Diving in the Galapagos

We boarded a diving boat at 7:30 am and quickly made friends with other divers and the crew. The trip to Plazas was about 30 minutes,  this was the site for our check out dive.

I was ready, gear on, jumped in and right out again…this dive wasn’t for me. I felt like I was dreaming and freaked out at the thought of being underwater. Garrett was very understanding and though the dive master tried to persuade me, I refused. I sat out both dives and chose to stay on the boat puking and chatting with the captain. It wasn’t all lost though; I was regaled with a graceful display by sea lions, got to see a giant school of fish swim by and even got a greeting from a sea turtle.

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When we got back to the port we saw hundreds of blue footed boobies diving into the ocean…I mean, hundreds! It was an amazing show! The ride back was uneventful,  as you get to higher ground clouds and drizzle move in and then disappear as you move to lower ground on the other side of the island.

The afternoon was simple…a visit to a ‘finca’ where we met the legendary Galapagos tortoise as well as a short visit to a tunnel created by lava flow. When you have seen so much beauty some things appear unimpressive…we didn’t think much of the lava tunnel.

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Ecuador’s game against Honduras was exciting.  We made it back on time to watch the second half and oh boy what madness! The triumph over the central American country brought people out to the streets in celebration,  we celebrated as well 🙂

To wrap up the day we went to the fish market (where the sea lions hang out) and had one of the most delicious meals of our trip…deep fried fish with green plantains and rice. We shared a table with some locals and listened to pregnancy advice from someone who claimed that spicy sauce is bad when you are breastfeeding.

Hasta mañana 🙂

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Galapagos – we have arrived :)

Heart is beating fast…Guayaquil is behind and the vast Pacific Ocean underneath us. We are 34,000 ft above sea level and just 90 minutes away from Baltra, Galapagos. This is insane! By the time we land Colombia’s game will be over and we are hoping for good news.

Our last two flights have been really rocky…air currents created by the mountains make for unnecessary excitement.  We had to eat 6 granadillas which we planned on having as snacks over the next few days…these fruits are not allowed in Galapagos. Garrett asked the flight attendant to please dispose of the peels in South America, very funny.

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We have arrived!!!

We examine the map and our itinerary once more. This leg of the trip was planned by us, no travel agent involved, so we are hoping our trip goes well. I am beyong excited and so grateful to my Heavenly Daddy for granting me this wish…I will see blue – footed boobies and swim with penguins before the month is over.

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Begging for fish at the market

Update: It’s 5 pm local time…the good news, Colombia won the game. The bad news, our whole itinerary has gone down the drain. We had plans of going to another island today except we didn’t know transportation would be such a challenge. We were placed on an oversold boat and had to disembark when the Coast Guard boarded the ship…pretty crazy. We are now trying to rearrange our schedule and get our money back. Oy! One lesson learned today is that Galapagueños like to hussle, a lot.

The awesome news is that this place is unbelievable…the water is crystal clear, the variety of trees and birds makes this place seem an accident of nature. We saw sea lions begging for food at a fish market, marine iguanas cuddling, pelicans walking in traffic…unreal.  

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Marine iguanas endemic to Santa Cruz island

Update: we were able to make some changes to our room reservations and ended up spending the night in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. We had some caipirinhas by the water and enjoyed the view of lazy sea lions.

Today was a bit crazy for us but dealing with madness while in paradise hardly seems like a challenge. Tomorrow will bring some diving,  and if the conditions are favorable,  we will get to see some hammerhead sharks…up close and personal 🙂

¡Adios Peru! Hello Ecuador :)

All great things must come to an end…our time in Cusco is up and we are now headed back to Lima. We’ll sit at the airport for 2 hours then board a plane to our next destination; Quito, Ecuador.

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The view from the airplane gives me chills…my mountains are fading in the distance as we make our way to the coast. How can a piece of land hold such gravitational force on my heart? Garrett and I promise to come back to the Andes, next time will be in Colombia 🙂

We catch the first half of the Australia vs. Netherlands game. What a game! We are hanging out with a lot of Colombians as our flight’s final destination is Medellin. We cheer for both teams and the excitement with every beautiful play increases…Garrett is finally watching. Se siente la pasion del futbol 🙂

Our flight partner is a beautiful Colombian girl who is very prompt to share her passion for life and our country with Garrett. “Our mountains are greener” she claims…I know it’s true. We chat all the way to Quito where we part ways…she is going to Medellin. 

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Our cab driver offers to take us to the Middle of the World which is a 2 hour drive from the airport. The landscape is beautiful and he shares a lot of fun facts and stories about Ecuador. Arriving to the 0° latitude is special…we are really and truly standing on the bellybutton of the world!

Garrett and I position ourselves for our picture…he stands on the northern hemisphere and I stand on the southern hemisphere. A dream come true 🙂 before our departure we get to see a ceremony to the Sun god offered by local indians. This coming Saturday,  June 21st marks one of the most important celebrations in Inca culture…the summer solstice.

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Alfonso, the driver,  takes us to a local crafts shop where Garrett charms the owner and negotiates prices like a champion. We give Alfonso a few presents for his wife as a thank you for showing us his beautiful country. We head back to Quito at dusk and wrap up the 5th day of our adventure…what comes next is the dream of a lifetime…Galapagos!!!!!!

