A Travellerspoint blog

Stop-over Guayaquil.....and then to the Galapagos

The bus terminal in Guayaquil was huge, like a airport but we had no problem getting a taxi to our overnight accommodations which was at Hostel Suites Madrid. The taxi ride was $5.00. When Tom was researching accommodations he was looking for a place close to the airport as we would be taking off to the Galapagos and returning from the Galapagos to Guayaquil. On our return flight back to Guayaquil we had arranged to spend two nights in Guayaquil which would give us the opportunity to explore Guayaquil's Malecon. But the focus on January 5th was to have a place to put our heads before taking off to the Galapagos so we just grabbed a beer at a bar nearby and found a place to grab a bite to eat and came back to our room. Tom had also asked if we could leave our luggage at Hostal Suites Madrid so we didn't have to haul 2 big bags around the Galapagos. This was not a problem and there was no charge to do this. We went through our luggage and got rid of all our heavier clothing and left it behind..what a relief. As soon as our heads hit the pillow we crashed and having air conditioning made it all that much more easier to have a good night's sleep.

Bus terminal Guayaquil

Bus terminal Guayaquil


Bus terminal Guayaquil

Bus terminal Guayaquil

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Walking Tour of the old Town, Quito

The Colonial House had a couple of postings throughout their building advertising a free walking tour of the Old Town. We were told it started at 9:30 a.m at Plaza Grande (the main Plaza) so right after breakfast we headed out. We arrived at the Plaza at 9:35 a.m. and looked around the square but could not find the tour group. After wandering around for 15 minutes or so (and neither of was in a positive mood). We decided to go and visit the National Basilica which could be seen at various spots throughout the city due to it's high towers. The street leading up to the Basilica was on a big incline. The sidewalks are narrow, and on this particular street there were tailors and shoemakers shops dotted along the route to the Basillica. It was just before 10:00 a.m. when we arrived at the Basilica but we could not start our tour until 10:00 a.m. - the time the admissions office opened. While Tom was waiting to get our tickets I saw a small tour group in the basilica's large courtyard and I recognized one of the fellows in the group from our hostel. I remember he left just before 9:00 a.m. and I started to do the math in my head. If he's on the tour and he left before 9:00 a.m. maybe the tour started at 9:00 a.m. not 9:30 a.m. So we introduced ourselves to the tour guide and sure enough the tour had started at 9:00 a.m. We did not go into the Basilica as that was not part of the tour, but we did decide to go there another day.

I cannot say anything but good things about the tour. It really helped us to understand the history and culture of Ecuador. We went to several of the Plazas with Plaza Grande being the main plaza that also was the residence of the President. I loved the one plazas that Tom and I had been to the day before. They were great places to sit and sip a beverage and people watch. Kids playing in the plaza, police on segways; and the shops that sold handicrafts. Tom said he had experienced many of these types of plazas in Europe, I remember that I had a similar experience when I was in Rhodes, Greece.

There were three highlights of the tour for me. The first was seeing the changing of the guards at the Plaza Grande and this occurs only on Mondays-how lucky were we! The tour guide told us after the Ecuadorian Flag was raised that the yellow in the flag represented the sun, blue represented the Amazon and Pacific Ocean and red represented the blood of the the heroes (soldiers). I also learned that Quito was not the original capital of Ecuador. The capital was moved to Quito after an earthquake.

We also went to the Plaza San Fransisco Plaza where there was the most beautiful church and in the background was the mountainous scenery which included Volcan Pichincha (which I thought was a mountain). The crater was on the other side of the volcano and not viewable. I wish I had taken some photos, inside of the church but I had forgotten how to take pictures with the flash off so, I chose not to take any pictures. Of course, that night I figured out how to turn the flash off. The last area I enjoyed was called the La Ronda. La Ronda has a narrow cobblestone lane lined with many small shops and cafes that were still closed due to Christmas holiday. We were told that on weekends, there is live music. That night we found an Asian restaurant with the most amazing food. I have to say the won tong soup was better than what I have had at a Vietnamese restaurant we frequent back home. We ended up eating here for dinner for the remaining days we were in Quito.....tomorrow the Basilica.

