Andes Road Trip

This week’s adventure has been traveling the Avenue of the Volcanoes, and what a ride it’s been!

Drivers in Ecuador tend to be on the aggressive side – no more so in Italy or some other spots, but it takes some getting used to. Especially since we are riding around in a pathetically under-powered little Chevy something. Many of the uphill climbs have been accomplished in second gear, and that’s on a highway.  Switchback curves and steep inclines are the order of the day, and I found myself spending a lot of time hanging onto what some cultures refer to as the “Oh Jesus!” strap above the door frame.

Yes, this is a two way road, and that is indeed a bus barreling at us.


When we left Hacienda Cuisin, we thought it would be fun to take the scenic route.  Who wants to spend time on the highway, when you can ride through the country? The fact we hadn’t counted on was that the country roads are paved with cobblestones, if at all.  Oh, our poor rental car.

mapNotice the ETA? 51 minutes to go 14 miles.  And that was actually a bit optimistic.

Google maps confidently proclaimed that we were on exactly the right road, even though it showed we were driving through outer space.  Just as we were despairing of ever reaching our destination, we spotted it, sitting high upon a hill, with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and two volcanoes. But spotting it was an altogether different matter from getting to it.  That took another 15 minutes on more cobblestones. By the end of the day, I thought I was experiencing shaken baby syndrome.

I must say, though, Hacienda de Los Morteños is stunning. The builders were clever enough to capitalize on the views – there are huge windows in every room, whether it be restaurant, common lounging area, or individual guest rooms. Our room faced east, and it was impossible to sleep past sunrise. It was a glorious way to start the day.


Hacienda de Los Morteños, named after the blueberry-like bushes in the area.

After our visit to the luxury hacienda, we decided to economize with a stay in a hostel. We blended right in with the backpacker crowd, as you can imagine.  Hostal Tatia Cristobal is sparkling clean, quaint and friendly, and for $34 a night they feed us breakfast and dinner! Plus it’s got llamas!!

porchbaby llama

Never Take Your WiFi for Granted

We’ve been in Ecuador for two weeks, and today is the first reliable wifi connection I’ve located.  I know, I sound like I’m whining, but technology is an important aspect of my life.  I have to make sure my pension check arrived!

My plan of chronological posts has fallen by the wayside, alas.   So I’m going to post snippets of narration, with lots of pictures, because – let’s face it, who wants to hear me ramble on when you can see baby sea lions and blue-footed boobies?



Saturday, August 4, 2018

Thus far the trip has been wonderful – exciting, surprising, challenging.  The one less than wonderful aspect has been the internet connection, or lack thereof. Yes, let’s say it together: Americans are so spoiled! It’s true, I acknowledge it, and after two days of fruitless attempts at uploading some great photos to illustrate my blog, I put away the laptop.  Even now, I’m not writing online.  In fact, I’m writing on board a yacht. (Don’t I just love saying that!) I have the cabin door propped open to let in the sea breeze, and I’ve got a beautiful view of The Petrel.  I know that’s the name of it because it’s taunting me with its password-protected wifi signal. Beautiful, but cruel.

The yacht Golondrina is a pretty little ship – just ask any of the crew members, and they’ll tell you it’s the prettiest ship in the bunch. There are sixteen guests on board, plus 4 or 5 crew members.  I can’t be sure because they never sit still. When we were making our reservations for this trip a year ago, we decided that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it up.  So we booked a cabin on the upper level, which was more expensive, but infinitely more pleasant than the below deck accommodations near the engine.  Besides, we’re old and experienced. We know when to go for it!

The cabin is a miniature model of efficiency.  There are, of course, bunk beds, and this is yet another occasion when my lack of height has worked to my advantage.  Not only did Craig realize that the top bunk would be an impossibility for me to reach, but as I type I am sitting comfortably on the bottom bunk, and I am not bumping my head on the frame above.

Beyond the bunk beds, there’s not much else to Cabin 7. There is a single piece of furniture: three drawers, a cabinet, and two drop-leaf storage spots, all stuffed into the space between the foot of the beds and the door. There is also a bathroom which makes cruise ship bathrooms look positively enormous by comparison.  Picture an airplane bathroom with a shower, and you’ve got the idea.

But we didn’t come to the Galapagos Islands for the accommodations. Instead of giving you a verbal description of each of the eight islands we visit, how about I just show you some of the pictures?  Good idea.

Here is a frigate bird, flying above our boat.  They like to hop on board, in the overhead cables, and take a rest.


Lovely fellow, isn’t he? This is a land iguana. The critters found on this island are shades of yellow; on another island, accessible only by helicopter, they are pink.


As we approached the tortoises, I initially thought they were rocks. Until they moved. Very slowly.


To give you an idea of the size of the tortoise, Craig is about 8 feet away.IMG_2780

IMG_3003Here is a brand new baby sea lion.  Not sure if he has a problem with his eye, or if he is simply so new that he can’t yet see properly.  The mama sea lion parks her little one in a safe cove and then goes off fishing for the day, confident that he will not stray while she is gone. Sea lion day care, without the attendants.


I was nowhere near this guy when I took this pic – I have a really good telephoto. They’re not vicious, just off-putting in appearance. But I wasn’t willing to push my luck.


The little red crabs that scuttle about the islands are called Sally Lightfoot crabs.  Great name, isn’t it?



He looks like he has such stories to tell.



One day we got off the boat to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center – fascinating! – and had a chance to walk around a little town.  We found these two hanging around the fish market, waiting for handouts.IMG_2628

Meet Lonesome George.  He was the last of his species of Galapagos Tortoises. Scientists scoured all 13 of the islands to find him a mate, but none could be discovered.  He died a few years ago, and his species died along with him. His remains were sent to the National Museum of History in New York to be preserved, and he is now back on his island, under glass. RIP, George.


Depending upon the island, the beaches were white sand, black sand, red sand, lava rock, or shells.  But don’t even think about pocketing one! Fines are very steep for tampering with any aspect of life on the islands.


Let’s close for today with one last pretty picture. The boat to the right is the Fragata, to which we transferred when our original boat needed some maintenance.  A definite upgrade!


Tomorrow we’ll head to the Mindo cloud forest for some amazing sightings of birds. Thanks for reading!