Peru, Ecuador & Galapagos Islands (with last days in Bolivia) 1989

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South America » Peru
May 20th 1989
Published: June 3rd 2010
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Puno, Peru on Lake TiticacaPuno, Peru on Lake TiticacaPuno, Peru on Lake Titicaca

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This is a continuation of my putting our old travel journals onto this blog site. See previous ones: Guatemala 1988, which is the first in this series; Costa Rica 1989 (w/Christmas in Cozumel, Mexico and last days in Guatemala), which is the second; Cuba & Mexico 1989, the third; Argentina (w/Uruguay, a bit of Brazil & Paraguay) 1989, the fourth; Chile & Bolivia (including Mendoza, Argentina & Tacna, Peru), the fifth; and this will be the sixth.

Again, I am relying on the internet, photos I happened to have scanned and ones people have sent to me as I do not have access to my original photos. Thank you all who sent me photos - much appreciated! When we return to the states (this is being written in Germany where we are living this year) I'll add/substitute original photos.



Original written July 4, 1989 in Quito, Ecuador

Dear Friends,

We hope you all are well and enjoying summer. It is ‘winter’ here, but because we are on the Equator, the only temperature change is because of altitude and/or rainy vs. dry season. Quito is at 9,000 ft./2,743 meters, sunny and pleasant (70 F/21 C). The jungle, coast and Galapagos Island are hot (85-90 F/30-32 C).

Seems we have been clipping right along - last newsletter was from Bolivia and we have ‘done’ Peru and Ecuador since then.

The saga continues:

BOLIVIA, Continued

May 20 - 22, Cochabama, Bolivia, (70 F/21 C & Sunny). We didn’t care for Cochabama very much.
Lake TiticacaLake TiticacaLake Titicaca

Those are snow-capped mountains in the distance - not clouds. Photo by
It was a town with little character.

About the only fun things we did there were our two Chinese dinners. Upon entering a Chinese restaurant Bernie greeted them in Chinese. This resulted in an entire family - waitresses, chef and friends - gathering around. It was an experience in languages. Some spoke only Chinese, some spoke a little English, some spoke a little Spanish, and all wanted to talk. We managed, but with much confusion and laughter. One young man was a doctor of acupuncture a masseuse. He gave me a short massage and demonstrated some acupuncture pressure points on my arm. I was impressed.

The evening ended with everyone at our table and five different conversations in three languages going on. We had to promise to come back the next evening because the chef wanted to prepare us a special meal. That evening was a repeat of the first fun, loud evening and the food was amazing.

May 23-25, Back to La Paz, Bolivia by train. Very nice trip through the high plains. Had a little excitement when our train derailed about 15 minutes outside of La Paz. We were turning a corner, but quite slowly,
Reed Boats, Lake TiticacaReed Boats, Lake TiticacaReed Boats, Lake Titicaca

Thor Heyerdahl modeled his boat, the Kon-tiki, on these reed boats of Lake Titicaca, though he eventually made his from balsa wood. Photo from
when it happened. Because of the slow speed, no damage was done. A locomotive from La Paz came and after putting rocks down to guide the wheels, pushed us back onto the tracks.

May 26-27, Copacabana, Bolivia on Lake Titicaca, highest navigable lake in the world at 12,530 ft./3,819 meters, 65 F/18 C days - 35 F/1.6 C nights. We met a French couple, Cecile & Frederic, on the bus to Copacabana and they wanted to team up with us for Peru - safety in numbers. We’d all been hearing the horror stories of theft and terrorism in Peru. We met many people who were going to by-pass Peru because of the situation. Going to South American and not seeing Machu Picchu is like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids, so we were determined to push on.

It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived in Copacabana, so the four of us hired a boat to cross the lake (1 ½ hours each way) to the Island of the Sun. This is where, as local legend has it, the first Inca king was born and there were some small Inca ruins to see.

Colonial Cuzco, PeruColonial Cuzco, PeruColonial Cuzco, Peru

One of the prettiest colonial towns in Latin America. Photo from
island was nice, but the ride on the lake was the highlight. At 105 miles/169 kilometers in length, Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and the world’s largest lake over 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). Because of the altitude, the sky was unusually clear and deep blue.

Worst meal award goes to the Turista Palace Restaurant in Copacabana. Bernie, Frederic and Cecile ordered fried chicken and French fries. I, fortunately, was not hungry, so ordered nothing. I had the best meal. The chicken was almost black and quite hard. They each got one piece, a back. The fries were cold and greasy. I laughed so hard watching them try to eat. We paid the bill and went to another restaurant and had good (well, edible anyway) food.

Worst Post Office Award. We tried to mail some letters from Copacabana. We were directed to the post office, which we found to be under construction and closed. After questioning several people, including city employees, we determined that there was no post office in Copacabana! Had the locals not notices?

May 27. We were to travel to Peru this day, but in the morning while still in Copacabana,
Sacsahuaman RuinsSacsahuaman RuinsSacsahuaman Ruins

These Inca ruins just outside Cuzco are commonly mispronounced 'sexy-woman' by Gringos. How did they move such massive stones and fit them together so well without mortar? Photo from
Bolivia, we hired a car and drove to a nearby Inca bath. The bath was interesting in that the ancient drainage system (from underground springs) still functioned perfectly.

Getting to the bath was tricky. First we parked in the middle of a field, which was itself in the middle of nowhere. We then walked up a steep hill surrounded by grain fields to a peasant’s house. A bitch with puppies almost kept us at bay, but a little boy finally came out of the house and restrained her. An old woman appeared and invited us into the house courtyard. The Inca bath is on the old lady’s property - in her back yard. That bit of information hadn’t been in the guide book.


