A Travellerspoint blog

11. Welcome Home? No So Much

Just like New Year's Eve: Silversea Drops the Ball

overcast 72 °F

11. June 26, Guayaquil to Miami to Kansas City

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Today could be best recounted via a list.

1. Silversea’s ground transportation arrived at our hotel 20 minutes late.
2. Ten (yes, ten) wheelchairs lined up to pre-board our flight to Miami delaying departure.
3. Deplaning at Miami delayed by a “medical.” That’s our third medical in the past few flights.
4. I got the dreaded “X” at the Global Entry kiosk.
5. My passport was taken from me and I was taken to “the room” and told to sit and wait.
6. Immigration, after a ten-minute delay in “the room,” refused explain “Why?”
7. Our “Priority-Tagged” bags came out last (not first) further delaying us.
8. Security at recheck pulled my carry-on for a secondary screen. Time was now very short.
9. The strap on my Apple Watch broke.

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The good news: We arrived at Gate D33 just as they were calling for Group 1 to board. Our two-hour cushion was reduced to two minutes.

My least favorite part of international travel has become immigration inspection upon arrival back in the United States. I am now anxious about how my identity will be questioned. Three or four times in a row, “Coming To America” has been problematic. Nobody will tell me why.

A few years back I was confused with an accused sexual predator (a rock musician who performed under the name Gary Glitter but whose given name was Paul Russell). More recently an agent asked me if I formerly traveled under a different gender identity.

It is confusing to me that this happens as I have a trusted traveler number, travel on TSA Pre-Check status and am a member of the Global Entry program and that my identity is confirmed at Global Entry kiosks via a biometric facial recognition scan.

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“How can I fix this?” I asked the stone-faced immigration officer. Saying nothing, she ripped off the top flyer on a pad and handed it to me while dismissing me, saying, “Go through that door and turn right.”

The HOMELAND SECURITY flyer tells me this:

“WHAT IS DHS TRIP? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Travel Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) provides a single portal for travelers to seek redress for adverse screening experiences and to resolve possible watch list misidentification issues. For example, travelers may seek redress because they have been delayed or denied boarding, delayed or denied entry into the U.S. at a port of entry; or been subject to additional (secondary) screening or inspection.”

“HOW TO SUBMIT A DHS TRIP INQUIRY. To initiate an inquiry, please log on to DHS TRIP’s interactive Web site at www.dhs.gov/trip. There you will be prompted to describe your particular concerns and experience, provide contact information to which a response will be directed, and be assigned a case number to help you monitor the progress of your inquiry. In addition, depending on your inquiry, documentation may be required.”

“WHEN AND HOW YOU WILL RECEIVE A RESPONSE. DHS TRIP will process your request completely, accurately, and as quickly as possible. In certain cases, supporting documentation may be required. We encourage you to submit any additional information within 30 days to facilitate the processing of your request. You may check the status of your request at any time through the DHS Web site www.dhs.gov/trip.”

PS:
The Hotel del Parque in Guayaquil grew on me. The public spaces make up for the dark, poorly designed room (it didn't help that it was an accessible room--perhaps the regular rooms are better) But, as we ultimately slide into our own bed at the Alameda, very very early on Monday morning, this room is the best.

Posted by paulej4 14:33 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

10. Adios, Sea Origin

Some Background...

semi-overcast 72 °F

Day 10, Saturday, June 25

Today’s agenda: Disembark. The worst day of any cruise is disembarkation day. Our flight departs at 10:35am for the short--under two hours--flight to Guayaquil's Jose Joaquin De Olmedo Airport, arriving at 1:21pm.

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Breakfast in the restaurant is from 6:00am until 7:30am. Everyone is to be out of their suites by 7:00am so that the "turnaround" can commence. An entirely new batch of passengers will be arriving. We are responsible for our own carry-on luggage and must remember to bring our life vests for the Zodiac transfer.

After breakfast, we made our way to the holding area and then onward to the Zodiac for the ten-minute open water trip to the San Cristobal pier where sea lions welcomed us--or bid us adios--as the case may be.

Earlier, mist had been falling but it cleared as we made our way across the open water. Upon arrival at the bus, it began to lightly rain. Our timing was impeccable because rain on the Zodiac, even a light rain, would result in some very wet travellers.

