SOUTH AMERICA 2022

In August of 2022, Stephen and I headed to South America for the adventure of a lifetime! Rebecca joined us for the first week as we spent a week in Quito, Ecuador and environs, and then spent a handful of days of a boat touring around the Galapagos Islands and snorkeling with sea lions. Then Stephen and I continued on to Peru, where we visited the 11,000 ft. high city of Cusco, and toured the infamous Machu Picchu. Below you will find many many pictures (but these are only a portion of the ones I took) with some captions to take you on our journey with us. After each day’s worth of pictures, you will also find a more detailed description of the day in text, and also a handful of videos from the day.

NOTE that although ALL of the pictures look even more amazing if you click on them for an expanded view – if you see that the description is preceeded by the symbols **, that means that particular picture is either very wide or very tall, and you will want to click on the picture to expand it and get its full spectacular beauty.

TRAVEL & DAY 1 – QUITO, ECUADOR – Middle of the World and Quito City Tour

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After flying from LAX to Atlanta, and then Quito - we arrived at our hotel - the Vieja Cuba - at about 9pm. (We were on the third floor rear - so the climbing started right away!)
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Rebecca didn't arrive until after midnight - but she was still up by 7am to have breakfast with us in the hotel - and then head out to catch our bus for our first tour.
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Just a five minute walk from our hotel, we met our old-fashioned red tour bus - and we climbed aboard!
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Rebecca too!
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The streets of Quito are lined with fascinating and colorful art installations.
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And off we went in our tour bus/street car... (with just five other folks).
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With our tour guide - Daniel.
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We drove about 15 miles north of the city of Quito to the "Middle of the World".
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In Spanish it is called "Mitad del Mundo" and the grounds contain the Monument to the Equator, which highlights the exact location of the Equator (from which the country takes its name).
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The 98 foot tall monument was constructed between 1979 and 1982 to replace an older, smaller monument built in 1936.
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We were thrilled to have such glorious weather since all the weather reports before we left home said it would rain the whole time we were Quito!
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Rebecca straddling the Equator - one foot in each hemisphere!
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And then Elise took her turn.
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Our guide told us that the Equator is one place in the world where you can balance an egg on a nail head - and he proceeded to show us how.
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Rebecca gave it a try, but to no avail! (Actually, if you look this up online, it is said to be a myth.)
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Stephen also failed. (Truthfully, balancing an egg on a nail head is difficult, but can be achieved anywhere - not just at the Equator.)
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It is indeed very difficult, but somehow, Elise managed to pull it off!
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Then we all took turns posing for the obligatory "straddling the Equator" photo - starting with Rebecca.
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Then Elise ...
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And finally Stephen.
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Truth is, though, that this spot is NOT the actual "middle of the world". Modern GPS has proven the Equator actually lies about 790 feet north of the marked line.
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But mistake or not, the pyramidal monument, with each side facing a cardinal direction is topped by a globe which is 15 ft in diameter and weighs 5 tons.
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*And here is Rebecca holding up that five ton globe!
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And the whole family poses!
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Next we climbed up to the top of the monument to admire the views! (Why didn't we take the elevator? Only Daniel knows...)
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We could see the little replica of a colonial village (where we would later have lunch) on the grounds.
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A panorama of the view - then we headed back down, visiting the displays of Ecuadoran culture placed at every landing.
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Then we had lunch on the balcony of one of the restaurants in the Disney-land-like colonial village.
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We had a lovely view of the town square where they were setting up for a dance and music display (which we didn't get to see because we had to head out before they were ready!)
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Lunch was yummy! Tamales, empanadas, and other standard local dishes.
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Then our little group got back in the bus to head back to the city for a tour of its many beautiful churches.
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First stop was the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the largest of all Quito’s churches, inspired by Bourges Cathedral in France, an awe-inspiring edifice with towering spires.
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The largest neo-Gothic cathedral in South America, construction began in 1887 and was largely completed by 1909.
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The grounds are extensive - including a huge internal courtyard with a cafe, restrooms, and a musuem.
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There were also stairways leading down to the crypts below.
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The basilica remains technically "unfinished." Local legend says that when the Basílica is completed, the end of the world will come.
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Next, we passed San Agustín Church, a temple run by the order of St. Augustine. Its construction began in 1606 and was completed in 1617.
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As we walked from church to church, we got to see the lovely streets of the Old Town area.
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We also got to peek in to a typical Colonial style home which is now being used for many different restaurants and stores.
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Independence Square (or Plaza Grande) is the principal public square of Quito. Its main feature is the monument to the independence heroes of August 10, 1809.
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This is the Carondelet Palace, the seat of government for Ecuador, and one of the five buildings that flank the square.
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The square also has beautiful blooming trees!
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And it also had mounted police making their rounds on horseback.
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Every now and then, we old folks need to sit down and take a rest.
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Then we continued our walk to the next church - La Iglesia de El Sagrario (Church of the Sanctuary) - which is a Renaissance Catholic temple built between the 17th and 18th centuries.
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The interior main gate, the work of Bernardo de Legarda, is considered one of the richest manifestations of Quitoan Baroque.
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We approached the "high altar".
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The carvings and ornamentations were breathtaking!
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And there is more everywhere you turn!
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And heading out, we got to see the other side of the impressive front gate.
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We walked past La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, but didn't go inside.
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On the way to the next church, we passed some street musicians and dancers in full native garb.
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We were able to catch a glimpse of a statue on the hilltop far in the distance (which we would visit later).
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Finally, we arrived at the Plaza de San Francisco, which hosts La Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco (the Church and Convent of St. Francis).
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Before heading inside the church, we posed for a family selfie!
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The church is the oldest and most significant religious site in Ecuador.
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*It is considered a jewel of continental architecture for its mixture of different styles combined throughout more than 150 years of construction.
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Inside the church there are more than 3,500 works of colonial art, of multiple artistic manifestations and varied techniques, especially those corresponding to the Colonial Quito School of Art.
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In other words, it is drop-dead magnificent!
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This church is our guide, Daniel's, favorite - so he had lots to tell us.
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And I had a little fun of my own...
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*On the way out, we got a good panoramic view of the square.
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For a refreshing pit stop, we got a lecture on chocolate manufacturing from "Yumbo's Chocolate".
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And got to sample several varieties of their artisanal chocolates (which they actually manufacture in nearby Mindo) and buy some as yummy souvenirs!
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Then we headed back to the bus...
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And headed up the hill of El Panecillo, a loaf-shaped hill in the heart of the city...
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... and up ...
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*To the Virgin of El Panecillo, also known as the Virgin of Quito from the sculpture of the same name (which is a very small sculpture, made in 1734, that is in the San Francisco Church).
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It is a VERY popular tourist spot and was really really crowded!
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And it has a really beautiful view of the city of Quito below!
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*The statue is 135 feet high including the base, it is the highest statue in Ecuador and one of the highest in South America.
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*It's also the tallest aluminum statue in the world.
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*
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Then we hopped on the bus to wend our way back down to the city below...
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...enjoying the view on the way down.
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After a long and tiring day, the bus dropped us off near the restaurant "Miskay".
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Where we had an okay dinner. (After our first three meals in Quito, we became aware that Ecuadorans don't seem to be very interested in using any kind of seasoning....)
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Stephen's carrot cake was a bit more flavorful than my figs...
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We were happy to get back to our hotel, climb the two flights of stairs, and get a good night's sleep!