Machu Picchu – perfection beyond the clouds

Holy cow! This place is simply incredible…a majestic city hidden in the clouds. I had to stop and sit down to take it all in…not only the organic architecture built by the Incas, but also the breathtaking mountain range around it. Beauty as far as the eye can see…perfection.

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Guard House - sunrise

We were gifted by “pachamama” with a very special opportunity…we saw a baby lama being born this morning!  That was very exciting.  The baby drops to the floor and all the other lamas gather around with curiosity.  The newly born is cleaned by the mom whose placenta hangs around for a while…very fascinating experience. 

We got up at 4:30 am to catch a bus to the entrance of Machu Picchu in hopes of seeing the sunrise. The location of Machu Picchu (bordering the Amazon rainforest) gives it a semi-tropical climate, this means unpredictable rain and dense clouds. We got to see the sun’s reflection through the clouds and then the view cleared up…wow!

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Fog clearing up

We met our guide, Guido, at 8 am and set off to explore sacred temples and important sites of the city. We had the occasional lama join us from time to time. The end of our guided tour brought us to the entrance of Waynapicchu, a mountain peak at about 2,800 meters above sea level…yeah, not fun. The steps make you hold on to dear life…great work out though.  I have never been in a situation where slipping or a missed step could mean the difference between life and death.

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Half way to Waynapicchu

The hike up the mountain was challenging but rewarded us with amazing views of Machu Picchu, the mountains and the Urubamba river. Coming down was scary as heck! Good news is, we made it. Definitely an adventure we could not miss out on.

The afternoon brought us back to Aguas Calientes where we enjoyed ‘lomo saltado’ and a refreshing glass of ‘cuzqueña’. We finally got to watch a soccer match, Brazil vs. Mexico…it was a tie. Not sure we will get to see Colombia play while we are on the road but we have definitely enjoyed the greetings and good wishes everyone gives us…wearing our Colombian shirts has been a good idea.

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Delicioso!!!

Our trip back to Cuzco was 4 hours long as we missed our train stop. We will spend our last night ‘en la Cordillera de los Andes’ and head to our next adventure in the morning…Quito, Ecuador.

Yo amo Sur America…y Garrett parece estarse enamorando tambien 🙂

My native South America

Departing Lima was easier than we thought. A friendly cab driver offered to take us to the airport and shared great stories about his family. He has been married 20 years and his wife has some health issues…he was prompt to share examples of his day to day life and how his role in the household is a bit unusual, as he needs to be both a mom and a dad for his 3 daughters. This guy’s work ethic and enthusiasm reminded me of my dad.
So long Lima – Hello Cuzco.

No words can describe the joy that has overcome me today. I have seen the Andes again, I have set foot on the mountain range that owns my heart. The warmth and hospitality offered in Cuzco can be compared to none. Our guide, Claudio, had a welcoming smile and was extremely proud of his Inca ancestry…he took us to a tiny hole in the wall where a very shy lady served us stomach soup, ‘patitas’ and ‘seco de pollo’. We enjoyed our meal and paid a very reasonable price.

Cuzco is located at about 12,000 ft above sea level. I wasn’t worried about getting sick as I trusted my body would remember what altitude feels like (I was born in the Andes). Just as I thought, I have felt at home all day. My poor Garrett has endured a bad headache but the ‘coca mate’ we have been drinking seems to help.

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There are alpacas and lamas everywhere and you must give ‘propina’ if you take pictures with them. We walked around Cuzco and the Temple of the Sun then took off to visit archeological sites…Inca architecture is impressive.

Garrett haggled with a few vendors and got us beautiful woven articrafts. The views of Cuzco from high above are breathtaking. There are mountains as far as the eye can see, the clouds create amazing shadow effects on the ground giving the place a magical touch.

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On our way to Ollaytantambo, our new friend Narciso took us to Chichero, a small community of indian ladies who weave and sell their products. They welcomed us with fresh coca mate and demonstrated how their products are made. Our guide, Paulina, had a beautiful face graced with soft indian features. She asked if she could do her presentation in English as she wanted to practice the language. She did great…shared a few rehearsed jokes and answered all of our questions.

I painted my lips with freshly squeezed beetle blood, courtesy of Paulina. She showed us how the wool is painted with crops and modified with salt and lime juice…amazing. Garrett and I left very grateful for their stories and looked like ‘cholitos’ with our new alpaca sweaters…these came in handy as the temperature drops rapidly as the sun sets.

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The highest point of our trip brought us close to a snow peak at 13,000 ft. Watching the sun set behind the Andes was exciting and nostalgic at the same time…it feels like being in my mother’s womb again. The snow peaks were embraced by clouds as if saying good night. We caught a glimpse of an indian lady leading her mule in the distance…we saw the silhouettes of grazing animals…I saw the stars come out and was transported to my childhood.

Traveling by road in Colombia meant seeing endless lines of mountains while playing a game with my dad…’name that constellation’. He would point to the sky, free from light pollution,  and ask us to identify the shapes clearly evident in the milky way above us. My mountains, my stars, my South America…my home.

We are now on a slow moving train on our way to Aguas Calientes…it’s very dark and the only thing we can see is a river by pressing our face against the window. We enjoy yet another cup of coca mate and sigh at the thought of what tomorrow holds for us…Machu Picchu.

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