It is a longer ride to the airport than they advertised. Told it would take three minutes, it actually took just over four. Check-in was easy. There was an immigration checkpoint that I don’t understand because this is an inter-country flight—The Galapagos is a part of Ecuador. Oh, well.

We have learned that many of our fellow passengers’ air travel arrangements went awry because of the civil unrest in Quito. Silversea re-booked all who had entrusted their flights to the cruise line so that they flew out of Guayaquil and not Quito. Those who made their own travel arrangements were not so lucky; I am unsure how they fared. Demonstrations and violence in Quito have prompted President Lasso to declare that the leader of the protesters, “Mr. Iza’s real intention is to overthrow the government.” He said, “To our indigenous and peasant brothers who have been brought to Quito under false pretenses, we ask you, for your safety and that of your families, to return to your communities. We cannot allow people to face off against people. Mr. Iza has no control over the demonstrations, nor over the criminality that his irresponsible actions have generated,” he said.

So, unconfirmed by us, our situation is that some are alleging that the place we now visit is under an active attempt at a coup d’etat.

What would it be like to live here in The Galapagos?

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Ocean currents play a major climate role here. The cold Humbolt Current from the south dominates during June and November and meets with the warmer Equatorial Current creating a cooler, sometimes misty “La Garua” climate. Cooler water evaporates less which means fewer clouds form which means there is less rain. Between December and May, the Humbolt weakens making the water warmer and the weather wetter. I will say this: Snorkeling in June means jumping into water that is, frankly, damn cold. But, after five minutes or so, the cold water that penetrated your wet suit, (that's why they call it a "wet" suit) is heated up by your body and becomes a bit of an insulation layer. I was still cold in the water. When should you come to the Galapagos? The climate here is temperate year-round because of its location near the equator. There is a “hot season” from December through May when humidity is higher and temperatures approach 80 degrees and there is a bit more rain. The “dry season” runs from June through November is slightly cooler and features southeast trade winds and prompt an increase in marine activity. Because of its location, the length of the Galapagos day is always just about 12 hours each day.

It wouldn’t be easy to find shelter due to the fact that 97% of the ground area here is within a protected Ecuadorian national park. First one would have to on choose upon which of the four islands to settle. Santa Cruz is the most populous: 24,000 residents. Smaller settlements exist on San Cristobal (6,000), Isabela (1,000) and Floreana (100). Since the first tourists arrived here in 1834, industry to support visitors now employs eighty percent of the population.

A bit of research, however, indicates that it is probably impossible to move here. Legally, there are three ways to become a permanent resident. 1. Be born here; 2. Marry a resident; 3. Prove you already lived here prior to 1998. (Regarding marrying a resident; if you get divorced, you have to leave the islands) You must be a permanent resident to obtain a job here. Temporary residence here is possible but only for a single year—with a possible renewal—but only when no permanent resident is available to do whatever brought you here as a temporary resident.

Tourists may stay for no longer than three months. I suspect boredom would creep in more quickly than that. There is no delivery from Amazon. Window air conditioners are state of the art rather than that new fangled central stuff. What a shirt? Fly to Guayaquil. Educate your kid? This probably won't be state of the art--unless your kid wants to be a naturalist of course. You'll probably be a regular at your restaurant of choice because there isn't much of a choice. You probably wouldn’t need a driver’s license because you probably couldn’t acquire a car. In the 1900's there were fewer than 30 vehicles here. Now there are only a few more than 1, 200.

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Recent news reports indicate that speeding is a increasing problem with 294 fatal collisions happening in an 11 day monitoring span. Those fatalities, however, were not of the human variety; the deceased were all birds hit by cars which has caused great concern here. Drivers are requested to honk if they see a bird feeding on seeds which have found their way to the driving lanes of the few roads. This bumper sticker reads: “Let the birds fly, not the cars!.”

This is a place to visit for a week and go home with great memories of the experience. I mean, c'mon. Watching one tortoise race another or pondering which marine iguana in the pile will be the first one to move? Perfect for short while but for us intolerable over a long term.. But living here puts one in a beautiful and safe place surround by, well, peace.