May 27, Puno, Peru via bus (days 65 F/18 C - nights 35 F/1.6 C). Puno is also on Lake Titicaca. Early in the afternoon we took a bus from Copacabana, Bolivia over the border into Peru. The border crossing was fast and easy - not one bag was opened.

As we entered Puno an agent from our tour agency got on our bus to accompany us to our hotel. Since
Machu PicchuMachu PicchuMachu Picchu

My sister, Mary Jean, and her husband, Buzz, hiked the Inca Trail in 2005. Here they are at the end of the trail, the magnificent Machu Picchu! Buzz is the fourth from the left in the back and Mary Jean the second from the left in front
we were a bit tense about Peru, it was good to have someone looking after us.

Puno had a shortage of electrical power, so every evening a portion of the city was blacked out. As it happened, our hotel had no electricity that night. We were given candles and were able to cope quite nicely.

For dinner the French couple and we went to a nearby Italian restaurant, which had a Peña - a pan-pipe group that played Andean music. It was so strange: (1) there wasn’t any electricity (the stove must have been gas), (2) we were the only people in the restaurant (besides ten waiters), and (3) the band played in total darkness. We couldn’t see them at all, which is part of the fun of a Peña - watching the pan-pipes being played.

May 28, Lake Titicaca. We spent all day on the lake visiting two islands. About two-thirds of the way to the first island, Taquile, our boat motor failed. Unable to repair the motor, one of the crew put down his knitting and used a mirror to signal another boat. The second boat took all ten of us to Taquile Island.
La Rosa Nautica RestaurantLa Rosa Nautica RestaurantLa Rosa Nautica Restaurant

We had a magical anniversary dinner in this lovely setting in Lima, Peru. Photo from

Taquile is a whole different world. Tourists are allowed, but the indigenous islanders operate the boats, and thus control the number of tourists allowed. They are trying to maintain a tranquil lifestyle.

The islanders still wear their traditional clothes, even the men. The women all wear hats of some kinds. Even tiny girls wear black scarves. The women avoided looking directly at us, even though they would say “buenos dias.” The women generally do not go to the mainland. The men and children were friendly and always greeted us. Many men walked around knitting. The hats, purses, and other items they knitted were for sale in the local market.

While we were there a service was being held in the church. The floor before the alter was covered with potatoes, offerings to God. The choir sang haunting melodies in the local language, Quechua.

Our next stop was the floating islands of Uros. These islands are made of reeds which rot away at the bottom and are constantly being replaced on top. The ‘ground’ is soft and springy. Most of the houses are also made from reeds. There are about 30 island with 300 people total. One island
Trujillo, PeruTrujillo, PeruTrujillo, Peru

An example of the wonderful colors in this colonial town. Photo from
is substantial enough to hold a school and several other buildings with tin roofs.

The Uros people were a distinct indigenous group who began living on the reed islands to escape the Incas of the mainland. The Uros have so intermarried with the Aymara people that their language no longer exists.

The Uros people also make canoes of the reeds. These boats last up to six months before rotting away. It was from these boats that Thor Heyerdahl got the design for his boat, the Kon-Tiki, which was actually made of balsa wood, that he sailed from Peru to Polynesia to try to prove his theory that Polynesia was first settled by people from South America rather than by people from Micronesia.

Our visit to one of the Uros Islands was brief. The ground was soggy and we could step right through in places. All the inhabitants tried to sell us crafts. Frederic and I bought little reed boats - anything to stop the hounding. It was very commercial, and after the tranquility and friendliness of Taquile Island, abrasive.

May 29 - June 5, to Cuzco, Peru, (from Puno) by train. Cuzco is at 10,660 ft./3,249
Chan Chan Ruins, PeruChan Chan Ruins, PeruChan Chan Ruins, Peru

A wall frieze at the ruins. Many that weren't protected were washed away in a rain storm in 1983. Photo from
meters and Puno at 12,556 ft./3,827 meters, so the trip was downhill. The 13-hour trip to Cuzco was fascinating, but too long. We made 25 stops. At each stop vendors tried to sell us sweaters, bananas, bread, you name it. Fortunately we were in a secure (‘tourist’) car and the vendors were not allowed aboard. They had to be content with banging on the side of the train to get our attention and then holding up their wares while making sad, sad faces. Sometimes they threw their wares through open windows. Right after Cecile said, scornfully, how much Americans buy, she bought a hat and several sweaters. We sat smugly across from her and bought NOTHING - point of pride.

Cecile was prone to saying whatever she was thinking. When we first met, she said, “Oh, we did not think you were Americans as you are not so fat.” She also said with a sour face, “You speak Spanish with an American accent.” And when I pointed out that she spoke Spanish with a French accent, she said, “Oh, but it is such a cute accent, don’t you think?” She really did NOT want to know what I thought.
Chan Chan Ruins, PeruChan Chan Ruins, PeruChan Chan Ruins, Peru

Photo from

Shortly before arriving in Cuzco, at one of the last stops, an agent from our tour agency boarded. She accompanied us through the Cuzco train station to a bus and to our hotel (300-year-old colonial hotel, beautiful, $20 per night).

We had been apprehensive about the Cuzco train station at night because the soldiers on the train (they were on every train) told us to be very careful as the thieves were thick. Thanks a lot guys, ever think about doing something about it? Hard to believe that the thievery is so rampant, but is just tolerated.

We had noticed other tourist on the train with wallets in their back pockets, for example, and wearing jewelry. Since these idiots would be the more obvious targets, we felt secure in our drab clothing, no jewelry and our money safely tucked away in money belts or in Bernie's case, in a pouch around his neck and under several layers of clothing.