Colonial House Hostel

Colonial House Hostel


Another ornate door, Quito, Ecuador

Another ornate door, Quito, Ecuador


Streets of Quito's Old Town

Streets of Quito's Old Town


Quito

Quito


View of the old town of Quito

View of the old town of Quito


Statue

Statue


Hilly Quito

Hilly Quito


Landscape view, Old town of Quito

Landscape view, Old town of Quito


Convent door

Convent door


This is a door to a convent

This is a door to a convent


Raising of the flag, Quito

Raising of the flag, Quito


Changing of the Guards Quito

Changing of the Guards Quito


Plaza Grande

Plaza Grande


Quito

Quito


Basilica, Quito Ecuador

Basilica, Quito Ecuador


National Basilica

National Basilica


National Basilica, Quito Ecuador

National Basilica, Quito Ecuador


Basilica clock tower

Basilica clock tower


View of the city

View of the city


Onto

Onto


Inside the Church of the  National Basilica

Inside the Church of the National Basilica


Nativity Scene

Nativity Scene


Confessional

Confessional


National Basilica

National Basilica


Stained glass in the church

Stained glass in the church


The church part of the National Basilica

The church part of the National Basilica


Glasswork at the Church

Glasswork at the Church


Inside the church

Inside the church


Several tombs were inside the church

Several tombs were inside the church


The view from above

The view from above


View of church from above, Quito Basilica

View of church from above, Quito Basilica


View of altar from above, Quito, Basilica

View of altar from above, Quito, Basilica

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Isla de la Plata - home of the blue-footed boobie

The trip we had planned to do while in Puerto Lopez was to visit Isla de a Plata, home of the Blue-footed boobie. Also known as the Poor Man's Galapagos. The boat ride to the island cost $35 U.S. per person and took an hour and a half by boat. There were 2 authorized guides on board the boat which is a government requirement. There were 15 people on the boat a group of kids from California, a lady from Germany a. couple around our age who were from the Netherlands, and a few kids from Argentina. When you land in the Galapagos you pay a $100 U.S. fee per person which allows you into the parks at no fee. This I fee goes towards the maintenance of the parks. Island de la Plata was at one time privately owned but later purchased by the government. A good thing since the farmers were battering the albatrosses on the island with bats in order to stop the albatrosses from eating the fish. So, although there were albatrosses on the island we did not have access to them as they are protected and there were not many of them left.

AN UNEXPECTED SURPRISE (and a first for me)

I would guesstimate that approximately 15-20 minutes into our boat ride the boat slowed down and we were told by the guides that they suspected there was a whale nearby as there were air bubbles in the water. Sure enough, and for the first time in my life I saw a whale, although it was not totally out of the water. The guide thought it was a great humpback whale but the next day I showed the owner of Hosteria Mandala my picture of the whale and he pulled out a book he had on whales (I never knew that there was so many types of whales) and based on the dorsal fin he suspected the whale we saw was a Bryde's whale. So, I looked it up on the Internet and this is what I found out. The Bryde's whale is not seen that often and when it is spotted it is in waters near the equator. Other facts I learned were: this whale is between 40-55 feet long, weighs 90,000 pounds, they can reach depths of 1,000 feet, and worldwide there are between 90,000-100,000 of them. Wow, were we ever lucky!

When we arrived on the island the group was divided into two. One group was for the English speaking and the second group was for the Spanish speaking. There were 3 trails in the park and each trial offered a different focus. For example, one tour focussed on tropical birds, ours was blue footed boobies and frigates. Also the 3 trails had different levels of difficulty and were different lengths. None of the two groups went on the longest trail as there was not enough time. The toughest part was the climb up to the trail. Along the way up the guide showed us a twig that was a natural incense and he also showed us a plant that acted as a natural antiseptic for a cut.

When we reached our trail's starting point we had just turned a corner and out waddles a baby blue-footed boobie, no fear whatsoever and the walk was comical. The babies do not have the blue feet. You know, we had read that there are a lot of blue-footed boobies on the island and you think, okay whatever, but it was true, wherever we walked there were blue-footed boobies. We learned that it takes several months for the boobies to learn how to fly and at times we saw the youngsters spreading their wings trying to fly. The mother boobie lays between 2-3 eggs but each egg is laid at different times which creates a hierarchy birth order. I read that food given to the youngsters is given to the first-born which ties into the theory of survival of the fittest. We were also told there are best times for mating and if a boobie mates later than the best time, there is only a slim chance that the eggs will hatch because it is too hot out. We also learned that the male courts the female by spreading out his wings and doing a mating dance. The male may have to wait for up to 2 weeks to be accepted by the female. Tom said that the male is very patient. The guide also pointed out to us that the boobie's beak is quite long and pointed and could hurt a predator especially if she is nesting or protecting her young.

