceased, and the rock has cooled and left a long cave.’ – Wikipedia.

I’d been in such constructions before, in Kamchatka, Sicily, on the slopes of Mount Etna, and in Hawaii. I think that probably most relatively fresh volcanoes in the world feature such lava tubes – and that includes on the Galápagos Islands:

Read on…

GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 6: Banana iguana.

A new day on the Galápagos Islands and a new Galápagosh for us…

Still on the island of Santa Cruz (on which we saw yesterday’s giant tortoises), this morning we were checking out a different spot thereon – Cerra Dragon (Dragon Hill in English, here) (in the afternoon we were headed over to the tiny Bartolomé Island).

What made this day special was the way we didn’t see just one Ecuad-awesomeness, but a full three! Oh my Galápa-goodness! Let me go through them one by one. In this post – #1…

The ‘Galapagos land iguana’.

Oh my guana! Check these resplendent reptiles out!

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GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 5: IF YOU CAN SURVIVE HUMANS LIKES GIANT TORTOISES CAN…

Another day – another gosh!…

The tortoise. Hmmm. Not the sharpest tool in the shed – even among reptiles, which aren’t known for their intellectual prowess. Probably the world’s slowest animal too. And when it comes to sweetness and honey and good manners and good looks – the tortoise is also toward the back of the line. Poor things. BUT!…

But… there’s still something about these creatures that charms, enchants, enraptures and enthralls. Maybe it’s something in our genes that says that despite their outward appearance the tortoise is wholly… tasty… But more on that later. For now: giant tortoise pics!…

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GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 4: THE CACTUS TREES OF SANTA CRUZ.

Hi folks!

Another day, another Galápagos island. Next up – Santa Cruz Islandhere. We were driven literally from its top to bottom (on a road some 40km long). No swimming with the turtles on this day, but of course that didn’t mean there’d be no Ecuad-awesomeness – the main one of which was the fact that… cactuses can resemble trees!

Now, remember the last pic in yesterday’s post? The one with a tree trunk that looked to be of a pine or fir tree? Well it’s actually a cactus known as an opuntia, aka prickly bear! No, not one of those small cactuses with the silly ears that you know to be a cactus. Here cactuses are verrrrry big, verrrrry strangely shaped, verrrrry unusual – and with trunks!

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GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 3: If you can swim with turtles…

Hola folks!

Adios Española Island, and, after a short night flight, hola Punta Cormorant on Floreana Islandhere.

At Punta Cormorant you’d think there might be at least one or two Cormorants to be seen, but you’d be wrong (I wonder… did they become extinct on the island?). However, instead, there are one or two tons of Cheloniid sea turtles – which provided today’s main Ecuad-awesomeness!

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