DIARY - DAY 1 (click toggle to expand)

TRAVEL & DAY 1 – QUITO, ECUADOR – Middle of the World and Quito City Tour
Saturday/Sunday, August 13/14, 2022

Friday evening (August 12, 2022), Rebecca spent the night with us so we could get a very early start the next day.

Saturday morning (August 13, 2022), we got up at 3:30 and took rideshare to our two different terminals (Stephen and Elise were traveling separately from Rebecca because she had only decided to join us on this trip after we already had our reservations).

Stephen and I had a light breakfast at Starbucks and then an uneventful flight to Atlanta. While we were having dinner at TGI Friday’s during our layover, Stephen accidentally rebooked himself for a continuing flight the next day (the website prompts were very confusing) and when we realized the mistake and went to the gate to fix it, the very unsympathetic gate steward told us the flight was overbooked and they couldn’t switch Stephen back! Stephen spent the next half hour on the phone with Delta customer service and, after lots of coaxing (and even having the gal on the phone have a word with our unrelenting gate steward), Stephen wound up being the last person on the plane!

We arrived in Quito around 8pm, and were met by Walter who drove us the 45 minutes to the hotel. We had to ring a bell to get them to open the front gate and check us in, and then climb up two flights of stairs to find our room and finally get to bed a little after 10pm. Rebecca had her own drama as her flight from Florida was delayed, and she didn’t make it to her room (right across the hall from us) until about 1:30am!

Even though our alarm didn’t go off, we were up by 6:30am, and had breakfast at the hotel of cereal, juice, eggs, and fruit. (This was also our first introduction to the surprising fact that Ecuardorans in generally don’t seem to use any kind of seasoning on their food!). We then walked about five minutes to the nearby Holiday Inn Express to meet our first tour guide – Daniel – and to hop on our red tour trolley. We picked up another family (A couple and their adult daughter from Mexico – who were all doctors); and eventually another young couple from South America. That meant that Daniel had to spend the day giving his tour spiels in both Spanish and English.

We headed north out of town to to the “Middle of the World” – or “Mitad del Mundo” – which contains the Monument to the Equator, which highlights the exact location of the Equator (from which the country takes its name). We walked around the grounds, climbed to the top of the monument, learned a lot about the local culture, and tried an experiment with an egg. Legend has it that only at the Ecuator can you balance an egg on a nail head. (This apparently is not any more true than the myth that water flushes down a sink in different directions depending on which hemisphere you are in – not true!). We tried the egg experiment anyway – and Elise was the only one who was able to do it!

We then walked into a little village on the grounds that feels a bit like a Disney version of a Spanish city – and we had lunch on the second floor balcony. We also passed a spot where we got to do a beer tasting, and a “pan” ice cream tasting.

After lunch we headed back to the city and drove to the old town area and worked our way from the Plaza Grande to the Plaza de San Francisco – passing by and visiting many churches along the way including the Basilica del Voto Nacional, San Agustín Church, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, La Iglesia de El Sagrario, La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, and La Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco (our guide’s personal favorite!). The interiors of the churches were very ornate – and many were covered in both old Incan and shiny new gold.

We made a quick stop at the tasting room for Yumbo’s Chocolate (and also bought some chocolate to bring home) and then took the very busy and winding road up the hill of El Panecillo in the heart of the city to see the statue that overlooks the city – the Virgin of El Panecillo, also known as the Virgin of Quito (from the sculpture of the same name – which is a very small sculpture, made in 1734, that is in the San Francisco Church). The statue is 135 feet high including the base, and is the highest statue in Ecuador and one of the highest in South America – as well as the tallest aluminum statue in the world.

It had been a long and busy day – with an awful lot of walking – and we were happy to wind up at Miskay Restaurant for dinner. Stephen had steak, I had white fish, Rebecca had a veggie version of my dish. Stephen had carrot cake for dessert and I had figs. (Once again, though, we were pretty underwhelmed with the seasoning!).

