Monthly Archives: September 2012

1500 Chickens on a Speed Boat

We enjoyed our 8 days of sailing around the Galapagos Islands so much that we decided to stick around for another week.  So we cancelled our flight back to Quito and decided to explore two more islands, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.

Santa Cruz

We started our trip in Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz.  This is a port town that offers a cool harbor, the Darwin Research Center, Lava Tunnels, and a pristine beach named Tortuga Bay.

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

We visited the Darwin Research Center, it contains lots of huge land tortoises, birds, and iguanas. I caught two huge land tortoises in a bit of a tussle, notice the stink face the one tortoise is giving the other:

2 Land Tortoises going at it

After lots of urging, I convinced Lynn to go with me to the Lava Tunnels. Lava tunnels are created during volcanic lava flow — the outside of the lava cools and hardens faster than he internal flow of lava, creating a tunnel as the inside lava continues to flow out of the hardened outer core. As we entered the tunnel, Lynn was all smiles:

Lava Tunnels

As we entered the tunnel, it seemed like they were really tall and we had plenty of room to walk through them.

Lava Tunnel

However, after walking through it for a few minutes, we found that we had to body crawl Marine style to get under some of the points of the tunnel. To make it worse, we wore flip-flops — not the best choice for rocky areas of the tunnel. So I am still trying to live this down since I convinced Lynn to do it!

On the last day of our visit to Santa Cruz, we trekked to Tortuga Bay. It is about a 45 minute walk to a really pristine beach. The beach reminded me a lot of the beaches in Panama City Beach, but it did have sea lions — something we obviously do not have in Panama City.

Tortuga Bay

1500 Chickens on a Speed Boat – Ride to San Cristobal

We wanted to spend a few days on San Cristobal island, so we purchased a ticket on a speed boat for a 2 hour ride from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal.    We loaded up the boat with over a dozen passengers and started to pull off.  Then to our surprise, another boat pulled up beside us and began unloading his cargo into our boat.  As they started loading these crates, we started hearing incredibly loud chirping sounds.   They had loaded 1,500 baby chickens into our boat and they took the 2 hour ride with us!

  1,500 baby chickens made a very loud noise. click here to see the video.

San Cristobal is a sleepy port town, we took this opportunity to unwind and just enjoy a few days without tons of activities going on.

San Cristobal

They have several beaches on San Cristobal, but they are totally overun by sea lions. You can even see them on the town benches. It is illegal to harm the sea lions, so they get their run of the town.

Sea lions are king of the town

San Cristobal has an Interpretive Center that I think is more impressive than the Darwin Research Center. It does a really good job of explaining how the Galapagos Islands were created and what groups of people have inhabited the islands through the years. On our hike to the Interpretive Center, we stopped by a small beach. We saw this sea lion resting on a set of kiyaks, thought it was very interesting.

Lazy Sea Lion

We really enjoyed this week in the Galapagos. We are now off to Quito where we plan to take a day trip to Otavalo, a place where indiginous people put on a weekly market to sell their wares. After that, we plan to spend some time in Banos, Ecuador. Banos is a relaxing place with beautiful waterfalls, ziplining, and incredible massage therapy houses.

Cruising the Galapagos Islands

Stunning.  Surreal.  Natural.  Beautiful.  It is hard to articulate the beauty of the Galapagos Islands, it is really a gem of a place like no other.  We took an 8 day cruise on a 16 passenger yacht around the northern Galapagos Islands.  This trip took us to 5 islands filled with all kinds of wildlife. We saw crabs, lobster, many birds (boobies, Darwin finches, frigate birds, and more), sea lions, sharks, dolphins, whales, huge land tortoises, sea turtles, marine iguanas and land iguanas.

For those of you cracking up – yep I said boobies.  Red footed, blue footed and nasca boobies, birds that take to the air. I am now officially a boobies man!

If you wish to see a photo slide show of our Galapagos trip, click here.

When we boarded the yacht, the first thing I noticed was a different type of bird flying overhead. It had a 6 foot wing span, crooked beak, and scissor tale — it was a frigate bird. I knew right then we were going to see many species of animals we had never seen before.

Frigate birds

We spent our first day at a nice beach surrounded with crabs and all kinds of birds and sea lions.  We snorkeled twice and took hikes.  We got to know the crew and other passengers on the boat.  Many were from Switzerland and we had one other American and a couple from Canada.  Great group of people — young travelers really enjoying themselves.  There was even a couple with a one year old girl — she was the sweetest little girl you could imagine.

