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The Last Days in the Galapagos Islands:

Fog made it hard to see the Craters

Fog made it hard to see the Craters

 

The Last Day on the Mainland, Quito:

  • Hummingbird Sanctuary
    • Admired all the different colored humming birds.  The sanctuary had had coffee and crackers as a snack to warm us up from the cool drizzle.
  • Hot Springs
    • Relaxing springs in Ecuador that are used for therapy and relaxation.

 

The Final Day: Saying Goodbye

Being in another culture like Ecuador was an eye-opening experience.  At first it was difficult for me, as I am not well versed in the Spanish language, but after some time I picked up a few words and phrases and even had my new friends help.

 

Flora and Fauna

The flora and fauna I will miss greatly!  At first it was a lot to take in, so many colorful flowers, monkeys jumping in the trees, the feeling of bugs crawling on you almost every second.  After awhile I grew accustomed to it and loved every second of it.

 

What I learned

This experience taught me something very important.  I can do a lot more with my disability than I ever thought possible.  I impressed myself by being able to do what I did out there (jumping, crawling, hiking).  My confidence in what I can do has increased significantly.

 

Best Experience

My favorite experience by far was the Galapagos!  I have wanted to go there since I was ten and read about it in a magazine.  The marine life has always sparked an interest in me, and snorkeling has become my favorite thing to do!

 

Leaving Ecuador

Leaving Ecuador is definitely a bittersweet goodbye.  I am going to miss everything about Ecuador but in the end I gained new friends and made deeper connections with the people on the trip.  I hope these friendships and the memories last forever.

 

The End: Stay Tuned for Another Blog Topic

Island Hopping

On our way to Floreana Island, the guide stopped the boat to let us watch a playful pod of dolphins swim around our boat.  Unexpectedly, the guide told us to put our wetsuits and gear on and dive in.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I was the first to get into my wetsuit, put my snorkeling mask and flippers on.  I took a “giant stride” into the ocean, loosing my breath as I hit the cold temperatures of the deep Pacific.  Looking under me there was nothing but blue emptiness.  You couldn’t see the bottom and it was quite eerie.  I saw a couple fins swim past me, but unfortunately the dolphins were more interested in looking for food.

Ready to Dive in with the Dolphins

Ready to Dive in with the Dolphins

 

Floreana Island

Floreana had much to see including,

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

 

Snorkeling

Getting back into the water we swam with sea turtles.  Being careful not to touch them or disturb them while they eat.  It was fun diving down with them and seeing how long I could hold my breathe along with them, and then surface and see their snouts stick out of the water to take a breathe and go back down.

 

Learning to Drive a Boat

On our way back to the main Island the driver of the boat let me come up to the top.  After struggling to interact with one another, considering we didn’t speak each other’s language, he let me take the wheel.  Lets just say, it is way easier to drive a car; I was all over the place!

 

Next Week:  The last day in the Galapagos and back to Quito

Island Hopping Begins

The bus made it over the top of hill as we looked down at the boat landing.  The sunrise glistened on the surface of the Pacific as different boats of all sizes gently moving along with each small ripple of water that passed underneath it.  Today was the beginning of our Island hopping program and I was ecstatic.  Hopping into the little boat I hadn’t realized this was to get to the other boat, for when the guide pointed the boat out to me, I was shocked.  The boat turned out to be a big yacht and I was shocked, you could say I felt like a millionaire at that moment in time, because we were riding in style!

View of Boats from the Island

View of Boats from the Island

 

The Ride of a Lifetime

The boat ride was gorgeous.  Most of us that weren’t seasick sat up on top in the very front.  My legs dangled off the boat as I wrapped my arms around the rail.  The sun higher in the sky, the blue waters sparkled and danced making every small worry in the world disappear.  A Frigate bird took flight above us, soaring closer and closer using the winds from the boat to keep him from flapping his wings and using energy.  His long, black wingspan and white breast was visible and at times he got so close we could almost reach out and touch him.

