Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Through Rain, Through Snow....


The US Postal service has this motto: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Notice that there is nothing there about efficiency or whether or not you will actually get your mail.

Generally I have all packages sent to me at the university, because I have had the best luck with not having to visit a Customs office when things larger than an envelope are addressed to me there. The other reason is that if we are not home, the postal person leaves a notice stating we have to go to a post office in another district to collect our goods; it is not a fun trip. 

Our friend Jeff sent me a package back in November. It had not arrived by the time we left, December 15th. I ordered seven books before we left on December 10th. When we returned and I stopped in at the university, they were all there minus 1 and Jeff's package was still MIA. As of yesterday, both there still no shows. But who is to blame? One would jump to the conclusion that it is the Hungarian Postal Service's fault, but lest we be too quick to judge, it could very well be our economically beleaguered US Postal buddies.

This was a long lead in to another story. If you read the Galapagos posts, you will remember Post Office Bay on Floreana Island. People leave postcards there for others to "mail" for them. We were happy to retrieve 2 from Hungary: 1 Budapest and 1 Szombathely.

When we returned, Ron mailed them both with a note and his e-mail address. This was the e-mail he received today. It does your heart good to know some postal systems work, even when there is no Post Office General to supervise it.

Thanks, for picking up our postcard from Galapagos, Florina - Post office bay. We are really surprised that it arrived. The legend looks like still alive. Unfortunately we didn’t find Hungarian cards, only from Austria, but we send it too to  Berndorf , Austria.
Thanks again :  ).

Best regards,
POOR Family from Szombathely

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Panhandler Party


My friend Mike Golan from Pompano Beach, Florida sent this to me and it is too funny not to share. If you have ever ridden subways extensively, chances are you can relate.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Testing the Waters of Socialization


Yesterday, I sent this out to all of the Fulbrighters who are here currently, about twenty plus. In addition, I sent it out to about ten others that we know who live here full time. I will report back on the outcome. As of this morning, I have only had one RSVP for each event. My next experiment is to post this on Facebook in the All Expats Group to see what happens.

This is a social experiment being sent to a large number of people.
Please do not respond to this e-mail unless you want to join us. It will be too confusing getting "No, thanks!"
Do write me if you want to suggest something other than what is here.

We are hosting two events with conditions.

1. For Thursday, February 7 at 6:30 pm, we would like to have 4 people come over for a potluck and to play Cribbage.  All levels of Cribbage players are welcome from those who don't know nincs about the game to those who are champion level. The basic requirement is that you can count as high as 31. If you are a newbie, we will patiently teach you.

Generally, the game is played with 1, 2, or 3 players, but if we had 4 or 6, we can do teams of 2.
The first 4 people to RSVP for certain that they would like to have a potluck/Cribbage evening will be invited. Those beyond the first 4 will be invited the next time.

2. For Friday, February 15 at 6:30 pm, we would like to have another potluck, but this one as an open game night. We have "Apples to Apples", playing cards, Scrabble, and others. If you have a game, you are welcome to bring it along. If we have too many for one game or some choose to play something different, the living room is a second option for setting up a game space. There are no limits on numbers as long as you are willing to bring something for a potluck.

Remember, for either event you only have to RSVP if you want to attend. If you don't want to attend, we are open for a coffee or other social type event you may want to propose.

Other culture notes:
Mangalica Festival - Indigenous curly haired Hungarian pigs
Szabadsag ter (near the US Embassy)
February 8-10

Museum of Fine Arts
Cezanne exhibit - Not free, but limited engagement
Once you pay admission there are free tours of the permanent exhibits focusing on one area Tues - Fri 11am, 1pm and 2pm in English. There is one on Sat also. You can find the schedule here: http://www.szepmuveszeti.hu/guided_tours

Happy Winter ~~ FYI, February in Hungary lasts for 58 days. It is the longest month in the history of time.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Under the Weather Reader Writes In


A reader commented on my post "Under the Weather" with 
"Well, tell us about your favorite destination so far. Where would you like to live, if you had the choice?"

