May 25th: Mission to Mars

May 27th, 2013 by kono

Today we awoke to a new view: Santiago, which is an uninhabited island in the Galapagos. After a wet landing, we ventured on a lava rock hike. The deep red sand and lava rock of Santiago reminded us of the surface of mars, and it was hard to believe where we were! This hike ended in a snorkel adventure, in which we saw Galapagos penguins, marine iguanas, and the crowd favorite, sally lightfoot crabs. This snorkel trip was made even more fun and adventurous by a few curious sea lions that swam with us. Needless to say, many photos were taken.

After a large lunch and siesta (nap), we went on yet another snorkel. We saw so many sharks, rays, penguins that it was hard to keep track of them! Although the water may have been cold, our hearts were warm with wildlife love. A brief change of clothing, and we were back to hiking; this time on Bartolome, another uninhabited island. We hiked to the top of a small volcanic mountain. The view, along with the steep hike, took our breath away. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing, eating, and more species listing.

Tonight, we will be staying off the coast of Santiago (good news for those with sea sickness), and will be exploring more of Santiago before leaving for Santa Cruz. Adios amigos!

Quote of the day – “Gatorade – it’s made from the bones of gators.”

May 24th: A Whole Lot Of Boobies

May 27th, 2013 by kono

Today we woke up for a 7:00am breakfast and a hike on Darwin Beach, Genovesa.  During our wet  landing on Genovesa, Royale lost her waterproof camera in the ocean.  We hiked along the beach where we saw basking Galapagos Sea Lions, Swallow-tailed Gulls, Great Frigate birds, Red-footed Boobies and Nazca Boobies.  Once we reached the top of the cliff we observed a Hammerhead shark swimming in the distance and a Marine Iguana swimming in a small inlet.  After the hike, we went on our first snorkeling excursion.  The snorkeling wasn’t the best due to poor water visibility, but many of us were still able to see various sharks and rays.  While exiting the ocean Tim was able to find Royale’s camera and was offered a free Coca Cola in appreciation.

We returned to the ship for lunch and a short siesta (rest or nap).  We then headed out for our second snorkel of the day where we swam with Galapagos Fur Seals and some tropical reef fish.  We returned to the boat, dried off, and then embarked on our next hike up Prince Phillip’s Steps.  At the top we observed hundreds of nesting, juvenile, and adult boobies and Great Frigate birds.  A special treat at the end of the hike was a rare close –up viewof a one-eyed Short Ear Owl, which we nicknamed the “pirate owl”. We then retired to the boat for dinner, showers and species listing.

Quote of the Day: “I yakked and then I saw a shark.  Everything has a silver lining.”

May 23rd: Santa Cruz-ing

May 27th, 2013 by kono

This morning we got a wake-up call bright and early at 5:15, in order to leave the hotel by 6:00am for our flight to the Galapagos. We first had to pass through customs and have our bags inspected to insure no invasive species would be introduced.  From there we had a relatively quick flight compared to the others and landed on the island of Baltra in the Galapagos! There we were greeted by our knowledgeable guide Victor. From the airport, we boarded a bus full of children, who quickly became very fond of Zane, and then headed to the dock to be picked up by our zodiacs. While there, we saw some pelicans, Galapagos storm petrels, and a crowd favorite Sally lightfoot crabs. The zodiacs took us out to the yacht the M/Y Floreana. From there we saw some magnificent frigate birds and spied a sea lion chilling on a partially sunken vessel.

After a good lunch, we went onto the island of Santa Cruz in pursuit of Galapagos Giant Tortoises. “Tort watch 2013″ was a massive success with us seeing at least 6 tortoises, some that were very large. There were a number of smaller bird species, as well as multiple fruit trees seen on the hike. A few unfortunate run ins with fire ants also occurred. In addition to that hike, we went on an adventures through lava tunnels. At the end of the tunnel was Rancho el Chato, where some glorious Coca Colas and sweet bananas were consumed and some comfy hammocks were much appreciated.

On the bus ride back to the dock, we stopped at a very large crater that was 80 meters deep.  While waiting for the boats to arrive we got to see a marbled sting ray and a white tip reef shark. Unfortunately we also witnessed a pelican struggling with swallowing some litter. After dinner we once again went to bed remarkably early for college kids and the boat headed off to our next destination.

Quote of the day: “You are all going to end up in Ecuadorian prison.”

To Quito We Go!

May 27th, 2013 by kono

This morning we were greeted by a glorious view of Quito and the Andes Mountains. After a wonderful Ecuadorian breakfast of various breads, butters and fruits, we embarked on our trip to Otavalo with a stop at the equator. At the equator we learned about the orientation of the Earth while standing in two places at once.

Heading further into the Ecuadorian countryside we arrived in the town of Otavalo, passing multiple volcanoes. At the market we worked on our haggling skills in order to buy sweet textiles and jewelry. Some of us bought soft alpaca blankets while others bought scratchy tapestries, but all were happy in the end. We next went to an indigenous man’s house where we had a typical indigenous meal of tree tomato juice, quinoa soup, corn on the cob, roasted chicken, hominy, avocado and potato cakes. While at the house we learned various methods of weaving, music, and traditional dress. Our tour guide was very nice and gave us all bracelets that have the colors of the Ecuadorian flag, to remember our trip.

On the way back to the hotel, we had an unfortunate flat tire incident that was repaired quickly. Once we arrived at the hotel, we enjoyed an elegant dinner of pickled salmon, chicken cilantro soup, a rice/beef entre and an Oreo cookie cake dessert. We went to bed pretty early in anticipation for our early morning flight to the Galapagos.

Quote of the day: “I hate it when Bigfoot wears a top hat.”

Houston, We Have a Problem

May 23rd, 2013 by kono

 

This is our post from yesterday May 20th while in transit, we  would write one for today, but we are quite tired and need to be ready to head to the airport to fly to the Galapagos at 6am, which is rough for college students.

Today is our first day out! The title of this blog post might be misleading because there haven’t really been major problems. To start the day off, we had to be on campus by 4AM. After a couple full weeks of severe senioritis, this was a bit difficult for many of us. Once the bags and people were loaded in, the van decided it was tired as well and needed a jolt. Luckily for us, the night-shift security was happy to provide a jump.

For a few of us, it was the last time we would be in Maine for a while. A little bittersweet as we crossed over into New Hampshire. Going through Boston security wasn’t bad at all. It was actually a little funny watching Dr. Ono being stopped for a random explosive search. Of course she was innocent.

Onto the first plane! I personally  don’t remember much other than stewards asking if  I want a drink, dramamine affects me like that. A little turbulence at the end but we landed safely in Houston around noon (EST). Now the wait.

A five hour layover can make for some interesting happenings. First: lunch. If you aren’t familiar, the Houston airport is pretty large. Our terminal has about 5000 places to eat and, of course, a lot of us picked the Panda Express. It definitely wasn’t the best Chinese but what can you do? We then sat through a 30 minute lesson of Julian (the one who has a degree in film) teaching Royale how to use her new Nikon D3100. I think we all took something away from the lesson like what a RAW image is and to never trust your camera. Julian then proceeded to buy freeze-dried ice cream from the “Space Corner.”

After all of the grand times in Texas, including multiple moving sidewalk rides, we then boarded our flight for Ecuador.  We got to our hotel high up in the Andes around midnight, and went right to bed. Mostly everyone slept well, however there have been some rather intense altitude dreams (since we are at 9300 ft).

In other news, Julian discovered how delicious a Frosty-dipped french-fry is.

Quote of the day: “In a past life, I think I was a barnacle.”