Galapagos did not disappoint

After paying the rather hefty fees to our agent to come to the Galapagos, we catered to the 7 men who came aboard to complete paperwork, inspect the contents of our cupboards and dive the hull of SW and were then given the all clear. This is the most expensive place we have ever been to! It definitely didn’t disappoint.

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We had fortified the back of the transoms with plastic netting, which kept the cute sea lions off the cockpit area. They found the back step and after putting fenders there it took them another week to work out they could still wiggle there way under them. Oh well no mess at least. We had 2 regulars which we named Chuck & Darwin.
imageimageOn San Cristobel we went on a couple of hikes that didn’t need guides. Yes a lot of activities in the Galapagos require guides. The following are some activities we enjoyed:


1. The walk through the Interpretation Centre gave us lots of info on the history here and then you continued on to Cerro Tijertas to see Charles Darwins statue and the clear bay for snorkeling. The path then went onto Playa Ochoa & Punta Carola for turtles and sea lions galor.
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2. Taxi tour ($50) to Laguna El Junco (the only fresh water lake in the Galapagos), Galapaguera (tortoise breeding farm) and on to Puerto Chino with its beautiful turquoise water & white sand beach. After swimming & absorbing the sun we managed to catch a taxi for a couple of $s back to El Junco and cycled back into town.

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Giant land tortoises at La Galapaguera

Puerto Chino beach

Puerto Chino beach

3. Walked to Playa La Loberia about 50 minutes, for some snorkeling and saw 6 huge turtles hanging out in the bay.

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4. Wildlife everywhere; Marine Iguanas, Blue footed boobies, lava lizard, frigate males with their bright red throats, big crabs & of course sea lions galore. These sea lions do have quite the life, playing in the surf, lounging everywhere and anywhere, swimming upside down and chasing each other; great entertainment for us. Snorkeled and kayaked with them which was fun.

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marine iguanas feed in the ocean & lounge on the rocks spitting the sea water out of their noses.

marine iguanas feed in the ocean & lounge on the rocks spitting the sea water out of their noses.

 

lots of mum & pups feeding

lots of mum & pups feeding

We went diving at this stunning rock formation called Kicker Rock ($160 each). The 2 dives were great and we saw lots of different sharks; hammerheads, black tip & Galapogas Sharks, large turtles, sea lions and lots of different fish.

Great quiet anchorage in San Cristobel, but It was time to move onto Santa Cruz. We had heard the anchorage in Puerto Ayora was rolly but we found it reasonably calm; maybe the time of the year we are here. The anchorage is busy as this bay is the main hub for Cruise boats and dive live-aboards who come and go each day. They get to go to more islands and anchorages than we are allowed. Was fun kyaching past these boats in the bay.
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The following are some things we did on Santa Cruz:
1. Wandered thru town and out to the trails at the Charles Darwin Centre to see land tortoises and these stunning yellow iguanas. Saw the fish market on the way, which had a good variety and was alive with Pelicans and seals looking for scraps. Fresh fish for dinner.
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2. Tortuga Bay is about a 40 minute walk from town along a path that finishes on a beautiful white beach with a lagoon and trees with shade at the far end, to cool off after the walk. Loads of marine iguanas here. Loved the very old cacti trees in bloom.
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3. To Las Grietas, a small gorge with 3 small water holes filled with very “refreshing” water where you can snorkel or go swimming.
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4. Cycled up past Bella Vista to Tunel de Lava. As the lava flow from a volcano is exposed to open air the flow cools and a crust is formed outside but the molten lava continues to flow under the crust leaving behind a hollow known as a lava tube. The tunnel was huge.
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We went diving with Academy Bay Diving Centre, who we’d highly recommend, to North Seymour & Mosquera ($170 each) for 2 dives. We had an amazing time seeing lots of marine life up close and enjoyed good visibility. The sharks swim very close, Wow! Lots of hammerheads & white tip sharks, eagle and spotted rays.
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Our last stop was the island of Isabela, which is the biggest island with a beautiful long white sand beach that was nice for a walk. We had a nice protected anchorage behind the Tintoreras reef. Would have loved to kayak here but as its one of the islands tourist spots we weren’t allowed! Hmmmm.

We cycled out to the Wall of Tears, 6km from town where the wall represents the only evidence of a prison camp from 1946 to 1959 where the prisoners were forced to build the wall in this heat. You can walk to the top of the hill above the wall for a view back to town to see how harsh & dry the landscape here really is.