After having traveled to over 50 countries, picking one is like sharing who your favorite child is. However, like having a large family, there are children I would like to visit more often than others. There are few children that I don't want to ever visit again, but pressed, I could do without Morocco again. Luxembourg was nice twice, but three times is not the charm.

Where would I love to live if I had the choice? This is an interesting question, since we all have a choice to live just about anywhere we want to live. The real question is do we want to make the sacrifices to make it happen? For some, it may mean leaving family, while for others it may mean leaving the security of a pay check.

My sites are set on Central or South America next. I fell in love with Guayaquil, Ecuador, but the majority of Americans are in Cuenca, Ecuador. Ron wants to check out Panama and possibly Nicaragua also. We will see what research and the future holds.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lost Luggage Infographic


Someone sent this infographic my way and I thought it was interesting enough to share. If you want to read the article that went with it, you can find it here.

unclaimed baggage

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Feeling Under the Weather


We returned home a week ago Tuesday, but I am feeling under the weather. Not ill at all, just depressed by the weather keeping me submerged in a funk. Regardless of the cold temperatures, I have pushed myself to get my daily minimum of thirty minutes of exercise a day. 

Quite honestly, there has not been much to write about for now. I will have to conjure up something.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hannah Huffmon - Visual Artist


Hannah Huffmon was a little girl when she spent a semester in Budapest. When she initially wanted to 'friend' me on FaceBook, my initial reaction was "does her parents know?" 
Well I found out her motivation. She sent us this delightful poster that she created herself, on her own, without prompting from anyone.

I had wanted to post this earlier, but I could not get her mother's comment below to format properly without retyping the whole thing. Since we were on vacation, I tried keeping up with the blog and photos recounting our days, so this was held back until we arrived home again. 

Thank you again, Hannah!!! We really love this. 

Robin Huffmon, Hannah's mother wrote
"Very impressed with Hannah who made this beautiful collage photo last night. She found all these photos on the internet but what is special to me are her fond memories of Buda Bab the bed & breakfast we stayed at in Budapest. Including posting a photo of the bathroom, as it has a cologne bottle in the photo that she loved at their place, the things that make a memory in a child's mind! She also loved Ron & Ryan James, her sweet memories of them also touches my heart. If you want a great B & B in Budapest that will make you feel like family I highly recommend them!"


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Ecuador Quito Finale Photos


The Quito Finale photos are here.

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Ecuador - North Seymour Photos


The photos for the eighth and final day of our Galapagos cruise, North Seymour are here.

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Ecuador - Bartolome Island, Santiago Island, Sullivan Bay Photos


The photos for the seventh day of our Galapagos cruise, Bartolome Island, Santiago Island, Sullivan Bay are here.

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Ecuador - Santiago Island, Egas Point, and Espumilla Bay Photos


The photos for the sixth day of our Galapagos cruise, Santiago Island, Egas Point, and Espumilla Bay are here.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Ecuador - Santa Cruz Island, Charles Darwin Foundation, and Pit Craters


The photos for the fifth day of our Galapagos cruise, Santa Cruz Island, Charles Darwin Foundation, and Pit Craters are here.

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Quito Finale and Farewell


Our last few days in Quito were really nothing exceptional. When you return to a city three times, there is a sense of comfort about it that does not propel you into wanting to do much. We didn’t want to leave with regrets, so we did push a bit.

The city government house has free tours if you are willing to wait in line. This is the same place that has the toy soldier guards standing outside that we walked into once before, but never got as far as the garden. This was our Saturday morning opportunity, but it seemed that the locals had similar ideas, creating a huge line with only 20 people admitted for a tour at one time. It was hot out creating an uncomfortably sunny line of waiting. While I held our place, Ron went to check out another cultural place we had ignored up to now. Twenty minutes later he returned as I was baking in the sun. Taking my place, I took respite in the shade, but then walked over to reread the sign of the building we were waiting entrance to. Good thing I did, because each person needed their national ID or passport to get in. We had neither and could have been turned away at the gate.