 

Pinzon

The island we visited was small enough that we walked the whole circumference.  The island was home to many different animals including,

Frigate Bird

Frigate Bird

 

Adventure in the Water

It was finally time to snorkel! The moment that I had been waiting for was here!  Swimming along the surface the view under the water was spectacular.  The underwater world teamed with life, brightly colored fish swam everywhere.  Getting scared at first but then swimming back to investigate.  A parrotfish swam under me, occasionally looking up at me with his huge eyeball.  I swam on looking more into the deeper part of the waters I made out what looked to be a reef shark laying on the sandy bottom, his gray body almost slithering away when I got closer.  Swimming on two female sea lions jumped in and curiously swam around us and through our legs.  I was the last one out of the ocean for I did not want this experience to end.

 

Next Week: Tortoises, Pirates, and Sharks.  I’m taking you to Floriana.

Baltra Island

Peering my eyes out the plane window, I saw Baltra Island surrounded by the Pacific Ocean waters come into view.  Is this all a dream? I’ve been dreaming of the Galapagos Islands since the day I was able to read about it in National Geographic magazines.  The plane landed on the small strip of the Galapagos Baltra Airport, one of the smallest airports I have ever laid my eyes on.  Waiting in line to check our ID’s and Galapagos passes a moment of pure terror came across my eyes like I had just seen a ghost.  I frantically ripped open the front zipper of my backpack, realizing that I misplaced my pass.  I let out a sigh of relief as I saw it nestled into a pouch along with my passport.  Nothing was going to stop me from living my dream.

 

Santa Cruz Island

Boats are the only transportation to get from island to island.  Leaving Baltra we took a short boat ride to reach Santa Cruz Island.  Peering our over the edge I saw a little puffer fish float past, following it until I lost sight of it.  Looking up I saw a fat Sea Lion lying on a buoy, curiously looking at us as we floated by, he seemed to not have a care in the world.  Arriving at our Hostel, “The Red Boobie,” we ventured off onto our next escapade.

lionDSCN0490

Sea Lion on Buoy

 

Tortuga Bay

The trail length to get to Tortuga Bay was about 2500 Meters and took us about 45 minutes, however there were many exciting Galapagos animals (that are mentioned below).  Looking down at my feet, the path got progressively sandy and my ears focused in on the sound of waves crashing against the shoreline.  Looking up my eyes fixed on it, the Ocean, the beach, realizing that we made it we kicking off our shoes and raced out to the open ocean.  Walking down the coast we finally made it to the Bay.  Writing our names in the sand, Kayaking with sea turtles and rays, and just enjoying the salty breeze, yea…this had to be a dream.

Kayaking in Tortuga Bay

Kayaking in Tortuga Bay

 

Wildlife found on the trek:

Lava Lizard

Lava Lizard

 

Next Week: Beginning Island Hopping

Touring the City of Guayaquil

Arriving in Guayaquil all we cared about was food.  I was so hungry that, I kid you not, my stomach was eating itself.  If I could I would have ordered the entire menu but I settled on a meaty, cheesy, greesy burger.  (Note to self: Burgers do not taste the same here then they do in Wisconsin) however I was so incredibly hungry that I basically swallowed it whole.  The city was beautiful, including many old building and new buildings intermixed.  The center of the city had an Iguana park.  Iguanas in the trees, on the lawn, in the pool, everywhere you stepped, there was an Iguana.  By the end of the day I was all “Iguanaed” out.

Iguana

Iguana

 

Malecón and Las Penas

Walking westward through the city we finally made it to Malecón.  It included a boardwalk overlooking the Guaya River.  It had a very modern feel to it and it a very peaceful walk.  I stopped at the edge of the pier looking out across the large River.  I closed my eyes as the wind hit my face, the loose strands of hair brushed against my skin, I felt a calmness embrace me and for a second I was the only one in Ecuador and I loved it.  A raindrop hit my nose and snapped me back into reality.  I ran to catch up to my group as the heavens opened up on us and let the rain fall.  We stopped in a small shop to wait out the rain and eventually headed to our next destination.  Las Penas was an older town but the only way to reach it was by climbing up 440 plus stairs. I was huffing and puffing by the time my foot reached the 440th step, I literally thought I could blow a house down like the big bad wolf.  It was well worth it for the view of the entire city along the river was spectacular.

