Parque Condor and Cascade Peguche

About 20 minutes away is a condor reserve that we visited last weekend. The reserve is on a beautiful hill in between the Cotacachi and Imbabura volcanoes. We saw eagles, hawks, condors and owls! Their website is here:

After looking at all the beautiful birds we went to a waterfall just down the hill called Peguche Falls. These falls are a ritual bathing site for the indigenous community during Inti Raymi and possibly other festivals!

Galapagos – Headed to Isabela

Since we were behind a day in our itinerary due to the missed flight, we lost a day of rest and had to keep moving. Today we are headed to Isabela Island, which is the largest island in the Galapagos. We were on the dock at 6am to catch a 2 hour ride back to Santa Cruz, and then from there another boat ride to Isabela. Thankfully no one got sick! By the end of the day I started to get used to being on a boat.

Although Isabela is the largest island, it is also the least populated of the islands we visited. The town of Puerto Villamil is where we landed and is also where most of the island’s 2,200 inhabitants live. We all liked this island the best, not only because there weren’t any crowds, but it also had the best beaches and we had our best accommodations here!

Our hotel was top notch and we had a pool for when we got tired of the beach! Aside from the wildlife, we had the beaches all to ourselves. The iguanas were all congregated around the black lava rocks and they blended right in. Sometimes I couldn’t see them until I almost stepped on them and they scattered away.

It was nice to have a bit of downtime compared to the previous few days, but we still have more to share, so stay tuned!

Galapagos – A rough start!

The start of our Galapagos trip was rough. The short version is that due to a lengthy visit to the Galapagos office in the Quito airport (to receive our Transit Control Cards) followed by a surprise visit to the airline ticket booth (to pay foreigner fees), we missed our flight! After much cajoling of the airline (ask me for details sometime – it’s an entertaining story) they agreed to put us on standby for the next flight which was headed for a different island, but the Galapagos nonetheless. We didn’t find out until the last minute that they only had room for 7 of us and the rest would have to fly out the next morning. After a brief family huddle, we decided that Karen, the kids and I would fly out and that Maggi and Jason’s family would fly out the next day. So I boarded the plane with the kids and Karen destined for the Santa Cruz Island!

Kate and I on the airplane to the Galapagos!

We landed in Santa Cruz a few hours later and from there we needed to travel south to the town of Puerto Ayora. To get there from the airport we had to take a bus ($30), a ferry ($6) and then we divided up into two taxis ($50). Once there, our first item of business was to secure tickets for a boat to take us to the correct island (San Cristolbal). The boats had already left for the day, so we bought tickets for the 7am departure the following morning. At the port there was a small playground, so Karen and I left the kids there under the supervision of Jared and Grant in search of housing (keep in mind our prearranged lodging was on a different island!) We only walked about 50 yards when Karen spotted a hostal. We went in and they had two rooms left at $45 each. We payed on the spot and walked back to the playground remembering how a few hours earlier, before we ate airport sandwiches, we had prayed to give thanks and asked for guidance. We definitely felt directed!

Now that housing was secured it was time to explore and find some food! It wasn’t long before we started to notice the animals that were all around us. There were sharks, crabs, sea lions, iguanas, herons, pelicans. The most interesting were the sea lions because they walked around unfazed by people. They would lay on park benches and if there were people in the bench they wanted, they would bark and force the people to move.

We found a street not far from the docks that was blocked off and had dining tables lined up down the middle of the road. As we walked down the street, restaurant workers showed us their fresh fish, crabs, shellfish and other seafoods. We passed a stall that had beautiful looking shish kebobs (brochetas in Spanish). They had tuna, calamari, shrimp and yummy vegetables. We ordered 10 of them and found a spot amidst the crowded tables. The kebobs were AMAZING! They were covered in a butter and garlic sauce and somehow they made me forget all the stress of the prior 12 hours of the day! We told the restaurant owner that we’d be back with more family when we returned to the Santa Cruz island and then headed to the hostel for an early bedtime.

The following morning we were on the docks at 6AM for our shuttle to San Cristobal. The 2 hour boat ride was terrible because I got sick which caused most of the kids to get sick. Looking back it must’ve been a funny scene to see little Kate trying to console her vomiting father while all of her big brothers were vomiting around her, but at the time I wanted to die! For all future boat rides we took Dramamine and no one got sick again!

On the dock at 6am!

Once on San Cristobal, we found our lodging, rested a bit and then went to the beach. There were sea lions everywhere and we had to compete with them for space. At one point the boys dug a big hole in the sand and made a pool. Before they could enjoy it a big sea lion came up and shooed everyone away and laid in the pool himself!

After a few hours Maggi and Jason’s family showed up at the beach and our family was back together again! Wow what a crazy 24 hours that was!

The Quilotoa Loop

After spending the night in a chilly mountain farmhouse, we headed out for Laguna Quilotoa. The road to Quilotoa is a 4-hour loop traversing high peaks, beautiful valleys and tiny villages.

Every bend (there were a lot of them!) revealed incredible views. We must’ve taken 100 pictures along the way, and now that we look at the photos we realize they don’t do justice to the beauty of the area!

Quilotoa itself is a lake that lies inside the 2-mile-wide caldera of an extinct volcano. The lake is about 820 feet deep and is a beautiful greenish color as a result of dissolved minerals.