Giving up that idea, we went right next door to the Quito Cultural Center. Given that there are two guards standing in the doorway, it is intimidating to just walk in, but we did freely and without grief or harassment. In the extensive courtyard, the public is privy to a photography show of an Ecuadorian’s photos of people and places of Quito. As great as the photos were, the rest of the downstairs rooms had art from various artists with works of portraits or self-portraits that ranged from weird to incredibly creative. Exploring the 2nd and 3rd floors of this massive building, we discovered that it contains a library segmented room by room with divisions of books. One room held social sciences, another economics and so on. There were two rooms for the children’s books at two different ends of the long hallway. On the 3rd floor, you can walk out to view the city, though the views are not spectacular, but interesting. We did witness some demonstration in the park, but never found out the reason.

This was our last chance to get to the Egas Museum, the work of a famous Ecuadorian painter. We had made attempts on our last two visits, but it was closed. The plan was to have lunch at Govinda’s, a full 3 course meal for $2 and then walk across the street to the museum. Foiled again, the museum was still closed without any posting of hours.

Shopping or at least window shopping took up the rest of the afternoon, before reading/writing time. Dinner was at a restaurant decorated with Harley Davidson and Coca Cola enameled signs on the wall. It was there I discovered that one of the arms of my designer sunglasses was missing. As we were leaving, we heard music in the nearby courtyard. Wandering over, there was a free public indigenous dance performance, an Ecuadorian ballet in traditional costumes with a man dressed as a shaman. I could have kicked myself for not bringing my camera.

Sunday, as we walked to the main square, we found all of the major streets were blocked from traffic. We found that on Sundays, this is the routine. It is to encourage people to ride their bikes and exercise. There are blocks and blocks of bike and pedestrian access. Children taking advantage are speeding down hills at velocities that would make me pale, taking advantage of the free access, though they are competing with the trolley buses still.

We had never made it to inside the basilica and thought to hire a taxi, but with the lack of auto access, it was not possible. We walked instead up some really steep hills that required step, step, step, rest… step, step, step, rest… step, step, step, sit down somewhere. We came across the vertical garden, the one we had seen from trolley buses only until now.

At the bus terminal, there is handicraft market that we have seen before, but never perused. There were some interesting crafts and some we could not make heads or tails of either. There was a local musical band playing and people were in the center of the booths dancing. There were a couple of really elderly women dancing alone doing some unusual movements. I would have loved to have seen them with partners.

When the basilica was in view, I was almost tempted to thank a higher power. We could get in only because a mass was being conducted. Compared the gold and glitter of all of the other churches we have seen, this was a poor step-sister in comparison. I had my camera, but was not motivated to take a single photo. Outside was different. They had a roasted pig and were serving like an old fashioned American church dinner. We were not certain if this is customary or if there was a special reason. Ron happened to notice the gargoyles were indigenous animals like iguanas and turtles. Attached to the church is a crypt; it was very interesting as it resembled our bunk beds on the cruise.

On our way back we stopped one more time at the Egas Museum only to find it closed still. Back in the main square, we had to stop in the tourism office yet again. Ron had spotted a wall hanging that he really liked for the blue bedroom. After deliberating the expense, we returned to purchase it.

The rest of the day was reading and writing until 4 pm when we wanted to try La Ronda once again. The last two times we were there at different hours and different days, the majority of places were closed. Today turned out to be no exception. I can only wonder at how these places can exist or if there really is a business behind the metal barriers where a business once was. It was disappointing. Stopping for a coffee, I had convinced Ron he needed to try a hot chocolate. The chocolate here is supposed to be beyond compare as is the coffee. Neither my coffee nor his hot chocolate were worthy of mention.

Tomorrow, we fly from Quito to Panama City on Copa Airlines, followed by KLM from Panama City to Amsterdam and then finally Amsterdam to Budapest again on KLM. Until then…

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ecuador - Floreana Island, Baroness Lookout and Cormorat’s Point Photos


The photos for the fourth day of our Galapagos cruise, Floreana Island, Baroness Lookout and Cormorat’s Point are now up and available here.

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Ecuador - Espanola Island and Suarez Point


The photos for the third day of our Galapagos cruise, Espanola Island and Suarez Point are now up and available here.

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Ecuador - South Plazas and Santa Fe Islands


The photos for the second day of our Galapagos cruise, South Plazas and Santa Fe Islands are now up and available here.

