Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wet Feet

It was a wet landing which means we plant our feet in the water off the dingy and walk up the beach to put our shoes on sandy feet. Our guide gathered us to talk of the things we would see on this island and answer questions. My attention wavered and my feet itched... for two reasons. We walked on designated paths on the island of Santiago. It was the afternoon and somewhat cloudy with no chance of rain. Only sea breezes and a landscape that was created a million or two years ago. However it was once for a brief time also a place where people took up residence and made salt for the sailors. But in order to preserve the place the salt mining production was discontinued. On this island we saw the marine iguanas and sea lions lounging. The lava rocks made the ideal place to rest as well as creating a unique environment that told the tale of how this land was formed. We walked to the grottos. A place where water carved it's place with time. Aqua-marine waters filled large holes and made lava rock bridges. As we observed the sea lions grunt, snort, and slide into the water; being playful on the edges we saw a serendiptious site. Orca whales close to where the sea lions played, hoping for a meal. We only caught a fin on camera but we saw them arc in and out of the water and away. They realized the sea lions were not going to venture far out now. We again saw them off in the distance. Earlier that day we had snorkeled and saw sea turtles and such a superb variety of fish. So this was the perfect day. A child-like wonder returned to us.

Other pictures of this amazing day and the fin picture I speak of will be up on our flickr account as soon as we are able to do so.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Waiting

Blue footed boobies feeding juvenile.

Sitting in the lobby of Hotel España, in Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, in the Galapagos, in Ecuador, on the equator... 9:18 AM Galapagos time... It's raining.  Disembarked from the boat earlier this morning.  Feeling land-sick after five days/four nights at sea.  Why does the Earth wobble to and fro?  Trying to upload the backlog of pictures on the free WiFi in the lobby.  Impossible to describe the experience.  It went by in a flash, and at the same time I don't want to sleep on a boat for a long, long time to come.  Staying on the islands (Santa Cruz and then San Cristóbal) for the next four days before returning to Guayaquil.  Have thousands of pictures to wade through, catalog, and upload.  Never need to go to the zoo again.  Snorkeling with sea lions and penguins, marine iguanas, a white tipped shark, numerous tropical fishes, sea turtles.  Witnessed blue footed boobies nesting and feeding young.  Wandered through multitudes of island-evolved iguanas.  Avoided being puked on by a frigate bird.  Fur seals.  Swallowtail gulls.  Felt soft spines of giant cactus that had no predators to eat it.  Volcanos.  Lava tubes.  Incredible landscapes and seascapes.  Virtually unspoiled beauty.  Impossible to describe.  Rambling thoughts.  Need to catalog thoughts.  Process.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Goodbye Argentina, Part 2: Mendoza

NOTE: Before arriving back in Ecuador, Karla and I spent the last week and a half visiting several regions of Argentina, leaving Buenos Aires behind and following an almost-square pattern.  We took a bus north to Iguazú, then flew west to Salta, and finally headed south on another bus to Mendoza.  This is the second of two parts describing our journey.


DSC05531We spent the last three days of our time in Argentina in Mendoza, the capital of the powerhouse wine-producing region of the same name.  During our stay, we took a half-day tour of two wineries and an olive oil plant, a full day tour of the high Andes region and the Río Mendoza, spent a few nights out on the town, and stayed at Hostel Lagares, definitely a downgrade from the Hotel Orquideas but still a nice hostel with good mattresses and incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff.  Our tours and lodging were booked ahead of time by Say Hueque Travel Agency, and it turns out sometimes that it's nice to have things arranged for you, especially when there's somebody standing at the bus station to ferry you to the hostal after your 18-hour overnight bus ride from Salta to Mendoza.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Goodbye Argentina, Part 1: Iguazú and Salta

NOTE: Before arriving back in Ecuador, Karla and I spent the last week and a half visiting several regions of Argentina, leaving Buenos Aires behind and following an almost-square pattern.  We took a bus north to Iguazú, then flew west to Salta, and finally headed south on another bus to Mendoza.  This is the first of two parts describing our journey.


Garganta del DiabloIguazú is an indigenous word which means "Big Water", according to our tour guide (although she neglected to mention the language or which tribe used to live in the region).  The word refers to the Río Iguazú, the Iguazú Falls which are of course in the river, and to the town of Puerto Iguazú, which is nestled at the confluence of the Río Iguazú and the Río Paraná, across from Brazil in one direction and Paraguay from another.