Huge volcanic rocks to be moving in this heat!

Huge volcanic rocks to be moving in this heat!

Passed turtles on the way, great to see them in the wild.

Passed turtles on the way, great to see them in the wild.

Walked along the boardwalk out to the giant tortoise breeding centre (free), which had all sorts of size tortoises and information about them. The boardwalk is also home to lots of marine iguanas and pink flamingos.
image The most popular tour here is to the Cabo Rosa Tuneles de Lava ($110 each) behind a reef where broken lava tubes form natural bridges and underwater stone tunnels. We snorkeled amongst the formations and saw huge turtles, sea lions, eagle rays, sea horses; something we’ve never seen and sharks sleeping. A treat on the way back was 2 huge mantas near the surface, which we stopped to watch them gliding about, very cool.
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Also went for a 16km hike to Volcán Sierra Negra ($40 each), the second largest crater in the world with a diameter of 7 x 10 kilometers, walking along its rim and down the other side amongst the old volcanic rock to Volcan Chico, which had last exploded in 2005. Amazing terrain that has that sulphur smell and you can feel the heat radiating from some of the collapsed small lava tunnels.

On the rim of Sierra Negra with harden volcanic rock below

On the rim of Sierra Negra with harden volcanic rock below

Amazing colors near Volcan Chico, on the side of Volcán Sierra Negra

Amazing colors near Volcan Chico, on the side of Volcán Sierra Negra

Lastly we wanted to snorkel with the small penguins up close so headed to Concha Perla near the main dock. These guys are only 30cm long and very fast.

We enjoyed the Galapagos. Alas it looks like the officials are going to tighten things up even more for yachties this year. Shame, but then they really don’t want or need us here. Maybe visiting by plane and doing a last minute dive / cruise trip organized in Santa Cruz so you get to more islands to see the wildlife would be the thing. You need guides to do and see the area and those activities are pricey and seem to rise every year, so expect it.

Off to the Marquesas in French Polynesia.

Feliz Año Nuevo, we’re moving on….

We had a great time here at Puerto Amistad, in Bahia de Caráquez, after traveling inland. A few cloudy days and no rain or lightening, so different to Panama, from what we are hearing. image

Audrey & Grant decided to do some travel in Ecuador & Peru as well, so booked a condo up the road near Canoa to celebrate Christmas with us. Definitely enjoyed a few nice sunsets on the balcony, with just a few drinks as you do.image

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They weren’t used to no snow on Xmas day, but I think they enjoyed the walk on the beach and jumping the waves in the Pacific Ocean. Good times!
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Bahia surprised us with lots of things on for New Years. Fireworks and a free band on the street with lots of people hanging out enjoying it. At midnight people bring their painted effigies of politicians, pop culture figures, and other icons of the year to torch in the streets. They come in all shapes & sizes.
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This tradition of burning the “año viejo” (“old year”) is symbolic of cleansing the bad from the previous 12 months before entering the new year. They also light lanterns and send them up over the bay. All very cool to watch.

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Got to know some local gringos and the staff, while at Puerto Amistad. As always it’s sad to say goodbye but for us it’s time to move on; we’re on our way to the Galapagos.

At Puerto Amistad with Tony, Julia & Jim

Last night at Puerto Amistad with Tony, Julia & Jim

With Gustavo & Oscar from Puerto Amistad

Really got to know Gustavo & Oscar 2 of the staff from Puerto Amistad; good guys

Here’s to a happy and prosperous New Year for everyone.

 

Peru

We arrived into Peru: a country with a population of 31 million and a lot of history dating back to pre-inca times. Tourism has become more popular in the last 20 years after the government was able to control terrorism and political issues within the country. It’s a beautiful country with a lot to see. I really only knew about Machu Picchu so were surprised at what else there was to see and do here.

We came to see Inca ruins and we definitely were not disappointed.

this lovely llama decided he wanted to feature in my photo at Machu Picchu

this lovely llama decided he wanted to feature in my photo at Machu Picchu

Pisac in the Sacred Valley

Pisac in the Sacred Valley

Everywhere there were all sorts of different cultures wearing their traditional clothing; all very bright and vibrant. The clothing indicated everything from where the person was from, what culture they belonged to, if they were single or married etc. Amazing that these people still dress in traditional clothing in their everyday life.

traditional dress in Colca Canyon Valley

traditional dress in Colca Canyon Valley

Amantani, Lake Titikaka

Amantani, Lake Titikaka

Uros Islands

Uros Islands

The landscapes varied considerably even within different provinces as we crossed the Andes. Agriculture is the main industry within the country and can be seen both in the lowlands, valleys, high in the rocky Andes Mountains and even the Amazon. You could see these farming people worked hard.

