The land life of San Cristóbal Island

After a couple weeks of exploring and volunteering on San Cristóbal, I was able to get some pictures of the wildlife here. The pictures are extra awesome because they were not taken at a zoo – these animals are just roaming the streets/beaches/forests of the Galapagos Islands. You don’t even have to go off the beaten path to see them. It’s like they’re used to all of the people that come to these islands because you can walk right up to them and they don’t even back away.

The first sighting was at the Galapaguera tortoise reproduction station because we worked there two times a week cutting down the lantana and reforesting the endemic plants that are found in the area. I took way too many pictures of these guys, but I just have one here. See my previous post for more.0B939D5E-77C4-47DB-B796-D7E207FEA2B4

The other day while we were working closer to the Jatun Sacha station, we saw this owl just hanging out in a tree while we worked. Luckily we caught her (I think it looks like a girl) before we chopped down that tree. She was beautiful!IMG_1041_2

El chancho (wild pig) – definitely invasive but still cute. This is Ozzy, the Jatun Sacha pet, which will be domesticated and eventually neutered to keep from reproducing. He was more like a dog than a pig. 5305F738-E4B3-4A32-A2EB-53DD20414E05

Just walking along the malecón in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, you see a ton of animals all around… This is the most close-up picture of a pelican I’ve ever taken.88A26D93-5F18-4D13-9C69-F08C75D41518

This is the infamous Blue-Footed Booby. This might be my new favorite bird.634389C7-19CB-4C68-BC90-E3B22F2C0089

On Saturday, we went on a hike at La Lobería where we saw a ton of sea lions and marine iguanas. The iguanas were huge and blended right in with the volcanic rocks so you had to really focus to try not to step on one. The further in we got, the more there were. They would remain immobile, even when we crept up to them, and then they would spit out salt water about every 5 minutes.09A301B4-BEF1-4A33-83D6-B605D727D25160EC4ACC-D753-4911-8E5D-10F19D331CB7This is a male – apparently the males are more colorful.

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The finches were flying and hopping all around me at the beach. If you eat crackers on the beach, they will even hop right on you. Even this ordinary-looking bird is cute on the Galápagos!513951D8-1AB8-4398-935B-A90686118938

Now for my favorite part: the sea lions were literally EVERYWHERE. They don’t stop being cute! They are on the sidewalks, benches, rocks and beaches all around the island and I can’t seem to get enough pictures of them. The tortoises and sea lions have almost filled my memory card. You can get so close to them and they don’t wake up for anything. They are a lazy bunch but fun to share the beach with – albeit a bit smelly if you get too close.EB0BA4A3-378C-4BDF-AB54-C52908EAEFBA

I guess this is how the sea lions have their fun. This water slide is not for people.6A1A52E3-AD14-499A-A5FE-0FC2A4DF651F

Feeding party!B28C5C97-CA8E-47A3-9828-E13A0E501463

I can’t believe I took this with my own camera…IMG_1026_2

Let this be the last image you see before you sleep tonight.AE677507-F170-480D-BE6F-960899CA99BF

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Jatun Sacha

I made it to the Galapagos! Starting my journey on San Cristobal Island volunteering for Jatun Sacha. I can’t write much because I only have internet for about 10 more minutes until I go back up to the reserve – then cut off from all telecommunication until Friday when I can get back into town.C4133157-DE7C-4C0F-8115-8817DBC239AE

This might be the tiniest airport I’ve flown into.3562B3FE-904C-4A48-97AE-D4A68513F49C0550C333-A31A-4AA8-826F-1B89EF30E60A

The gringo line to pass through immigration.00A552B2-0E5A-4F7D-B6C5-5BAD5E4D000E

Upon Arrival, the driver for Jatun Sacha picked me up and brought me to the volunteer station in the highlands of San Cristobal Island – about 45 minutes from the coast. Halfway through the trip he decided to tell me that all the volunteers were in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the coastal town where all of the tourists stay. When I got up to the reserve, I was literally the only one there besides the cook. It was beautiful, but after about an hour completely alone, I got a bit bored without phone or internet. I felt like I was on an Outward Bound Solo. I got some reading done, chatted with the cook, Sandra, after dinner, and then around 7 decided that that was the longest 3 hours of my life and I would like to try to go down to the Puerto to meet the rest of the volunteers the next day. Oh, and it is also cloudy and rainy in the highlands and beautiful and sunny by the beaches. The director found me a room with the rest of the volunteers so I would be able to enjoy some exploring and internet time before beginning my volunteer work for the next week. I will be back down here (or perhaps on another surrounding island) next Friday.