Again we were glad we had paid a little more for the tour agency assistance. We were whisked to a bus and then to our hotel safely. Once we were settled with our luggage securely stashed, we were much less stressed.

With a bit of effort and some inconveniences we arranged for three tours - one of the city and nearby Inca ruins, another a tour of the Sacred Valley just outside of Cuzco, and a trip to the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.

May 30, Cuzco & Nearby Ruins Tour. After dealing with the travel agent and post office all morning, we took our tour in the afternoon.

The post office had been a trip in itself because the man running the postage machine messed up twice, so each letter (40 total) had to be run through the machine three times. By the time he finished, there was a long line of impatient people behind us. I was glad I could not understand most of what those irate people were saying.

As for the city and nearby ruins tour, it was frustrating because our guide was terrible. The Inca ruins we visited were wonderful, but the guide spoke little English and knew next to nothing about the ruins. We learned more from our guide books.

As soon as we got back to Cuzco we went to the tour agency and complained.
Quito, EcuadorQuito, EcuadorQuito, Ecuador

This is San Francisco church in downtown Quito
We had specifically requested an English speaking guide because for the tours we wanted to understand 100%!o(MISSING)f the information. With a Spanish speaking guide Bernie could probably understand 80%!a(MISSING)nd me 40%! (MISSING)Anyway, our agent wasn’t there, but the man in charge apologized and promised us a ‘number one guide’ the following day.

May 31, Tour of the Sacred Valley. True to the agent’s word, we had an excellent guide for the Sacred Valley Tour. Our guide inundated us with information, was enthusiastic and energetic. We saw some spectacular sights. We sure have been getting our exercise as all the Inca temples and villages are built high in the mountains. Even in the Sacred Valley we were climbing out of the valley to get to the temples. The farming was done in the valley and on the terraced mountain sides. The terraces are still farmed by the locals and are just phenomenal.

After a wonderful day of sightseeing we had a great dinner at an ‘expensive’ restaurant with a dinner show - folkloric dancing and Andean music, which cost $17 per couple including dinner, wine, espresso and dessert. Between the two couples we bought five tapes of
Ecuador Violet-tailed SylphEcuador Violet-tailed SylphEcuador Violet-tailed Sylph

Actually I took this photo Nov. 09 on a quick trip to Ecuador - Bernard was teaching there so I went along and exchange student/daughter, Camila from Brazil, flew in to join us.
the Andean music. We didn’t want the show to end. We were the last ones out of the restaurant and in the foyer two of the musicians were playing and singing softly to some young ladies. It was beautiful.

June 1, Machu Picchu, Crown Jewel of Peru. The trip to Machu Picchu was done in stages - car to bus; bus to Ollantaytambo (1 ½ hrs.); train to Puenta Ruinas (another 1 ½ hours); bus to Machu Picchu (½ hr.). The alternative was hiking the *Inca Trail, and since the ‘thieves were thick,’ we’d been advised not to do that.

*Few people were using that option in 1989. My sister, Mary Jean, and her husband, Buzz, did it in 2005 and I've included a photo of their group. They had such a fantastic time Buzz wanted to turn around and do it again, immediately!

Our guide in Machu Picchu was to be the one from the day before that we liked so much and was to meet us at the train station. No show. We hoped he had gone up earlier in the day with another group and would meet us at the ruins. No show and
Camie in The Middle of the WorldCamie in The Middle of the WorldCamie in The Middle of the World

Camila at the center of the earth monument just outside Quito, Ecuador, 2009. As you might have guessed, the equator runs right thru Ecuador.
no message. Since Cecile and Frederic only had one day at Machu PIcchu, actually only three hours, we decided to give it a go without a guide; we had a specialized guide book. Bernie and I were overnighting in Machu Picchu, so had another chance at getting a guided tour.

The ruins are superb and the setting nothing less than spectacular. Machu Picchu is a complete Inca city set in the saddle of a high mountain with terraced slopes falling away to the Urubama River below. It is in a fairly good state of preservation because the Spanish never found it. In fact, it wasn’t ‘discovered’ by the white man until 1911. The local people knew of its existence, of course.

It was intermittently rainy and cloudy, so there was a spiritual feeling to the ruins. Few tourists were there. We wandered up, down and through the whole city and were able to identify a lot of the temples thanks to the guide book. Machu Picchu has 3,000 stairs and I think we were on all of them.

Cecile and Frederic went back to Cuzco in the late afternoon and flew to Lima the next day. We
Liz & GustavoLiz & GustavoLiz & Gustavo

When we lived in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1996-97 our best friends were Liz & Gustavo. We stayed with them in Quito, where they live now, on our visit in 09.
said good-bye and made plans to meet in Ecuador and perhaps do the Galapagos Islands together.*

*We never did re-connect with Cecile and Frederic in South America, but we did go to their wedding in France the following year. Yeah, even though the relationship had started out rocky, we came to like and enjoy each other very much.

We were so disappointed for Cecile and Frederic. For most people Machu Picchu is a *once-in-a-lifetime experience and irreparable harm was done because of the lack of a guide. The tour agency really screwed up.

*For us it turned out to be a twice-in-a-lifetime experience. In 1997 when we were living in Ecuador, Victoria Sahade, one of our Argentine exchange student daughters/twins, and her mother, Rosa, came for a visit and we all went to Machu Picchu together. It was a totally different experience: there was a modern, tourist train directly from Cuzco to Aquas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu, then a short bus ride to the ruins, voilá, took no time at all. And because of the political stability and ease of transport, many more tourists.

