The Dinosaur Goes to the Galapagos Islands
This may be more of an interesting trip than we expect, because this morning, I tried to print boarding passes for us for Aero Mexico, and found that we did not have a confirmation number from our travel agent. Since today is Sunday, we had to call their emergency number. No help; the young lady on the other end of the line told me she would have to get back to me.
After a couple of hours, I decided to try to get the information myself, so I called Aero Mexico. It only took a half dozen tries to get through their automated system and speak to a human. She was able to locate us and gave me our confirmation code (a string of letters rather than a number). So, now armed with that information, I went back printing the boarding pass. Surprisingly, when it came to the line that asked for my nationality, the United States was not one of the options; the US Virgin Islands were, but not the US itself. I typed it in anyway; after that it became an option.
Our next hurdle was identifying the emergency contact person. Usually, we use our daughter because she lives here in Las Vegas. When I entered her telephone number, the form told me I was wrong. Well, that couldn’t be, I mean who would know better, me or the form? I tried three different times to enter the telephone number. Finally, I got it right: you do not use the “1” in front of the prefix, and you do not use periods or dashes between the number strings. Fine!
I hit the ‘next’ button and got a notice that I had timed out. I had to start all over again, but this time I had more information at my fingertips. I breezed through and got to the ‘submit’ button. The legend said that, given the information I had provided, I could not print a boarding pass ahead of time and had to go to the airport early. That was about three hours wasted time.
Usually, I make sure that all our fresh fruits and vegetables are used up, frozen, or given away. I thought we had something in the garbage that had gone south, because there was a slight smell in the air. I sniffed a couple of times but figured whatever it was could wait until I had sliced up a red pepper for the freezer and pulled out the potatoes we were going to give away. Suddenly, the smell got stronger; there were some potatoes going bad on us. I cleaned up that mess, saved what I could, and disposed of the rest. Right now, in between writing spurts on this journal, I am cooking the surviving potatoes, which I will then mash and put in the freezer.
So, as you can see, the trip is already beginning, starting with glitches and concerns. I hope this is not a harbinger of things to come, because we are going to enjoy this trip come hell or high water.
And the adventure continues:
It doesn’t help that I am going slightly deaf, so imagine my situation when we walked into an echoing cavern and had to talk to a young person who spoke excellent English, but with an accent. In the process of checking in, we learned that one of the three airlines we have to use had changed our flight information. It took the young lady almost a half hour to straighten that out. Apparently, we will have to retrieve our bags in Mexico City and take them around to another location, or maybe not. Like I said, between my poor hearing, the echoes, and the accent, we may have been told an elephant would bring our bags to our hotel. We shall see when we get to Mexico City. I have decided that assuming the role of a congenial idiot will most likely be the best bet in these circumstances.
At airport security, we went through that glass booth that looks through your clothes. It’s like being in a glass phone booth crossed with a CAT scan. I don’t know what they saw, but they didn’t laugh outright when they told me I could leave the booth, so I suppose things were okay.
The lady at the Duty Free counter keeps trying to get me to buy something. Every time I walk past her, she makes a comment, which is kind of interesting because I have no idea what she is saying. Her voice gets drowned out by the Country/Western musak and the noise of other people talking. I give her the congenial idiot grin and she smiles back at me, which seems to take care of the situation.
They have an express spa here in the airport. That is sort of odd; I would have thought a speedy spa is counter-intuitive, since the whole idea of massage is to make you relax, and if you think an airport is a place to relax, I know of some beachfront property… never mind. The place is decorated with a series of busts of Buddha, which to my way of thinking, makes it look like an abattoir, especially with people sitting in those chairs where you put your face into a pillow. The heads sort of disappear and all you see is bodies leaning into the seat. However, I digress, and we need to get on with the trip.
We landed in Mexico City with a couple of hours to spare and a good thing too. We had to go through customs, which wasn’t really a problem except that we couldn’t find the pen we brought along when it was time to fill out the customs forms, so I used a pencil. Going through customs, we were in a short line, but had to leave it to fill out the forms again, this time with a pen. By the time we got that done, two or three other planes had arrived and the line was going back through the hall and up the stairs. Have you ever tried to get to the end of a line that keeps growing? It’s almost impossible to do.
