Tag Archives: expedition

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?!

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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:

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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. 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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Galápa-gosh – pt. 2: the maiden flight of a young albatross.

The albatross is one of the most astonishing birds in the world. It can fly for thousands of miles from the shore, it can actually live up in the air for years without landing, epic poems are written about it, epic songs are sung about it, it’s considered an omen, and generally there’s an air of mystery around the species. I mean, like, how did they learn to fly just soooo far? How do they sleep up in the sky? How do they sniff out smells of potential prey from miles away?.

The first time I saw some albatrosses was while sailing on a research vessel through the Drake Passage en route to Antarctica, as you do. They seemed to appear out of nowhere, soared so low over the ocean it looked like they were touching it, circled round the ship (just curious?), and then disappeared never to be seen again; and never once did we see them flap their wings! Like, really: zero times! Indeed, they can glide for hours (or is it days, weeks or months?) upon airstreams caused by large ocean waves and wind – both of which they need both to survive; calm, windless conditions are lethal to the albatross. No wind means it simply can’t fly off – not from water, not from land.

In fact, the species has gone so far down the evolutionary road that’s led to its extraordinary gliding abilities that their wings are hardly flappable like other birds’ wings any more. Instead, they have special retainers into which the bones of the wings stick into, fixing the two-or-three-meter-wide wings in place to resemble a glider plane – with no muscles being used at all and zero energy expenditure.

How do they sleep if they’re up in the sky for years (the first six years of their lives they never touch land once!)? Apparently it’s still not known. It might be that the two halves of their brains take it in turns to sleep and be awake, much like whales and dolphins’ do.

Great albatrosses are expert fishermen and fisherwomen. Much like the boobies, they’re super-fast divers, though they don’t go as far deep into the ocean as boobies. They can sniff out ‘food’ from miles away; they drink seawater (they have a special organ in their beaks (the little bumps with the holes thereon) that filters out the salt!!). They nest and breed only in one place – where they were born. That is, after several years and hundreds of thousands of kilometers of flying gliding they return right back to their birthplace.

Truly fantastic fowl.

Simply seeing an albatross would probably have been the main Ecuad-awe-someness of our second day on the Galápagos Islands. However, what made it even more incredible was that we saw the first ever flight of a young great albatross! But I’ll get to that in a bit…

Rewind! A new day – a new island. Next up: Española Island, which is the main breeding ground of the Galápagos Islands.

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Galápa-gosh – pt. 1: the dance of the boobies.

Hi folks!

Here we were – in the sunny Galápagos islands, after having flown in from the mainland and boarded the small ship we’d be on for the next seven days. And like I’ve already mentioned, on every one of those days we were treated to one large extraordinary Ecuad-awesomeness, plus several smaller ones. But let’s start with day one, whose main Ecuad-awesomeness was – the blue-footed booby!

Yes, I just wrote booby in a blogpost folks! Never thought I’d see that… But boobies with blue feet?! Ye gods!…

Before your imaginations get the better of you, here are the boobies:

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And you thought there was just one equator?

Even if you know hardly any Spanish at all, it’s fairly easy to work out that the etymology of ‘Ecuador’ has something to do with the equator upon which the country sits. And you’d be right: ‘ecuador‘ is in fact the Spanish for the English word equator.

So it seemed obvious to me that we just had to visit said ecuador/equator. If we didn’t, it’d be like going all the way to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower, or to London and not snapping Big Ben and the Thames, or to Moscow and not seeing the Kremlin and Red Square, to Rome without the Colosseum, Sydney – the Opera House, Kamchatka – grizzly bears; New York – the Empire State Building, and so on and on and on… (now there’s a list that could go on forever:). So that’s just what we did – we went to visit the equator and the ‘equator museum’, both of which are in suburban Quito.

All righty. Off we pop to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo – the Middle of the World City. And here it is – the middle of the world – painted as a line in yellow:

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Three days on the Condor.

My pals and I love a spot of trekking in remote places around the globe. Just two or three days normally does the trick: enough to get in plenty of gawping at luscious landscapes, plenty of exercise, plenty of curiosity satisfaction, and of course plenty of pretty photography.

And our New Year trip to Ecuador proved no exception. With small rucksacks on our backs (and accompanied by horses carrying the larger items like tents and so on) we walked along a lengthy stretch of the Condor Trek.

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