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Who was the first full-time resident? That would be sailor Patrick Watkins who was stranded on Floreana in 1807 when his boat was lost. “Irish Pat” was said to have consumed water from the pond which filled during rainy season and upon rum for which he traded vegetables he grew with passing sailors. Thought to be drunk most of the time, he reportedly looked the part: “a sight to behold, a beast in ragged clothing sufficient to cover his nakedness, and covered with vermin; his red hair and beard matted, his skin much burnt from constant exposure to the sun, and so wild and savage in his manner and appearance that he struck every one with horror.”
He was no dummy, though, being sufficiently sly as to be able to kidnap sailors who would then miss their ride when their own ships departed. When he had collected enough help in this manner his gang stole a boat and sailed off the Ecuadorian mainland. He reportedly arrived at Guayaquil alone (what happened to his shanghaied shipmates is unknown).

The San Cristobal Airport does, in fact, host a Priority Pass Lounge. It, hands down, takes the prize for most rude and inefficient among all the PP Lounges I have visited across the world. Called the MAGMA VIP LOUNGE, they managed to humiliate me and make me angry. I don’t anger easily, but when I do, I am loathe to forgive the slight—particularly when the woman I love is similarly insulted. Aggressively soliciting passengers to enter, they lost track of who they had processed (me) and who they had not. Once we entered the lounge itself, we were accosted because the woman processing our admittance failed to give us a card to prove we had been processed. Since I didn’t have the card she had neglected to give me, we were given the bum’s rush. A pox on their house. To be clear, my Priority Pass card was valid and they ran it on their computer and had me electronically sign in. Even once they had filled the lounge, they amazingly continued to solicit more and more people to enter. They are brazenly maximizing revenue and minimizing service.

Then, more fun. I was randomly selected for a secondary bag security check. Perfect.

The flight was uneventful and on time. Upon arrival, the Silversea staff was unorganized and inefficient. Our luggage was loaded onto the wrong truck and we were loaded onto the wrong bus. When I saw the high number of people on the two busses, it was clear that we weren't headed for the boutique hotel we were promised. I was finally able to find a Silversea staffer who would listen and, yes, we and our luggage were headed for the wrong place. Finally, we are transported by Silversea 15 minutes to the 44-room Hotel Del Parque where we are to spend the night. Forty years ago, development here meant the destruction of many of Guayaquil's historic buildings. This hotel, a hostel from the 1800's, was one worth saving so they moved it here to the banks of the Daule in the exclusive neighborhood of Samborondón. It is nothing special. We are given a handicap accessible room (nothing else was available) where the bathroom sports more bars than a Vegas casino. The restaurant advertised our favorite food: octopus. They were out of octopus--at 2:00pm. The television channels are all en español...at least until a hotel engineer arrived to change the language on the LG television set. Clearly, we are ready to be home. (We are to be in the lobby tomorrow morning at 10:30 to go back to the airport)

We will miss many of our fellow passengers aboard the Silver Origin. Originals all, they made the week more fun, more enlightening and more rewarding.

It is customary on expedition cruises for the vendor to provide a video of the week. They are professional; so much better than anything I can do. This one was made by David Padilla, Expedition Filmmaker. Email: dps812@gmail.com Instagram: @padiecuador.

If you would like to see all the Silver Origin's Daily Chronicles, they are here: https://www.scribd.com/document/580028729/SilverOrigin-Daily-Chronicles

Posted by paulej4 00:59 Archived in Ecuador Comments (3)

9. Cerro Drago, Isla Guy Fawkes, Bahia Borrero

Roe Overturned. Contraception, same sex marriage next? Concealed guns OK.

sunny 72 °F

Day 9, Friday, June 24

Today’s agenda: Cerro Drago, Isla Guy Fawkes, Bahia Borrero.

First, something from two days ago. New friend Nadia took a video of Paul's sea lion snorkel encounter. Here is her cinematography starring, at the end at least, your friend Paul.

The first expedition offering of the day is a 90-minute Adventure Hike on what we were warned might be a muddy trail. The draw is to see some ground iguana and cactus. Since we just got our shoes cleaned from yesterday's tortoise tour, and since tomorrow is getaway day, we opt to have that time at leisure on our balcony sipping coffee. But, at this location is proof of what humans can accomplish. Cerro Dragon once hosted vast numbers of land iguanas but their numbers plummeted in the 1970s. A selection of these creatures was taken to breed in captivity and then released in more undeveloped environs. Now, they thrive here again. That's a good thing.