Our first beach stop

Being on the yacht was really cool.  The cook was amazing, I don’t think we ever ate the same thing twice and the food was delicious.  Each day we had a full schedule, starting at 7 a.m. breakfast, followed by snorkling, hikes, and time to play cards and enjoy the other passengers.  We traveled to a new island each night so each morning when we woke up, we saw new and exciting surroundings — and the landscapes were awesome.

On day 2, we sailed to a crater style island and had some really great snorkeling. We saw lots of fish, sea lions, and a few sharks. We capped off the day with a beautiful sunset.

End of day 2

The next day of snorkeling brought us face to face with sea turtles and marine iguanas. I never knew iguanas could swim. Only on Galapagos — they use their tail to navigate the sea. They munch on the sea algae, just as the sea turtles do.

When snorkeling, I captured on video one of many sea turtles that we saw: click here to see the video.

Sea Turtle

Marine Iguana

We also saw the famous land tortoises. They are huge. Really big.  We even happened upon a sea turtle getting ready to lay eggs.  This is unusual for this time of year, the guide said he had never seen them do it before.  So it was pretty special.  It takes about 5 hours for them to dig a hole with their hind legs, lay the eggs, then cover them up with soil.  Very cool.

Land Tortoise

Land Tortoise laying eggs

During our trip, we saw beautiful landscapes everyday. We took over 1,000 pictures, these are just a few that don’t even do it justice.

Galapagos Landscapes

Galapagos Landscapes

Galapagos Landscapes

Galapagos Landscapes

Galapagos Landscapes

Galapagos Landscapes

Galapagos Landscapes

We saw lots of sea lions while in the Galapagos. They are very curious animals, they want to come up to you and play.

Check out this video of a cute sea lion we saw: click here to see the video.

Sea lions

Sea lions

Sea lions

Sea lions

On the last day of our trip, we came upon 2 alpha male sea lions fighting.  This is not seen very often.  I took a video of it: click here to view the video.

We loved the Galapagos so much, we have decided to stay another week and go to a couple of more islands. If you wish to see a photo slide show of our Galapagos trip, click here

Visiting the Capital City of Ecuador (Quito)

On our way to the Galapagos Islands, we stayed a few days in Ecuador’s capital, Quito.  Quito is a highland area, its elevation is 9,350 feet.  Even though we lived in Denver, Colorado for 14 years (5,280 feet), we found ourselves getting tired quickly and experiencing headaches.   But we did not let that detour us from getting out and exploring the city.

We booked a city tour, which was about a 6 hour tour that showed all the highlights of Quito.  If you visit, I suggest you do the same, as Quito is a very large city — spans almost 30 miles and has 1.5 million residents.    Quito is an old city and certainly shows it’s age.  It has some beautiful Spanish architecture, but like many large cities, it has become dirty and sports a lot of graffiti.   But we certainly enjoyed our short stay here.

If you wish to see a photo slide show of our Quito trip, click here.

Notice the high elevation

We started our tour visiting the statue of the Virgin Mary. She has a dragon at her feet and is said to protect the city from volcanoes. Quito is built around a volcano — so I can see why they needed this protection!

The Virgin Mary

We then traveled to La Rhonda, the first area of land settled in Quito. La Rhonda is supposed to mean “walk around”, as many people who lived here in the early days liked to take walks after eating.

La Rhonda

Quito has many churches and beautiful plazas. Most of the population is Catholic.

Catholic Church

La Plaza Grande (Independence Plaza)

It was also very cool to see some of the indigenous people walking around in their best dress. Everyone in Quito was very friendly. Lynn and I are beginners in the Spanish language but was surprised at how well we managed to ask for directions, order food, and make small talk.

The Virgin Mary

We also visited the stunning Basilica del Voto Nacional, this is a very large church, built in a Gothic style. We were able to go into the church and climb stairs up to the top of the towers where it afforded us an incredible view of the city.

Basilica del Voto Nacional

View from the top

We ended our tour by visiting the center of the earth. Quito Ecuador is located at the very center of the earth (0 degrees longitude). They showed us some cool events that happen.

If you pour water into a sink while sitting on the center, it flows directly down without any swirling. If you step a few feet to the Northern hemisphere, the water drains with a counter-clockwise swirl. Step a few feet into the Southern hemisphere, the water drains with a clockwise swirl. I was shocked that it happened right in front of us!