As we were leaving Isla de la Plata we saw several marine turtles that came up to our boat. I had never seen marine turtles ever before, never mind in their natural habitat...how exciting. And I have turtles (i.e. earrings, necklaces, carvings) I have collected over the years.

After we finished our hike on Isla de la Plata, we went to another location and did some Snorkeling. I had more trouble getting my leg up and over the ladder when I was returning back to the boat. Snorkelling-wise, I had had similar snorkelling experiences in Thailand and in Bali. I can tell you though almost all of the younger tour group members had Go-pros...I think if you are into water sports a Go-pro would be a great thing to have.

We arrived back to land around 2:30 p.m. and as Tom and I made our way back to the Hosteria, we found a place that sold blue-footed booby t-shirts that had Puerto Lopez written on them. We decided that before we left Puerto Lopez we would each get a t-shirt....which didn't turn out to be as simple as we assumed it would be.

Bryde's whale

Bryde's whale


The size of Bryde's whale

The size of Bryde's whale


Isla de la Plata

Isla de la Plata


Isla De la Plata

Isla De la Plata


Isla de la Plata

Isla de la Plata


What a view

What a view


Our first boobie sighting

Our first boobie sighting


A young boobie.....no blue feet...yet

A young boobie.....no blue feet...yet


Another view of the young boobie

Another view of the young boobie


Tryin' to do some flying

Tryin' to do some flying


Mom and her babies

Mom and her babies


Blue-footed boobie mom to be

Blue-footed boobie mom to be


Will this boobie be able to take off

Will this boobie be able to take off


one.two.....liftoff?

one.two.....liftoff?


getting ready to take off

getting ready to take off


Mom and young blue-footed boobie

Mom and young blue-footed boobie


Birds of a feather stick together

Birds of a feather stick together


Nearing the end of our walk, we see these two

Nearing the end of our walk, we see these two


Staying close together

Staying close together


A cosy twosome

A cosy twosome


Adult blue-footed boobie

Adult blue-footed boobie


Hidden behind the shrubbery

Hidden behind the shrubbery


Frigate Birds

Frigate Birds


Rhonda & Tom with frigate birds in the backgroun

Rhonda & Tom with frigate birds in the backgroun


Marine turtles Isla de la Plata

Marine turtles Isla de la Plata


Marine turtles

Marine turtles

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

A short story of Change, Fear and Compassion

On January 2, 2016 while in Puerto Lopez we took a tour to Isla De La Plata by boat which was about an hour and a bit away from Puerto Lopez. One of the main reasons we decided to spend time in Puerto Lopez was to take a tour of Isla De La Plata where there were known to be a lot of blue-footed boobies.

There were approximately 15 of us on the boat ride to Isla De La Plata. Once the boat started, within a few minutes there was a young woman, probably in her early to mid 20's who started sobbing uncontrollably. She was sitting next to Tom. Another friend of this young woman asked if she (the woman crying) would like to sit next to her. So the young woman moved onto the other side of the boat, sat down and her friend, rubbed her back and comforted her throughout the entire boat ride to Isla De La Plata. In the meantime, in order to make room for the young girl, one of her male friends took her place and sat next to Tom. Tom asked her friend, why the young woman was crying and he was told that this young woman was afraid of water.

Now one might of thought well, if she is afraid of water, why the heck did she bother to even come on this trip. My thoughts were: how brave to confront a fear, what a wonderful group of friends she has. You see, I facilitate a workshop that focuses on making changes in our lives. One of the premises of the workshop is that we often don't take the step towards change because we are afraid....you know afraid to be judged by others, afraid to leave an unhealthy relationship for a variety of reasons. Yet here was this young woman, weeping openly as she took the step she felted she needed to in order to address her fear. Once we landed at Isla De La Plata another woman in our group offered her some homeopathic products to assist her with her level of anxiety. The young girl, declined stating she had taken some other medication to help address her anxiety.

