Visited the Jesuit church in Quito- extraordinarily extravagant-never seen so much gold ornamentation.
Galapagos- truly an extraordinary experience. We went on the Mary Anne booked through Galapex tours (PaulMcFarling is an English biologist living in Galapagos, recommended to us by Jonathan Hall)
We did 7 day cruise- you don’t want to do less. Our boat the most beautiful- only 14 passengers- avoid the big cruise ships. Excellent food. But too many early mornings- 5.ams ( we were meant to be on holiday!), but to get the most out of the trip, you have to do this. Most extraordinary thing about the Galapagos is the complete lack of fear of the animals towards humans. Seals, Blue footed Boobies, iguanas of many different colours, giant turtles, penguins,would just ignore you. A constant feast for the eyes and finally a justification for lugging my telephoto lense around the world.
Highlights were the snorkeling- swimming with turtles, the occasional shark, eagle and sting rays,a large purple octopus (who camouflaged himself into rock colours), sea lions, and Davina managed to swim with the penguins- they frolicked side by side,eyeballing each other. Glimpse of dolphins in the oceans, and a sperm whale who we saw surface and then dive. I told Davina that I was going upstairs from our cabin to whale watch and could not believe my eyes as I saw one out of the window as I made a cup of tea. Charged below deck to get her to share the experience! Turned out that this was not random. The captain had spotted the whale and had changed course. Still I like my version of the story!
We constantly looked forward to our trips to the different islands. It was truly magical to be standing amongst the iguana and sea lions on these rugged volcanic rocks, or sandy beaches. The bird life was so impressive- never thought we were bird watchers, but the blue boobies had simply wonderfully coloured eau de nile to pale sky blue coloured feet. Pink flamingos were magnificent, and there was one bird where the male puffed up his chest into a gorgeous explosion of red to attract the females. The Galapagos dove has amazing blue eyes.
We had a good group of people- including a geologist, a forensic scientist and a biologist, specialising in DNA . We also had a condom salesman ( I thought he meant condo salesman!) . Anyhow, I recovered quickly from my gaff and fortunately had a myriad of stories to regale him with- told him his job was even more of a conversation stopper at a dinner party than being a piano maker. There was also a couple who lived in Marlborough!
Having gone for our last trip in the mangroves (where we spotted a baby Eagle ray) we headed back to Quito, and really mourned the end of this part of our journey,
The next day another early start to visit the cloud forest at Mindo. Arrived at Bellavista lodge and saw hundreds of humming birds. I thought that we were going to have a day of seeing a myriad of beautiful birds in the forest. Sadly not- serious trudging up and down steep slopes, but few birds (who flew off if you were noisy, and stayed high up in the trees-v anti-social), and the elusive pecan remained elusive! Davina is going to buy me a Guinness back in UK as compensation. But did see a red breasted woodpecker. But having been totally spoilt in the Galapagos, this was a bit of an anti climax and I almost had a Davina rebellion on my hands after a 3 hour walk through the drizzle (it’s not called cloud forest for nothing!). But it was interesting at least to see all the humming birds. But-if you plan to do this- spend the night there, and go walking first thing in the morning as this is the optimimum time to see the birds.
The next day went to The Chapel of Man and the Guyasamin foundation. Guyasamin is the most famous modern Ecuadorian artist, and was a friend of Castro and Mitterand. His paintings and murals are influenced by Picasso ( Guernica) but he developed his own style. Most of his paintings are angry-against modern war and its dreadful destruction of humanity- Vietnam-Africa- Guatamala. The Chapel of Man is an amazing modern building built to commemorate all those harmed by war. Unmissable-what a space1- and what a contrast to what we had been doing.
Saturday-off to Otavalo market- arrived too late for the animal market, but the craft and food market in full swing. Fun seeing all the local costumes- ladies wearing beautiful gold coloured glass necklasses, Indian men with hair in braids. Bought our panama hats-paid $50 for one, but turned down one for $360-good but not that good.
Now, after a pisco sour ( great Peruvian drink) at the airport , we are on our final leg- Off to Cuba with less than 2 weeks to go!!
PS- in Peru for altititude sickness everyone chews on Coca leaves (and the hotels provide them for breakfast)- cocaine is extracted from these but you need to be a chemist to do so- so you are not allowed to take them out the country. But they also make great tea and toffees with them , and as far as we can find out ,these are legal ( they are on sale aat the airport) Great for high altitiude, and originally used for Coca Cola.