June 2. We had asked Cecile to have the
Otavalo, EcuadorOtavalo, EcuadorOtavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo has one of the largest indigenous markets in South America, and is in driving distance of Quito. The Otavalaño people are also the ones you see all over the world playing pan pipe/Andean music in public plazas, etc.
tour agent arrange for a guide for us for our second day in Machu Picchu, and to call and let us know the situation. No call and no message. The next morning we found ourselves a guide.

Machu Picchu is a huge site; a maze really. Our guide took us everywhere and many places we hadn’t seen the day before. Having an explanation of what we were seeing was extremely helpful, to say the least. Some of the paths were tricky and even looked impassible to the untrained eye. The day was sunny and warm, so the ruins looked and felt totally different from the day before.

In the afternoon we went back to Cuzco. Purely by chance we ran into our tour agent, Marta, on the street. Per Marta our tour guide for Machu Picchu was in an auto accident while on his way to the train station. She arranged for another guide, but somehow he managed to miss us at the ruins. First, I didn’t buy the accident story. Second, it would have been next to impossible to ‘miss’ us as we were registered at the only hotel (she had made the reservation) in the ruins.
La Selva Jungle Lodge, EcuadorLa Selva Jungle Lodge, EcuadorLa Selva Jungle Lodge, Ecuador

This is where we met Jill, still a good and true friend. Photo taken from La Selva's website
Third, there was only one other group of tourists (Japanese) at the ruins that day. Marta said she hadn’t called because the phones were out (true), but had arranged for a guide for us for day two. Well, there was no guide on day two and no message from one. We asked for a refund and Marta agreed. We never saw a penny.

June 3, ‘See Cuzco Day.’ We spent the day wandering the wonderful, narrow, cobblestone streets, visiting museum, churches and drinking espresso. We found good coffee again and were in heaven.

Cuzco is definitely the loveliest colonial city we’ve been in. Contrary to what we had heard, the people of Cuzco were friendly and we felt fairly safe. Of course we carried nothing but one camera, which I hid in my coat when not in use.

Many of the buildings in Cuzco have foundations of original Inca walls. These are easy to spot because of the fine workmanship. The blocks fit together snugly - most so close you cannot get a fingernail between them, and no mortar was used.

Strangest Religious Paintings: (1) Saint Inez offering her breasts on a silver platter (to whom?)

Jill is living in Ecuador again - full circle. We met her in Ecuador. She then taught all over the world these past 20 years, and now is living on land she bought in 1989 on the coast of Ecuador
and two red holes where her breasts were. (2) Mary suckling Jesus on one breast and an old man on the other. (3) A saint holding the severed head of a man whose decapitated body lays beside her. (4) A saint holding his own head under his arm.

Lunch. I had a wonderful local soup of noodles, meat, eggs and vegetables in a spicy broth. Cost: less than 50 cents and was so big I couldn’t finish it. Bernard had a huge plate of chicken and saffron rice for under a dollar. On our way out of the restaurant three little boys let us know they were hungry. We brought them in and bought them lunch. Cost: less than $2. We knew the restaurant didn’t mind having the boys as we had done the same for two boys the day before, and the waiters and staff had been friendly and helpful.

June 4. Today was an unexpected treat as we found ourselves in the middle of a fiesta reminiscent of Mardi Gras. The celebration had something to do with the Virgin Mary. They carried an elaborate statute of her around on a silver platform. All the dancing groups
Chestnut-fronted MacawsChestnut-fronted MacawsChestnut-fronted Macaws

La Selva Jungle Lodge, Ecuador. Photo from
surrounded the platform as it wound its way through the city. The dancers wore complicated, colorful costumes.

The parade started at a convent. We were guided there by the music. There was a large crowd gathered, but we managed to get into the courtyard of the convent where a priest was doing his thing with incense around the platform and a group was dancing. The funniest sight was of a group of about 15 nuns (the convent was cloistered) watching the proceedings from a huge doorway - they were all wearing sunglasses. Reminded me of a Blues Brother’s skit.

As we were watching the festivities a shoeshine boy asked to shine my shoes. Now this happened a couple of dozen times a day, so my automatic reply was “no gracias.” The shoeshine boy replied “But Señorita," they always flatter you, "don’t you remember me? You bought me lunch yesterday. It was very good and I thank you. If you let me shine your shoes, I will be able to buy my own lunch today.” Hard to resist huh? So I let him ‘shine’ my athletic shoes. He charged me double the regular price, but what the heck, he

Take by Chris Plummer at La Selva Jungle Lodge. Photo from
knew I could afford it because I went around buying strange kids lunch. His name was Moses and we hung out for awhile before he wandering off looking for more shoes to shine or Gringos to sweet-talk out of money.

June 5 -7, Lima, Peru, home of rampant thievery and Sendero Luminoso-caused electric outages. (Misty 65-70 F/18-21 C). We had heard so many bad things about Lima that we opted to stay in an upper class suburb, Miraflores. There were good shops and excellent restaurants without the danger and fear present in downtown Lima. We wouldn’t have stopped in Lima at all except we had been told by many people that there were excellent museums and amazing ruins nearby.

June 6. We attempted to do some shopping. Our problem with buying Christmas presents is that we cannot cart a ton of gifts around for six more months. Peru has some wonderful sweaters (alpaca) and rugs (alpaca and llama). We were told that we might find a good store to mail merchandise to the states. I’m sure such stores exist, but we didn’t find one.