Guaya River

Guaya River

 

Iguanazu Hostel

We were excited to arrive to our hostel after a very exciting and exhausting day.  The hostel was on top of a hill overlooking the city.  It had a wrap around deck with many places to sit and a huge pool where most of us relaxed and swam around.  My room that I shared with three other girls had a king sized bed and a huge bathroom, that included a walk in shower, and a huge Jacuzzi.  We were all so exhausted that we never used it and went to bed soon after.  As we snuggled into bed for the night visions of the Galapagos danced in our heads.

 

Next Week:  The Galapagos   

“You have to decide if you’re going to wilt like a daisy or if you’re just going to go forward and live the life that you’ve been granted.” ~Kevin Costner
Daisy found in the Paramo

Before Cuenca: Inca Ruins

The 10 hour long bus ride to Cuenca was making all of us antsy.  As we got further and further away from civilization, the denser the flora seemed to become.  The green canopy seemed to close in on us, and the monkeys chattering seemed to come from every direction.  But suddenly we broke through the greenish darkness into a wide-open expanse where the ancient ruins of a by a bygone civilization lay before us.   It was like being transported back into time.   The sheer size of the structures was amazing.  To think that Stone Age like people were able to carve and move and build something of this magnitude and with the hand tools they had was truly mind blowing.

Inca Ruins

Inca Ruins

 

City of Cuenca

After our tour of the Inca Ruins, we continued on our way to the city of Cuenca. We stopped at the top of hill (Mirador de Turi) that gave us a spectacular view of the city.  Although a bit overcast, the city sprawled out with red roofs visible everywhere.  That evening in Cuenca we stopped for refreshment at a little hole in the wall bar for a drink.  Our guide being with us made us feel a little safer and less inhibited which led to us getting just a wee bit drunk.  Our hostel was not that far from the little saloon but as we began to stagger back, my friend, Samantha, and I had to make use of a little girl’s room and fast.  But seeing no public restrooms anywhere (and doubtful there were any), we bravely ducked into an alley and relieved ourselves.

 

Cajas National Park

The next day, we were woken up bright and early to head to Cajas National Park.  Of course, I had a hangover and the park was at an even higher elevation which made my headache and stomach 10x worse than a normal hangover would feel.  Needless to say, I did not enjoy myself nearly as much as I would have.  The view was breathtaking.  Being higher up the climate was Páramo, which was more like tundra than a forest.  The trees and other plants looked like dwarfs as they grew very close to the ground to conserve energy in the cold winds.  As we hiked along a narrow trail, we came to a clear, sparkling river.  The area was soothing to my aching head, and we stopped beside the rushing stream for about an hour to eat.  I was famished and lay back to enjoy the beauty and sounds of this pristine land.

Cajas National Park View

Cajas National Park View

 

Next Week: Iguana Land: I’m taking you to Guayaquil

City of Baños

Arriving in Baños

The rays of the sunrise peaked through the curtains of the bus awakening me.  The early morning dew trickled down the side of the bus window as my eyes adjusted to the light.  Driving straight through from the Amazon Basin we had made it safety to the quaint city of Baños.  Eager to start the day, we quickly placed our belongings into the Hostel, and started ou on our fourth adventure.

Sauntering through the small city of Baños the sounds and smells filled my senses.   The pitter patter of tourists footsteps, the clip clopping of horses hooves on the sun soaked cobble stones, the aroma of cuisine coming from the restaurants all transported me back in time to an idyllic bustling town.

Baños is located in the Andean highlands of Ecuador.  Its name is Spanish for “Baths” (or baths of sacred water), which come from the well-known hydrothermal springs that are found in the area.  Baños is considered a very touristy place known as the adventure capitol of Ecuador.  Waterfalls, jungle tours and outdoor sports are all included.