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Ecuador - Baltra Island and Santa Cruz Photos


The photos for the first day of our Galapagos cruise, Baltra Island and Santa Cruz are now up and available here.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ecuador - Guayaquil Photos


Ecuador - Guayaquil have been uploaded and are here.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Pickpockets Best Friend


For a dog lover to want to kill a dog or two, it is really saying something about how incredibly annoying they were last night. There was one dog on both the front and the back of the building that barked incessantly all night long. At 4:30 am there was a dog fight. I got up to look out the window only to find 5 dogs beating up on a 6th. The poor dog was in the middle with the bully dogs attacking it. If I had something to throw out the window, like one of the people who highly recommended this place on TripAdvisor, I would have to break up the fight. What I could not understand is why none of the locals seemed to do a thing about the noise or the combat zone going on. A healthy dose of water would cool them off long enough for the victim to escape. If they could only be as noisy as the bunnies out back, it would be fine.

By the time 7 am came around, I was so angry that we chose this place, I could have punched a hole in the wall. That would not have been a good idea for a historically protected building or for my knuckles. The bathroom had a distinct public men’s room urinal odor to it. The shower is similar to those in Costa Rica. There is an electric heater attached to the shower head, so you have to set it for a slow trickle in order for the heater to warm the water as it flows by. After having excellent water pressure in everywhere we stayed, this was like showering under a sprinkling watering can. Our house plants get better water pressure than this. 

Ron did sleep some during the night, but was still unrested. We decided that we could not last here three more nights and then spend hours on planes. I was still fuming over not being able to get our room until 9:30 pm. Having Wi-Fi was the only bright spot of this place. It allowed me to get on the Internet and book a room where we were the last time we were in Quito, the Hotel Catedral International. Check in there is 11:30 am, check out here is 11:30 am. Perfect timing. This was the difference between $24 a night as opposed to $60, but after ending a fantastic vacation, why ruin the memories over some extra money?

I went down to the desk to tell them we were leaving. When I told the young woman we had to go, our plans had changed; I hoped I could leave it at that. There were two Americans at the computers in the office using the Internet, so I did not want to embarrass the woman in a forum. She excused herself for a minute and when she returned, she insisted on knowing the reason for their records, so I spilled it. After fifteen minutes of a spiel, she looked like she was sorry she ever asked. Overhearing all of this, the Americans jumped in to share their identical thoughts, but since they were on a 3 month tour of South America, they were stuck with cheap inconvenient places to stay.

Speaking of embarrassment, the hotel insisted they call us a taxi. We did need one, but we really did not want to share the destination with them. This was insistence number 2. Apparently, the taxi they use requires this information, which is a first. Now knowing we were changing hotels, you would have thought we told them we were having a sex change. Costing $5.00, this was the most expensive taxi ride we have taken within the city. Paranoia had us believing the taxi was prompted to screw us on the fare.

Now checked into a hotel we were familiar with, we set out for The Magic Bean in the new town area. This entails taking the trolley bus, the same one that Ron had his bag slashed on the first time in the city. Wiser this time around, I had on the type of pants with zippered pockets that go at different angles. The one on my left that is just above the knee had our cash. On the right side, the zipper goes vertically rather than horizontally. In this pocket, I had a small plastic business card holder with small coins, about 5 dimes. All cards had been handed out. The bus was again extremely crowded, but I kept my eye on the pocket with cash. I had my hand in the slit pocket above it and was concentrating on any vibrations from zippers moving like a human seismograph. 

After two café lattes at The Magic Bean, I reached down for the coins. Strangely, the zipper was already pulled down, though I knew I had it zipped up. It was empty; the plastic card holder and my dimes were history. Now I could really care less about any of it, but the dexterity of it is like magic. There was no warning whatsoever. This prompted the decision that if we have to ride the trolley buses again, I will carry a sign like a store directory. On the top left pocket –tissues, bottom right pocket is a charge card, but in anticipation of its getting stolen, I have canceled it already, so have at it. What I am really tempted to is keep a wad of fake money in my pockets. I had thought of carrying a mouse trap hidden in a pocket, but when thinking through the safety factors to myself, I ruled that out. 