We were pretty depressed when we returned to the hotel, but cheered right
Map of Galapagos IslandsMap of Galapagos IslandsMap of Galapagos Islands

We averaged visiting two islands a day for a total of 13. Intense touring, but worth every minute - we spent as much time ashore as we were allowed. This protected area has strict regulations regarding how many and how long people are allowed on each island
up when handed our mail package. The rest of the day was spent in pure joy as we read all our correspondence. For the first time, practically all of the letters had been opened and re-sealed with tape labeled ‘censored.’

June 7, Happy Anniversary to Us. Today we toured a pre-Inca adobe town (800 AD), Pachacamac. The Chimú people built the town and the Inca left it standing and added to it after they conquered the Chimú. It was an extensive town, but only a few temples have been restored. Normally adobe won’t last for hundreds of years, but he Chimú mixed seashells, mammal excrement and possibly eggs into the adobe.

Next stop Lima’s famous Gold Museum. In a word: overwhelming! This museum is one man’s private collection. Impossible to describe the amount of things he collected. There were two floors. The first was full (about five huge rooms) of guns, knives and other weapons. Must be one of the most complete collections in the world.

The downstairs was much more to my liking - gold, baubles, ceramics and textiles. Everything was taken from graves (pre-Inca and Inca). Because of the dryness of the desert areas of
Scenic GalapagosScenic GalapagosScenic Galapagos

These are volcanic islands with very little vegetation. They can be unbearable hot, but we were there at a cool time of year. Photo from
Peru, the objects safely buried remained in perfect condition. The ceramics are exquisite and perfectly intact - the paint isn’t even scratched on most pieces and there were over a thousand pieces.

None of the indigenous groups down here had a written language (the Maya of Central America did), but much can be ‘read’ from the ceramics. Many pieces are in the shape of animals, humans, and many human heads. A good many have scenes painted on them - intricate scenes depicting ceremonies and everyday life. Quite a few pornographic pieces have been found; many require the drinking of the contents through a penis. Many more pieces are of houses and towns. One theory is that these were actual models from which buildings or villages were constructed.

My faith in food was reaffirmed today. Quite by chance we stopped for lunch at a little Italian place near the Gold Museum. I ordered a salad as I was craving vegetables. It was delicious! Best of all, no side effects. As a matter of fact we have been flaunting good sense and eating salads, as bland as they are down here. So far so good.

To add to my
Aerial Photo of GalapagosAerial Photo of GalapagosAerial Photo of Galapagos

Think they might be volcanic islands?? Photo from
ecstasy we had a terrific dinner. It was our anniversary so we went to the most elegant restaurant in Lima. La Rose Nautica was situated in two glittering white gazebos set out over the ocean. Lots of hanging plants and pastel, stain-glass windows. The pier leading to the restaurant was lined with smaller gazebos containing expensive little speciality shops.

The food. Would you believe I was most excited about the deep green broccoli perfectly steamed? I plan to go face down in vegetables when we get home. It is baffling to me that we see wonderful vegetables and fruits in the markets, but are rarely served any in restaurants.

All the women at the restaurant were elegantly dressed and wearing beautiful jewelry. However, they didn't wear the jewelry into the restaurant, but evidently had it hidden on them because upon arrival sans decoration, they went into the restroom and emerged glittering with jewels and lovely scarfs.

NOTE: On our second visit to Peru in 1997 after the Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path) rebels had been subdued, we found a totally different, delightful, newly painted and renovated city. The people were friendly and smiling faces common.

Masked BoobiesMasked BoobiesMasked Boobies

Galapagos Island boobies. Photo from
8, Trujillo, Peru (65-70 F/18-21 C, misty). Trujillo is a very nice colonial town and had the hotel deal of the trip. The brand new, five-star, Turista Hotel was fabulous. Beautifully appointed with lounges, a swimming pool in the middle of a lush garden, first-class restaurant, big rooms, TV (with American movies in the evenings), several bars, room service - everything for $13 per night!

June 9. Outside of town are the Chan Chan ruins. We had a good guide and saw some enormous ruins. Chan Chan is another adobe city built by the Chimú people before they were subjugated by the Inca. There were nine palaces in the city and each palace encompassed at least six square miles. Only one temple and one palace have been restored and are quite impressive.

One of the most interesting things we saw today was archaeology students doing restoration work at Chan Chan. One girl was knocking at the base of a wall. When she found what sounded like a hollow spot, she injected cactus juice via hypodermic needle. She would then apply mud over the area. She advanced maybe a few feet a day and the reason for this procedure
Blue-footed BoobiesBlue-footed BoobiesBlue-footed Boobies

This was the bird our sub-group on the cruise was named after. We saw many doing their mating dance, which was magical and which we tried to duplicate on the dance floor on the boat. Too funny. Photo from
was not explained to us.

The restored palace was wonderful, but had been more wonderful pre-1983. In 1983 the ocean current El Niño brought rain to the Chan Chan area - a rare event. Many of the decorations and friezes on the adobe walls were simply washed away.

The Trujillo community tries to maintain the colonial feel of the town; no tall buildings are allowed in the city center. Many of the buildings are painted in the bright, deep colors of colonial times - our hotel was mauve, one bank was bright yellow/orange, a church was royal blue. The doorways and arches are baroque. (Bernie: If they are baroque, why not fix them?)

June 10 - 11, Lima. Over-nighted in Lima. Stayed at the same hotel, which was the gringo adoption center of Peru. Everyone there except us was a prospective adoptive parent. Five families already had their children and were finalizing the paperwork. One woman was adopting two newborns - they were adorable, but a handful. This hotel full of children was surprisingly quiet.

Peru had a fairly lax adoption policy, unlike Guatemala. It took approximately one year of untangling various government red tape in
Red-billed Tropic BirdRed-billed Tropic BirdRed-billed Tropic Bird

Photo from wikipedia
the U.S., and then about six weeks in Peru to complete an adoption.