This is where I will be living for the next 2 weeks:CE02ECCC-0A19-40F1-BE60-E01896C094B6

It’s no Marriott but it will do.F9369336-C4A7-453B-9D33-1B3BDD44F646

They gave me a private room. 1B061359-21C7-4422-BAEF-96DC490DF368

Community living space – complete with hammocks and all. 8C413A21-9047-447C-9B7B-A34B7BAAA729

 

This is where we have to go to the bathroom. I feel like I’m on Crew Orientation all over again, but without the Outward Bound instructors and 9th graders…1E83737D-CF1F-435F-BD9D-E61A02226957

Ozzy, the reserve pet – well they told me he was the pet. He will be while I’m here at least…A22ED4C1-15BE-4443-BC04-0534BA79C442

La cocina y el comedor.IMG_3049IMG_3045

The volunteer schedule. While I’m here we will be using machetes to chop down mora (blackberries) and other invasive species that has taken over the area and therefore resulting in extinction of the native flora of the Galápagos Islands. Sounds like hard work but everyone seems to enjoy it. I’m excited. 34D632D1-0AC8-4C91-9B96-67ABF3B5588A

Hasta luego, Quito!

Yesterday was the last day in Quito. 😦 I was supposed to leave 2 days ago but I just couldn’t leave this place. Not only is it so beautiful here, but I also met some amazing people in my hostel and they wouldn’t let me leave. I have never felt so welcomed in a hostel before. I arrived here thinking that I wanted to see as many places as possible in the amount of time I have here, but instead I gained some new friends and fell in love with a city. Sometimes it’s not what you see but the experiences you have and the people that you meet that make a trip worth it. It was hard to leave but I’ll be back 1 more day before I fly back to the States.535A5661-7B6A-47AB-966A-A1E59912844E

The last few days I have done a lot with my new amigos from the hostel. On Saturday, we took the Teleférico up to Volcán Pichincha.FD979428-7EDC-46BA-B37B-5F77A678BCE1

Not a lot to say except more incredible views of Quito. I think I’ve gotten a view of the city from a ton of different angles now. CA9AD2B3-52B5-40AF-9EDF-AB2FD8F31310

Found a little hut at the top of the mountain.   E79F913A-C0AE-4EB8-B9A7-AA56D2813ED6

After taking the fast-moving cable car down the mountain, we went straight to the Basilica del voto nacional in the colonial part of Quito.  Hay tantas iglesias en esta ciudad!   81C9E340-14E2-496E-90D2-64EA0D75B1CD

Otra vista desde la Basilica.  24ECA5A8-5910-461E-B7C1-54FCA63C4F3A

Tomando un café en una plaza.   65B3C201-8D10-4F24-835C-1F3D9B541857

The food here is so cheap (if you find the right place)! Everything below was $2.00! 88387406-81EA-4FE0-9E00-59C726AD8B8B

Monday, we went to la plaza grande to see the changing of the guards at the Palacio Nacional. This was a unique cultural experience for me. I’ve never even seen this in London. It is such an ordeal and they do it every week!  It was awesome though – there was a band playing, lots of guards, and school children sitting out front and singing the national anthem with them. The vice president of Ecuador even came out to greet us. E09D1ED9-156C-455B-9E0E-1B8778E7314AE99B89D3-F544-4516-B943-E11B622B0536

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I really couldn’t have picked a better place to stay while I was here. At first I was bummed that I wouldn’t be able to live with a host family during my stay in Ecuador, but this hostel was definitely the next best thing. I would highly recommend Community Hostel to anyone planning a trip to Quito. It really has a community feel (hence the name) and the people that run the hostel are amazing. I will definitely be back here!  4B5AD0C1-043F-4CB5-BC71-CF859F215577