Blocks from The Magic Bean is a bookstore selling used English books. Ron had to check to see if they had English newspapers. I keep telling him if the US went over the fiscal cliff, we would have felt the tremors all the way down here. No papers on offer. 

It seems like the rest of the day was in slow motion, but it could have been the lack of sleep. We did spend much of the afternoon reading in parks, Ron napping, and me uploading photos. I guess we are accustomed to Quito’s vibe and did the most important museums. 

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

From Tearful Good-Byes to Ruff Nights


North Seymour 

6:30 Dry landing – closed shoes, rocky trail, frigate birds expedition
8:00 Back on board
9:15 transfer out.

Last night, 6:30 am sounded so very early to leave, but I was up at 4:30 and could not fall asleep again. Ron got up because I set the alarm a half hour too early, so we were up before the crew. Some were dozing in the lounge. No coffee yet! Get to work and get the coffee brewing.

Another, but the last rocky trail to execute our balancing skills is the mornings off shore experience finale, before leaving for the airport. I realized that what makes these rocky trails especially difficult with a group is trying to plan your steps from one rock to another. Sometimes I have my next stepping stone all planned, but the person ahead of me decides to either stop for a photo or back-up. While I am in mid-stride, I have to do an immediate reconnoitering to decide where I am going to land. Sometimes the results are disastrous as I sail through the air like Dumbo without the gracefulness. For someone my size, I do have narrow feet for a man. The US American male average is a D width, but mine is a C, making them too slender to keep balance all that well. Thankfully, I never aspired to being a trapeze artist.
On the frigate bird expedition we learned the differences between the Great and Magnificent versions, the latter have a purple stripe on its back. They are not cross mating birds so they stick to their own kind. Birds of a feather frock together, but don’t tolerate mixed relationships. Fortune was with us to see a few of the males extend their usual floppy red pouches until they looked like they were having one of those party contests where you hold a balloon under your chin trying to pass it on to the next person. Females are attracted to the largest distended neck and choose their mate based on a size factor. Large chicks in training were all over the trees as well, gaining their courage and getting life coaching to take off on their own. Frigates have to capture their fish without landing on the water. Their feathers don’t have the oils needed to keep them water repellent, with a drowning result if they are not careful.

Blue footed boobies were on call also. I have to admit these are the only birds I was excited to see; they are my favorites. Their feet start out a dark greyish blue, but get more vibrant as they mature. BFB bodies are not much to brag about, so if they didn’t have the blue feet, they would probably not draw any near as much attention. We never did see the red footed booby, but we did have ample opportunity for the Naszca booby.

Breakfast was ready when we returned, our last one on board this boat with this group of people. Soon, we will all set off on our different ways, trying to keep in touch via e-mail or in some cases Facebook. As time goes by, it will be interesting to see who keeps in touch. We have had people we met years ago on safaris, come to stay with us at our B and B. Maybe we can meet for a European reunion.

With all of our luggage placed in the lounge, we each did our last minute tasks: filling out evaluation forms, saying good-bye to the staff, rechecking rooms for forgotten items, and getting shoes on for the last dinghy ride this trip. Our luggage went ahead of us, so it and the bus to the airport were waiting for us when we arrived. This was the challenging part saying good-bye to the few who were not flying on with us. Then it was cumbersome yet again at when we arrived in Quito wishing well those who were going onward to other places or to home.

Once again, I was totally impressed with the AeroGal flight. We went from Baltra to Guayaquil about a 2 hour flight, left passengers there and then continued on to Quito adding another 30-45 minutes. The service on the first leg included a cold, but lovely lunch. On the second segment, it was a drink service.   

Our agency had arranged a pick-up at the airport, so there was no need for a taxi. Neither the driver nor the escort knows how to reach our hotel, our third one in Quito. It is called Colonial House because the building is 200 years old and protected by the historical society. When we did approach it, I was not amused by our choice. It seemed far away from most things and not a fabulous looking neighborhood. Yet, it did get rave reviews on TripAdvisor and HostelBookers.com. 