Once we were through the customs line, we tried to find our gate. Good luck on that, because every information person we asked gave us different directions to our gate. Finally, we stopped a couple of cops who were able to give us directions. All this misdirection reminded me of the Munchkins telling Dorothy to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” We could have used a yellow brick road to follow. Finally though, we got to our gate. Our couple of hours lead time had shrunk to just fifteen minutes! They were already boarding the plane.
On board the airplane, we got to our seats. Patsy and I had to sit across the aisle from each other. There was this little guy sitting in my seat; he didn’t have any English and I don’t have any Spanish, however there was a diagram above the seat. I pointed this out to him and kept telling him he was in my seat, but he kept pointing to the window seat and telling me that’s where I was supposed to sit. Fortunately, when the rightful owner of the window seat showed up, he spoke English, and between the two of us, we were able to shift the guy to the middle seat where he belongs. I suspect I’m not the only person working the congenial idiot routine.
We have had to rely on the kindness of strangers, literally, and so far, we have not been let down. Even those who were not particularly helpful were kind. It’s an interesting thing to be a stranger in a foreign land, and I wish I spoke at least some Spanish, but since I have a hard time ordering a meal at Baja Fresh, you can imagine my awkwardness. Then again, when I had to fill out my paperwork with a pen, it was a German lady who gave me the pen, so go figure.
We had been up over twenty-four hours by this point, with whatever sleep we could catch during the four hour flight to Mexico City. We were given breakfast, but I goofed it and asked for the breakfast enchiladas; I should have gone for the Huevos Rancheros, oh well. At this writing, we are just about to touch down in Bogota, who knows what new adventures wait us there. I will continue later.
When we got to Quito, Patsy`s bags got lost. For some reason, my bag came in okay, but hers didn’t. This is going to cause some real problems, because she doesn’t have auxiliary clothing. Hopefully, the bags will show up before tomorrow morning when we fly to the Galapagos Islands. We settled in to our hotel as best we could, then had a nice dinner and a reasonable glass of wine. The menu had sea bass with chimichurri sauce, which I ordered. I wanted to taste their sauce because I have just started experimenting with this myself. Their version is more like a Pico de Gallo, only greener; the stuff I have been using is more like a pesto sauce. We called it an evening; tomorrow will take care of itself. By the way, when we got to the hotel, we had been up for almost twenty-one hours, just catching a nap during the flight to Mexico City.
First things first: we check on the lost bags… no luck. After breakfast, our guide, Julio, got us to the airport for our flight. We flew out to the islands with only one glitch – they changed the gate at the last moment, but we were so close that it really didn’t matter.
When we got to the island, the crew took us to our ship by Zodiac inflatable boats, but these were group sized, not the small version favored by James Bond fans.
There were sea lions on the steps next to where we boarded the Zodiacs, one had even commandeered a dinghy to sleep in. Sea lions apparently have the same sleep patterns as cats. They look remarkably like old cigars, except maybe a little sleeker, and they have mustaches.
On board ship, we were given an orientation and assigned groups to keep track of us when we leave ship. Patsy and I are Flamingos… does this surprise anyone? We both chose to go snorkeling, even though I am not a strong swimmer. Patsy is the smart one, she opted for a wet suit; me, I stayed with my old fashioned yellow swim suit.
We sailed to a place called Cerro Brujo, or Wizard’s Hat, where we saw pelicans, sea lions, and some really incredible crabs. The crabs are about a hand span across, not counting the legs, of course, and bright red with blue ‘faces,’ or what passes for a face with crabs. They call these animals ‘Sally Lightfoots,’ because of the way they tip-toe when they scuttle; their tracks across the sand are just long rows of dimples. The beach we went to was white coral sand surrounded by black basalt, which made the Sallys stand out more.
As a side note, apparently there was a dancer named Sally Lightfoot, and these things reminded the sailors of her. Maybe being on board ship for a long time does something to your imagination. After all, didn’t sailors think manatees, fat sea cows, were mermaids?
