S: Galapagos and Machu Picchu
BC: A very special trip with great people!!
FC: Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu October 2010
1: Our first trip in a zodiac, leaving the National Geographic Explorer for Seymour Island. The nineteen islands are 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. There were sea lions greeting us, several land iguanas basking in the sun and very large birds everywhere! | Here is a male frigate bird attracting a female by inflating his red pouch; young frigates (left) and a baby frigate. We were within 15 feet of them! Wildlife was everywhere. | A once in a lifetime Lindblad Expeditions trip with Brian and Ginny Murphy, Di and Ian Gust and Theresa Egan.
2: Brian Murphy with sea lions on the rocks of Espanola Island. | Male marine iguana ready and looking for a female! | We disembarked at Punta Suarez. There was a nursery of sea lion pups there while the mothers were out fishing. | This is the only place in the world where iguanas adapted to the environment and swim. | We were literally tripping over them.
3: This swallow-tailed gull was fighting with another one who must have been in his cave. It's the most beautiful bird and we were lucky to see this action. I found a group of iguanas basking in the sun. Brian can't believe he's literally on top of this mockingbird. Below is an adult and young dodo bird. To the right are dodos and blue footed boobies nesting together.
4: Above is an iguana swimming. The marine iguanas were everywhere. Di and Ian from Australia were friends of Brian and Ginny. This island was also the home of the Nazca boobies with beautiful markings. | These volcanic islands are very protected and require permits as well as a naturalist when you go ashore.
5: The blue footed boobies love to show off their blue feet. Theresa, a friend from Gillette, is passing by one. One morning at 6 am, we were told to come on deck and we saw a pod of about 600-800 dolphins frolicking in the water - quite a sight. We also saw the flightless comorants that are incredible swimmers - note the iguana in the foreground.
6: This beach was packed with sea lions. It was very peaceful but you had to keep your eye out for the bull who was in charge of the harem. We visited Post Office Bay on Floreana Island to see if there were any postcards to be personally delivered to our home towns. This is an old tradition dating back to the whaling vessels that used to pass through here. I found a postcard to be delivered to a family in North Andover.
7: This is Punta Espinoza on Fernandino Island with lots of ropey lava that comprises the island. Note the volcanic cone shaped island in the background. The cave is near Punta Vincente Roca on Isabela Island. This is where we snorkeled with many huge sea turtles and the Galapagos penguins which dart in the water like torpedos. | When passing the equator, the naturalists always have a cute ceremony before we get our certificates. | Sally Lightfoot crabs | Enjoying cocktails before dinner. Ginny and Ian below.
8: The Galapagos penguin is the only equatorial penguin. Notice also the iguanas and crabs. | Ropey lava and mangrove trees. The depth of the water around these islands was about 9,000 ft. | Cactus growing out of the lava. | The town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. | A caldera on Punta Vincente where the side broke off probably 100,000 years ago.
9: The Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz where they have a giant tortoise breeding program to make them rat-proof before releasing them to their respective islands. | Barn owl in the rest rooms of the Highlands Restaurant Altair where we had a great lunch. | To the left is Lonesome George, the most famous giant tortoise in the world as he is the last of his species. He was found on Pinta Island which was thought to be extinct of tortoises. After decades they failed to successfully breed him. Now he's 70-80 years old and very beloved.
10: Note the difference in the tortoises - the saddleback tortoise below feeds on vegetation higher up than the domed tortoises. We visited a Giant Tortoise Reserve where they are free to migrate through. | The Humboldt Current flows through these islands, so the water in October is 68-72 degrees. We would stay in up to an hour. I didn't really notice the temperature as I was totally in awe of the turtles, sharks, sea lions, penguins, iguanas, octopus, unusual starfish and countless colorful fish. | Jim Blair, National Geo photographer, never stops working! | Snorkeleing with sea turtles.
11: Bartolome Island with spatter cones and sea lava tubes. In the distance is Pinnacle Rock where there was great snorkeling among reefs that were like labyrinths. Theresa's taking a break on the stairs, part of the boardwalk system there. | A male iguana not bothered by our presence on "Dragon Hill".
12: We found the fur seals on James Island along with herons, oyster catchers, yellow crowned night heron, penguins, and Darwin finches. We are getting ready to take the bus off Baltra Island and this sea lion was sure to say goodbye to us.
13: Now on to Peru! We landed in Cusco at 11,000 ft. Most people were taking altitude pills. We visited a camelidae farm in Awanacancha where there are llamas, vicunas and alpacas. We are feeding them alfalfa.