We walked home from the restaurant and were happy to put our tired bodies to bed!

VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 1

1 – We didn’t go crazy with videos on Day 1- just this one as we came out of the San Francisco Church and surveyed the square (and our guide, Daniel, giving his explanation in Spanish to the rest of the group, complete with his signature gesture of writing numbers in the air).

DAY 2 – Quito

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Breakfast - Rebecca's Ecuadoran omelet at Cafe Nativa.
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Then we took a taxi to the start of the Teleferico - the cable car that heads up to the top of the volcano that towers over the city.
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Jumping in to our car on the Teleferico...
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And we enjoy the trip up the volcano!
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Rebecca too!
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It was pretty chilly and windy up top - but the "Mirador de los Volcanes" was spectacular!
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As we walked along the trail, we ran into someone who was letting people take pix with Pedro and Paco (for only $2!)
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Elise got a llama kiss...
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And so did Rebecca!
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More beautiful views!
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Rebecca tried out the Columpia en las Nubes (Swing in the Clouds)...
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Then Elise took a turn!
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Whee!
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Picture perfect!
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Stephen found a treat...
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And we enjoyed a fresh empanada!
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More views!
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And a great chair from which to enjoy the view!
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Then back down the Teleferico...
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And then we taxi'd back to the old part of the city...
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After a pit-stop for the intriguing (and actually pretty good!) Helados con Queso (ice cream with cheese!)...
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We bought tickets to go up to the Cupola of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito (back in the Plaza Grande)...but we had no idea what kind of a door we would have to fit through...
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It was quite a climb!
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But the view was worth it!
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A bird's eye view of the Plaza Grande...
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Stephen wasn't too keen on Rebecca and Elise climbing around ...
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But we were having a blast!
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Stephen awaited on slightly firmer ground ...
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And then we headed back down.
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Stephen is pointing up to the roof we were just climbing all over!
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Before heading back to the hotel to clean up, we stopped at a fancy store to pick up some souvenirs.
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Then we headed to Zazu for dinner - starting with some fancy mixed drinks...
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Stephen had done his research - and this restaurant boasted a "Vegetarian Experience" with wine pairing!
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On even on the 7-course menu was the yummy amuse-bouche!
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Next was the Andean Ceviche - with lupin beans, maize, organic avocado emulsion, and toasted corn!
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Next up was the Heart of Palm Crudo (fire-roasted heart of palm, almond sauce, and red quinoa).
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Followed by the Tomato-Zucchini Tartar (Heirloom tomato, sun-dried tomato, charred zucchini, smoked cheese, and mango coulis)!
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Then came marinated and roasted cauliflower, pumpkin seed miso, cumin infused red beets, parsley cream, and toasted almonds.
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Of course, our server explained every course to us - as well as telling us about the wine that was paired with each course.
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Then came a Camote of grilled sweet potato, asparagus, and caramelized pumpkin risotto...
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Everything was absolutely delicious - but the risotto was pure heaven!
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Yum!
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Rebecca was nursing this lovely cocktail much of the evening...
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And the awesomeness continued with the "Hongos" - Chawanmushi, cayambe mushrooms, portobello, shiitake, crimini, and rhubarb relish (and we had to dump the board of food into the awaiting bowl!)
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Dessert was Peanut Praline, chocolate cremoso, cacao bizcocho, white chocolate crumble, and whiskey-chocolate ice cream!
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And because it was our official anniversary (August 15) - we got an extra dessert!
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What an amazing evening - truly one of the best meals we have ever had in our lives!

DIARY - DAY 2 (click toggle to expand)

DAY 2 – QUITO
Monday, August 15, 2022

Monday (August 15) was officially a “free” day – so we slept in a little bit, and then went for breakfast to the nearby Cafe Nativa. Stephen and I had Tradicional Frances which turned out to be whole wheat croissants with dry scrambled eggs and tasteless fruit but interesting sweet tomato jam (tasted a lot like marmalade). Rebecca had an Ecuadoran omelet with cheese and something green topped with popped quinoa and served on a banana leaf and with yummy garlic toast. Stephen was pleased that the coffee was good!

We then hired an Uber to take us to Teleferiqo – a gondola lift running from the edge of the city centre up the east side of the Pichincha Volcano to lookout Cruz Loma. It is one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, rising from 10,226 feet to 12,943 feet in about twenty minutes. On the way up, we chatted with a man and his son who were visiting from Seattle.

It was cool and windy at the top – but there were gorgeous views in every direction. As we walked along, we passed a local man who had two llamas with him and was offering to let people take pictures – which we did (for a $2 fee!). Rebecca and Elise then took turns on the Columpia en las Nubes (Swing in the Clouds).

A little further along, Stephen found a little shack where he was able to get fresh hot empanada. We saw horses, but opted not to ride them (or hike!) further up. Instead, we headed back to the cable car station for Chai lattes and a tasteless cheese ball (Rebecca and Elise) while Stephen had an Americano and carrot cake.

We headed back down the volcano, then took a taxi back to the Plaza Grande in the old town area. We paid to enter the Cathedral of Quito for the cupola tour – but then found out it wouldn’t be leaving for about 20 minutes – so we headed back out so that Rebecca could try something we’d been seeing signs for everywhere – Helados con Queso (ice cream with cheese). They actually sprinkle shredded cheese on top of the ice cream … sounds weird, but it’s actually pretty good!

Back at the Cathedral, we were led to a tiny little door that we had to literally squeeze through, and then wound our way up a dark, scary, tight, and awkward set of stairs to climb up to the cupola – for the most amazing views that were totally worth the climb!