There are two other kinds of crabs here besides the Sallys, but we couldn’t see them. Our guide told us there were hermit crabs that hide under the nearby bushes during the day and only come out to feed at night. He said not to pick up any sea shells because the hermits, who are born without hard carapaces, use them for shelter.
The only sign of the other crab is a hole in the sand and what looks like small pebbles or pearls. These are made by the ghost crabs, which also only come out to feed at night. I tried to pick up one of the pebbles and it burst apart in my fingers. The ghost crabs stay inside their burrow and push the extra sand out in the form of the pebbles.
I got my face mask and snorkel out of a string bag easily enough, but the fins kept getting caught. This is my first attempt at snorkeling, and I’m not sure how to put on these really long fins. Walking to the water with the fins proved to be almost impossible, but by walking backwards, I got there. Right at first I didn’t see anything and the whole venture seemed a big whoop. Then all of a sudden there were schools of fish! Really! I floated along with them for a while, which probably ticked them off, because they kept trying to swim away from me. It was grand.
There was one Brown Pelican watching us the whole time. I think he was trying to tell us to bugger off, because he didn’t do anything but sit there and give us the stink-eye.
There were more sea lions on the beach, and we were told not to get too close to them, but some people kept pushing the envelope. Finally, one mother and her pup rushed up the beach in the middle of us, barking. I think she was re-establishing who was boss at this beach. It’s amazing how fast these things can waddle without hind legs. They moved at what for us would have been a fast trot.
We came back to the boat and walked around for a little before dinner. In fact, we walked as far as the lounge, where there was some sort of a party going on. Not wanting to be party-poopers, we joined in. We had a couple of glasses of a decent Cabernet and some complimentary champagne while the ship staff introduced themselves. After that, we went to dinner and, of course, had some nice Chardonnay. Now the reason why I am telling this is it makes the next thing more interesting.
Patsy and I took a stroll out onto one of the back decks to look at the stars. It was a bit overcast, but we could see the wake of the ship… we could also see a glowing bird following the ship. Wine does not normally make one see glowing birds unless there was something very odd about the grapes. However, we both watched the bird dip and rise above the wake of the ship until it came very near where we were standing, and then veered away. We decided it was time to go inside and call it a night.
This morning, we were introduced to our guides. Our group’s guide is called ‘Pato,’ or in Spanish, ‘Duck.’ I thought it was nifty for the Flamingos to be led by a duck.
We headed over to Espanola Island for some snorkeling and to see more sea lions. On the way, I mentioned the glowing bird to Pato and asked if they had fluorescent tides here in the Galapagos. He told me that they did in some places, and he told me the kind of bird we most likely saw, so no D.T.s.
On the island, there were a couple of male sea lions fighting in the surf; they were the only ones doing anything, the others just slept. Pato tells us the males are fighting because the alpha male wants to protect his territory. The rest of the lions are either female or juvenile, and are resting. They spend all night chasing fish and have to catch up with their rest during the day. Although the mother lions are trying to sleep, the babies are active, trying to nurse. Apparently the adult males have to leave the alpha’s territory, so they band together in their own herds until one of them feels like he can challenge the alpha. The young lion involved in this morning’s fight must have decided it was time to give it a try.
After seeing more sea lions than necessary, we looked around and found a couple of sea iguanas, a sea turtle nest, and then watched some Galapagos Mockingbirds try to bully one another. The sea iguanas are about a couple of feet long and black so they are hard to see next to the basalt. They have a fringe down their backs, which makes them look like small dragons… no wings or fire, however.
The sea turtle nest is just a big hole, in other words, nothing very interesting. There was a long scraped trail in the sand, leading to the nest, which is why Pato knew what was there. We were told to stay away from the nest; easy to do, since it was not all that interesting except for knowing what it was.
The mocking birds look sort of like our birds except that they have a long curved bill. The bill shape helps them dig in the sand for worms.
This next bit was absolutely hilarious: a couple of the mocking birds faced each other off, made rushes at one another, and assumed various threatening postures. They never did get closer to one another than a foot or two, but just squawked and jumped up and down. Meanwhile, other birds came and joined in, squawked for a bit, and then left. I don’t know if the original couple of birds stayed on or if they left the argument to some new ones, but the bit went on for a long time. Now all this happened within two or three feet of us. The birds have no fear; they also get no treats from us as we are not to touch anything alive. Even so, they follow us around like they are trying to mooch something off of us.