Colca Canyon near Chivay, the inca terraces perfect for separating crops

Colca Canyon near Chivay, the pre-inca terraces were perfect for separating crops

the mountain ranges between Lake Titikaka & Cusco

the mountain ranges between Lake Titikaka & Cusco

 lots of vege farming in the Sacred Valley near Cusco

lots of vege farming in the Sacred Valley near Cusco

When it came to animals we saw Vicuñas, Llamas & Alpacas in most highland areas around Peru. It’s neat when you see them roaming free up in the hills as opposed to on the side of the road with locals who are looking for money from tourists for a photo. The Amazon had lots of birds and yes a few nasty things.
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I need a shave! This is an Alpaca Suri.

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The Peruvian hairless dog was everywhere

The Peruvian hairless dog was everywhere

From the Amazon…..

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Most towns had a cathedral that was very significant compared to the homes in the area. Photo below on Left is San Peter cathedral, which was in Andahuaylillas (very rural) on the way to Cusco with amazing murals inside. No photos allowed though.

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Photo above right is one of many cathedrals in Arequipa

 

In the country towns homes were typically constructed of mud or concrete blocks. The homes looked like they were under continual construction and had no construction standards, just people building what they could afford. Generally the smaller towns and cities had electricity while the farming areas and islands had nothing.
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The house we stayed in on Amantani Island, other than having low doors, was very good compared to the mainland.p1110964

Transport, like any 3rd world country, is very innovative in getting the locals about; anything from 3-wheeled motorcycles to trucks loaded full with people. The road system was actually really good on the whole. Buses were good. Around the Andes’ towns the locals typically walked the many trails high into the hills. Good exercise!
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In every town we went to there were souvenir markets and locals selling trinkets and handmade crafts. Interestingly we were told that most of the markets sell acrylic products and tell the tourists its alpaca wool. Who are we to know the difference I guess. Buyer beware! No souvenir shops in the Amazon.

it was cold up here and yet there were souvenir stalls set up

it was cold up here and yet there were souvenir stalls set up

So much to see in so little time and each place we visited was so different. If you are interested in seeing more I have broken the areas we went to in Peru down into a number of separate blog entries. Read on.

Peru – Lima & Arequipa Cities

We passed through the capital Lima which has 10 million people and is very spread out with major traffic problems and crazy drivers! Pedestrian crossings mean nothing to these people as do traffic lights; they keep going with horns blearing blocking intersections.

Lima is on the Pacific Coast with nice views from the Malacon. There were lots of people out surfing, swimming and sunbathing below us as there were blue skies, something that is not typical of Lima. Nice for us though😉.
p1110824A city tour took us to see the old Colonial Centre of Lima and some of the historic parks and neighborhoods around Lima.
Plaza de Armas was once the Colonial centre of Lima, founded in 1535 and then rebuilt in 1746 after a major earthquake. The cobblestone streets and architecture are very grand.

Cathedral

Cathedral

Archbishops Palace with its grand balconies

Archbishops Palace with its grand balconies

Presidential Palace - Peru's President works

Presidential Palace – Peru’s President works

At the Monument of José de San Martin, a national hero who lead the revolution against Spanish rule, there were protestors & police, which is apparently a common site every day. There seemed to be a lot of people everywhere we went in Lima to be honest.
p1110830Our final stop was the San Francisco Church and monastery where we went underground to the dusty catacombs to see the bone filled crypts with skulls and femurs, of only the rich and middle class, displayed in all sorts of designs.
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It was then on to Arequipa, which lies on the edge of the Altiplano or Andes slopes, 2380m above sea level and is surrounded by the volcanoes Misti, Pikchu Pikchu and Chachani.

Misti volcano with a nice conal shape

Misti volcano with a nice conal shape. There are lots of houses at the base of this mountain!

