Underwater Adventures

I’ve been back from Ecuador nearly 2 months now and I still haven’t finished blogging about my trip. At the rate I am going I may continue writing about this trip all year long.

One of the new things I decided to try during my time in the Galapagos was snorkeling. My uncle wanted me to get SCUBA certified but I didn’t have enough time before I left. However, I was still amazed at what I was able to see near the surface of the ocean. Just like on land, the marine life were inches away from me.0D4227A9-AFA7-46F6-A9A8-686BAF444234

The first place I tried snorkeling was at this beach on San Cristobal Island called La Lobería (lobo = sea lion). As soon as I submerged my whole body, it was as if I had entered a different world. There were sea lions, turtles and tons of amazing fish swimming all around me. 2E02AFF7-DBE1-4F87-8C0B-FFAB2BB3B45BF5EAD212-161C-40B0-A0C0-15DCC8CF74C6

La Lobería is a sea lion’s beach. If a sea lion wants to lie on your beach towel, he will hobble up and lie on your beach towel. E2AC9BB6-7AD3-4CBA-B86A-C1B72EEE3DD8

My Swiss friend Loreen joined me for my first snorkeling adventure. The water was cold so we had to wear wetsuits. 7C10D799-F639-43EC-A950-FD6D36E769FB

While renting my snorkeling equipment, I decided to invest in a disposable Kodak under-water camera. Best 18 dollars I ever spent.5D540A53-9F18-46E7-981E-28A1AE46E9FE 80B6C715-AE7A-4F5D-AA50-3A270367D514

Rewinding to my first day on San Cristobal: The day I met my fellow volunteers while they were all still in the port town for the weekend, they invited me to go Kayaking with them. I’d been Kayaking before in Los Haitises in the DR, but Kayaking in the Galapagos was a lot more difficult. It was all really worth the work and the soreness I was in later.   281AF3CF-62B4-4DBE-9E71-B9A3ADB1E092A few weeks later I went back to the area where we had kayaked to to try snorkeling for the 2nd time. It was called Cerro Tijeretas (tijereta = frigate bird) and it was a much easier place to snorkel because there were no waves. However, there wasn’t much to see at the time that I went.

I caught a picture of this sea cucumber: 68CCB53D-3217-4D2D-9815-E6C1261BFD70

I also tried diving down deep for the first time. I was with a guide and he pointed out this stingray for me to get a picture of. I got close for the picture and then shot right back up.

After snorkeling a few times now, I felt ready to upgrade to the next level: Kicker Rock. Kicker Rock (a.k.a. Leon Dormido) is a giant lava rock in the middle of the Pacific that looks like somebody took a giant sword to it and hacked it in two. The canal between the two rocks is where the Galapagos sharks like to hang out. It took a lot of mental preparation to join this tour, but I had stepped out of my comfort zone several times already so I figured, what’s one more time?C17B98F2-C12B-47AD-B811-91D751A8702D

So glad the disposable camera captured these guys. There was no zoom, so this is as close as they were to me. I was able to take a few pictures without freaking out, but this was the only one that came out because the visibility wasn’t great.4700B69F-DA40-454D-B213-ED8795A56F7D

I couldn’t leave San Cristobal Island without taking a picture with a sea lion on a the boardwalk. I leave you with this picture of the sea lion before he woke up…53A00AF3-E5F7-4DA6-AAB1-4F4FD90BC91F

And then after he woke up and yelled at me…42E40ED7-ADF2-4D1B-BB18-997B6B71ED84

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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

La Galapaguera

El martes fuimos a visitar La Galapaguera, el sitio de reproducción de las tortugas de la isla de San Cristóbal.  Este sitio no existe simplemente para que le gente pueda ver a las tortugas gigantes sino para preservar la especie y ayudarlas a reproducir.  Hay otras especies de tortugas en las otras islas pero las tortugas grandes que se encuentran aquí vienen de su ámbito natural en el noreste de San Cristóbal.47E1EAAB-6A3B-4660-AC84-89C1E5C3FCA3

Últimamente, los animales invasivos como los chanchos (cerdos) salvajes y las cabras han resultado en el retraso de la reproducción de estas tortugas. Cuando las tortugas ponen sus huevos (ponen como 8-12 huevos cada vez) estos animales invasivos corren encima de los huevos o los desentierran. Por eso, el Parque Nacional de los Galápagos decidió tomar acción para conservar la especie y prevenirla de la extinción. Hoy en día, toman algunos tortugas a su tiempo de reproducir para que puedan poner sus huevos en su ambiente protegido que se llama La Galapaguera. Aunque La Galapaguera no sea su hábitat natural, es semi-natural – o sea tienen casi todos los recursos que se encontrarían en su ámbito natural – y allá pueden reproducir sin problemas.36364A9B-ABB2-40EF-A15A-DD7A09F30B84Cuando las tortugas reproducen, los bebes se quedan en jaulas hasta que sean más grandes y puedan cuidarse bien. Cada tortuguita que nace en La Galapaguera recibe un numero que marca el órden en el que nacieron. Luego, les ponen en la otra parte del parque donde tienen mas libertad. Cuando cumplen cinco años de edad, las devuelven a su ámbito natural de nuevo.ADF08744-0983-4132-AFDC-34BB47361F42

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Algunos viejos se quedan allá para que la gente las vea, pero no hay límites para adonde pueden caminar. Simplemente hay un muro alrededor del parque entero para protegerles de los animales salvajes, pero las tortugas están libres de viajar adonde sea por el parque entero. Hasta van en el medio del camino donde caminan los visitantes. Una vez allí, se ponen en su caparazón completamente, seguro por el miedo de la gente que pasan, pero igual pasan por allí.F2DDEEFB-6C1A-44EC-94D3-1A3A842F35700F17A217-136E-4F84-901E-13271D5EDE15

Visitar las tortugas grandes fue una experiencia muy interesante. Yo tenía tortuguitas como mascotas cuando era niña y desde entonces siempre he querido ir a visitar a Las Islas Galápagos para verlas. Fue muy chévere trabajar aquí con ellos. 3470BF44-FD30-4758-B37D-8D23023984C4976B7A96-BBE2-4196-87B3-F78DFB930506

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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. 🙂