After seeing the wildlife, it was time for snorkeling. The water was much cooler this morning, and again it seemed like there was nothing to see. However, I finally managed to see more of those small white fish swimming in a school and followed them again. It is both soothing and exhilarating to float around with these bits of flashing silver.
After a bit, one of the Zodiacs took us out to a small island in the bay for more snorkeling. It seems like the best place to see things is where there are rocks, which only makes sense. There is protection among the rocks, and algae grow there. Patsy had been swimming behind me until I got into the rocks. The problem was that there was a current that could shove you into the sharp stones very easily. She had no way of warning me about where I was headed, but she also knew she shouldn’t follow me there, so we got separated. Once I got pushed around a couple of times however, I realized this was not a good place to be and so I got out as quickly as I could.
I did see some amazing fish while I was in there, some with almost electric colors, while others were almost invisible, except for a few lines along their sides. I may have seen a manta ray, although I was clearing my mask about that time and didn’t explore more. The sand had a different texture where I think the ray might have been, but I didn’t know there were any until after we were done snorkeling. I also missed seeing some sharks that rest at one sheltered part of the island during the day time. Apparently the sea lions and the sharks boogie around with each other during the night and rest up during the day. The small fish are probably just as happy.
Patsy went for a hike in the afternoon, but I stayed on to write some more. Everything is kind of catching up to me, so I took it easy. She reported back that Pato took them somewhere there were lots of Blue Footed Boobies, which I still have yet to see. Nothing much else happened in the afternoon or that evening.
We are supposed to see two islands today. The first island, “Bahia Ballena,” is famous for its green sand. All the other beaches we have visited so far have been white, due to old corals. This beach is colored green because of the presence of Olivine, a green mineral. The color difference between the basalt and the olivine sand was interesting, and somehow more dramatic than the white sand beaches; probably the novelty of the thing.
We were able to see a couple of different types of those famous finches, some Blue Footed Boobies, Hood Mockingbirds (which are different from the birds we saw on the beach), and we actually saw a land tortoise. It was a female, poised in the middle of the footpath. This thing is about as big around as an old fashioned washtub, and stands between two and three feet off the ground. The shell is dark and bumpy. It’s clearly marked with sections, which means she is young, at least for a turtle. The legs are as massive as you might think they would be to hold up something that weight several hundred pounds. So why did the land tortoise stand in the foot path? I can’t say, maybe a chicken would have an answer.
A quick note on the Blue Footed Boobies, the name ‘Boobies’ comes from the Spanish word ‘Bobo’ or clown, because these birds are clumsy on the ground. When they dive for fish, however, they are something else. They hit the water at what seems terminal velocity. I mean these suckers really hit the water. It’s a wonder they don’t all kill themselves diving for dinner.
There was a herd of goats on top of the hill, looking down at us. Our guide told us the goats are a real problem because they compete with the tortoises for the same forage. They were introduced to the islands by pirates so they would have a reliable source of meat. The pirates are gone but the goats are still here. Pato said the government hunts them on a regular basis and recently killed about 10,000 of them on one island. Later on, they showed us a National Geographic film about the islands, and it showed a marksman shooting goats from a helicopter. As well as cutting the herds down, the culling has also made them smarter and harder to find. Darwin would be so proud.
I took some more pictures of the Sally Lightfoots, especially one that looked like it was posing on a rock in the surf. It’s not like I don’t have more pictures of the crabs than I need so much as it seems to piss the crabs off that I am photographing them. They really react when you come near them. Pato told us that part of the reason they are black when they are young and so bright red as they get older is that it makes them easier for predators to locate. That makes sense in the broadest way, and again, Darwin would be proud.
We returned to the ship for lunch. In the afternoon, we went out on a glass bottom boat for about an hour. On the way, I got a couple of pictures of some Blue Footed Boobies, the local celebrity.
