S: Galapagos & Peru 2011
FC: Galapagos & Peru
1: Ecuador: Guayaquil, Quito, Galapagos Peru: Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes, Cuzco, Lima June-July 2011
2: During the summer of 2011 we traveled for the first time to South America. In two weeks we visited two countries: Ecuador and Peru. In the Galapagos we experienced a seven day liveaboard diving trip (our longest yet), and afterwards we traveled to the world famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. Planning for this trip started four months in advance and it was not without difficulty (cruise was canceled and re-booked, train tickets sold out), but our trip was so enjoyable that none of that mattered. Before returning to South America we'll try to learn a little more Spanish!
3: First stop: Guayaquil, the second-largest city in Ecuador. We spent two days here, cruising the Malecon and looking for food that wasn't fried. We stayed in a hostel/hotel near across the street from Parque del Centenario. A double bed is called 'matrimoniale'. The park had lots of interesting statues all around it, the most notable was the extremely fit naked man and his horse. | The taxis in Guayaquil were by FAR the scariest rides we have ever experienced. We almost died many times. A pedestrian almost died also! | Hotel Centenario was a big apartment building with a restaurant at the bottom. | A helpful sign shows you how to use the park.
4: Malecon2000 is a boardwalk in Guayaquil and it was busy! You can stroll along and go shopping, get something to eat or drink, and admire the statues and displays along the way. | We found McDonalds in Ecuador! We also found where you put your items for recycling. | Pinguino was a most popular ice cream shop. And delicious!
5: In the Rotonda is a famous statue called 'Two Generals Meet' (Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar). We ate and drank our way down the Malecon 2000 enjoying the statues along the way.
6: The Spanish on the signs on the Malecon wasn't difficult to understand, but the pictures were a bit odd... | Display lit up at night; a plaque on a lookoff we climbed.
7: Left: Catedral Metropolitana; right: a manhole cover. | Walking around Guayaquil was easy and there were plenty of sights to see. The city was busy and vibrant. | We could practice our Spanish in shops and restaurants. It was difficult to find food that wasn't fried... People walked around selling pop by the cup from giant bottles they carried with them. | Above: an angel statue with a fountain we saw on the way to the Malecon. Right: buildings on the Avenue Nueve de Octubre.
8: How to eat fast food fried chicken in Ecuador: Step 1: put on the plastic glove provided with your meal. Step 2: Eat chicken with your well-protected hand. Step 3: Enjoy the rest of your meal as per usual. | Clockwise from top left: famous Moorish Clock Tower, one of many painted ponies, Heather and statue pondering, Tim and serious-looking statues.
9: Parque de Los Iguanas | The Parque de Los Iguanas is exactly what it sounds like. The iguanas would get really close to you! Their favourite thing to do is lie around in the same position. | Someone has to feed and clean up after the iguanas.
10: Guayaquil also had another boardwalk: Malecon de Salado, it was much less busy. Our drink ticket at the Oro Verde hotel said that on Sundays you couldn't buy alcohol, but we had no trouble at all! The pastry is called 'oreja' and we got one every night at a bakery for an after supper treat.
11: Time to go to the Galapagos! | To the Galapagos ! | After leaving Guayaquil, we left for the Galapagos Islands. You need to get a special park entry permit at the airport before you leave. People coming and going from the islands are very controlled, and you need to make sure you don't lose your permit papers!
12: We arrived at the airport on San Cristobal island to meet up with the crew of the "Deep Blue" for our liveaboard dive cruise. After everyone had arrived we took a bus from the airport to the wharf where we waited for the 'panga' to take us to the boat. At the wharf there were sea lions relaxing all over the place, on stairs, on boats, and on benches too! They didn't seem to notice us or care about what we were doing; we could get quite close to them.
13: Cabin #5 = home sweet home for the next 7 days. | Apparently shoes aren't needed on a boat, so we all put our shoes into a bin when we arrived and put them back on when it was time to leave the boat. | Below: the Ecuadoran flag on the back of the boat. | Looking towards the back from our room. There was a shaded seating area, and on the left is the stairway to get down to the level with the scuba equipment and the dining room.
14: The diving started in the early morning and continued all day; the most we did in a single day was 4 dives. Between dives we all relaxed on the boat and dried out in the warm sun. | Wet suits drying, BCD's and regulators ready to go for the next dive. Tanks got changed for us! | Eric, Manuela, Steve, Shelly, Erin, Tim, Lucas, and Andrew resting on the top deck between dives.