The Center of the Earth

Next we will be traveling to the Galapagos Islands.   If you wish to see a photo slide show of our Quito trip, click here

The Canadian Maritime Provinces

If you wish to see a photo slide show of our Canada trip, click here. We spent about a week visiting the Canadian maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Prince Edwards Islands, and Nova Scotia).  We started our trek in St. John, New Brunswick.  In St. John, they have a phenomenon that is rarely seen anywhere else — the Bay of Fundy has 28 foot changes in tides every 6 hours.

The Saint John River sees its flow reversed at high tide, causing a series of rapids at the Reversing Falls where the river empties into the bay, in a gorge in the middle of the city of Saint John.   From here, you can take a jet boat or more casual tour through the raging reversing falls rapids.  We started our tour at 11 a.m. and by noon when we returned, the water levels had risen about 10 feet.  Pretty fast, eh?

Reversing Falls in St. John

We also spent a night in St. John.  Other than the Reversing Falls, we found the city to be old, really industrial and not very exciting.  So we headed out to Prince Edwards Islands (PEI).  PEI is a true gem.  It has a beautiful landscape, tons of light houses, and plenty of fishing and lobster tours to take part in.

PEI light house with pink sand beach

Our favorite excursion was to take a lobster boat out to bring in lobster traps. We learned all about how lobsters are fished. Did you know that a single lobster can lay 1,000 eggs? Incredible. Our tour included a fresh lobster dinner at sunset — really awesome.

Fresh 9 pound lobster

Steve captains the lobster boat!

Lynn handles the lobsters

After we left PEI, we made our way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax is a really cool city, wish we had more time to spend there. It has a large military citadel at the center of the city and it is located geographically on the coast. We took an amphibious tour, starting on land and then heading out to the sea.

Goes on land and sea

Our final stop was at Peggy’s Cove, about 30 minutes south of Halifax. This was an impressive area as well — you have to see this place if you get a chance. It has the most photographed light house, they were repainting it while we were there.

Peggy’s Cove

Most photographed light house

Lobster traps

Cool fishing village

Next we will be traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.   If you wish to see a photo slide show of our Canada trip, click here

New Friends in Bar Harbor Maine

Note: If you wish to see a slide show of pictures we took in Bar Harbor Maine, click here.

Bob and Robin Charlton

New Early Retiree Friends

After meeting another early retiree couple (Bob and Robin Charlton) online a year or so ago, it just happened that we were going to be in Bar Harbor Maine at the same time.  We took that opportunity to meet up with them, have some wine, compare notes about how we retired, how we plan to spend our time, and of course, talk about our common love of travel.  They also took us to a restaurant that offered fresh lobster for about $10 per pound.  We quickly hit it off and found we had so much in common.  We really admire them — they retired at 43 years old the old fashion way — by saving every penny to make it happen.To learn more about their story — see their website at

Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park

Bar Harbor is a really beautiful place, if you get the chance to see it, you should do it.  Bar Harbor itself is just the beginning of the beauty — it is flanked by Acadia National Park, which is just breath-taking.   We first visited Bar Harbor, then we entered the Acadia National Park, following the Park Loop Road around the park.  Our first stop was at Sand Beach, it is a light brown sand beach nestled in a small cove.

No lifeguard to be found!

Sand Beach

After Sand Beach, we made our way to Thunder Hole.  This is a huge rock where the Maine seas thrash themselves against to make incredible splashes and sounds of thunder.  When we visited it was pretty tame, with small incoming waves, but we have heard that it can get pretty rough and loud.  While there, we met another retired couple that were visiting from Vermont, they told us to be sure to visit Prince Edwards Island because it is beautiful — we will take them up on that suggestion!

Thunder Hole

Then we made it to Cadillac Mountain.  This is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and is the first place to view sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6.  The views from the top of Cadillac Mountain is awe-inspiring:

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

We finished this incredible day at the Jordan Pond House, a cool eatery at the end of the park loop road.  We had Lobster stew and pop overs.  If you’ve never had pop overs, they are  a light, hollow roll made from an egg batter similar to that of Yorkshire pudding, typically baked in muffin tins.  We had ours with strawberry jam.

Pop overs

From our table, we had an outstanding view of the bay.

Our view from Jordan Pond House

We are now traveling through New Brunswick, Prince Edwards Island and Nova Scotia. We will be blogging about those adventures in the coming days.  Note: If you wish to see a slide show of pictures we took in Bar Harbor Maine, click here.

Hasta Luego…