We were greeted by Paco, the first time we had heard that name here. He is young, friendly, with excellent English skills, which seemed to disintegrate as the hours passed. We arrived at 4 pm. Our confirmation stated that we could check in any time after 6:30 am, unusually early, but what the heck. However, as Paco was giving us a tour, of the dining room, kitchen, computer room, game room, and outdoor garden with patio, he was also informing us that the people in our room would not be leaving until 9 pm. What? 

Ron spent some time outside talking to a Canadian couple looking to move to Ecuador so they are doing the feasibility trip to check it out along with a month of Spanish lessons in another town. There was also a professor from Colorado who came and went during the conversation. Excusing myself, I headed to a table in the garden to check e-mail and start the uploading of blog posts. Once I had a handle on it, I joined the group conversation. Oh, yea! In the garden, the hostel has chickens, including a rooster, two ducks, and four rabbits.

Deciding it was long due for dinner, our Canadian friend suggested a local Italian restaurant to which we poo-pooed and said we wanted something local. Big mistake in this neighborhood. The local cooking is primarily street meet for street meat with Mama setting up her hibachi right outside her door while she cooks mystery meat on a stick. The end all was to go to a local Ecuadorian version of a fast food restaurant. I ordered the chicken combo, which was fine until they brought the soup. I spooned the broth, found something floating that was white as fresh snow, but had claws. There was a full and complete chicken foot in my soup. Waiter, there is something foul going on here.

Arriving back at the hotel by 8:00, we half expected to be able to check in when we returned, but this was not the case. We had to wait for the others to leave the room at 9 pm and then have it cleaned. They called it the ‘matrimonial’ room as it is the only one with a private bathroom, but a single bed. There are no words to describe the fumes that were emitting from my heat, but Ron found a comfy sofa and fell asleep.

On the top floor, they did assist with the luggage, but we were located right across from the television lounge which adjoins the 2nd community kitchen. The owner seemed a little embarrassed by the delay in our getting our room, so she showed me the lovely view out the window, if we stood on one leg, leaned to the right, held on so as not to fall, and look over the other buildings. 

9:47 pm there is a dog barking in the street right under our window. There is another dog competing somewhere toward the back of the building. 11:59 pm the dogs have not stopped barking. Took a sleeping aid, but still nothing has kicked in. Finishing my book and then will try. This is the smallest double bed I have slept in. Not a happy camper.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

365 Steps Bartolome Island, Santiago Island, Sullivan Bay


Bartolome Island 

7:00 Breakfast
8:00 Dry landing – Sandals or shoes, easy trail, Look out, 365 steps
10:00 Back on board
12:00 Lunch

Santiago Island
Sullivan Bay
2:30 Snorkeling off of the dinghy or beach time
3:30 Back on board
4:00 Dry landing – closed shoes, lava formations, rocky trail
5:30 Back on board 
6:30 Cocktail – Dinner – Briefing

Our last full day on the cruise has finally arrived along with my mixed feelings. We have been really enjoying the people we have had the week to share time with, admittedly, I have enjoyed the hikes even when they were really strenuous, and of course the meals. Most everyone shares their time with those who speak their native language, but each person has been friendly, helpful and considerate of all of the others. At times, we have had small group chats as well, reviewing the stories du jour.

Miraculous mini-banquets are prepared by the cook who concocts amazingly diverse and for the most part healthy meals in a kitchen that is about the size of our small bathroom plus ½ yet again. He has taken the vegetarians seriously, always having something to supplement their meal when we have fish or meat as a main course. Fish nights, I go vegetarian too. Because I told the barman that I am diabetic, thus the reason for my refusing dessert each night, he or the cook have prepared special fruits for me which is more than kind. The last creation was a shark in a banana suit, with thin slices of tree tomatoes as dorsal fins and greenery from a scallion to adorn the top fin.  

This morning, we will have a dry landing, meaning we will arrive at a dock with the dinghy. We have been promised that we will climb 365 steps, nothing that I am looking forward to and not even sure I will be able to complete it. Would it have been better not knowing the number of steps or just being surprised? Either way, I did not count them, I was counting my inhalations and expirations instead wondering if they would airlift me out when I keeled over. 