15: Left: dive briefing. | Nitrox log. | Right: getting ready to dive! Far right: Shelly, Ruly, Paula, Africa suited up. Below: this bell rang when it was time for diving and time for food. | All the diving was done from a 'panga'. Sometimes the big waves made it tough to get back in!
16: Summary: You had to push the fish out of the way to see the turtles, you had to push the turtles out of the way to see the rays, you had to push the rays out of the way to see the sharks, and you had to push the sharks out of the way to see the whale sharks. | The wildlife in the Galapagos pretty much blew our minds!
17: Clockwise from top left: red-lipped batfish (Wolf Island), sea urchin, parrot fish, Eric's camera, spiny fish, divers hanging onto rocks, coral. Middle: hammerhead shark.
18: Sunset on Wolf Island: an uninhabited bird sanctuary. It took 1 1/2 days by boat to get to Darwin & Wolf Islands. Below left to right: swabbing the deck, sharks circling our boat (we didn't do any snorkeling on this trip), Tim and Heather and Darwin's arch.
19: Whale shark: the biggest fish in the sea! It was like a submarine or a school bus driving through the ocean! He would appear out of the deep blue and swim by us silently, effortlessly, and then disappear as mysteriously as he arrived.
20: Surface Interval Between dives, we dried our bathing suits by tying them to the railing on the boat, or else they would have blown away. We also took naps, like Eric, Erin and Lucas. The pangas were towed behind the boat whenever we weren't using them. There are two ways to get back into a panga: using the ladder or 'sea lion style'. It was difficult to master the sea lion style! We also filled our memory cards with photos between dives.
21: The Deep Blue is the only Ecuador-owned dive boat in the Galapagos. It was the longest we've ever been on a boat, and it was very comfortable for our 7 nights. | View on the middle deck looking towards the front of the boat. | A pile of towels awaited us after every dive! Boy did that feel good. | Washer and dryer on the top deck, responsible for the towels after each dive. | Where captain Dario would steer the boat. | Looking down the stairs from the top deck. | Compost, garbage and recycling bins on the bottom deck.
22: Step 1: Attend your dive briefing | Step 2: Gear up | Step 3: Take a panga to the dive site | Step 4: Go down fast and hold on to the rocks | How to scuba dive in the Galapagos | Galapagos shark | Hammerhead sharks
23: Step 6 Return to the boat | Step 7 Get a towel, hot chocolate, and snack | Step 5: See amazing underwater wildlife | Eagle rays | Sea turtle | Garden eels | Giant trevally
24: We visited on land as well: on Isla Santa Cruz we could see the Scalesia Forest and sinkholes, as well as Galapagos tortoises in the wild at Rancho Primicias. | Yuki, Ken, and Andrew and Lucas all tried on the tortoise shell!
25: Galapagos National Park is home to many unique and endemic critters. On the way to the park we saw some marine iguanas, when we arrived we could see baby tortoises (with numbers on their shells), finches, and tame adult tortoises.
27: On Isla Santa Cruz, we visited the famous Charles Darwin Research Station where we could meet Lonesome George, the last of his kind (Pinta Island tortoise). There were baby tortoises as well. We went into the town where we gathered to see a local fish market along with the pelicans. In the evening we all had supper at The Rock.
28: On our final day in the Galapagos we visited a Sea Lion Refuge on Santa Cruz Island called La Loberia. We were able to get close to the Sea Lions, but they growled and hissed when we got too close. There were marine iguanas along the way to the beach as well as beautiful flowers and sand dunes. | Alejandro was our guide at the Refuge, we were free to walk around on the rocks and the sand. Tim also laid on the sand like a Sea Lion. Some slept with one fin sticking up in the air!
30: Goodbye to the Deep Blue and our friends above and below the water! | Sea turtle | Eagle rays | Hammerhead shark | Jimbei (whale shark) | Blue-footed booby | Sally Lightfoot crab | Sea lion | Blue feet!
31: Farewell to the unforgettable Galapagos! Our adventures were amazing: lush underwater wildlife, rare and unique animals, great guides, and an awesome group of people. Our first dive liveaboard was excellent! | The crew of the Deep Blue (Richie, Javier, Dario, Dario...yes two Dario's)
32: Peru Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes, Cuzco, Lima
33: 2011 was the 100th anniversary of Hiram Bingham's 'discovery' of Machu Picchu. The airline had a special snack to commemorate the anniversary, and both the ruins and Cuzco had plans to celebrate. | On the flight from Ecuador to Peru, we were given a Machu Picchu snack box. The snack box had some interesting stuff inside it... Some we recognized and some we didn't. We tried to eat it all, but we couldn't! | A mural on an Inca greets us on the side of the airport at Cuzco.
