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August 26, 2010     The Perkins Journal
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Thursday, August 26, 2010 Ecuador is a beautiful coun- try with numerous one of a kind experience. My son and I decided to visit the Islands as our last big trip together red ball caps. They were let into the baggage area first and it was quite a sight. After they had boarded their buses, it was time for us to get our luggage. By Dr. B. Curtis Hamm as his wife will be giving me a grandchild in November. This is the first time that I have ever been on a trip where there was a"difficulty" index. The islands are rated "moder- ately difficult" because of the walking, climbing and just generally getting around by boat. We chose a First class Catamaran which holds six- teen passengers and a crew of eight. One had a chef, guide, crew and great captain. We would anchor off shore in the evenings and take a "pagny" rubber boat into shore during the day. This made it pos- sible to explore the islands without hundreds of people who are on the really large ships. We left Tulsa on our flight to Atlanta. Unfortunately, a passenger got sick and we had to land in Memphis. We did make our connection in Atlanta to Quito, Ecuador so all was well. I did not realize that Quito was nine thousand five hundred feet above sea level. As soon as one departs the plane, a large sign says: "Walk slowly, high altitude." One kind person walking behind me said, "Take your time, and take your time." But, I made the walk with- out difficulty. We stayed at the Radisson Hotel for two nights which gave us a chance to discover this fabulous city. More on Quito will be on our next journal. We flew from Quito to Santa Cruz, a distance of about four hundred fifty miles. We were enchanted with the airpo The buildings are mostly just roofs covering concrete floors with the inevitable tourist items. A group of children where there and each one of them had on We brought very little as we were told to bring only swim suits, light jackets, shorts, and personal items. It is great seeing how little one really needs in the islands. We took a public bus to the dock and had to take a ferry to the other side. We then took a private small bus to a private farm where we easily found the Galapa- gos turtles. The ones we saw, and there were many, were all males as the females had returned home after the mating season. These turtles weigh up to six hundred pounds and walk along eating the grasses. They are very photogenic and were willing to pose for us. One of our delights was to watch this huge mrdes raise themselves up so that the birds could go under them to eat the insects that infected them. They would sinaply hold themselves up like they were doing a push up until the birds were finished. Nature was at its best. We walked along a trail in a mist and savored the lush foli- age as we came upon more and more turtles. The males will eventually he recuperated and also head back to a new area to eat until next season. After a wonderful lunch of chicken, vegetables, and turtle soup under the roof of the res- taurant. Our drink was a red juice made from various filaits in the area and really excellent. We took the bus to Santa Cruz to make the long walk to the Charles Darwin Center. This is mostly a place to do research on turtles. However, it is also the home of Lonesome George, a gigantic turtle. Darwin toured three of the thirteen islands and make copious notes which he many years later wrote his book, "The Origin of the Kevin Hamm (left) with his father, Bob Hamm. Species." Actually, it seems to me he should have entitled it, "The Theory of Natural Selection." It is indeed a place where "survival of the fit- test" is best seen. We walked down the hill from the center for over one and half hours to the Waft and take a "Panga" to Seaman II, a 2007 model Catamaran. We met our other 14 passengers where were all delightful people. There was a couple from Germany, a young couple from France, a man from Sweden and his Brazilian lady friend, and two American couples and two college age girls. Our group included a woman with a doctorate in nutrition, another with a doctorate in astrophys- ics, and me in business. The two young couples were traveling around the world and seemed to be a real joy to everyone they met. We found everyone to be delightful. It was an international group. Our next island was replete with sea lions. One of them seemed to have a serious health problem. When I asked the guide if they had a veteri- narian, he responded, "no, we let those who can survive do so and the weak will die." Well, that is one conclusion. I love the sea lions and could watch them all day. It is like watching a group of children. One sea lion was lying on a large flat rock taking a siesta when the play mate wanted to swim. The sea lion in the water kept yelling at the sleeping sea lion to wake up and come play. Eventually, the playful one used his flippers to get up on the rocks and yelled in the ear of the sleeping lion. Nothing happened. Eventually, the playful one just went to the side of the sleeping lion and went to sleep. What a wonder- ful life. Our panga comes up to the back of the catamaran and two crew members help us onto the ship. Our first instruction is to take off our shoes which we do not wear again until we leave six days later. Most of us just went bare foot dunng our time on the ship. Our nat- umlist guide gave us our first short lecture on the islands and what we should expect to see on our next day's trip. Later, we all joined at a table set for sixteen which was to be our dining table for the trip. We had all of our meals at this table and people just sat at different seats so we all were able to learn about everyone on the trip. Our first dinner consisted of noodles and an excellent meat sauce. Desert was always fresh fruit which we died of earing. It was funny listening to everyone tell their travel stories as they had all been on fantastic trips. It was hard to beat some of their stories about canoeing up the Amazon River, climbing Machu Picchu in Peru or even the Great Wall of China. After dinner, our ship takes off for an eleven hour boat ride to Point Moreno and Isabella Island. Most of the islands are named after royalty of Spain since they conquered Ecuador many years ago. Fortunately, Ecuador is now an independent country with a democratic form of govern- I love the sea lions and could watch them all day. It is like watching a group of children. American currency as their means of exchange. We had taken the precaution of having patches to avoid sea sickness and that was a good idea as the sea was rough on our first night. We