When they pulled up the covers over the glass bottom, we saw lots of fish as well as some starfish below us. One starfish in particular deserves mention. Our guide on the boat was calling it “Cheap Chocolate,” or at least that’s what we thought until Patsy untangled it and realized he was trying to say “Chocolate Chip.” The starfish is sort of fat, light brown in color, and has a series of bumps or something around its edge, making it look like a giant cookie decorated with chocolate chips.
Between shoals of brightly colored fish, we could see a lot of sea urchins on the bottom. Touching one of these things can cause real pain, but fortunately, these guys were so deep that there was little possibility I would come in contact with any of them.
The view below us was pretty, but it made me want to go snorkeling again. Everything was in confusion however, because nobody seemed to know if we could go on the boat and still get to the island for snorkeling. Since this will be the last time we can do it, I wangled a special trip to the island. Patsy chose to stay back on the boat, so I had a Zodiac all to myself. Just call me Mr. VIP.
After I got to the beach and put my fins on, I fell three times before I could get into the water. Finally, I took my fins off and got into the water only to tip over backwards trying to get the darned things on again. The surf is much stronger here than it has been at the other two locations. Finally though, I managed to get into the water.
Once again, the best viewing was at a rocky place. There were some really incredibly colored parrot fish hanging around there, and again I got lost in a school of sardines. Being with them is like being in a rainfall on a sunny day, except that the gleams and flashes of light last longer. These fish are only about three inches long and are white, but they turn silver when the sun hits them the right way. I also came across a school of small neon-like fish, not even an inch long, and swam with them for a while. Some of the other snorkelers said that they saw a Blue Footed Boobie dive under water and catch a fish, which would have been interesting to see, but I’m still happy with the small fry.
I had taken off my fins and mask when a sea lion came up to the beach to play. He was lolling around in the surf, rolling back and forth as the waves moved him. I decided to put my gear back on and go see what he looked like in the water, but changed my mind. Earlier, I had had a difficult time getting my mask to seal, and ended up with a lot of water up my nose. As I bent over to pull my gear out of the sack, I started dripping like an old faucet. Playing with the sea lion would have been interesting, but I had already reached my saturation point. As it turned out, given how graceful I am with the fins, I wouldn’t have had time to play before we had to load up and go back to the boat.
Today we visit the Darwin Center, where they are breeding tortoises and iguanas. The tortoises are hard pressed by introduced species such as dogs, cats, and rats that go after the eggs of the tortoises. There is a program to find the nests and take the eggs back to the center for incubation. There was one tortoise they called ‘Lonesome George,’ because he was the last Pinta Island tortoise. He was brought to the institute for safekeeping as well as an attempt to breed him with another species closely related to Pinta tortoises genetically. While George did not successfully reproduce, he had a great time trying.
While we were there, we saw several tortoises breeding (psst, that means having sex). It was not a pretty sight. They also make noises while they do ‘it.’ If you go to the Darwin Center, and you take along children, be sure to blindfold them when you get to the giant tortoise pens.
After witnessing the tortoise porn, we walked through the town of Puerto Ayora (roughly translates into English as the Port of the Main Artery Leading From the Heart. It’s a lot more compact in the Spanish). There it turned out that Patsy is good at haggling; I was impressed. I was thinking about buying a Panama hat so I could do my impressions of Sidney Greenstreet, however when I mentioned his name to a couple of people and got blank stares, I decided not.
We palled around with a couple of women we first met when we flew to the islands, Ginger and Cheryl. Ginger was all set to find a bakery for something sweet. Of course I could not let her do that all by herself, so I selflessly volunteered to help her find the nearest panaderia. The only one we found was closed, so I can’t report on Galapagos goodies.
We got back to the boat for lunch and a quick trip to Plazas Island, which will be our last island before we go to Baltra Island and fly back to Quito.
Plazas Island makes you realize more than some of the other islands, that the Galapagos are all volcanic. Part of this is because of the exposed basalt, which you can see that on every island, but also because right at first there seems to be an area with marble stones. These are pure white and very smooth. Pato explained that they are still basalt, but they have been covered in sea salt and guano (bird poop), so much so that the rocks look like they have been polished. We did not try to sit on one of these rocks.