Pikchu Pikchu Volcano

Pikchu Pikchu Volcano

 Arequipa is known as “La Ciudad Blanca” (White City), because many of its buildings are made of sillar, a white local volcanic stone.
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We arrived on a Sunday and decided to go down to the main Plaza to see the Arequipa Cathedral, one of the biggest in South America. Wow lots of people, they were there to set a Guinness World Record for rocoto relleno (hot peppers stuffed with meat, rice and vegetables) a traditional Arequipan food. Sunday is a family day so it was nice to sit and watch them enjoying the event and the day.
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sunset on the cathedral

sunset on the cathedral, it just glows

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We loved the cowboy hat on this Police women who was directing the traffic around the plaza.

 

In Peru people are conscience of the sun and typically wear sun hats.

 

 

 

The Santa Catalina Monastery is considered the most impressive colonial building in the City, founded in 1579. The 2nd female child of a wealthy family was sent to the convent at about the age of 14 to study under a nun for 4 years upon which she would determine if she would continue on to become a nun. It was 20,000m2 and was like a city within the city. There were approx 200 nuns with their ‘personal assistants” living here through to the 1900’s. Sounded like they lead an interesting life partying for many years. Now, there are 20 nuns who live in a sectioned off area of the Monastary with most of the monastery being used for tourism.

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At the ”Momia Juanita” museum we saw the Inca Ice Maiden found in 1995 at 6380m and is well preserved with hair, skin and teeth. It is believed that an Inca girl was killed as an offering to the Inca gods sometime between 1450 and 1480, at approximately 11-15 years old. To date 18 Inca bodies have been found since Juanita in 1995.
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Arequipa was a great town to just wander around and see the architecture.

Peru – Colca Canyon

From Arequipa we left for the town of Chivay (4 hours driving) and to the Colca Canyon passing thru the volcanic ranges and a National Reserve where we saw Vicuñas, Llamas & Alpacas roaming free. img_0735img_0737We climbed to 4700m where people live in the hills farming the harsh terrain. The road wound around the edge of the mountains and then we dropped down into the canyon to a small country town called Chivay.

the landscape here was so dry as we crossed the mountain range

the landscape here was so dry as we crossed the mountain range

farming looked difficult but there were lots of farms out here

farming looked difficult but there were lots of farms out here

Chivay down in the valley

Chivay down in the valley

In Chivay the women wear traditional clothing of the Cabana & Collagua Indian cultures now identified by the hat they wore. Interestingly back in Pre-Hispanic times the two ethnic groups in the Colca Canyon area deformed their babies’ skulls — the Collagua into a taller, tapered shape and the Cabana into a mesa-shaped cranium. Thank goodness the Spanish banned this and so the 2 cultures were forced into identifying their differences via dress.

A traditional Cabana outfit with the dancing guru.

A traditional Cabana outfit with the dancing guru.

Collagua hats and clothing worn by the women

Collagua hats and clothing worn by the women

The plaza had its iconic cathedral, which the locals enjoyed in the evenings. We liked just sitting and people watching.
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Not many places where you get to see the locals walking with their lama or sheep in the streets that’s for sure but they are taking them to the market to sell. This Lady still wears her Cabana hat to go to market even though she’s dressed in jeans.
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The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world and is famous for the condor, where we saw 2 small ones gliding in the thermals in the distance. There were amazing views inside the canyon of the valley floor terraces that had been built in pre Inca times and are now farmed by the local people here.
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Peru – Lake Titikaka

Lake Titikaka is the highest navigable lake in the world at an altitude of 3800m. Here we went to visit three islands; Uros, Amantani and Taquile.

The ancient Uros were the owners of the lake who in the time of the Inca invasions would lift anchor and drift together and move to a safe part of the lake. They were eventually conquered and made slaves. Today, the Uros people try to live a traditional life and still build their boats and islands using bundles of totora reeds abundant in the shallows of the lake, but add solar panels for electricity. There were 4 families living on the small island we visited.
p1110947p1110953The islands have become quite touristy where the locals have become business people relying on the tourist boats to come organizing tours in their reed boats, demonstrations of the way they live and craft markets to sell their wares. It worked!
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relaxing in front

relaxing in front

demonstration of how island is built and yes needs regular maintenance

demonstration of how island is built and yes needs regular maintenance

At Amantani we stayed with a local family (Aurora & Damien) where we got to experience some local traditions and customs. The community put on a party for all the tourists so we had to dress the part. Damien and Arora are on either side of us below.
p1110981This was a rewarding experience seeing how these people live. Most people speak Quechua but luckily our family spoke Spanish as well and with the other couple that stayed here we could communicate. There are actually 10 communities scattered around the island (4000 people) who rotate taking groups of tourists in to help their community. The house where we stayed was very clean and quite big but had no electricity so it was back to the basics.
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farming out back and great views

farming out back and great views

The color of the skirts indicate what community they are from on the island. A lot of the ladies sit in the community areas spinning the wool into yarn.