View from our Hostel Room

View from our Hostel Room

 

Run-in with the Cops

In sudden desperate need of coinage we were seeking out an ATM machine in order to obtain some cash when suddenly from behind us we heard a loud ruckus emanating from the interior of what appeared to be the vehicle of the local constable aka law enforcement.  Sporting thick black macho mustaches, the two policemen smiling like Cheshire cats appeared at our side.  Deciding that their somewhat ridiculous looking appearance of these mighty of defenders of the law were per chance helpful we approached them with gladness in our hearts.  Nearing the men in blue we kindly asked if they would direct us to the nearest dispensing machine.  With jolly exuberance the two lawmen exclaimed with glee that they did indeed know of such a location.  Much to our surprise they told us to hop into the back of the truck.  Baffled and a little taken a back my friends cautiously climbed into the back while I eagerly bounced into the seat next to them.  Cruising down the road at a steady 15 mph, the Ecuadorian officers cranked up the music with the windows rolled down.  We were in total disbelief that this was actually happening, as this would never be the case in any American town.  Arriving at our destination, bellies hurting from the laughter of our conversations, we leaped out and expressed our gratitude.

 

Next Week:  A Forest of Gnarly Trees, Bringing you to the Paramo

Amazon Basin

Monkeys and Snakes and Ants…

Oh My!

The Amazon Basin was a sight to see with the tribes we visited and the abundance of flora and fauna.  From the rushing rip tides of whitewater rafting to the creepy crawly night hike; the Amazon had so much in store for us.

Baby Anaconda

Baby Anaconda

 

Leaving Quito
The six-hour bus ride through the Andes Mountains to the Amazon Basin was breathtaking! We were sad to leave the beautiful city of Quito but we were excited with what was to come.

 

Whitewater Rafting
Five rafts starting on the long trek down the tributary to the Napo River.  In sink with the paddling our group finally got the hang of it and were ready for the first rip tides.  Rounding the bend our eyes fixed on the rushing river with huge rocks jutting out from beneath raging waters.  We braced ourselves for there was no turning back now.  Keeping our ears open for the commands from our guide we paddled through, the up and down movement of our raft as the water splashed over us and filled our raft.  After we conquered the first one we were ready for what was next.  One raft flipped and our team had to turn the raft around and save them, pulling them into our raft.  It was a great experience working together as a team to make it to the end.

 

Where will the Napo River Take us Next?
The day after we arrived at our jungle lodge we walked about 3 miles to the Napo River.  From there we took a long boat to the Shiripuno, an all female indigenous tribe.  They painted designs on our faces from the lipstick tree.  They also invited us into their tribe by doing a traditional dance, eventually letting us dance along.  Monkey Island was next and I wasn’t a huge fan.

 

I realized that these people have to walk and take boats wherever they go, they don’t have as many means of transportation as we do.  It also made me think about how the flora isn’t just pretty to look at but used for medical use.

 

The Triathlon
First we took a long hike through the amazon, propelled down a 15 foot cliff with just a rope to hang onto and after exploring on the rocky edge of the river we continued our slow, scary trek along the river.  Then one by one we crossed the raging river by hanging onto a single rope.  One wrong move and we would get swept down the river and sucked down a small waterfall.  Each one of us made it across safely and as a reward we got to cliff dive.  We continued on our journey, climbing over fallen mossy trees and muddy terrain, until we got to a beautiful waterfall.

Crossing the Raging River

Crossing the Raging River

 

On our way back up I stopped to take a break.  I felt a sharp sting and a burn in my shoe and it continued to get worse, and everyone behind me started to yell in pain.  I looked down at me feet and…we had stopped right on a colony of fire ants.  It wasn’t fun but looking back I realized they were just trying to protect their territory.

We biked back to the lodge and later sat around a fire and made chocolate from the cacao beans.  That will be the first and last triathlon I will ever do in my lifetime.

Next Week: Taking a ride in the back of an Ecuadorian cop car. 