awoke at six thirty and had a cup of great tea and watched the sun rise over the islands. Our omelets were ready by seven and everyone was present for the big day. In addition to our omelets, we always had an Ecuadorian meal which con- sisted of banana, raisins, meal, butter and it was enclosed in banana leaves. The agenda for the day is to hike the lava rock Wails of Point Moreno. There we saw pelicans, flamingo, lava cra- ters and lizards among many types of birds, especially the blue legged boobie birds. Some of the lizards are endan- gered but it is not from the tour- ist. It is from oil spills in the Amazon. After our walk, we snorkeled in the ice cold water and everyone's faces were red. So, we returned to the ship on our rafts a hot lunch. After lunch we could have a nap or participate in MLO (Marine Life Observation) and we all participated with cam- eras in hand. We encountered dolphins, whales, turtles and what appeared to be schools of fish in the thousands. Our cameras were always at the ready. We anxiously boarded the panga for our ride around Saint Isabella for our first sightings of the Galapagos Penguins. The story of the penguins is most interesting. These are the world's only tropical penguin. They lay their eggs and incubate them in the shady crevices of the volcano rocks. While they walk in an ungainly fashion, their swimming is totally like an Olympic team. We watched in awe as they stood on the lava rocks and enjoyed the freezing water. My son said that they avoided swimmers in wet suits as they think humans look like sea lions which ate their natu- ral predator. The famous E1 Nino in 1983 decimated the penguin population but they have recovered and now there are over 15,000 on the islands. We also saw the flightless cor- morant and the Lava Herons. black volcano rocks. It is said that they evolved from the stri- ated heron. Their food swategy is to stand and blend in with the lava rocks and eat lizards and the light footed crabs. To avoid the loss of their eggs, the lava heron female lays their eggs on a platform of sticks on mangrove branches. These trees can live in salt water and open up lagoons where beautiful turtles and other wild life live. We were able to see numerous sea lions resting on the branches also. The herons normally have two or three chicks three times a year. Our walk on the lava rocks took us to a lagoon sur- rounded by the greater flamingo. Their pink color is derived from pig- ments in their food which are ingested when they eat. The crooked bill has evolved to maintain a perfect gap when open and to catch fish for eating. We saw an abundance of yellow warblers and we heard the sounds ofthe Galapagos Mockingbird. Later, I sat on the beach and just scanned the rocks with my binoculars. I spotted sev- eral kinds of finches including hundreds of the Darwin Finch. Their bill is differeflt from any other finch and they are so common. We also saw the common cactus finch where they like to nest and feed on the cactus flowers. As we slowly paddled our way into the lagoons of Isabella Island, we saw the most beautiful turtle in the world. The shell of these gold colored turtles are sought after by jewelry makers and tourist are asked not to buy anything made of turtle or coral, espe- cially black coral. These gold colored ttLrfles swim with great ease in the water and are striking to watch as they glide through well as marine Iguanas. Unlike other animals, the females lay up to twenty eggs at a time and are yellow/orange with brown spots. The marine iguanas are the world's only, marine lizard and only lives on the Galapagos Islands. They can stay on the ocean floor for an hour before returning for air. We had to he careful in our walk as there were so many just basking in the sun. The rocks seemed full of the Sally Lightfoot Crabs. They are on every island and live on rocky terrain. Their name came from British sailors because they are bright red in color and contrast with the dark black lava rocks. For T-shirt lovers, they sell shirts at Santa Cruz with the inscription, "We love Boo- bies." This is in difference to the Boobie bird which is in abundance on all of the islands and come in several families. They have a tear drop shaped, a conical bill and plunge down into the water with their beaks open to feed on the schools of fish. There are four major types of Boobies: Waza Boobie, Red Footed Boobie, White Phased Boobie and the Blue footed Boobie. My personal favorite is the light blue footed one. It is also the least abundant but we saw many of them. Our group donned wet suits to go into the water to see the sea turtles and the large sting rays. Of course, there were also numerous Galapagos sea lions in various states of enjoyment: sleeping, play- ing, swimming and talking. There are approximately fifty thousand of these lious on the islands. While they are a bean- tiful animal, they make lousy husbands. The mother usually only has one pup a year. She is totally responsible for them for about five months without any help from the bull who sired them. The buU sea lion appears to be friendly but cannot also be very angry if he perceives that someone is invading his territory. In the water, they joy- fully play with the snorkelers. They seem to enjoy fights with other males for breeding rights and can turn into a serf- ous fighter if they so desire: While the mother raises and the water. This was one of feeds her pup, the old sealion the greatest scenes of the jo'msagroupofbachelorbullsI trip. The green sea turtles are mostly found in lagoons and inshore. They nest on sandy beaches but only reach sexual maturity at about twenty-five years of age. Unfortunately, the feral pigs dig up the eggs and destroy whole nests. and form a community after mating and live a good life of simply enjoying the sun and just being lazy. We leave these islands which a great feeling of pleasure, no cell phones, no emails, no twitter, but great conversation, scenery Another day we took our and fantastic animals. The panga to Urbina Islandto walk people are gracious and the around numerous kinds of trip met every expectation. These hemus are totally black Iguanas. Ourlong walktook us But, I still have serious doubts ment. They in fact use the in color and blend in with the to observe both land Iguanas as about Darwin's Theory. c,., :" ;~ ~-~,,, ~ ~i.. !.~~.~:: ":... ~.~, ::;~ ~ ................. " ...... , " .......... ...:: " :.. , vci~'~ ::'.~ ~! .:."~.:: t: ~., ! ~! t. ~:~~ ~: : '~" ~ ........ ' . .~ ........ :. ~.. k~ ~: :.~ .... ::~ ~, , , ~ . . .,-. :,.... ...... i ~ :?.~ :~i : !: L ~:,L~ ~ ::~ ~ : " .............. . , ' :: - ........... : ................ . Online at TheJ0urnal0K.com ............. . . ,: ......