I leave you with the sunset over San Blas, Quito.1EAC53EB-E535-471C-B8DF-77B4064A59BF

La mitad del mundo

Today we ventured out to la Mitad del mundo, otherwise known as the Equator. We got a large group together comprised of people staying at the Community Hostel (my idea). We had to take two city buses to get out there. The city bus out here costs…wait for it… $0.25 per ride ($0.50 for an hour and a half bus ride)! When the bus gets full however, you may end up with a random Ecuadorian child on your lap. You give some you take some23CADA93-ED9B-458A-B634-AA2E6E1D7632The trip was a little bumpy (and my thigh was asleep after 45 minutes of a 5-year-old sitting on it), but it was really cool to touch the equator. I met some fun Irish girls in the hostel. It is nice to have some travel buddies while I am here. They really want to live in NY so I’m trying to convince them to move to Brooklyn.A6648E47-7816-4CF4-9C1D-C26273BEC4D5

I thought it was supposed to be hot at the Equator. I was misled. It was about 75 degrees here, and as we hiked higher up the volcano nearby, I had to put on my jacket. The weather here varies so much in a day. My taxi driver called Quito the place where you get “las cuatro estaciones en un día” – It can feel like fall, winter, spring, and summer over the course of one day.86F778D3-E19F-41F9-98D0-60DE87BF97F3

We had to take a group photo on the Equator. Can you find me? I’m in the Northern Hemisphere. 1FB2D31B-9549-4724-8F59-07BB9A8B945A

After taking pictures of the yellow line, we continued our excursion to the Volcanic Crater, Pululahua, which is inactive and actually has inhabitants. There is fertile land, a school and a hostel IN the crater! The school had 12 children and 1 teacher that commuted 2 hours and a small hike from Quito every day. My hour subway ride doesn’t seem so bad compared to that.5D12CE89-74FF-4FE8-9160-A6061B20B95A Our guide gave us all of this interesting information about the crater. The volcano in the background is still active.

When we got back to the city, a couple of people that work at the hostel took us on a food tour around Old Town Quito. It was mostly fried stuff but the night walk was really nice. This is a picture of La Ronda in the colonial part of Quito.474994D0-1D92-477A-8D62-0DAFC4779EC2

Sharing a giant empanada de queso. Se llama empanada de viento. That is the actual size. Biggest empanada I’ve ever seen.F316458A-FF4B-40D5-BF30-90DCAB627626

On the way back to the hostel, we passed a girl leaving her Quinceañera. 🙂 Que linda era!DED6E43B-47BD-42DE-BD7A-772653E0F5E9

Llegue a Ecuador!

I have finally arrived in Quito, Ecuador for my Fund For Teachers summer fellowship! It was a painless flight, despite the small injury I traveled with on my left hand. Thanks to my glass table breaking right before my trip, I will be sporting this red-pepper shaped middle finger for my first few days here. Maybe it will make a “Flat Stanley” appearance in some of my photos.BE441C76-43BB-41C1-AAD7-F709B00ACE1C

 

It was an early flight. I left my house at 4:30am. Got to see the sunrise from the beautiful NJ Turnpike. Hadn’t seen that in years.573F0588-9EFC-4984-85FF-002956AA3C8F

I had a layover in Panama City during which I pondered leaving the airport for a bit. When we were arriving in Panama, the view from the plane was nothing to write home about. However, the view upon landing in Quito was awesome. I may have accidentally turned my phone on during landing to take a photo which I know is frowned upon, but I couldn’t pass up the photo op. Then I realized I have a real camera with me.EEBE529C-0A1C-48A5-AAD4-FDE252050024The hostel I am staying in arranged for their driver to pick me up from the airport. Upon exiting the customs line, Don Omar (the Community Hostel chauffer, not the Reggaeton artist) was waiting there to bring me to the hostel. He gave me  a quick tour of the city on the way there. I am already in love with this city and excited to see it in daylight! (It gets dark here around 6 apparently.)52576D89-D1E0-4135-9797-5A06E98D3AAC