City of Quito

The city of Quito, Ecuador was such an amazing city.  We arrived at our Hostel, Posada Del Maple (Bed & Breakfast) on May 20th and from there we toured the city.  We went to the Museum on the Equator (0 degrees latitude), the Basilica, La plaza de independencia, Jambi Huasi, and the Cotacochi Cayaps.

Museum on the Equator
The museum had different tools and instruments that the indigenous people of the Amazon used including heads that had been shrunk for traditional purposes.  Standing on the equator (zero degrees latitude) was the best part.  We were shown many different examples of what was possible on the equator.  Surprisingly, strength and balance decreased significantly on the Equator.  Balancing an egg on a pin was possible to do and we all tried it.  We were shown how water drains straight down (no whirlpool) when placed on the equator, however in the Northern Hemisphere the whirlpool went counterclockwise and in the Southern Hemisphere it drained clockwise.

Standing on the Equator!

Standing on the Equator!

 

Basilica Del Voto Nacional
One of the biggest Churches found in Quito, Ecuador.  Climbing many steps just to get to the top was a work out in itself, but the outcome was a spectacular view.

View from the top of the Bacilica Church

View from the top of the Bacilica Church

 

La Plaza de Independencia
This is the main square in Quito, which includes La Casa Blanca, where the Equadorian President lives.  Most of us thought it was crazy that we have seen where the Equadorian President lives, but not our own in the United States.

 

Jambi Huasi
Jambi Huasi is an old medical clinic that follows traditional methods of diagnosing and curing patients.  Less expensive then a hospital, many people are able to afford this medical attention.  The Shaman use traditional ways such as rubbing an egg on the patients body, cracking it open in a bowl and knowing what was wrong.  This was tested on a student, and the women was able to tell that she had scoliosis.  The second way is rubbing a live guinea pig on the patient and then cutting the guinea pig open and whatever is wrong with the patient will show up in the guinea pig.  I was not a fan of this because the guinea pig was alive and I felt as though it was kind of abusive.

 

Cotacochi Cayaps
This Ecological Reserve, was an old volcano that became a lake/Lagoon.  The view was breathtaking as we took a boat ride across.  It was quite an adventure because right in the middle of a downpour, our boat broke down.  Thankfully, we were eventually rescued.

 

The two days that we were in Quito were unbelievable! We had so much to discover and learn that we didn’t want to leave.  But we were excited for what was to come next!

 

Next Week: Bugs, raging rivers, and Evil Ants…I’m taking you to the Amazon Basin!

Introduction

Hi! My name is Nora Lingenfelter; I am currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater studying Environmental Science.  Within the next ten weeks I will be blogging about my adventures that i had during my travel study to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Travel Study Group

La Plaza de Independia (Main square in Quito) Travel Study Group Photo. Photo Complements: Linda Eshelman

 

Audience:

People who would be interested in this blog include,

  • Travelers (People who like to explore the world)
  • Biologists, Environmentalists, or people who just enjoy nature
  • Photographers (Pictures will be posted from this trip)

 

My Approach

Growing up, I was always interested in exploring new places that I had never seen.  I loved the breathtaking views and enjoyed watching the organisms interact with their environment.  Junior year at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, my dream of exploring more then just my country came true.  A travel study to Ecuador was offered and I quickly took up the opportunity.  I would like to share with people the experiences I had about the culture and biodiversity of Ecuador.

 

Weekly Blog Topics

  • Introduction
  • City of Quito
  • Amazon Basin
  • City of Banos
  • City of Cuenca and Cajas National Park
  • City of Guayaquil
  • Galapagos Islands (Baltra Islands)
  • Galapagos Islands cont. (Island hopping/looking at flora and fauna)
  • Galapagos Islands cont. (Floriana Island)
  • Final Thoughts

 

Background Information

Ecuador is located in the northwestern part of South America, which includes the Galapagos Islands west of the mainland in the Pacific Ocean.  This country, which is bordered by Peru to the east and south and Columbia to the north, is rich in biodiversity and culture.  Culture and history are still being taught and more endemic species are being discovered.

Map: Ecuador

Map: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Next Week: Quito, the beginning of an adventure!