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped at a little shopping mall (the same one where the day before we had tasted exploding candy and caca de perros!) – but this time we stopped at a fancy gift shop and wound up buying some souvenirs. Stephen got a ceramic mug; Elise got a tin mug and a pair of lapis earrings, and Rebecca got silver earrings and a bracelet and a pair of shoes with artwork by the famous Ecuadoran artist and sculptor Oswaldo Guayasamín.

We took a taxi home to rest for a bit, and then we walked to Zazu Restaurant. Stephen had researched the restaurant for our anniversary dinner – and it did not disappoint! It was one of the best meals we have ever had in our lives – a seven course “Vegetarian Experience” that was as beautiful to look at as it was amazing to eat!

Considering that we also had the wine pairing, it was a good thing we had to walk home before climbing the stairs for another well earned rest!

VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 2

1 – The view from the top of the volcano after riding the Teleferico
2 – Rebecca on the Swing in the Clouds
3 – The view from the Cupola once we climbed up the scary stairs!
4 – More of that view

DAY 3 – Quito

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On Tuesday, our tour's first stop was a cafe in Cayambe, where they were baking a fresh batch of goodies.
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This town is renowned for baking a buttery, flaky pastry known as Bizcocho - and nearly every shop in town sells the biscuits which are served with dulce de leche and cheese.
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A little more driving and we were at the actual "middle of the world" - 0-0-0!
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We picked up a couple of traditionally dressed indigenous ladies ("friends" of Fernando's) who sang us a song, and then started selling their crafts.
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Rebecca bought a long, hand-made woven tie, and the lady showed her how to use it to tie up her hair.
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Next we went to the Otavalo Poncho market (but we didn't take any pictures!) - and then the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve (about 87 miles north of Quito).
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And, along with our guide Fernando, we started the long climb up the volcano.
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Til we reached the beautiful Cuicocha (Guinea Pig) Lake - a crater lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano.
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The views were breathtaking on this beautiful day!
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*
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The elevation was making us short of breath - but we kept climbing anyway!
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* And climbing!
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And we made it!
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Yay!
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**
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**
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Then it was time for a group lunch!
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Next we walked along a street known for leather products (very expensive ones!) which we didn't buy ...
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Then back on the bus for more info from Fernando.
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Next we arrived at Cascada de Peguche (Peguche Waterfall).
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We passed some small craft stores along the way ...
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And then we arrived at the beautiful waterfall!
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**
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**
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Before heading back to Quito - we passed some wall art...
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And some roosters!
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Back in Quito, dinner was at "Spaghetti" - but we ate it too fast to get a picture!

DIARY - DAY 3 (click toggle to expand)

DAY 3
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

1st stop Cayambe to taste bizcocha
Found our chowa means agave, mishke means sweet
The drink Stephen has been looking for is chowamishe with passion fruit
Next stop was to take a picture of a view of the lake but not really (lousy viewpoint) really to pick up 2 indigenous sisters who explained their traditional clothing, sing songs, and sell goods. Rebecca bought a long handmade tie for her hair.
Dropped them off then arrived at the Poncho market in Otovalo. Walked around lots of hard sell. I bought blue reversible Peruvian knit hat; RR bought painting.
Next to the volcano LONG walk up to see gorgeous view of volcano lake …climbed even higher, I was breathing hard!
Back on bus to drive to cucacati (sp) for lunch at nice place. Stephen had trout RR and I shared corn many ways. All ate together. Then walked down street of upscale leather stores (Stephen wanted to buy leather coat but no go) to another small market. We got money out of bank then drive to waterfall in beautiful mystical woods. Then long drive home, silly search for Italian restaurant finally found Spaghetti. Rr and I shared gnocchi with mushrooms and 4 cheeses, Stephen had pesto spaghetti.
Also we were at the real 000 middle of the earth

The next morning (after having breakfast at the hotel), we headed to the Holiday In Express again to catch another bus – with another guide (Fernando), and a new contingent of folks from all over the world (including Germany, Switzerland, and Majorca).

On Tuesday, our tour’s first stop was a cafe in Cayambe, a town renowned for a buttery, flaky pastry known as Bizcocho.

Cuicocha is a 2 mile wide caldera and crater lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano in the Cordillera Occidental of the Ecuadorian Andes. Its name comes from the Kichwa indigenous language and means “Lago del Cuy” or Guinea Pig Lake in English. It was given this name due to the guinea pig shape of the largest Island in the middle of the laguna. The caldera was created by a massive eruption about 3100 years ago. In combination with other eruptions from nearby Imbabura, Mojanda, Cotacachi, and Cayambe, Cuicocha is responsible for the fertile soil of the Otavalo Valley. The lake is highly alkaline, contains little life, and has no known outlet.

VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 3

1 – A song from a couple of local women
2 – One of the women braids Rebecca’s hair with a hand-woven strap
3 – The view Cuicocha Lake in the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve

DAY 4 – Mindo

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The next morning, we walked to the nearby Poipu Beach, and since the signs seemed to be good ...
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... I went for a swim!
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Just a short walk away was a very sheltered swimming area ...
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Which turned out to be a protected spot for "Honu" (Sea Turtle) "Feeding and Basking Area".
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And there were quite a few basking honu there...
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** Then we drove to Koloa Ziplining to check in for our morning appointment. They suited us up with helmets and harnesses and then did a training session with us.
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** The first three zip runs were pretty easy - but in between we had to hike up what the guides called "hell" hill.
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But we sure had some beautiful views along the way!
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Around the 4th zip, I "flew" in a Superman position - and it was really fun!
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** We got to stop a few times along the way to rest, and for drinks and snacks (and panoramic views!)
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**
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** The 8th and final run was the longest at half a mile! The whole trip was about 3 hours - and we ended up hot, sweaty, exhausted, and thrilled!
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After a pit stop at home, and then lunch in Lihue at Rob's Good Times Bar & Grill, we checked in at Safari Helicopters and headed in a van to the aiport with four other riders.
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** Once at the airport, we were given emergency flotation devices on belts. When our helicopter arrives, we were seated, buckled in, and given headphones.
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We then spent about an hour in the air with our pilot - Joe...
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** We saw spectacular views of Waimea Valley...
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**
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**
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**
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** Eventually we made it all the way to the Na Pali Coast - and we flew up and down the canyons ...
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**
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** And of course there were many waterfalls!
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**
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** We had a little bit of mild turbulence here and there, but basically it was a smooth and lovely flight - and our pilot gave us the "shaka" symbol as we left!
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Next, we drove to the very fancy Timbers Resort (and I changed to nicer clothes in the ladies room!)
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We had cocktails (Mai Tais) by the infinity pool overlooking the ocean, and then headed in to Hualani's restaurant.
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** Where I had pan roasted ono with purple sweet potato and veggies ...
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** And Stephen had steak ...
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** For dessert (which was on the house since we were considering it our anniversary dinner!) we had banana bread pudding with ice cream.
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After dinner, we went back out to the infinity pool and sat for a while until we were ready to head home after our busy day!
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DIARY - DAY 4 (click toggle to expand)

DAY 4
Wednesday, August 17

We got up at 5:30am to go to bakery to pick up croissants with egg and cheese (turns out they put ham in them…got RR really worried!) and OJ and coffee. Took back to hotel, joined RR. Our planned excursion to Mindo…driver didn’t show up at 7am…(we paid $20 extra for hotel pickup) discovered through WhatsApp messages that David would be late…only the three of us on the tour; would likely have been David and us in an SUV but there was a problem with the car so he had to switch to a bus with a driver (Luis). He arrived about half an hour late (we ate our breakfast while waiting in the hotel lobby) and we set off.
We headed north out of the city (passing Mitad del Mundo) it was a spectacularly clear day and the mountains around the city were beautiful.
We stopped in a little town called Nanegalito where David bought some fruit for us to try: gum fruit, tangerines, and red bananas.
Then we stopped at a bird sanctuary (San Tadeo Birding) Where on the first level a man had a fancy camera and we saw lots of hummingbirds and other birds. Almost didn’t realize there was a lower level on a platform sticking out into the sky with lots of feeders and hundreds of hummingbirds! We took tons of pix. RR got to hold a feeder and they came right to her…then I did. They were so close you could hear and feel their wings flapping…it was extraordinary!!
Then back on the bus to drive way UP the mountain (in a bit of a traffic jam) to finally take a little cable tram high above the river. Then we had to hike way DOWN to get to the waterfall (RR and I waded a bit into the icy water) and then the grueling hike back up and cable car back to where we had started. (The falls were actually a little less impressive than the ones we had seen yesterday). Cascada Nambilla
Back on the bus and down the hill to a tiny little lunch place called Charley’s where the chef insisted on giving David a huge plate of shrimp even though he has been on a diet for two weeks!
Then we went to the chocolate factory of the same company we had done the tasting from in Quito. Our Persian host taught us all about cacao beans and walked us through the entire process (including the fermentation period when the beans were covered in fruit flies!) And then we had a tasting with hot chocolate and several different types of their chocolates and a scrumptious brownie that was like molten cake! Then we bought more chocolate in their store.
Then we headed to a butterfly sanctuary and learned about the stages of butterflies and then got to walk through the “flight” room. Also lots of different orchids, and a butterfly landed on Stephen’s hand.
While we did all this, poor Luis was patching a hole in the tire of the bus, but it was done in time for us to start the nearly 2 hour journey back to the city.
We hurriedly showered and tidied up (the waterfall trip had us drenched with sweat) and then took a cab to the second restaurant Stephen had researched in advance..Urko which had a prixe fix menu based on the quarter of the Incan (?) Calendar. OMG what a spectacular dinner! Rebecca filled out a passport with details but it was extraordinary. By the time we got to our first dessert course (there were 8 courses each with a wine pairing and RR was soused) RRs friend from Washington (Porter?) who works for the State Department and is stationed in Quito, joined us and we had such a blast!
A taxi home and to bed for an even earlier morning tomorrow.

VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 4

1 – Basking honu (sea turtles)
2 – Stephen on the zipline!
3 – Elise on the zipline!
4 – Elise flies like Superwoman (but you can’t see it here)
5 – A view from the helicopter (1)
6 – A view from the helicoper (2)
7 – The Na Pali Coast from the helicopter
8 – More coast from the helicopter
9 – From the helicopter (5)
10 – From the helicoper (6)
11 – A last one from the helicopter

DAY 5 – Galapagos

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** next morning we booted up our Shaka Guide app again, and our first stop was the Kauai Coffee estate where we got some free sample coffee.
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After our coffee, we headed out on the Shaka Guide Waimea Canyon driving tour.
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We had already seen the canyon from the water, and from the air - so now it was time to drive in ...
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We stopped at a "red dirt" waterfall ...
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** We decided to ignore our guide's suggestion for "hikes", but we did check out the Iliau Nature Loop.
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**
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**
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**
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The views continued to be spectacular at every turn ...
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**
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**
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**
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The highest point we could drive to was Kalalau Point.
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As we got above 3500 feet, it started to get very misty, rainy, and quite chilly! I actually needed to wrap up in a shawl!
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Near the top of the canyon, we stopped at the Koke'e Lodge for a surprisingly good lunch.
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We even caught a glimpse of the ocean from our height...
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**
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Then we headed back down the hill to Waimea Town, the Menehune Ditch, and the Swinging Bridge.
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On our way back to Poipu we found a spot that had been recommended by Tom - "The Right Slice" - which specializes in sweet and savory pies. We bought a bunch for our dinner!