some of the hosts from the community we stayed with relaxing in the main plaza

some of the hosts from the community we stayed with relaxing in the main plaza

We hiked to the top of the hill and after a tiring climb in this altitude to the top we found Pachatata sanctuary, where special events are held & the amazing views over the island.

these people walk up here to tend to the crops, it was cold!

these people walk up here to tend to the crops, it was cold!

great views up here

great views up here on a clear day

Needless to say the bar in the plaza was busy after with everyone wanting to get warm. Beer and Muña tea with alcohol!
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Taquile is renowned for their knitted garments. The men actually knit the garments and can be seen all around the island knitting.
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 yes he's knitting at a really pretty viewpoint

yes he’s knitting at a really pretty viewpoint

Here we also had a great view over Lake Titikaka back to Amantani in the distance.
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Peru – Cusco & our fav. Inca Ruins

The historic area of Cusco has many narrow cobblestone streets, plazas and ruins and is easy to wander about. Cusco was invaded by the Spaniards in 1535 where many of the original Inca structures were destroyed and rebuilt in their own style.
Plaza de Armas is huge with lots of restaurants and shops around it.
img_0798The Basilica Catedral is on one side of the plaza and is big with 3 churches within the one building, each church all very different.
p1120069The Church of Santo Domingo and its gardens are impressive compared to many of the buildings in the area.
p1120038p1120041Ceramic bulls can be seen on the roofs of many buildings around Cusco and the surrounding areas to signify the Spanish era.

original roof design, we like this guy!

original roof design, we like this guy!

p1120094We went to many Inca Ruins in the area the best in our opinion being:
1. Machu Picchu, why of course, where we spent a whole day hiking the site. You can either hike the Inca trail in here in 4 days/ 3 nights or go by train at a small price(not!) to Aguas Caliente, which is worth staying over at to relax and have a hot shower after enjoying the site. Machu Picchu was never found by the Spaniards and therefore in good condition after being identified in 1911 by a man from Yale, Hiram Bingham. It is thought that the rich Incas from Cusco used this site as their country holiday destination in the Urubamba Valley.

Machu Picchu ruins with Huayna Picchu in the background

Machu Picchu ruins with Huayna Picchu in the background

The whole site was amazing, including the hike up Montaña Huayna Picchu to look down over Machu Picchu and along the valley. Yes it was as steep as it looks. Below is the view from Huayna Picchu back to Machu Picchu.

p1120147No wonder the Spaniards didn’t find it.
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We hiked 11km in total that day and oh yeah we deserved the beers and hot shower after.

2. Ollantaytambo is a town and site along the Sacred Valley and is surrounded by 3 mountains where you could see Inca ruins all around you. There were 247 steps to climb to the top of the main site, good exercise in this altitude.

Inca ruins or searching the net

Inca ruins or searching the net?

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can you see the Face and ruins on this mountain

can you see the Face and ruins on this mountain

3. Also In the Sacred Valley Pisac was really impressive sitting on a huge mountain side, where various Inca communities had lived. It was a big structure and we could have wandered around here for hours to the various ruins to admire the views. The Inca terraces were about 6ft tall and originally built for protection (erosion control and from enemies) and of course for agriculture purposes.
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loved the Inca floating stairs

loved the Inca floating stairs

4. Saqsayhuaman close to Cusco, where you got to appreciate huge boulders and wondered how the Incas built these walls shaping and polishing the boulders together with no mortar.
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these boulders are huge

these boulders are huge

We did go and see a lot more ruins than these and its definitely amazing how they built these walls and Terraces. We’re Inca’d out so we’ll leave you with the best in our opinion.
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Peru – Amazon