14: This is a view of the Urubamba Valley. | We learned how the wool is processed, naturally dyed and woven into incredible textiles. The bottom two pictures are the colorful local markets in Pisac.
15: Visiting Oilantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Hard to imagine bringing these huge boulders down from the mountains and up to this site. | Brian, leaning on one of the rocks at the top of Temple of the Sun. The stonework is incredible and the Incas did not use mortar, have modern tools or animals to help them. | Note the storage granaries and buildings carved into the mountain across the way.
16: We had our own casita at the Sol Y Luna Resort - an incredible place with gardens everywhere which make it a paradise for the giant hummingbird and other birds. After lunch we were given a demonstration with the Peruvian Paso horses which are known for their prancing gait and formations. The woman danced the marinera with one of the horsemen. We got to ride them afterwards for a few minutes - their gait was amazing!
17: Ginny and I are standing on the terrace at the Sanctuary Lodge at Machu Picchu - about 8,000 ft. high. We got off the train in Aguas Calientes (by the river) and took a bus up to Machu Picchu. We saw Inca terraces on the way there and the farmers still farm them today. To the right is an expedition hiking the Inca Trail which takes about four days to hike. To the left are potters at the Pablo Seminario ceramic studio near the Sol Y Luna.
18: Machu Picchu - absolutely breathtaking. Below middle is the Royal Tomb, and to the left are mortars within a common area. | No one can replicate the Inca stonework that's fitted together so exactly. Note the right side of the wall (below) which was restored, but doesn't match the left side which was the original work in the 1500's.
19: Evening rainbow and beautiful sunrise - simply magical! Note how the main gate centers Huayana Peak and also the stones in the rainbow picture have the same shape as the mountain peaks behind them. Below are the terraces in front of the grain storage houses.
20: Barb and several others hiked up to the Sun Gate along the Inca Trail where we had incredible views of Machu Picchu below. They are standing in the Sun Gate temple - this is where the Inca Trail comes into Machu Picchu which was built in the 1500's, abandoned without ever being discovered by the conquering Spaniards, became completely covered up by jungle, and discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.
22: A good view of the road up to Machu Picchu with the site in the distance. The mountains are about 12,000 ft. high. There was an urban sector where people and the royalty lived, and the terraces were mainly agrarian. | The llamas are the lawnmowers!
23: View of the guard house to the right with llamas grazing and Huayna Picchu.
25: The main square in Cusco with many magnificient churches. This is where the Inca nobility lived. | Our restaurant where we enjoyed coca tea to help us with the altitude. | Even though the Spaniards demolished the town, the Inca walls became part of their construction and are everywhere. | To the left, en route to Cusco, we bought some local crafts. The mountains are home to the sacred condors. To the right was typical dancing in the main square.
26: The Monastario Hotel was originally a 15th century convent. It was like staying in a museum - very stately and right off the main square. | There is a 300 year old cedar tree in its courtyard, the only one in Cusco. It enabled us to find the hotel from this vista spot. Life is grand there!
27: Visiting Sacsayhuaman Fortress - another example of amazing stonework. Note the puma's paw in the stonework bottom left. It's hard to fathom moving these stones, some of which weigh 100 tons. | Our guide was terrific and had a great sense of humor.
28: Theresa passing school children in the Temple of the Sun which has become part of the Santa Domingo Monastery. Note the trapezoid windows and the walls which go outward to keep the design interesting. We also visited the Larco Herrera Museum with the best collection of pre-Inca artifacts. To the right is a local girl who sold me some plates with Inca calendar designs on them. | Signs for the rest rooms.
29: Lima is a beautiful city, deserving of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upper middle photo is the courthouse with police about to go to lunch. Upper right is the archbishop's palace, and below is the government palace where the president lives, all part of the Plaza Mayor square. Pizarro, a major Spanish conqueror, designed the square in the early 1500's.
30: A special treat: our farewell lunch at Casa Aiiaga, one of Lima's first colonial mansions built by Pizarro's treasurer and still in the same family today. We enjoyed Pisco sours, Inca cola (tastes like bubble gum), wine and a very lavish lunch. This is not open to the public - only special tours can enjoy this.
31: Our hotel in Miraflores, an upscale Lima neighborhood, overlooking the ocean. Nearby were shops and restaurants. We enjoyed the parasailing from our window. | Room service has never been better! A great way to end the trip. | This is a very popular area where people surf before work and school, yet on weekends it's dead since everyone's recovering from the discos.