34: After arriving in Cuzco, we left for Ollantaytambo, called 'Ollanta'. Located at the Western end of the Incan Sacred Valley, this small town has Incan ruins of its own and is one of the oldest continuously occupied Incan cities. The buildings in the old part of the town have been unchanged for centuries: you can see the irrigation channels that run down the streets since the town was built. It makes it difficult to get through some of the doors! | Key for our guest house. | Coca tea helps with altitude sickness
35: The fortress at Ollanta is the only place where the Incans successfully resisted the Spanish.
36: The train to Machu Picchu on Peru Rail: from Ollanta to Aguas Calientes with a snack on the way! We took the Vistadome which has windows throughout the train cars. The train sells out quickly so you need to book in advance to make sure that you can get a seat when you want.
37: Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu. "Aguas" is where you buy your ticket for the ruins (the day before), your bus ticket up to the entrance (unless you want to walk), and where you stay and eat while visiting Machu Picchu. The town consists mostly of guest houses, souvenir shops, and restaurants (some with questionable quality). There is a covered market, and the train station is right in the middle of the maze of a market. | Clockwise from top left: Aguas at night from a restaurant; statue of Pacahcuti in the main square; the covered market; sign directing you to the train station; the train station itself; the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre where you buy your entrance ticket (you can't get one at the entrance to the ruins, once you get there it's too late!).
38: To get to the ruins we lined up for the bus at 4:30am and there was already a huge line. People walking to the ruins went by with headlamps on. When we got off the bus there was another line up to get into the ticket booth. In the morning it was cold, and we needed our sweaters and jackets while we waited in line. The road to the ruins was pretty scary to drive! | The "lost city" is a 15th century Incan site located 2,430m above sea level in the Andean mountain range. It was 'discovered' by Hiram Bingham in 1911 as he searched for hidden Inca cities. It is theorized that Machu Picchu was a retreat for Incan rulers rather than a continuously inhabited city. Peru's most-visited tourist attraction, visitors to Machu Picchu are limited to 2,500 per day.
40: First we hiked to the Inca drawbridge, which leads to a washed out path that meets up with the Inca trail. | Next we climbed Montana Machu Picchu, the summit marked by the flag of the Inca nation. | Flag at the summit | Look how fast we did it! | This way to Inca Trail | Machu Picchu is so tiny!
41: Architecture of of Machu Picchu | Intihuatacan, the 'hitching post of the sun' | Funerary rock | The Temple of Three Windows | Carving in the Temple of the Condor | Trapezoidal window | Tightly fitted stones
42: Machu Picchu is divided into two sectors: Agricultural and Urban. The agricultural sector is where the crops were grown and the Inca Trail enters the city; the urban sector contains temples, housing for the royal family, and the most striking Inca architecture including temples and sacred fountains. | Temple of the Sun | The quarry | Sacred fountains | The Royal Tomb | Temple of the Condor
43: The mountain in the background is called Huyana Picchu
44: We arrived in Cuzco in time for the 100th year anniversary celebration. There was dancing, costumes, a beer hut, and everywhere the Inca nation flag was flying. There was also a screen showing the celebration live from the ruins!
45: Santa Clara gate. For the 100 year anniversary it was pedestrians only! | Guesthouse key | Tile street sign | McDonalds! | In the park | Inca statue | Alpaca! | R2D2 | Alpaca statue | Breakfast here | Alpaca steak | Pedestrian street | Tile sign | Decorations | Live music
46: Lima, the capital and largest city of Peru. We were able to see the historical centre of the city including the Plaza de Armas, the Museum of Inquisition, and the catacombs in the Church of San Francisco. | Plaza San Martin clocktower | Church of San Augustin | Archbishop's Palace | Cathedral de Lima | Church of Santa Domingo
47: At the church of San Francisco we went went on a tour that included going down to the catacombs to see how the monks dealt with dead bodies. At the Museum of Inquisition, we learned what it was like to live in Lima during the Spanish Inquisition (pretty scary). | Below: Norky's where we had supper and watched an exciting Peru soccer game! | Lima was our last stop before returning to Canada. | Church of San Francisco