DIARY - DAY 5 (click toggle to expand)

DAY 5
Thursday, August 18

We got up at 3:30, picked up a boxed breakfast, checked out of our hotel, and were picked up to head to the airport for our flight to Guayaquil. We were met by Tony from the tour group who had all our paperwork ready to go and sent us quickly through security. Then we had over 2 hours to kill! Then onto the plane for 35 minute trip to Guayaquil; about 45 minutes on the tarmac while we refueled and got new passengers and took off for the Galapagos. About 90 minutes later we arrived at Baltra Airport on the tiny Baltra Island. We paid our $100 entrance fee and waited while a dog sniffed our bags. We were met by another tour worker who shepherded us onto a bus across the island and then onto a small transit boat that took us to the larger neighboring Santa Cruz Island.
There we were picked up by Freddie who drove us in a van across the island from the north to the southern city of Puerto Ayora which is a nice little town (apparently the largest in all the islands). There we were met by Hanzel, our naturalist guide, and some of the crew for a dinghy ride to the Yacht Angelita.
After settling into our two cabins and realizing we would be the only guests! We met the entire crew
Marie (server)
Renee (chef)
Omar (sous chef)
Willian (captain)
Juan and Santiago (1st mates)
Fernando (engineer)
Then we had lunch of asparagus soup and fish and potatoes and broccoli (meat substitute for RR). They tried first to serve us shrimp but quickly recovered when we re-explained our restrictions).
Then we had a “mandatory nap” then on the dinghy to shore and onto a tour bus to go to a ranch with tortoises (name? Divine family?).
We put on big rubber boots and wandered around the grounds marveling at all the giant tortoises as Henzel told us lots of fun factoids. (Santa Rosa?)
RR wasn’t feeling too well so after a short browse through the gift shop (RR bought a Galapagos cap and a small turtle for Carl) we headed back to town. We got more cash out of an ATM, the went to a pharmacy where Stephen got some pepto for himself and RR). Then back on the dinghy to the boat. We had a practice drill to learn about our life vests, then a briefing from Hanzel with more facts and an explanation of tomorrow’s schedule. Then dinner of potato soup, carrots (cut in pretty shapes), chicken (mushrooms and zucchini) and Tres Leche cake. We sat around the dining room for a bit and then headed in for an early night.
We got up at 3:30 for a 4am pickup to go to the Quito airport (the hotel gave us “box” breakfasts that were a bit tastier than the regular breakfast!).
We flew the 30ish minutes to Guayaquil and sat on the plane as they refueled and cleaned and loaded more passengers and then we flew another 90ish minutes to Baltra airport on Baltra Island, Galapagos.
We took stairs off the plane and walked a long way to the small terminal building and were met by a tour person (Freddie?) who shepherded us quickly through immigration and security and customs. Then we waited for a dog to sniff all the baggage (we were only allowed one carry-on so had to check our roller bags). Then we and our luggage were hustled onto the public bus that transports all arrivals to the dock where we got a boat ferry across the narrow stretch of water to Santa Cruz Island, the biggest inhabited island. (Our luggage was hurled on top of the boat!). Then we were transferred to an SUV which drove us from the northern tip of the island to the southern city of Puerta Ayora a touristy little town where many people start their excursions. Here we were met by Hanzel Martinetti, our guide, who informed us we three were the ONLY guests who would be on board the Angelito 1 with a crew of 7 (plus Hanzel)!
Hanzel took us to the dock where we were met by the Angelito dinghy and taken to the boat and assigned our rooms and fed lunch in the dining room and met the crew.
Then back on the dinghy and on a bus for a trip up to land tortoise farm to put on big rubber boots and walk around seeing lots of tortoises and being given lots of info from Hanzel. RR wasn’t feeling too well so we skipped the childish opportunity to take pix inside of tortoise shells and headed back to the port where we got more cash and some Pepto.
Then back to the boat for a mandatory nap, then a briefing on the next day’s schedule, dinner, and early bed. (All tours must have a certified Ecuadoran naturalist guide, and all itineraries are strictly monitored centrally to make sure there are never too many people at once at any one spot).
Dinner was chicken (meat substitute), rice and fancy cut carrots (first asparagus soup and salad and always fruit was there dessert the first night? Was it tres leches cake?)
While we slept, the boat traveled 5ish hours to the southern remote Espanola Island (RR had a rough night with up and down motion, SG and I took ambian and did okay although I was up many times as usual.

VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 5

1 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (1)
2 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (2)
3 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (3)
4 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (4)
5 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (5)
6 – View of the Na Pali Coast from Kalalau Point
7 – The end of the road (for our driving tour)
8 – Elise crosses the Swinging Bridge…
9 – Stephen does not…