The purpose of this was to visit volcanoes that erupted from under the sea and pushed upward, creating the island. To prevent erosion, the park services had to create a boardwalk, which was a great help, otherwise walking on lava rock in places would have been treacherous and there would not be a way to climb to the top lookout point. What Omar neglected to mention was that we would be walking about 600 steps before we even started climbing steps that actually escalated up to the top. 

At 4 different points along the way, we stopped to hear some commentary, which is difficult to comprehend when you are gasping for oxygen. Pleasingly, the two young Polish guys and one of the young Russian men were also panting as hard as I was at times and each of them looked to be worthy specimens  of a men’s health magazine cover. Marco the Swiss man could also be a cover model, but he did the steps without displaying any additional effort. Each section of the climb up, I analyzed how much I really wanted to call an end this sojourn and wait here for the others to return. Instead, I unrelentingly carried this carcass upward to the very top. The rest of the group had only achieved the same success minutes ahead of me, making me feel quite accomplished. 

On the way and on the top, we heard about the volcanoes, some that erupt above ground; others erupt under the sea and push the lava upward. There were craters there and on and on. Omar told me the other day that 500 people apply to be official Galapagos guides and only 30 are chosen. Those chosen have strenuous training for years. It all makes me feel badly that so little of what he shares stays with any of us. When I question the others of the day’s teachings, no one has remembered more than I. Most of this group is twenty years my junior, so it is not a memory issue. If I could take notes (no one is stopping me, mind you), I would have more to share. Sorry! These are like my students’ end of semester exams. Remember it for the test and then swish, it is gone from the memory. The one trivia point I do remember is that Neil Armstrong was here and said it reminded him of the moon’s landscape. 

Before lunch there was a snorkeling or beach swim option. I would have been the only one to do the beach swim option; therefore, opting to stay on the boat instead. With everyone gone, I had all of the lounge chairs on the upper deck to myself to read and snooze, read and snooze, and that is exactly what I did until they returned. 

Fish was served for lunch, so I along with the vegetarians, had a stuffed tomato. Other items were rice, potato salad with peas, carrots mixed with string beans, and green salad. These buffets are the nemesis of anyone watching their weight. It is too readily available to return for seconds once everyone has had first choice. Fingers are pointing back at me. 

Post lunch was snorkeling again for the last time this trip. It was off of the dinghy again. Ron by-passed it this time to take a nap instead. A beach visit was the other option, but since we are leaving tomorrow, I did not see any sense in getting my bathing suit wet only to cart it back to Quito wet. Those that did snorkel discovered 2 sharks, sting-rays and a number of yellow finned fish. A couple had seals swimming around them coming face to face bearing teeth. A few reported seeing turtles mating. Sitting on the boat bobbing up and down and to and fro was so relaxing for me, I did not miss a thing. 

At 4:30, we went out on the dinghy again for the lava formations. We were concerned it would be more of the same as yesterday, but actually it was quite different. The majority of the island was molten lava. Omar told us there were four different types of formations. Most interesting were those that looked like braids of a thick rope or corn rowed hair. 

I kept seeing designs made by nature in the way the lava cooled. There was a squid with long tentacles, a mermaid, horse’s head, and others. It would be interesting to have a photography contest here. Photographers are set loose for X number of hours to photograph shapes that could be clearly interpreted as something realistic, not abstract. At the end of a certain time period, after they have them printed and mounted, there is a judging. Should I sell my idea to the parks services?

Dinner included a cocktail, tasty, but I could not identify it. The captain toasted us with a long speech in Spanish, which Omar gracefully translated as “He enjoyed having you on board.” Had Omar translated the full monologue, dinner would have been delayed by hours. Carin, our Dutch femme fatale, was delegated to give the toast and thanks to the crew from our group. Ron and I were approached as the “senior statesmen” of the group, but being such, we delegated instead. The younger ones need the practice after all. 

After the Last Supper, we had our briefing for tomorrow. I had the foresight to create a table for everyone’s e-mail address. All but one person, one of the Australians shared their information.

Time to pack.

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