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The second expedition offering of the day is a 90-minute deep water snorkeling event described as "adventurous" and only for advanced snorkelers. Deciding that to be potentially beyond my capabilities, I opt out (B4 rejected that one out of hand). On Isla Guy Fawkes—actually a group of four islets—deep water surrounds the place. There are underwater cliffs populated by sponges, corals, urchins, sea stars and all the rest promising a callidoscope of color for our experienced snokelers. All that plant life draws millions of fish which, in turn, draw rays and sharks. But, from conversation with those who snorkeled, they saw precious little of that so I feel vindicated.

The third offering of the day is an 11:00am lecture: "Silent Battle: Galapagos Flora." Battling plants calls to mind the 1982 musical "Little Shop of Horrors." I saw the blood-drinking plant "Audrey" in New York before it became a hit on Broadway. It was a tiny show in a tiny theater, it opened Off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre in Manhattan's East Village in 1982.

But, at least attending this lecture that won't soil my newly clean footwear nor will it subject me to physical harm. So I plan to attend.

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But then, midmorning, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito interrupted my life. (Behind every ____ man is a _____ woman.) The Supreme Court of the United States of America today announced their 6-3 decision which overruled both Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey ignoring the concept of "stare decisis" which Thomas and Alito and the other four justices (Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and John Roberts) who joined them had promised and assured that they would most certainly honor and uphold. So much for promises made to United States Senators. It was just three weeks ago that Rep. Louie Gohmert griped that Republicans “can’t even lie to Congress or lie to an FBI agent or they’re coming after you.” Supreme Court Justices, it seems, may lie to the Senate with impunity.

But what's the next chapter. Thomas seems to feel that the right to same sex marriage and to contraception were also wrongly decided. Is the evangelical religious right the American Taliban? This is scary, folks. Others decide who you can love, who you can marry, if you must carry a pregnancy to term without exception. You get to decide if you want to hide a gun on your person. My head is spinning.

Back to The Galapagos. Further on still is Bahia Borrero, a bright white beach—a favorite place for Green Sea Turtles to nest after emerging from the beautiful turquoise water. Beyond that the land devolves into a forest of Palo Santo, Leather Leaf and Salty Bushes. Yellow Waringblers nest here amidst lots of Darwin Finches including the Common Cactus Finch and the Small Ground Finch. But we have a wrap-around balcony with comfy seats and a fabulous view--not to mention room service. Heading off for a wet landing on a beach with only a towel as furniture? Nope, we'll stay home.

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Some would say that makes the day a washout. Others, B4 and I among them, would say that this final day aboard Silver Origin is one of relaxing, packing up at leisure, enjoying one another's company and being thankful for what life has given us, one to the other, and the time and resources to maximize that amazing opportunity.

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We decided to host a pre-pre-dinner cocktail party on our balcony at 5:30 for a few new friends. Our butler, Joao, sets our space up beautifully. The amazing thing about Silversea is that everything is included in the "fare." That means all the hors-d'œuvre, all the Prosecco and all the extra service is gratis. He "borrowed" extra chairs from the empty suite one floor above us and generally went well beyond the call of duty. Hors-d'œuvre, in French, literally means "outside the work"; that is, "not part of the ordinary set of courses in a meal."

All our invitees, as those who know us will understand, mourned the aforementioned events of the day as we drowned our sorrows starboard aft.

After our soiree, on the Silver Origin schedule: Pre-Dinner cocktails are at 6:00, Galapagos Trivia at 6:15, Farewell Toast at 7:00, Destination & Debark Briefing at 7:10, Highlight Film at 7:20 and dinner at 7:30. We have taken up with what one might accurately label as the "liberal cabal" for dinner. Led by new "besties" Amanda and Nadia, the regulars include Lindsey and David, Jordan and Claudio and Mark and Michael with other discerning sophisticates joining when there is room. We are so fortunate to have fallen in with this gaggle.

Dinnertime has evolved into tables for ten or twelve. Multiple conversations range from what it was like to edit an Australian newspaper for Rupert Murdoch to the politics of professional beach tennis to lab diamonds to writing books to finding your second mate online to, of course, children. The weird thing is that--as is now the custom in the world--we somehow gravitated to couples of similar persuasions. If someone pointed out the similarity between the Giant Galapagos Tortoise and ET, two others would quickly point of the same similarity applies to Mitch McConnell.Mitch.jpegThen someone else had an opening to opine that conservation, er, conservatism, is not always a good thing.