DAY 6 – Galapagos

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** After a lazy morning, more body surfing, and left-over pie for lunch, we headed to Port Allen in Eleele for a four hour "Sunset Dinner Cruise".
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Our motorized catamaran from Holo Holo Charters was piloted by Captain Glenn. It got a bit bumpy at times - but we both had wrist bands and dramamine pills so we were fine!
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We headed out onto the ocean towards the west ...
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We tried to take some selfies ...
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But fortunately, the crew was also happy to take pictures of all the passengers!
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**
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There was a never-ending flow of (very weak) mai tais; crudite and cheese plate appetizers;
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Our skipper stopped periodically so we could get lots of good shots of the amazing Na Pali Coast.
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“Na Pali” means “the cliffs” or “many cliffs” in Hawaiian, and the Na Pali Coast stretches fifteen miles along the north west coast of Kauai.
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**
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** These cliffs are infamous and have been the backdrop of many famous movies including Jurassic Park.
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While taking in these glorious views, we also had a dinner of rice, teriyaki chicken, roasted veggies, salad, noodles - and a brownie for dessert.
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On the way back home, we got the "Sunset" part of the cruise, and it was amazing!
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On the way back home, we got the "Sunset" part of the cruise, and it was amazing!
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DIARY - DAY 6 (click toggle to expand)

DAY 6
Friday, August 19

We were summoned at 7am by a tinkling bell for our breakfast of juice, cereal, yogurt, fruit, then eggs and sausage (we had to explain we don’t eat pork..they had some trouble understanding our restrictions…they actually brought us shrimp for dinner last night but rather quickly replaced it with chicken)
We then prepared for a “wet” landed and headed out to the dinghy with bare feet to walk on a pristine coral beach (Gardner Bay) with birds (and bones) but only a couple of sea lions who stayed in the water. Then back to the boat to get fitted for wet suits, flippers, and snorkels and then we went to a different beach on the same island to snorkel with the sea lions and fish. Such fun! RR and I outlasted Stephen but then he took pictures (RR wasn’t happy with the pix her camera was getting underwater with the special case and I didn’t try mine)
Back to the boat to shower and rest and then lunch of (tough) steaks and fries with a gorgeous tasty huge beet shaped like a rose!
More rest and then the dinghy to a dry landing at Suarez Point for a very rocky hike (I had some trouble keeping my balance with my stiff sneakers so Hanzel decided I needed to be led by the hand which was actually worse!)
We saw marine iguanas in literally piles everywhere, completely unafraid of us, sea lions catching naps anywhere and everywhere (also pretty unafraid of us) some of them quite far from the water over rocky terrain and cliffs!
We saw small lizards, beautiful landscapes, a hawk, and albatross (?), some kind of dove (?) with a fluffy white chick, a cool blow hole, bird with red beak (?), and of course sea lions before heading back to the boat to rest before dinner.
Stephen and RR had beers on the upper sun deck.
We had our briefing for tomorrow’s schedule (during which I was falling asleep because I was so exhausted from the day!) and then dinner (with artfully folded real dinner napkins instead of the tiny cocktail napkins we get everywhere in Ecuador) followed by bruschetta type appetizers and fish (mushroom stuffed avocado) with cheesy cauliflower and green beans (I think this was the Tres Leches cake night, last night was a birthday type cake)
Then to bed. While we slept the boat traveled about 3 hours to Santa Fe Island and rocked so hard side to side that Stephen and I woke to everything on our nightstand rushing over and hitting me in the face and, later, our roller bags careening wildly across the room!

VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 6

1 – Elise body surfing
2 – More surfing
3 – Catching a tall wave!
4 – Heading west out of Port Allen on our catamaran
5 – Approaching the Na Pali Coast
6 – Along the coast
7 – Sailing along
8 – A few bumps along the way
9 – Attempting a selfie video
10 – The infamous cliffs!
11 – Stephen enjoys the view
12 – The section called “The Cathedral”
13 – A little closer
14 – Anchored under the cliffs
15 – A little closer to the cliff…
16 – Starting the return trip…
17 – Homeward bound (2)
18 – Dolphins! (wait for it!)
19 – Sunset
20 – The end of a beautiful day

DAY 7 – GALAPAGOS

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Sunday morning, we headed back to the Koloa Rum Company in Lihue - but this time we had reservations for a special Rum Safari!
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Twenty of us were loaded up into a big Range Rover and we drove through their plantation - seeing lots of different fruits growing (including pineapple bushes) and even a couple of pigs.
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** Our tour guide kept getting out of the jeep to pick up various fruits...
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**
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**
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** Then we all got out and headed into the jungle...
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**
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...until we arrived at a lanai where they poured us rum tastings of various flavored rums (including coconut and coffee!).
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Then they used the pineapples they had picked up on the way to make us all rum cocktails which we sipped under a huge banyan tree.
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Then we were back in the jeep where we headed through more orchards ...
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** And our guide picked up starfruit...
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** ... and coconut...
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We then stopped at a absolutely beautiful lanai that was perched on top of a pond ...
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** ... where they made us more cocktails!
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**
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Back in Poipu, we went to Brennecke's at the Beach for a lunch of fish & chips - overlooking Poipu Beach from the second floor.
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There was even a tiny pineapple growing in the window box by my seat!
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After lazing around a bit for the afternoon, we took a chance on The Beach House - where there were no reservations to be had - and wound up sitting at the bar.
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Where the food was great and the view was even better!
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DIARY - DAY 7 (click toggle to expand)