We saw some land Iguanas, which are the main attraction here. One of them demonstrated how to de-thorn a prickly pear before you eat it. I can’t say if this is a regular thing or not, but Pato told us this was a National Geographic moment. We took a lot of pictures.
There were the usual sea lions and Blue Footed Boobies, plus a lot of Frigatebirds hanging in the sky. These things are really weird; they are all black except that the male has a bright red inflatable sac at his throat. During mating season, he puffs up the sac to impress a potential mate. I think I’ve seen something like this in C/W bars, but that’s another story. Anyway, the Frigatebird hangs in the air like something out of Mordor. They catch fish swimming near the surface as well as the occasional baby chick from some of the other birds. They are not popular with the Boobies or the Swallow Tailed Gulls.
After poking around on the Zodiac, we landed and walked along the island. Because the Galapagos Islands are unique, sort of a naturalist laboratory, you can only walk on certain pathways, which leaves the rest of the island in a fairly pure state. Interestingly enough, the sea lions will come a long way from the water to nap on the island. We found one sleeping several hundred yards from the water. Later on, we also found the remains of one sea lion; Pato figures he was a bachelor who lost a fight with an alpha male. Either way, he really dragged himself up a long way from the water.
That night, the ship had a special treat for us. They lit up the water around the ship because they said it would attract sharks. We figured they were chumming the sharks because not only did about a dozen sharks start to swim around in the lighted area, but so did sea lions and a couple of pelicans. It was funny to see the pelicans swimming around in circles, keeping an eye out for sharks while going after the chum. They were pretty good at estimating how close they would let a shark come to them before they took to the air.
There is something wistful about the last day of a cruise. You’ve had all the fun you are going to have on the boat, and now you have to play the waiting game while they ferry you back to land. One funny thing did happen at breakfast; Ginger, one of the ladies we met on the cruise, took what should have been hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. When she cracked it open, however, it was soft-boiled. She called a waiter over and asked him for some eggs that were hard-boiled. Most of the waiters and much of the ship staff spoke English fairly well, but not all of them. Through some broken English and pantomime, Ginger got the point across that she wanted two eggs hard-boiled. The waiter got that, but he also wanted to know how long she wanted the eggs boiled. Ginger thought he was still asking her how many eggs and she kept repeating ‘Two.’
Patsy tried to tell her what the waiter was asking her, but Ginger was involved in making sure the waiter understood her… you know what happened. A few minutes later, the waiter came out with a glass bowl full of two minute eggs! Some bits of the egg white had turned solid, while the rest of it and the yolk were still runny. Yech!
We finally got to the airport, which was like a cross between the local airport at Barstow and a yard sale. There were all sorts of booths hawking the last bit of tourist trash before we left the island.
The flight should have been short, but we had to make one stop along the way. By the time we off-loaded some passengers and on-loaded others, the flight took us most of the day. We were exhausted by the time we go to the hotel.
Here’s an interesting thing about the airlines we took: they feed you. Really! At a time when you consider yourself lucky to get some old pretzels on an American airline, these people are giving you meals with salads, an entree, and some sort of sweet at the end of the meal. They even offered us drinks! So, even though we were beat by the time we got to the hotel, we weren’t all that hungry.
Patsy’s bags were at the hotel! They had gotten there the afternoon when we left for the cruise. She was able to change into fresh clothes before we went down to dinner.
A couple of things happened that evening. First, I tried to close the blinds on the window and the curtain rod fell down on me. We had to get maintenance up to fix that. Next, I lost the combination to the room safe and they had to send someone up to take care of that. I think they will be glad to see the last of us here.
Today is our tour of Quito. Our guide showed up with a bus, but it turned out that there was just the two of us; they could have taken us around in a van.
Our guide speaks excellent English, and a funny thing – his name is Pato. What a small world we live in.
Quito is an amazing city. It reminded us of some of the towns we saw in Italy. There were the same kind of narrow streets, some of which were also cobbled. Many of the buildings were painted in pastels colors, while others were just the standard tan. Some of the buildings have fancy Baroque entries, while others have the glass and aluminum fronts of modern buildings.