After our hike, which this young woman participated in, we went back on the boat to a snorkelling spot where a few people opted not to snorkel amongst them was Tom and the young woman. She told Tom she was afraid of water and was extremely nervous when flying over water and knew that she needed to overcome her fear and today's trip was one of the steps she was taking too address her fear. After the snorkelling was done and we were ready to go back to Puerto Lopez, a woman around my age sat next to this young woman and held her hand all the way back to Puerto Lopez. While sitting next to each other they chit-chatted about a variety of topics, where they lived, where they worked, why it was unlikely that the boat would tip over, etc. The young girl expressed to the older woman how she was trying to conquer her fear of the water but felt that she was not doing a very good job at it....and the conversation continued. As we approached land, the young woman was visibly much calmer and had not cried at anytime during the boat ride back to Puerto Lopez. She thanked the older woman profusely for taking the time to talk to her and help calm her down. She added that she felt so much better. As we disembarked myself and Tom raised our thumbs up and told the young woman, "way to go, you did it".

For me, on a personal level I thought of how difficult it us for most of us at times throughout our lives to make a change. It takes a lot of courage, it's scary and right in front of me on this day I saw someone move towards confronting their fear, and the kind act of a complete stranger who took the time to show compassion and comfort to a complete stranger. This young woman had the courage to face head-on a fear that she had. Not only did she do this, she did this regardless of whether or not those who would witness her expressing her fear were supportive or unsupportive. She exposed her fear in front of a group of complete strangers...and what did she receive? She received the support of her friends and strangers and made a big step forward in confronting her fear. So I say, to all of us who at a time in our lives moved forward to address a fear, make a change or offered compassion to someone they barely knew. Hats off to us!

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

New Year's Eve

If I were to guess it's probably been 4 years or more since Tom and I welcomed a New Year....we try but are usually too tired. I can't remember the last time I spent New Year's Eve in Canada....10 or so years. This year I was determined to stay up past midnight. Tom was not hopeful we could stay awake to usher in 2017. Once Tom eats it's usually lights out shortly afterwards.

Throughout the days leading up to New Years we saw paper mache effigies that had been made or in the process of being made. Most of the effigies we saw were life-size. At Hosteria Mandala one of the effigies was of the president elect Donald Trump. Other paper mache effigies were Ninja Turtles, Superman, Spider-Man, Homer Simpson and Super Mario. Throughout the night pick-up trucks were loaded with people and the paper mache effigies. As the night wore on, the amount of traffic and people on the streets increased as it got closer to midnight. Around 7:00 p.m., Tom and I found a restaurant that was about 10 minutes away from the Hosteria and wasn't busy (yet). I had a seafood casserole. It came piping hot to our table and it was delicious. So far that has been my most favourite meal that I have had in Ecuador. Tom had spaghetti which he enjoyed. During our meal, the table next to us was serenaded by a trio of 3 men. Several people joined in with the trio of singers. This went on for a good 10 to 15 minutes and ended with the restaurant patrons giving the group a round of applause and in return the trio was paid $10.00. by one of the customers at the restaurant. By the time we left the restaurant there was a line up of people waiting to get in.

We wandered around the streets, people watched and saw some people lighting lanterns and letting them float away just before midnight. We had seen this in Thailand several years before. Before we knew it, it was 2017. Yeah! We did it, we welcomed 2017! At midnight fireworks were lit. It was quite a light show. After the fireworks ended, we wandered down the streets and watched the effigies being burnt. Next thing you know, it was 1:00 a.m. and we made our way back to Hosteria Mandala. As we were coming back the guests from the Hosteria were coming back from the beach where they had just finished burning their effigies.

We were quite proud of ourselves for staying awake and we were happy that we had witnessed the New Year coming in while in Ecuador, at a small fishing village called Puerto Lopez.

The new Malecon

The new Malecon


Puerto Lopez Malacon

Puerto Lopez Malacon


Relaxing before the New Year's Eve Festivities

Relaxing before the New Year's Eve Festivities


Effigy of the President-elect, rhymes with rump

Effigy of the President-elect, rhymes with rump


Paper mache figurine made by hand

Paper mache figurine made by hand


Effigies for New Years Eve

Effigies for New Years Eve


Seafood casserole

Seafood casserole


Tom's New Year's Eve meal

Tom's New Year's Eve meal


Restaurant, Puerto Lopez

Restaurant, Puerto Lopez


New Year's Eve paper mache creation

New Year's Eve paper mache creation


Puerto Lopez New Year's Eve

Puerto Lopez New Year's Eve


New Year's Eve Puerto Lopez

New Year's Eve Puerto Lopez


Puerto Lopez New Year's Eve

Puerto Lopez New Year's Eve


Fireworks at midnight, Puerto Lopez

Fireworks at midnight, Puerto Lopez


Good-bye effigies

Good-bye effigies

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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