Wandering Ecuador on the Wanderbus

Ecuador is one of the few countries offering the option of independent travel with all the conveniences of an organized tour, serving up the best of both worlds. The “Wanderbus” is a hybrid solution for those of us who prefer flexibility and solitude of solo travel as opposed to feeling like cattle being herded through the masses, following the umbrella-waving tour guide while making all the mandatory carpet and jewelry shop stops. The infrastructure feels like “cheating off someone else’s homework” to visit all the highlights while letting someone else map out bus schedules, connections, and arduous hours of research that can otherwise wear a person down. Continue reading

Getting Out of Guayaquil

When back in Quito trying to secure my last minute Galapagos cruise, I was under a lot of pressure to make my decisions quickly. It felt like a high stakes game, committing to the cost of the cruise without airfare, then trying to nab seats before the airfare went up or sold out. I had only a few minutes to decide what my return destination would be, and when.  I opted to stay in the Galapagos five extra days, thinking the cruise would only leave me wanting more.

That might have been true had I reversed the order and done the land portion first, followed by the cruise. But on the heels of the heavenly cruise, Puerto Ayora felt like hell, or at least Continue reading

Galapagos Islands Day Eight: Black Turtle Cove and “See Off Day”

The Beagle has a clever way of getting guests up and out early so the crew can begin to prepare for the next round of guests arriving that same afternoon. We will be up before sunrise for a boat tour around the estuary, Black Turtle Cove. No sweaty hikes requiring another shower. No swims requiring the packing of wet clothing. Just a cool morning ride around the lagoon in the zodiacs. Continue reading

Galapagos Islands Day Seven: Sombrero Chino and Santa Cruz Islands

Last night after dinner when I came up on deck to take my usual photograph of today’s itinerary and our chart progress posted on the whiteboard, I turned on the camera with every expectation that it would function perfectly. After all, it’s now taken almost a thousand photos since I paid $140 to have it repaired back in Quito. Instead, I heard a sickening grating sound, and saw only half the view through the viewfinder. A grain of sand was stuck in the “curtain,” the retracting shield that covers the lens. I thought I had been so vigilant in taking care of the camera since the repair job, so I was surprised to look into the padded case to see several grains of coral sand. What a heartbreak! After trying every method I could think of from blasting air through a straw to prying with an open paperclip, the “curtain” would not fully open. Lights out. Continue reading

Galapagos Islands Day Six: North Seymour and Bartolomé Islands

Day Six rolls around, and already I am starting to get that feeling that the end is upon us.  Time is going way too fast, and there is no way, no matter how hard I try, to slow it down. Every moment is precious, from the quiet mornings up on the teak deck, still wet beneath my bare feet from the morning dew, to the near-full moon shimmering on the water, casting enchanting moon shadows across the surface until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I don’t want it to end. It’s that old catch-22 dilemma of not wanting to spend my last couple of days feeling sad, but not being able to stave off sadness because we are careening toward the end. Continue reading

Galapagos Islands Day Five: Santa Fe and South Plaza Islands

We awake on day five moored to a buoy off the shore of Santa Fe Island in what is billed as “One of the most beautiful coves of all visitor sites in the Galapagos.” And I must admit, the description is not exaggerated. This cove is idyllic, taking every adjective I can think of to describe it…calm, clear, turquoise waters in a secluded cove just beckoning us to jump off the side of the boat for an early morning swim. Continue reading

Galapagos Islands Day Four: San Cristobal Island and Kicker Rock

We wake up on San Cristobal, fifth largest and easternmost island and home to the archipelago’s capital, to what would be our earliest breakfast time yet, 6:20am. As much as I am the antithesis of a “morning person,” I am coming to enjoy the earlier departures. For one, it’s cooler, as some of the hikes in the direct equatorial sun can get quite hot. But also, as we near the larger inhabited islands, we risk running into more people, like the San Cristobal Island day trippers for instance. Fabian and our Beagle crew have moved our itinerary to an earlier departure to avoid a 90 passenger ship that is now in close proximity. So it’s well worth it to get up at the crack of dawn to enjoy having just our small group on the trails. Continue reading

Galapagos Islands Day Three: Española Island

The Beagle has two zodiacs, or rubber dinghies used for ferrying passengers back and forth to land; one smaller and one larger. There are times when we all crowd into the larger of the two, but other times both boats are used. On this day, I learn a valuable technique…always try to get in the smaller boat, as it will only have one crew member, the helmsman. The larger of the two boats will always have two crew, the driver, and Fabian. With only one crewman, the smaller boat must wait for the larger boat to land first, so there is adequate crew to secure the boat and assist the passengers upon exiting. This is a long way to say “the smaller boat gets a longer boat ride.” On the landing in Española, this pays off in spades. The area where we would be making our dry landing is a “sea lion nursery,” Continue reading

Galapagos Islands Day Two: Floreana Island

Though it was a rolly passage to Floreana, so much so that at times I thought I might roll right out of my little bunkbed, I am thrilled to pieces to be on a sailboat again. While the majority of cruise ships in the Galapagos are catamarans, which admittedly offer more room and greater swell stability, I am a diehard sailor at heart, and find indescribable thrill and inspiration from being on a monohull at sea.

Though half my fellow crewmembers are skilled sailors, sadly, we won’t even see the sails unfurled on this trip for three reasons. One, the Ecuadorian Government keeps tight rein Continue reading

Galapagos Islands Day One: Meet The M/S Beagle

Aside from spending the money, my only hesitation in taking a Galapagos Islands cruise is that it’s been my 90 year old mother’s “dream trip” for years. As a “bird nut” and wildlife enthusiast, it’s been on her bucket list probably longer than it’s been on mine. So I felt overwhelmed with guilt to be taking this trip without her, even to the point of sending her an “apology email” beforehand.  While Mom’s mind is still sharp as a tack, (she is on email, Facebook, and never misses a blog post from her favorite reading list) her body is less cooperative these days. So although I offered to pay for her to come along, she understandably declined. A trip of this length is challenging for many, let alone someone of 90 years. So instead I will do my best to “take her along” in my posts with greater detail than I usually would devote to a one week trip. I hope my followers find the cruise interesting, but please feel free to enjoy the photos while skipping over the detail in the next eight posts if it’s too much.  You now know the reason why… Continue reading