Since this was Sunday, many of the streets were closed to motor vehicles and opened to bicycles or pedestrians. The main square was crowded with people, and there were picture boards about potatoes: people planting potatoes, people harvesting potatoes, people sorting different kinds of potatoes for sale, and potatoes boiling in pots. This reminded us that potatoes are a New World plant. In one photograph of diferent kinds of potatoes, there was one that looks almost like a banana. Pato told us this was a sweet potato, but he didsn’t tell us much more than that.
All around us were people dressed in native cosutmes, or maybe I should say clothes, since they were wearing their usual clothes. Pato pointed out several women in flowered blouses and black skirts, with shawls around their necks and over their breasts. He said this was how they would carry their babies, if they had one. He also pointed out how some of the skirts opened on the left and others opened on the right. He said that you can tell by the way the skirt hangs, which part of the country the woman comes from.
By the way, Quito is 9252 feet above sea level, while Las Vegas is only 2,030 ft. above sea level. Even so, we did not get winded when we walked, and by the time we were done, we had walked three or four miles.
We visited several cathedrals and saw so much gold that we are reminded this was the home of the last Incas. The last Inca (king) tried to ransom himself from the Spanish, by filling up a room to the height of a man, with gold.
Panama hats were everywhere, as well as that modified derby/pork pie type hat that the Andean Indians wear. By the time we had walked around the square, I was just as glad that I didn’t buy one, but more on that later.
Quito is one of those places you need weeks, maybe even years to visit. There are mountains surrounding the city, which is no surprise, since we are in the Andeas. One mountain in particular was a natural pyramid for the Incas, so they had no need to build something on their own. The hill is now surmounted by a huge statue of the Virgin Mary, which is not surprising. If you want to do away with an old religion, you change its important places.
We stopped at an art museum sponsored by one of the cathedrals. The pillars outside the museum entrance were those twisty things like in the Sistine Chapel, only not as big. We bought a nice fox mask and a couple of bowls while we were there. It wasn’t easy to choose what to buy, because there were so many things to see and so much being offered for sale in the museum, especially copies of pre-Columbian art work. There were some nice copies of Incan effigy pots and figurines (including a couple doing the naughty), and a lot of traditional fiber art that would have been outstanding to have, but there was really no way to get them back home, so we stayed with the mask and bowls.
Outside the museum, there were dances going on in the plaza as we pass, along with several groups busking around the square, playing futes and drums. It was all spectacular, but finally we were tired out, and the tour was at an end.
Pato took us back to the hotel and, after a short rest, walked down to another market area. This is where I saw Patsy do her stuff again. She bought a woven bag for herself and an Indiana Jones type felt hat for me. The Panama hats had been going for as much as $45 USD in most places we visited, but she got my hat for $13 USD. She is formidable.
On the way back, I managed to get us lost and had to ask some policemen how to get to the hotel. I think my Spanish is getting better, because it only took them a minute or two, speaking to one another, before giving us directions. I think they were amazed at how precisely I spoke their lanuage.
We had a good night’s rest, and got up at 3:30, w-a-y too early, to catch our plane to Bogota. Our other guide, Julio, was there to take us to the airport. This a good thing for us, but maybe not for Julio, since yesterday was his birthday, and he had been celebrating.
Again, we flew on Avianca, and again they fed us some nice chicken stuffed with ham and cheese, along with some slices of fruit. We could have had some free shots of tequila too, but it was also too early for that.
Make note American Airlines, Virgin, Southwest and the rest: Aviance and Aero Mexico gave us food! Real food, not some crumby pretzels. A friend of ours told us that most airlines serve food on international flights, and the one from Quito to Bogota was technically international, but we barely had enough time to get the food, eat, and return the dirty trays before we were touching down in Columbia. So maybe what our friend said is true, but it took less time to fly to Bogota than it does to fly from Las Vegas to Dallas/Fort Worth.
After a twenty-one hour flight, we landed in Las Vegas. We were worn out, but happy to be home. Would we do it again? Hell yes. Would we visit Quito again? You bet! It would be nice to take more time if we did it again, though.
So, this is the end of another Dinosaur log; I hope you enjoyed the visit, and I hope I have inspired you to at least think about visiting Quito and the Galapagos Islands. If you can, do it.