We learned so much about adoption in Peru. For one thing, girls are at a premium. Mothers are less likely to give baby girls up for adoption because they can be of use to the family around the house or at the mother’s employment. Many Peruvian women work as domestic help. It is acceptable for a maid or cook to bring a daughter along to assist her.

The demand for baby girls by adoptive parents is also high. It is speculated that an adoptive father’s ego is involved as the usually small, dark boys will never grow up to look like Gringo daddy. On the other hand, the girls are pretty, tiny and doll-like.

We had a wonderful dinner with a couple, Dwight and Deb, and their two-year-old daughter whom we knew from Guatemala. We had all lived in the same house in Antigua; they actually took over our large room when we left. Now Dwight was working in Lima for Food for the Hungry. The terror propaganda had Deb reluctant to live there, but she had been pleasantly surprised and they had settled
Sea lions, GalapagosSea lions, GalapagosSea lions, Galapagos

Some of our most memorial encounters were with sea lionesses - just magical! Photo from
into a nice lifestyle.


June 12 - 16 Quito, Ecuador. We flew Air France to Quito and had one of the best meals in a year on the plane. Hard to believe what the French can do with food even with only a microwave to work with.

We had made arrangements to leave/receive messages with several friends at the American Express office. We found a message from our French friends - we had missed them by a day and will likely not reconnect because of our schedules. There was also a message from our Aussie friends, Merilyn & Roger. They were in town, as were the American couple we met in Bolivia and whom the Aussies had traveled with through Peru.

As it was Dian’s, the American woman’s, 30th birthday on the 13th and my 38th on the 15th, we all got together at a great Arab restaurant for a birthday celebration. Bernie and I arrived first and because they didn’t have wine by the glass, I ordered a bottle ($14) with the intention of sharing. When the others arrived we quickly finished the first bottle and someone ordered a second. As the evening progressed,
Giant TortoiseGiant TortoiseGiant Tortoise

Probably the animal most associated with the Galapagos island, the giant land tortoise have been made extinct on most of the islands. The ones folks could get up close and personal with were at the Darwin Research Center. Photo from
the wine kept coming. We should have realized what was happening, but were having such a great time no one noticed the number of bottled being downed. The waiter/owner just kept pouring (five of us drank four bottles). This wasn’t a problem for us, but the American couple was traveling pretty low scale. I think it really knocked a hole in their budget. The wine may have been $14 a bottle, but the meals averaged only $6 a person - crazy I know. The owner all but made up for the wine misunderstanding by his enthusiasm. He gave us all brandy after dinner, played the Arab version of Happy Birthday several times, and give the women long-stem roses.

The majority of our time in Quito was spent making arrangements for two different trips - one to the Galapagos Islands and the other an Amazon jungle trip. Quito was a nice city, but I’d seen about as many churches as I could handle. There was one very nice museum we actually liked better than any of the museums in Lima as the displays and explanations were superb.

June 17-20, La Selva Jungle Lodge, Ecuador. We flew from Quito to
Eagle rayEagle rayEagle ray

Many of the wonders of the Galapagos are underwater - the sea life is abundant and also very accessible. On our second visit with our daughters in 1997, we had our feet knocked out from under us numerous times while walking on the beach - we would have accidently stepped on a ray covered only by a thin layer of sand. Talk about a rush! Photo from
Coca (one hour), then took a motor launch down the Napo River (three hours), walked on a boardwalk through the jungle for about 15 minutes to a lake, then took another canoe (20 minutes) across Lake Garzacocha to La Selva Jungle Lodge.

The lodge (two main buildings, bar, dining room, 16 double bungalows) sits on a bluff overlooking the lake. Everything is built on stilts and connected by boardwalks. I guess we were high enough off the ground as bugs were surprisingly lacking. The jungle itself was not buggy either.

We arrived mid-afternoon, so one of the first things we were treated to was at about 17:00 when a flock of chestnut-fronted macaws (20 or more) swooped in for the night to roost in the dead, drooping fronds of a palm tree right in front of our bungalow. They took their sweet, noisy time circling, landing then flying off again before finally landing for the night. They go inside the fronds where they lock their claws to the fronds and hang on for the night.

The next two days were spent traipsing around the jungle (on foot and in canoes) with a guide and eight other 'nature
Land IguanaLand IguanaLand Iguana

There were also marine iguana who were fun to watch diving near shore to get to algea growing on submerged rocks. Photo from
lovers.' We saw toucans, parrots, howler monkeys, pigmy marmoset, monkeys, and lots of ants.

Our companions were all American - five teachers from the American school in Quito, the American Consul General and his wife, the American Military Liaison Officer for Ecuador, and a Vice Consul at the American Consulate in Guayaquil. Since all of these folks lived in Ecuador, we got lots of great info and tips.

The Consul General, Ralph, and the Military Liaison Officer, Paul, were fanatic birders and went off by themselves at the crack of dawn each morning. They were trying to add to their Life Lists a ground bird found only in that area. They would actually bury themselves in jungle debris and stay there, completely still for hours. I don’t know if they ever ‘got’ the bird, but they did get lots of bug bites.