DAY 7
Saturday, August 20

7am breakfast (pancakes?) and then off to a beach where we saw blue Footed boobies and extremely friendly sea lions who swarmed us when we wet landed off the dinghy and nibbled a bit on Rebecca!
There were lots of sea lions on this beach and as we headed inland for a hike, we first saw a majestic Galapagos Hawk on a monument and even Hanzel had to take pix because we were able to get so close (although he warned us not to approach if we were near a nest as they would peck our eyes out!
This island had huge ancient cactus trees and land iguanas (more solitary and skittish than the marine iguanas) and of course sea lions in the most unlikely places (we watched one mother and pup make their way across the rocks and over the edge of the cliff and down to the water…they made it look surprisingly easy!) And we met up with our buddy the hawk again later, this time perched on a stick and hunting.
We wound up at a different beach (fewer sea lions) and were picked up by the dinghy to head back to the boat for juice and fruit and sweet potato chips (forgot to mention that each time we got back from a morning trip or snorkeling, we were met with inventive snacks and juice on the back of the boat).
Then back to our cabins (which had been made up with fancy towel shapes) and changed into our suits and wet suits for more snorkeling. Stephen opted to be photographer but couldn’t really capture the joy happening under the water where 8 or 10 young sea lions (and the occasional huge older one) were having a grand time “playing” with RR and me by zipping past us, looking us in the eyes, darting around, and tugging on our flippers. It was actually pretty hard not to touch them as they came so close. What an amazing experience but eventually we were exhausted and went back to the boat, had snacks, showered and rested, hung out on the sun deck watching the beautiful frigate birds following the boat, and then had a huge Spaghetti and broccoli and hearts of palm salad lunch.
After a bit more rest, we were off to Suarez Point (or South Plaza? Check the schedule) where we saw Swallow tailed gulls (with a chick!), both land and marine iguanas, and gorgeous landscapes turned fire red by moisture deprived ice plants, a lava tube, and of course sea lions and Sally Light Foot crabs.
Back to the boat for a tour of the engine room (impressively clean and organized…they make their own water from the salt water!) and the bridge.
Then sunset from the sun deck and filling in our page of the guest book while the boat sped to North of Santa Cruz Island.
Then the crew all put on their fancy dress and we shared Pina coladas and gave them their tips!! Our briefing was just Hanzel showing us pix of his family and his own nature pix.
Then a final fancy dinner (with special placemats and napkins) of avocado tortillas, roasted chicken (ratatouille), a pretty mountain of mashed potatoes, and a criss cross structure of carrots and asparagus, with chocolate cake for dessert.
(Can’t remember which day we had apple compote for dessert at lunch…today?)
Before bed we watched a pelican fishing off the back of the boat.

VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 7

1 – One last morning surf
2 – Driving through paradise
3 – The orchards of the Koloa Rum Company
4 – Rainbow Eucalyptus
5 – Some pigs!
6 – Pouring rum for our tasting
7 – Making cocktails!
8 – Our guide feeds his bird friend
9 – I could have stayed on this lanai all day!

DAY 8/9 – Galapagos/Travel

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** On our last full day, we got up at 6:30am and headed to Port Allen for another catamaran trip...
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This time it was through Captain Andy's - although our Captain's name was Captain Sterling and it was his retirement trip.
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We took a very similar route to our evening catamaran trip, but one of the first things that happened was that we ran into a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins, and later a pod of spinner dolphins.
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At one point, the crew hoisted our sail and we actually sailed for a while.
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** Then we actually anchored near the shore, donned our gear, and snorkeled!
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** The water was beautiful and we saw lots of fish - and a sea turtle!
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** Back on the boat, we had lunch of roasted veggie sandwiches, rice, and a white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookie.
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** Then we had a FAST and bumpy trip and got back to Port Allen by 1:30pm.
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We headed home to shower, clean up, and pack, and then headed to The Eating House 1849 for our last dinner.
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** For our mains, Stephen had short ribs and mashed potatoes, and I had a Tofu Hot Pot Rice Bowl.
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** For dessert we had an Apple Volcano and a Pineapple Upside Down Cake - wow!
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** The next day we would head to the airport to return our car and fly back home - tired, sore, and full of wonderful memories we will hold dear forever!

DIARY - DAY 8/9 (click toggle to expand)

DAY 8/9
Sunday/Monday, August 21/22

We got a wake up bell at 5:45 and were on the dinghy by 6am for an hour dinghy ride through the mangroves of Black Turtle Cove to see sea turtles, sharks, puffer fish, and tiger rays swimming by. It was ethereally peaceful as we glided along and watched the sunrise.
Back on the boat we had our final breakfast and were then brought to the bus terminal on Baltra for the trip to the airport. Hanzel got us to security and then hugged us goodbye. We had a 2 hour wait at the small terminal crowded with little stores (RR bought a lovely lizard plaque) and then flew to Guayaquil where we said goodbye to RR who stayed on the plane to Quito, then to Florida and home.
Stephen and I got off the plane in Guayaquil and were met by the Wyndham Hotel shuttle and whisked away to our swanky king-sized bed view-of-the-river room. Stephen sent all his clothes to be laundered and we changed to lighter clothes (it was hot and humid!) and went for a stroll along the riverside walk passing restaurants, fountains, and quaint cobble stoned streets lined with art shops. The cool looking Porto restaurant wasn’t open (Sunday) so we ate a reasonable meal at the restaurant hotel and then retired for the night.
Got up late 8ish, showered, headed down to fancy buffet breakfast included then showered, got Stephen’s laundry, packed, and took shuttle to airport at 11am. 2 hour wait (Stephen had a chicken sandwich for lunch I just had tea). Some kerfuffle checking in as I had forgotten that Klaus had put me on a separate reservation but we got it figured out and then discovered we were in Premium Economy roomy seats near front and a lovely meal on real plates with glasses and silverware and fancy dessert.
Some confusion getting through customs and checking I’m again in Lima for our next flight also Premium but nearly so fancy just snacks then landed in Cusco!
Met by guide Reuben and driver Jose and taken to beautiful boutique hotel Andean Wings to check in and have some coaca tea before getting to our room.

VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 8

1 – So many dolphins on our 2nd catamaran trip!
2 – More dolphins!
3 – Motoring along!
4 – More of that gorgeous Na Pali Coast
5 – Now we are actually sailing!
6 – Leaving the coast behind
7 – A tour of our condo as we say goodbye