From Puerto Maldernado in Southeast Peru we took a boat about 3 hours up stream on the Rio Tambopata to our lodge. We spotted Baby Capybara’s the size of a small pig on the waters edge; these guys get up to 60kgs!
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walking thru the mud looked like tough work

walking thru the mud looked like tough work

nice & clean now after a swim

nice & clean now after a swim

The lodge was a 10 minute walk into the bush with rooms open to the outdoors. Wasn’t expecting such a nice place to be honest. Such a peaceful tranquil environment with the sounds of birds etc at night that just put you to sleep. Ok maybe exhaustion from getting up very early to go and see things, what with 2-3 activities a day.
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Lots of different species of birds including the Amazon Kingfisher but the best sighting was at The Clay lick with Red and Blue McCaws and Mealy Parrots, which were very cool. The clay gives many animals here nutrients to help them survive.
img_0930img_0935 Click to see Video of MacCaws.

these are birds nests that swing below the canopy. Very strange.

these are birds nests that swing below the canopy. Very strange.

It’s actually very difficult to see animals as the forest is so dense. Many animals like Jaguars, anteaters and snakes are easier to see at night as their eyes glow. Our guide on his previous tour saw an anaconda and shared the photo with us.
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We climbed the 30m tower to sit above the tree line and spotted a couple of families of Titi monkeys on the way up. Forest for miles up there that’s for sure; 60% of Peru is actually Amazon Rainforest.

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While hiking in the forest we first smelt and then saw a herd of Peccary pigs running through the forest. No photo of these guys as they were fast, probably running to get away from us. Here’s what they look like. Lots of bugs about too and some of them were big!
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The canoe ride around Lake Condenado was hot but peaceful and the small black Caiman waiting for us in the Lilly’s made us wonder where it’s mum was. The trees near the Lake were massive, we could walk inside them.

Daniel our guide was always on the lookout for animals

Daniel our guide was always on the lookout for animals

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A beautiful sunset along the river and Pisco sours to end a good trip.
p1120258647With Christmas fast approaching the decorations have come out at the lodge
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We have family coming to join us for Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone and have a festive season.
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Ecuador – Los Andes

The volcanos in the distance from Quito beckoned us and we definitely were not disappointed.

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From Quito we crossed the Andes to the North into the Imbabura province with incredible views of Imbabura volcano, San Pablo glacial lake & Cotacochi volcano. These mountains just towered all around us.
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We were surprised to learn that this area produces a lot of roses and flowers for export and you’d see the growing sheds and road side stalls selling flowers everywhere.

 

 

 

The scenery just made us want to get some exercise, so we walked to the Peguche waterfall. Nothing to strenuous but nice to get some fresh air. We were surprised to see lots of Eucalyptus trees in Ecuador imported in from Australia.
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The town of Peguche is small with mainly indigenous people dressed in traditional clothing going about there everyday lives. Interestingly both the men & women have long hair here. The men and women seem to share the agricultural duties here.

they are small people and carry everything on their backs.

they are small people and carry everything on their backs.

the women here tend to the animals and the fields

we saw many cows being led around the towns in Ecuador

selling their bean produce

selling their bean produce on the side of the road

This town actually makes all the textile weaving that is found in many markets and stores around Ecuador. The women prepare the wool and the men actually do the weaving.
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While in Peguche we saw the Tren de Los Andes or the old steam train that takes tourists through the Andes. An expensive way to get around apparently. Here’s a video clip of the train going by but I’m not sure if its going to work. Our guide was so excited.

p1110735It was then into the Otavalo markets to see the local markets selling weavings & FRESH produce, both very colorful. Would have loved to get some fresh produce here.
p1110741p1110743p1110748We made our way through some valleys directly East of Quito to Pampallacta, also known as the gateway to the Amazon. The drive was impressive as we climbed up to 4000m where it was very rocky with coarse vegetation and down to the town.
p1110755The natural public hot springs of which there are many pools beaconed us. So nice and relaxing.

Our room had a nice pool outside with no one around, perfect!

Our room had a nice pool outside with no one around, perfect!

We made a trip into Cotopaxi National Park South of Quito. The landscape was so dry and flat with wild llamas about.
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Walked 4km around Laguna Limpiopungo with Ruminahui volcano in background

Walked 4km around Laguna Limpiopungo with Ruminahui volcano in background

Cotopaxi Volcano in the background, an active volcano

Cotopaxi Volcano in the background, an active volcano

Our guide took us to some amazing haciendas built in the 1600’s around the Andes to see the grounds, all of which were really impressive.