Note. A few days after our jungle trip when we were on the cruise in the Galapagos Islands we met an ornithology guide (another Paul, this one from Belgium) who knew Ralph and Paul well. He told us a story of how Paul, the Military Liaison Officer, ‘got into’ birding. Seems when Paul was a
Scalloped Hammerhead SharkScalloped Hammerhead SharkScalloped Hammerhead Shark

One of the reasons we took a smaller boat our second visit was because daughter JJ and Bernard wanted to SCUBA with the sharks. Turned out the water was so cold they couldn't stay down long enough to see sharks, although they saw many other interesting marine creatures. Photo from
teenager in New York he belonged to a street gang. On one of his frequent muggings he stole a man’s binoculars. Not too much later Paul was busted for another crime and sent to reform school. When he got out, back in his old neighborhood, he tried mugging again. The intended mugee turned out to be the same man Paul had stolen the binoculars from. The man recognized Paul and somehow talked him into not only not mugging him, but also returning the binoculars. They became friends and the man took Paul on his first bird-watching outing and gave him the binoculars as a gift. Nice story.

Back to the jungle. We had relatively good weather considering the jungle is a rain forest. That means we actually had some sun and were never deterred from our hikes by rain. The jungle was terribly muddy - my feet were wet almost all the time because I didn’t have high boots like almost everybody else.

Every evening before dinner we all gathered in the bar. After a few drinks we heard some great stories. Paul told us war stories and Bill, the Vice Counsel, told us visa stories. People trying
Susan & BenSusan & BenSusan & Ben

The gal we met on the Galapagos cruise, Susan, married Ben and they live in Turkey now - this is a fairly recent photo of them
to get into the states sometimes try to bribe Bill. The biggest bribe he had been offered was $12,000. Even *teachers are routinely offered bribes by students’ parents. One teacher was offered $3,000 to change a B+ to an A-. She refused, but her Ecuadorian supervisor told her she was crazy to refuse, that she should have taken the money and had a nice vacation.

*One of the teachers, Jill, is still a friend. Since Ecuador she has taught in Malaysia (we visited her there) and Benin, Africa, as well as Atlanta, Georgia, all in International Schools. She is now living in Ecuador again, on the coast, and is actually the one who got me started on this blog site.

The morning we departed we had to get up at 2:30, breakfast at 3:00, and in the canoes crossing the lake by 3:30. Why so early you might very well ask. There had been exceptionally heavy rains for a few weeks, so the Napo River was very high and fast. There were snags constantly, whole trees sometimes. It took four hours on the river (at least) and they didn’t want us to miss our 10:00 flight. We didn’t
Sea LionessSea LionessSea Lioness

This is how you see them when they are 'playing' with you. Photo from
want to miss it either. The group before us (a large group of 30) had missed their plane. We heard the horror story later:

Seems this unlucky group missed their plane and had to take a bus to Quito - usually a 12-hour trip, but it took them more than 30 hours. It was still raining hard. About three hours into the trip there was a mudslide that completely blocked the road. They were told to walk through the mud and another bus would meet them on the other side. They walked through chest-deep water and mud to the waiting bus, while their tour guides transferred their bags. One lady was 80 years old and most of the others were middle-aged city folk. Muddy, wet and cold, off they went. Several hours later another mudslide caught them. This time the mud came down the mountainside all around the bus. They managed to get all their luggage and themselves safely out of the way. They then watched as the mud built up on the mountain-side of the bus and eventually toppled the bus into the valley!

Eventually a bus arrived from a nearby town and everybody was taken safety
Red-footed BoobiesRed-footed BoobiesRed-footed Boobies

The Galapagos had more than its share of colorful-footed bird. Photo from
to Quito. The 80-year old woman cancelled the remainder of her trip and vowed never to leave the good ole US of A again. Poor thing.


June 22-29, The Galapagos Islands (72-75 F/22-24 C & Mostly Sunny - Delightful). Since visiting the Galapagos Islands is a *once-in-a-lifetime adventure (expensive and remote) we decided to go first class. We booked with the best company that had the best boats and the most knowledgeable guides/naturalists. It was wonderful and worth every penny.

*Turns out we visited the Galapagos again in 1997 with my mom and our two daughters. At that time we were living in Guayaquil, Ecuador teaching English with World Teach, which is part of Harvard University’s Center for International Development.

First, the boat was a 90-passenger cruise ship designed and built especially for the Galapagos. Every cabin was deluxe - roomy with private bath. There was a bar/lounge complete with dance floor, the restaurant had superb food, the sun deck was spacious and the shop had quality items. Everything was of high quality.

The service was exceptional - from the waiters who remembered everything about our tastes, to the guides who could
Flightless CormorantFlightless CormorantFlightless Cormorant

Also known as the Galapagos Cormorant, with only 1500 individuals is one of the world's rarest birds. It is the only cormorant whose evolution was to lose its ability to fly. Its wings are only 1/3 the size needed for flight. Photo from
answer any question, and cabin stewards who tidied our cabins and brought heaps of clean towels twice a day.

The guides all had to have a university degree in a related scientific field (our guide, Fabricio, was an oceanographer) and must attend an extensive education program given by the Charles Darwin Foundation, as well as continuing education updates/seminars.

Every evening one of the guides/naturalists gave a presentation and slide show, usually preparing us for the following day’s adventure.

The pace was fast, but not exhausting. We visited on average two islands a day for a total of 13 islands. We were broken down into groups of 15-20. Each group visited a different part of an island or took a different trail, so it never seemed crowded. Some islands had very difficult trails (lava mostly), so alternatives, such as boat excursions, were offered to those who weren’t up to hiking.

There are not numerous species on the islands, but the accessibility of the ones that are there is phenomenal. And this is, of course, one of the main draws of the islands. I cannot tell you what a thrill it is to have a sea lioness swim
Galapagos HawkGalapagos HawkGalapagos Hawk

Similar in size to a Red-tailed Hawk; eats lizards, snakes, young marine & land iguanas, sea turtle and tortoise eggs; only 150 mating pairs left; no fear of man. Charles Darwin wrote: "A gun is here almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk out of the branch of a tree." Photo from, photo by Hans Stieglitz
right up to you, or on the beach waddle up and actually rest her head on your feet! To be able to watch blue-footed boobies dancing their mating dance (and mating!) a foot away was spell-binding.