779402b0-f481-11ec-8e13-5f789888ad18.jpgThis, our final night, imposes upon us in many ways. We must settle our bill no later than 10:00pm. Our "checked" luggage must be in the all outside our suite by 11:00pm. The crew will transfer all of that to the airport in San Cristobal and we will be reunited with it there.

Posted by paulej4 12:26 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

8. Santa Cruz Highlands, Puerto Avora, GIANT tortoises

B4's bucket list item: Check

overcast 72 °F

Day 8, Thursday, June 23

Today’s agenda: Santa Cruz Highlands, Puerto Avora.

Last Night, we enjoyed another fine dinner in the dining room (Cruise Chef Cruz prepared her grandmother's potato soup recipe--again--at my request) with sparkling conversation and meaningful conversation and beautifully presented cuisine of chicken or lamb or snapper. Chicken.jpegLamb.jpegSnapper.jpegLeaving the dining room, we saw lights outside the window. It was a startling event because we have seen no lights outside our windows until now. It is Santa Cruz harbor where we have already arrived and dropped anchor.

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Dinner was interrupted by a rare announcement from the bridge. Captain Pablo Salas (from whom we never hear and whom we never see) speaks, "This is your captain speaking. One of our crew has tested positive for COVID and is being isolated aboard ship. However, we now will wear masks and suggest social distancing aboard."

The really "good" news is that the requirement that all persons entering the United States must provide a negative COVID test was suspended just last week. No matter what happens, we won't be quarantined in Ecuador. We had earlier been advised that when we arrived in Santa Cruz we would be required to wear masks ashore because we would, finally, be interacting with human beings.

Santa Cruz: 381 square miles, population 18,000. Here is the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service headquarters along with The Tortoise Ecological Reserve. So, today is 'unusual' in that it is the 'usual' type cruise day. At 8:30 we board Zodiacs, passing many tourists charter boat options, to make a dry landing on the harbor pier, board a coach and travel to the Montemar Tortoise Reserve & Coffee Experience. En route we pass a plethora of tourist charter boat opportunities, including the site of one that sunk:

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Tortoise are plant eaters and, sadly for them, can go up to a year without consuming food or water. I say "sadly" because that is what made them ideal prey for pirate ships to kidnap. They could steal them and house them aboard ship for long periods, slaughtering them for food and water when needed later during their voyage (there is a liter of fresh water in a sac surrounding their heart). As a result, tortoise kleptomania was rampant. Naturalist Jason Heilmann, a thirty-year resident of these islands, is our guide who takes us to a "Turtle Crossing" bonanza.

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Beryl and I are crossing another bucket list item off our list. There are a dozen or more giant tortoise here. Some are snoozing, one is drinking, a couple are prowling and one is stalked by "Beryl The Tortoise Hunter." The can't see very well but their sense of smell is excellent. Large males can weight up to 700 pounds. They can live to be 190 years old. You can tell males from females by the length of their tails--males are longer because that's where their sperm resides. Male's bottom shells are concave to facilitate tortoise coitus. My suspicion is that a male chasing a female for sex would take one heck of a lot more time than would the act itself. How much more would you like to know?b7998a10-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGb9e5eb10-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGbaace490-f332-11ec-84e3-d7a5306146a1.JPGb9ed8c30-f332-11ec-84e3-d7a5306146a1.JPGbb8961e0-f332-11ec-84e3-d7a5306146a1.JPGbba01e30-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGbe251b60-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGb1392770-f332-11ec-95c9-eb847e3de502.JPGA Monarch butterfly supervises our experience.

