Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quito and Equator

On the way back from Galapagos, Mary and I had a full day in Quito, so we took a tour of the old city. It's very European looking, with cobblestone streets and beautiful churches. Our tour included a visit to the equator, about 30 minutes drive north of Quito. They've made it into a tourist destination, with displays showing Indian life in the different regions of Ecuador, and activities demonstrating how the clockwise and counterclockwise forces of the Coriolis Effect cancel each other out at the equator. And of course, there's a line painted along the equator that you can walk on, or straddle to have one foot in each hemisphere.

This is the first half of the instructions on how to make a shrunken head. It was part of the display about the Amazon region of Ecuador. There were also creepy animals, like giant spiders, a humongous anaconda, and the fish that swims up your urinary tract if you pee in the Amazon. Mary hid in the coastal Indian exhibit until our group left the Amazon area.


On our last day there, Mary and I took a boat over to Santa Cruz, the main tourist island, to visit the Darwin Research Station. When we got to the tortoise hatchery, all the baby tortoises were eating lunch, so we had a good time watching them. One of the journalism students was interviewing Lonesome George, the last tortoise from Pinta Island, when we were there, so seeing her working on her story became part of our story.

Hiking and snorkeling

Scott was working most of the time, but Mary and I took him out for a long lunch break a couple of times. This time, we hiked up to a scenic overlook, then down to a beautiful lagoon for a swim. We only had Mary's mask and snorkel, so we took turns using it. Scott saw a sea lion doing somersaults in the water. I saw lots of brightly colored fish and some seaweed that looked like fan coral.

San Cristobal waterfront

We spent most of our time on San Cristobal, the capitol of Galapagos. It's not the biggest tourist island, so even the big hotels on the tourist strip are only a few stories high. In this photo, Mary is playing with a bunch of local kids after school let out for the afternoon. This little lagoon area is completely dry at low tide, but turns into a fun waterpark at high tide. Sea lions like to play there, too. It's just down the block from the soft-serve ice cream place where Mary would order un helado mixto, por favor every afternoon.

Galapagos adventure: Sea lions

Our internet's been cranky lately, but I'll try to upload some trip photos whenever it's working.

We saw more sea lions than any other animal on our Galapagos trip. Mostly, you see them sleeping on the beach. They also sleep under park benches, and on rocks. There are usually a few out swimming as well. One time when I was sitting on the beach, a sea lion came up to investigate. It walked all around me and sniffed my beach towel and my shoes before choosing a new spot to snooze. The first day we were there, Mary gave all the sea lions names and built a sand castle right next to a little one sleeping on a rock. We saw lots of mothers and pups on the beaches.