The biggest thrill for me was snorkeling and playing with the sea lionesses. We would be snorkeling along and zoom, a sea lioness would swim straight at us and then dive about two inches from our masks. Bernie would dive down after her and they would swim circles together. Pretty soon, zoom, another one would approach me from the rear and actually nudge me, and then dive in front of me towards Bernie. Many times there would be five or six sea lionesses circling us wanting to play. I had the same problem here as I did learning to SCUBA dive and that was laughing or smiling. One’s mask fills with water when one breaks the seal by smiling or laughing. I learned to make ooh, ooh sounds through my snorkel to satisfy my urge to giggle.

The sea lionesses were as friendly and curious on shore. There were large sea lion colonies on many of the islands, so we encountered them
Swallow-tailed GullsSwallow-tailed GullsSwallow-tailed Gulls

The only fully nocturnal gull or seabird in the world. Photo by putneymark and Flickr
almost daily. There were many seal lion pups and they would have let people touch them if the guides hadn’t kept strict control.

The male sea lions* were usually in the water patrolling their harems and the females would be sunning themselves on the sand or rocks when not swimming. We could walk right through these bathing beauties, sit within inches of them and their pups. They ignored us for the most part. Frequently a curious one would waddle right up to a stationary homo sapien and smell a foot or a hand. These wonderful creatures do have sharp teeth, however, so we were always very respectful of them. One time when our guide, Bernie and I were sitting in the sand, a good-sized lioness came waddling briskly toward us. I was getting ready to run, but our guide gentled me down saying “she is just curious; don’t move or you’ll frighten her; the worse thing you can do is run.” We stayed and sure enough she sniffed my shoes and then settled her head on Bernie’s bare feet. I don’t need to tell you how quickly a heart melts when big, brown, beautiful sea lioness eyes gaze at you.

*The male sea lions never came near us, but often vocalized from nearby rocks if they felt some distress - tourists getting too close to the pups, for example. On our second trip to the islands in 1997 when my daughters and I were swimming with the sea lionesses, I must have angered a male as he tried to attack me. I had finished swimming and was sitting on the shore in the shallow water taking off my fins when a huge male came charging out of the water straight towards me, vocalizing. Very scary. I still had one fin on, so I tried scooting backwards as fast as I could, but wasn't making nearly enough progress as the male drew closer. I had a fin in my hand getting ready to fend off the sea lion when Bernard ran down the beach, grabbed me under the arms and dragged me to safety, all the while yelling at the sea lion, who was 'yelling' back at him. Quite funny in hindsight, but I was bruised from my bumpy ride over the sand and rocks while Bernard was 'saving' me. My hero!

We also saw marine iguana, lava lizards, a snake, land iguana, blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies, masked boobies, albatross, flamingos, green sea turtles, land tortoises, red-billed tropic birds, swallow-tailed gulls (a unique night fishing gull), brown pelicans, fur seals, penguins, Galapagos hawks, flightless cormorants and a total of 34 other species of birds, including three species of herons.

Many of the above are endemic to the Galapagos - found nowhere else, and their adaptation to the islands is interesting, to say the least.

Charles Darwin visited only four of the 14 main islands and stayed only five weeks. This was enough to formulate the basis for his famous theory and book on the origin of the species.

All in all a wonderful experience. The 90 passengers were divided into groups who toured together. In our case we ate and socialized together as well. Each group had a name and we were the Blue-Foot Boobie group. The people in our group were varied and interesting. We had five Brits, two Dutch, three Belgians, two Germans, two other *Americans and us. Fortunately and not surprisingly, the common language was English.

*Susan, one of the Americans we met on the cruise, is still a friend. Like Jill whom we’d met in the jungle, Susan is a teacher, was teaching in Brazil at the time and taught at the International School in Jakarta for many years (we visited her in both Brazil and Indonesia). She and her husband now live in Turkey. We connected Jill & Susan who became friends when Jill was teaching in Kuala Lumpur and Susan in Jakarta.

We had several dances in the evenings. Proud accomplishment? I won a salsa dance contest. Fabricio, our guide, dragged me onto the floor - it was a blast once I stopped resisting and caught on. Boy can those Latin men dance. My big prize was a bottle of wine.

We are back in Quito now getting this typed and running errands in preparation for Brazil. We are also mailing some packages back to the states. We will be in warm weather from here on out, so are mailing back warm clothes and some things we bought along the way.

Schedule: Brazil for two months (until mid-September); *Colombia until October 1; Venezuela for a few weeks; Honduras & Belize to dive; Guatemala for a few days; Mexico City for a few days; fly to Boston Nov. 20 and have Thanksgiving with Bernie’s family; drive cross-country and be with our daughters for Christmas at my Mom’s in Washington state; ski after Christmas; home to Anchorage mid/end of January. Great timing, getting to Alaska mid-winter, but that can’t be helped because we get our house back from our renters on February 1.

*Colombia was having more ‘troubles’ so we only saw the capital of Bogata as travel into the countryside was discouraged by everyone. We also had an unexpected detour, which was a quick trip across the ocean from Brazil to South Africa for a couple of weeks!

We hope you are all well and enjoying the summer. Drop us a line to let us know you are alive and well, we worry when we don’t hear from you.


3rd June 2010

Men that knit?!
that is fantastic. I'm totally living through your journal of Machu Picchu and the Galapagos

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