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It appears to us--and to many others--that Steven Speilberg's ET, the Extra Terrestrial, may have been modeled on these guys. What do you think? Both were extreme introverts. Check. Both had necks that could extend to extreme lengths. Check. Both had two holes for nostrils. Check. Both sported rugged skin. Check. Yeah, we think ET may have been descended from these guys. Who's to say otherwise?
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Coffee grows on bushes and avocados grow on giant trees. We then adjourn to the coffee and chocolate exhibition, tasting both--but our pallets are not as sensitive as some others--before we return to the "bus" and then to Sea Origin.
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As we walk the dock we see a small shark to one side and a sea turtle on the other.68d136f0-f344-11ec-bd9c-55ee1f03c5d0.jpg

We are back by noon for lunch aboard Silver Origin. d45cfc50-f336-11ec-87ee-c100e87c74d9.jpgWe were to go back ashore for a visit to the Fausto Llerena Breeding, Interpretation Center & then on to town: Puerto Ayora. Giant Tortoise hatchlings are the draw. Jason indicates they aren't that much of a draw. Human encroachment is in evidence by art galleries and even cafes that comprise a small town here. By the way, to qualify as an official 'town' in the Galapagos, two things are necessary, a church and a football pitch. I don't think we would make it living in a town here for more than a week, maybe less. Even Amazon Prime can't get here overnight. Those aren't that much of a draw either. But, after seeing giants tortoise, we are less interested in seeing little tortoise and it is misting so we would get damp to wet and we have no interest in shopping. We stay aboard Silver Origin to relax. Exhibition cruising is not for relaxing; you have to grab it while you can.

Tonight, after the 6:00pm cocktails and the 6:45pm lecture (various topics--all fine--this one entitled "Changing the paradigm at the nick of time: Conservation") and the 7:15 "briefing"

where expedition leader Paulina tells us about the next days agenda, there is a 7:30 Cocktail Reception for only Silversea Venetian Society Guests (their frequent flyer program). That's us. Hosted by Captain Salas and Hotel Director Juan Altamirano, it is held at the Explorer Lounge Outdoor Area on Deck 4, directly below our Suite.

Then, dinner. The choice is topside or dining room. We've done both and find them equally impressive. The food is very good, presentation excellent, portions small as we prefer. There is no meat to speak of because of restrictions of importing it onto the islands. In fact, meat has to be pre-cooked to be brought into the islands. A lot of sous vide going on in preparation. There is chicken, lamb, pork and lots of fresh fish. Chef prefers to source locally both for freshness and to support the local economy. Service is warm and friendly and swift. When we, at the last minute, wanted a table for twelve, the accommodated us within five minutes of the request being made.

We're tired. But we aren't moving as slow as are some. That's All Folks.

Posted by paulej4 00:37 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

7. Floreana, P.O. Bay, Isolate Campego, Punta Cormorant

Never a dull moment. Never.

semi-overcast 75 °F

Day 7, Wednesday, June 22

Today’s agenda: Floreana, Post Office Bay, Islote Campego, Punta Cormorant.

But first, last night's dinner: Table for twelve (we have made friends). Delightful repartee, good food from Silver Origin chef Andrea Cruz, camaraderie among people for whom Galapagos is a bucket list event--all liberals, all traveled, different ages, different sexual orientations, different heritages, different everything except for a love of conviviality. Wish you were here.

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The sea was rocky overnight. The curtains swayed; we were rocked to sleep. At 6:00 this morning, we push the button to draw the drapes in our bedroom to find heavy overcast, a wet deck from overnight rain (it apparently only rains over the ocean and not, during this time of the year, over land) and, at our anchorage in Post Office Bay, water as smooth as glass. Then, the sun broke through the clouds revealing the beauty of the morning. The temperature is what it always is: 72 degrees.

All of that is juxtaposed with this: the U.S. Department of State posted this a few hours ago:

Alert: Expanded State of Emergency
Home | News & Events | Alert: Expanded State of Emergency
Date: June 21, 2022

Location: Nationwide (in Ecuador)

Event: The Government of Ecuador issued executive order 459 June 20, which expands the State of Emergency to six provinces: Chimborazo, Tungaruhua, Cotopaxi, Pichincha, Pastaza, and Imbabura provinces. Large numbers of demonstrators are now in the City of Quito, and there have been some reports of violence. The government’s order permits the armed forces and police to take actions necessary to maintain public order in the six provinces and suspends the right of assembly in public spaces for groups infringing on the rights of others. The order also continues a curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. in the city of Quito. While the order includes an exception for travel to and from the airport, U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution traveling to the airport due to demonstrations and roadblocks. Please also consult Quito airport social media, airlines and travel websites for any changes to flight status or availability. We continue to urge you to remain vigilant, closely monitor the situation for updates, avoid road travel, and remain in place. U.S. Embassy and Consulate officials have also been instructed to avoid road travel and remain in place.

