My travel mates for this portion of the journey are the Quintessential Maureen and the
Quick-witted Monica. They would suggest I am Queen Wendy.
We arrived in Quito, Ecuador Tuesday night at their spanking-new airport. Apparently, the old airport was one of the 10 most dangerous for landing in the world (the city is situated in a valley between two volcanoes). Whew! First close call of the trip.
After a two and a half hour ride home and a little over an hour to gather our wits (and work on our appetites), it was time for another meal! We went to Theatro-- close by and absolutely wonderful--truly blog-worthy, our best meal so far. We're talking 5 courses here and that was not the tasting menu. We started with an amuse bouche of one bite each-- a cheese ball and a ball of fried risotto (sounds strange but it worked-- and doesn't everyone eat two amuses-boucher in one day-- ouch!). My next course was grilled Ecuadorian prawns lovingly nested in avocado foam with tomato garnish; Monica had the curried cream pumpkin soup with a crab cake. This course was followed by a palate cleanser of frozen strawberry Popsicle in celery juice. My main was roasted sea bass with fried peppers on a bed of crunchy quinoa. It was outstanding. Maureen had tenderloin with garlic potatoes and perfectly sauteed vegetables and Monica had chicken. Dessert, which I had to force on my dining partners, was baby Ecuadorian bananas in filo dough garnished with chocolate soup and three favors of sorbet -- vanilla, banana, and coconut. Did I mention this meal was great? It is now definite that I did not pack enough elastic waistband pants.
There's just so much to report (and no wi-fi for instantaeously doing so) here in the Galapago Islands that I thought I'd segment this part of our journey.
The goddess Maureen, the good-natured Monica, and got-it-together Wendy arrived on Saturday and were joined by gutsy Marita, gracious Irene, and the good-sport Betsy on Sunday afternoon after an ("you had to be there to believe it") adventure involving about 36 hours of sleepless flight re-arranging and including -- but not limited to -- a one hour speed boat ride through the Galapagos National Park to meet up with our yacht, the Eclipse, 24 hours into our voyage. Needless to say, they were a sight for sore eyes!
The cruise has been outstanding. The food is superb -- more details on Ecuadorian cuisine in a future post -- but here are some tasty treats from the ship's buffet.
...back to the boat for a preview of Monday, dinner, and bed. The sea air, hiking, animals, and sun, combined, were wearing us out. Plus no "Words With Friends" temptations as there's no wireless. (Too pre-occupied to miss it.).
On the walk back, we passed Darwin Lake, a salt lake that is significantly saltier than the Dead Sea, and we also saw a land iguana -- relatively rare for this area. We returned to the Eclipse for breakfast and then left again at 10:00 for deep water snorkeling. Everyone had been assigned a wetsuit but, even so, the water was relatively comfortable. Javier, our guide, made sure everyone was all set and then he proceeded to lead us closer to the cove where we saw (either on the rocks or underwater: the incomparable blue-footed boobies (they're dive bombers with great precision),
sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, beautiful fish and more). Then, we returned to the Eclipse for a traditional Ecuadorian lunch, followed by live dolphin entertainment. There must have been at least two dozen of them swimming alongside the boat. WOW!!
After a serious rock scramble, we had the opportunity for a swim; it was wonderful. We returned to the yacht for departure information and a fresh tuna ceviche demonstration and tasting. Excellent. A short siesta (as we had a 14 hour journey to get to Santa Cruz Island and the Charles Darwin Research Station), then out on the panga again -- this time in search of the small Galápagos penguins and blue-footed boobies. The ride did not disappoint!
We also saw some masked boobies, sea turtles and the ubiquitous sea lion.
In closing the Galapagos portion of our trip ...
A bit of context first. When we visited Quito, our guide told us that the Incas were in power for a relatively short period of time-- certainly fewer than 100 years. Indeed, there are no Incan ruins to speak of in Ecuador because when the Spaniards arrived, they decimated any indication of Incan civilization by building right over it. This stands in stark contrast to the Incan presence in Peru, where the Incas were in power for several centuries. Indeed, part of the magic of Machu Picchu is that it appears it was never discovered (and, certainly never destroyed) by the Spaniards. To this day, the Incan influence is strongly felt everywhere.
Ready to eat...