Quito, Ecuador, July 10, 2003 — We returned from Cotopaxi to spend our final day in Ecuador back in Quito before heading off to see many other parts of South America. It was another day of errands, including a trip to the LanChile airline offices. We went to confirm our flight to Santiago, only to find out (despite having a confirmation number) that we had no flight. The agent told us the next flight to Santiago with seats available was nearly a week away. After much pleading, yelling, cajoling, and looking desperate, the agent and her manager somehow managed to find a couple of free seats. So, that being said, it wasn’t really a photography kind of day. But I did snap a couple of shots of Quito’s “Gringolandia,” including one that sort of makes me chuckle of a motorcycle driver in bumper-to-bumper traffic waring an orange vest that says “educacion vial” (driver’s education). I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation, but I look at the picture and think that he’s not in the best of positions to teach anyone to drive.
Cotopaxi, Ecuador, July 9, 2003 — We hired a guide to take us to Cotopaxi, a nearly perfectly cone-shaped active volcano outside of Quito. The “guide” turned out to be just a ride, not a guide, but we didn’t really need anything more than the ride. Cotopaxi was beautiful during the few minutes we got to see it, but like nearly every volcano we visited over the year, the clouds obscured our views almost immediately. It quickly became nearly impossible to see more than a few feet, much less get photos. We did manage a tough hike to the refugio at 4800m, and then hiked a little higher — almost to the glacier — but the clouds got even thicker and more menacing, so we turned back and almost ran down the soft, steep lava mountainside back to the car.
Latacunga, Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador, July 8, 2003 — We left the paradise of Galapagos to return to Quito. And then right away we headed about 90 km by bus to Latacunga, just outside of Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Galapagos was at sea level (obviously), and Latacunga sits at 2,800 meters (about 1.75 miles) above seal level. But more jarring than the thin air was the return to civilization. The photos sure were different.
Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos, Ecuador, July 7, 2003 — One month into our trip was a sad day…we had to fly away from the Galapagos Islands. Our time in paradise had come to an end. But who can complain, since we still had 11 months of backpacking around the world to go. My last photos of Galapagos were morning shots of the sea lions resting on hammocks (a/k/a boats) in the harbor.
Galapagos, Ecuador, July 6, 2003 — Our final full day in Galapagos was eventful, starting with a long hike/climb up stairs in Bartolome Island to the lookout over Pinnacle Rock. We saw tons of nesting blue footed boobies and young chicks that day along with amazing frigate birds showing off their glorious red throats to prospective mates. The morning ended with a huge school of bottle-nosed dolphins playing in the wake of our boat as we sailed away.
Galapagos, Ecuador, July 5, 2003 — The wildlife viewing in Galapagos was amazing. I didn’t have underwater photography gear, so I can’t show off any of the snorkeling highlights, but a few of the highlights from land included fairly common animals in a glorious setting, American Oystercatchers eating red rock crabs (sally lightfoot crabs), more marine iguanas and a great view of a Galapagos hawk.
Galapagos, Ecuador, July 4, 2003 — Our 4th of July was spent with another glorious day in the Galapagos, ending with a gorgeous sunset that challenged the Macy’s fireworks show for the night’s supremacy. Along the way, we saw a green sea turtle, more marine iguanas, and myriads of birds, including the awkwardly beautiful brown pelicans and penguins. Yes, penguins. There are in fact penguins living just about on the equator, in the Galapagos Islands. Go figure. I didn’t get great shots of them since we could only see them from a bobbing dingy, but I’ve got a shot here as proof.
Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador, July 3, 2003 — Day 26 was a fairly quiet day in Galapagos. We landed at Santa Cruz Island to let some of our passengers off and take new ones on. The highlight was at the Darwin Research Station where we “met” Lonesome George, the last known surviving Pinta Island tortoise. When Lonesome George died of old age in June 2012, almost exactly 9 years after we met him, he was thought to be over 100 years old.
Cormorant Bay, Galapagos, Ecuador, July 2, 2003 — We spent much of the day snorkeling and kayaking so there aren’t many pictures. But the memories will last a lifetime of a sea lion jumping up onto Sherri’s kayak to say hi, and others literally swimming face to face with Brett and his dive mask. Did I mention that Galapagos wildlife aren’t afraid of humans? In addition to our adventures with them at sea, Sherri sunbathed with a sea lion at Cormorant Bay, where we also slid our feet in the sand amongst a school of stingrays — which made for some slightly abstract art that probably would have looked better had I not be quivering with fear. Topping off our hike that day was a view of gorgeous, pink flamingos.
Galapagos, Ecuador, July 1, 2003 — Our second day in Galapagos didn’t disappoint. We saw several of the islands’ unique species (marine iguanas, lava gulls, and of course the blue footed booby), and watched mating dances of the albatrosses, blue footed boobies and sea lions. The albatrosses fenced with each other as part of their mating dance, and if you look closely at picture #6, you’ll see their beaks vibrating. Galapagos wildlife have very few natural predators and little or no fear of humans, so we were able to get incredibly close to them, even to a sea lion that had just given birth (as evidenced by the placenta in picture #3 that is making for a fantastic dinner for one bird). We finished the day playing on the beach with sea lions.