He insisted on taking a picture of me in front of this church. Now you know I’m REALLY here.D5139118-6938-4C89-B1A9-5329941FBC4E

We arrived to the hostel about an hour later – after a brief night tour and a lot of conversing in Spanish. (Don Omar loves that I speak Spanish.) He gave me some great ideas on how I should spend my time while in Quito which is going to be really helpful. This place is great! Exactly what I needed: Kitchen, community table, living room with a projector, and daily activities to get involved with.EBFD5D54-E2E4-47D6-8681-99A0EBC5E061

The room is basic but good enough for me. It also has a sweet balcony with another great view.F29D8878-E617-4320-A276-02E6E58C1F63

Tomorrow I will take on Quito by day! Me va a gustar este pais. 🙂

Hostels

The countdown to Ecuador is on. I am putting the final touches on my trip planning. One of my favorite things about planning a trip abroad is searching for hostels and finding out about all of the really cool lodging options that there are in a certain country. Ecuador seems to have a lot to choose from, probably due to the high volume of backpackers that travel there. There are 2 places in particular that sound really awesome: Community Hostel in Quito and El Manso Boutique Hostal in Guayaquil. Reading about these hostels and talking to the people that work there has made me even more excited to stay there and meet the other world travelers that will be staying there with me. I would recommend that everyone stay in a hostel at some point in their lives. The hospitality and sense of community that you get at a small hostel or guesthouse makes staying at a place like this much more enjoyable than staying in a large hotel.

Here are some pictures in past hostels I have stayed in. When I look at them, I remember the awesome people I met at each one and the experiences I had while staying there. I can’t wait to do it all again!

This hostel in La Fortuna, Costa Rica was one of the nicest ones I’ve stayed in. There were hammocks out front with a beautiful view of Volcan Arenal. It also had a nice pool with a swim-up bar.

 

This was another one in San Jose Costa Rica. There were cute little tables outside with a lot of plants all around – I’m guessing to get us ready for our rainforest adventures. This hostel included breakfast and coffee in the price which was great.

 

Cafe

Describe a little thing — one of the things you love that defines your world but is often overlooked.

There is one thing that I always need to do no matter where I am traveling or where I am living, and that is to find time to sit down and enjoy una taza de cafe. Everyone who knows me knows that I can’t function without my morning caffeine. However,  Coffee is about more than just the energy boost when I am abroad.

Sometimes it is about the taste. When I would wake up and enjoy a nice cup of Costa Rican coffee with my friends in the morning, I knew it was going to be a good day. There is just something about drinking a cup of coffee outside, amidst the tropical morning breeze, that makes it taste so much better.

Sometimes it’s about the company. When I studied abroad in Spain, I couldn’t go off to class without sitting and enjoying my cafe con leche while telling my host mom my plans for the day. The tazitas de cafe in Spain were so small and quick to drink. It was just enough time to practice my Spanish with my host mom and not be late to class.  Those times helped me build my confidence when talking to my host family. It’s such a small thing, but it’s those conversations and that cafe con leche that added so much to my study abroad experience.

Sometimes it’s about the variety. In Peru, my host family only had instant coffee. At first, I was let down because I thought my morning coffee would not be good for the 6 weeks that I lived with my Peruvian host family. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the taste of it. It was still cafe peruano, but in a little glass jar ready to be stirred into a cup of hot water and condensed milk. Sounds gross, but it had a unique taste that I tried to imitate when I got back to the states, but the instant coffee here is definitely not the same.

Sometimes it’s just about the time that drinking a cup of coffee gives you to sit and think about life. When I lived in the Dominican Republic, after a big family lunch, my host mom would give me a cup of black Cafe Santo Domingo which I would take with me to the rocking chair on the balcony and just relax before the afternoon activities. Most of the time I would look at the view of the city and think about how lucky I was to be studying in the DR while it was snowing back home.

And sometimes it’s just about having something to do on the subway. When I’m home, I don’t take the time to sit and enjoy coffee on a daily basis. I am usually in a hurry for work every day so I drink my coffee on the go, and it never tastes as good that way. Take the time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee from time to time!