The news reports include this: During the afternoon and night of Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators were concentrated on Patria Avenue, El Ejido Park, as well as around the Catholic University, the National Polytechnic University, and the Salesian Polytechnic University in the north of Quito, where they were indiscriminately attacked by police forces with tear gas and water jets.

Unlike previous days, the protests intensified in Guayaquil, a coastal city traditionally controlled by right-wing parties that does not usually mobilize in support of Indigenous organizations. Thousands of people took to the streets and highways to demand the departure of President Lasso. In other provincial capitals the scenes were similar.

Independent news reports say that two protesters are dead in Quito, a fact that we cannot confirm. We are off to Guayaquil in 72 hours. It is said that "timing is everything," never a dull moment when one travels with me.

Floreana: 67 square mile island. It was here that humans first settled.

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Post Office Bay is home to a barrel used for letters and news exchanged by whalers and boats passing during the 1800’s. Still operational, this post office is labeled: “stampless.” It consists of an ancient looking wooden barrel—the original barrel was placed in 1793. The system worked like this: passing sailors would drop off a letter while checking to see if there was a previously placed letter destinated for where he was headed. He was expected to deliver it if he expected others to do the same for him.

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Today, tourists like us are encouraged to leave a postcard—no stamps please—with a clear address and a lot of patience. In exchange for that expectation, we are encouraged to dig through what is already there and take a few cards which are destined for where we live and deliver them—by hand—when we get home. “Putting a stamp on the card and mailing it is cheating.” The BBC ran a story in 2011 who took a handful of 22 cards which they ultimately delivered to people in 17 countries. It took them three years.

For me, after only a couple of minutes shuffling, I came across this piece of mail which I shall happily deliver next week. I left two pieces for people I love; we shall see if they ever achieve their appointed destinations. I am quickly shuttled back to the ship as, for me at least, as the cop would say while guarding a crime scene, "Keep moving; there is nothing to see here."PostOfficeBayStory.jpgOutgoingMail.jpgThis is the Post Office Beryl, er, Barrel.PostOfficeBarrelCU.jpg

Cormorants circled overhead, hunting for food. Nadia & Amanda, new good friends, wondered what the old guy with the long lens was taking pictures of.49eb08a0-f278-11ec-8433-ef65559cf36f.jpgCormorant.jpg60fcf2b0-f278-11ec-8433-ef65559cf36f.jpg

There are four green sand beaches in the world: Big Island Hawaii, Guam, Norway and here. Gardner Bay—named by CNN as one of the top 20 beaches in the world—is populated primarily by sea lions sleeping on the unique green sand. The color of the sand is due to a richness of olivine crystals, the remnants of eroded peridot gemstones. In the Middle Ages, peridot was said to provide healing powers, and was a cure for depression and an opening of the heart. Those functions are now most often—in my life—performed by diamonds. If you were born in August, peridot is your birthstone.

Flamingos and green sea turtles nest here between December and May. We just missed them.

The place is scarred by the remains of a failed Norwegian fish canning plant abandoned in the 1920s.

Nearby is Champion Islet, an ideal spot for deep water snorkeling. Some report seeing a rare bird here: the Floreana Mockingbird. Farther north is Punta Cormorant—named in the late 19th century for another British Navy ship, the HMS Cormorant. Flamingos call this place home as do White-cheeked Pintails, more Blue-Footed Boobies, Yellow Warblers and even Medium and Small Ground Finches.

As we prepared to disembark for my deep water snorkel, dolphins appeared. 4b0ccc50-f278-11ec-8433-ef65559cf36f.jpg4e324f40-f278-11ec-8433-ef65559cf36f.jpg4aea0210-f278-11ec-8433-ef65559cf36f.jpg4a330e20-f278-11ec-8433-ef65559cf36f.jpg

But the goal for the day was to snorkel with sea lions. One never knows what will be found beneath the surface; it's pot luck. Today was lucky.

Getting back and forth via Zodiac requires Silver Origin to lower its stern to create the marina. Thought you might enjoy seeing how that works:

Ahhhh.large_666ff4d0-f288-11ec-a2df-ff3ddfcafc24.jpg

Posted by paulej4 00:25 Archived in Ecuador Comments (3)

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