While in the area, we visited the Iguazú Falls national park and Güira Oga, an animal rescue and rehabilitation center, and stayed at the 4-star Hotel Orquideas.  Staying at the hotel, which is outside of town, nestled in tropical forest along the road that connects the town with the park, was something that would have been beyond our price range had it not been for the incredible fact that, as mentioned in a previous post, we had won a free stay at the hotel along with a free tour of the falls, donated by Say Hueque Travel Agency, at the South American Explorers grand re-opening party for their Buenos Aires clubhouse.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Last Days in Buenos Aires

On Tuesday, Karla and I arrived in Puerto Iguazú after a 16 hour, overnight bus trip, leaving our month stay in Buenos Aires behind.  Although we're happy to be traveling again, exploring new places, we'll miss Argentina's capital, and we had a great last few days leading up to our Monday departure.  Here's a quick recap of the highlights.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Three Weeks in Buenos Aires

Week One: Arrival

At the ParkIf you hadn't figured it out from the title, we have been in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the past three weeks.  We arrived here on Sunday, June 13th, taking the direct ferry boat (Buquebus) from Montevideo, Uruguay, across (and up) the Río de la Plata to Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The boat landed at the docks in the Retiro neighborhood, which also happens to be where one of the major train stations is located and is near the heart of the city.  We caught a cab to Palermo, the neighborhood we're staying in, and spent the night at a fancy boutique hotel as a treat.  The next day, we took possession of the apartment that we've rented for a month.  We're staying only a few blocks from the subway, here in Palermo, on the edge of Palermo Hollywood, which it turns out (unsurprising by its name) has a bunch of fancy restaurants and clothings stores in it.  There's actually a news studio nearby, and a couple of nices parks.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Food I Remember

Today we had a nice stroll through Recoleta, an upscale neighborhood in Buenos Aires. They have a big outdoor crafts market every weekend. Though it is winter here it was one of those unseasonably warm days that we sometimes get. It felt like fall and spring at the same time.

Brian and I went to make sure this place we made reservations at (Casa SaltShaker), did exist and/or that we knew how to get there. On our way we found a cute little tea place. I needed it. I didn't have anything exotic... just some good Indian Chai. That is exotic here.

A while back my friend Allison asked me to write a bit more about the food we have been trying... I had some homemade spicy chicken wings made by new friends that I met through our mutual friend Suzanne. She knew them before she came down here to visit us. Very nice people who have great taste in music, candy, ice cream, and chicken wings.

But that is not exactly what Allison wanted to know... I think it was more along the lines of some regional foods that we've tried. Even though I know I have had lots of good food, I don't remember details. Except for the ceviche we had in Punta del Este, Uruguay. That is the most memorable. Brian and I still nostalgically think back on it. We had ceviche in Peru where it is supposed to be the best, and very different from that found in Ecuador, as well as other countries. What made this so memorable was the ginger... I think. It was served on a bed of arugula and other leafy greens with an accompaniment of mango. But the fish... I don't remember the name... was a white fish native to the ocean surrounding Punta Del Este. It was marinated in lime, which is standard, but also....ginger. I have a thing for ginger. We had this at a restaurant called Lo de Charlie.

Other meals are memorable more for the atmosphere, companionship, and presentation than for the actual food. Partly because alcohol was consumed. Map was a great restaurant experience in Cusco, Peru. The design and decor was unique. The pisco sours were really good and I know the food was good but trying to remember would be like trying to remember a dream from months ago. I do remember the dessert. It was a chocolate truffle with each truffle set on the plate so artistically that it was too pretty to eat. But I did. In order to get to one truffle I had to break apart this shot glass made of sugar. I suppose I could have just bit in to the shot glass but that probably would have not been so graceful and we were in a fancy restaurant. This excursion from the typical set menu or cheap dinner options we tried on this trip was not too pricey once converting soles to US dollars. And even though I don't remember the details it was a good night out and worth it.

I am sure I will have more to say on food. This upcoming Friday we are going to a closed door restaurant. If you want to know more about that, go to the Casa Saltshaker website.