Hacienda San Augustin so different to the homes in the area

Hacienda San Augustin so different to the homes in the area

Interesting art work in the El Monasterio wing at Hacienda Cusin

Interesting art work in the El Monasterio wing at Hacienda Cusin

We ended up staying at a working farm, Hacienda La Alegria to experience their daily works. Maurico was awesome taking us for a 5 hour horse ride into the hills with some nice scenery.
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The farm has Alpacas and Llamas, dairy cattle and lots of horses. The farm dogs were very proud when they decided to round up the Alpacas and llamas for us on their own accord. The llamas were not so happy being disturbed.
p1110801Excellent time in the Andes. Heading to Peru.

Ecuador – NW Coast to Quito

Ecuador, it’s truly a diverse country and we really enjoyed our time here. The red dotted line in my picture above is where we travelled in Ecuador. Would have loved to get to some other towns here but then you can’t do everything.  image

The NW Coast
We were moored in Bahia de Caráquez a great place to leave the boat to go inland and see the country as it’s nice and protected behind a point of land, up a river.img_0700Unfortunately the NW coast region, including Bahia was struck by a 7.8 earthquake in April 2016 destroying many homes and buildings. In the photo above most of the white tall buildings have to come down still and need to be rebuilt. The people who have stayed (and many have left) are strong and are fighting back rebuilding their towns. We saw many temporary homes and volunteer groups along the way helping the many towns and communities on the Coast.
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We drove the Coast road from Bahia to Quito some 300kms. The landscape was so dry on the coast with bare dirt and hardy looking trees. Through all the small towns we passed lots of roadside stalls selling all sorts of things our fav being the candy stalls, which of course we needed to try. Yum!
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We went through one town where there were lots of pigs strung up at each restaurant entrance. Fritada is a traditional Ecuadorian dish available on the weekends and yes is made from pork hence the advertising out front. We had already eaten Seco de pollo or Chicken Stew, which was very tasty and filling so the pigs out front on the dusty road did not appeal.

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To get to Quito we drove up, up and further up, West over the Andes some 3500m where it got very cold.p1110634

Then it was down into Quito, which sits at 2850m above sea level.
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Quito was founded in the 16th Century on the ruins of an Inca City. It was designated as a UNESCO heritage site in 1978 and you can definitely see why. We stayed in the old city and wandered around the streets, which have just amazing small one way cobbled streets with beautiful old buildings, incl many churches and an amazing landscape, where there are 15 volcanos around Quito.

From the old city looking up at El Panecillo hill with the Virgin of Quito (40m high) overlooking the old cityp1110649
Plaza de la Independencia was beautiful at night and seemed to be busy all the time. img_0543Catedral de Metropolitana de Quito from the Plaza square at nightimg_0545
Calle de la Ronda was a small colorful street that was near the entrance to the old cityp1110651

The city of Quito is 65kms long and your only seeing a little bit of it here at a mirador on El Panecillo. Definitely a big place with lots of volcanos in the distance. Below is the views North over the old city with the Basilica, below volcan Guagua Pichincha to Volcan Cotacahip1110639

Lots of beautiful churches all around the historic district.
San Francisco is Quito’s oldest church and was built in 1535. This was a huge church with an amazing gold leafed interior everywhere you looked.
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Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús also has gold leafed alters and ceilings. img_0537img_0538

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basilica del Voto Nacional. The gargoyles on the exterior at Basilica are of animals not your typical faces

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On Mondays at 11am you can stop by Plaza de la Independencia for the changing of the guards, which is quite the affair with the President & VP of Ecuador standing on the veranda at the presidential palace and lots of people gathering below to watch the band, guards and horses parade around the plaza. Very colorful.
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We also went up the Teleferico or cable car to top where you get views over Quito North through to the South and can see how big this city really is. Lots of hiking and mountain biking trails up here.
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We drove up into the North of Quito where we went for lunch at the Pululahua Crater and had amazing views from the top of the crater. So nice to be out of the city. One side was mountainous and green while the other was so dry.img_0590p1110673Even went to the Equator Museum at the “Middle of the World” where we checked our GPS and yes we were at latitude 0. Whoever bought this piece of land was thinking, lots of tourists = money! They did a number of Coriolis effect tests to show how things are different south and north of the line. Eg. Which way does water turn clockwise or anti-clockwise. The Simpsons’ episode was right!
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Heading into them there big hills, Ecuadors Andes.