Monday, December 28, 2009

After Three We Cried Uncle...

Puerto Ibarra
Isla Floreana, Galapagos Islands
01 16.5S 90 29.5W

Uncle Matt that is ...we have sushi for you, and wahoo too! A three fish day is a good day, and even better when combined with (1) a beam reach from San Cristobal, (2) a yellowfin tuna, (3) another yellowfin tuna, and (4) a huge wahoo. After three, we had to quit, pull in our lines, and dress the fish. The "pros" first (and immediately) kill the fish with a top of the head cut to halt brain function, and then pith the neural canal with a monofilament line, so we do that too. The fish is then (again immediately) bled and gutted to preserve the meat as the cuts are being made. We can attest to the high quality sushi that results, and for cruisers interested in more details and information, "The Cruiser's Handbook of Fishing" by Scott and Wendy Bannerot is highly recommended.

We arrived Floreana at 4 PM, and planned 2 full days of activities after a fantastic sushi/sashimi/spicy roll dinner prepared by Chef Gram with assistance from Zak. Described as a protected anchorage, all is relative and the anchorage is a bit rolly for our taste. Not "I've got to get off this boat...I don't care if I sleep with the sea lions rolly", but enough for an occasional grumble and some noise associated sleep disturbance.

Floreana is cool. It has the feel of a an out-island in Maine and reminds me of Matinicus with it's interesting and checkered history of settlement, failed colonizations, and disappearances. There are only 100 people living on the island and enforcement of park regulations is a bit loose. This did not mean we could move around unattended, but the locals here will act as guides and we could tour the island with them. We were met by Max, a friend of Manolos of Sharksky on San Cristobal, and Max took good care of us. Yesterday we did an inland tour, hiked the highlands, and visited the island's source of water near original homestead sites in caves in the hills.

Today was awesome, as we stopped for a delivery at Post Office Bay, dove the Champion pinnacle, snorkeled Devil's Crown, and visited Punta Cormorant. We saw great wildlife including one spotted eagle ray, two penguins, three pufferfish, 40 sea turtles in the bay, and as many of the pinkest flamingos you could count. Just ask Dolly! All in all, another great day in paradise.

Tomorrow we head for Academy Bay on Santa Cruz Island where we meet Uncle Matt, Aunt Dawn, niece Adrienne, and nephew Simon. We look forward to a great week together. And Sushi.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas....Cruising Style

San Christobal, Galapagos, Ecuador

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the boat
Not a person was stirring, and we were afloat.
The dive gear was hung from the pushpit with care
Drying from the dives at Espanola where,
Zak had his first dive, and mom a refresher
and we saw a white tip shark, but not a thresher.
When out on the transom, I heard a great thump
and rushed out to find two sea lions in the middle of a hump.
In case it isn't bad enough to clean up their oil and poo
now we would have to clean up their seamen too.
I yelled and I poked, and chased them away
but they kept coming back for a roll in the hay.
Eventually they left and I managed back to sleep
and I woke up at daybreak feeling a bit like a heap.
Off to the engine room I did jump
to find in my stocking a nice broken pump.
Apart it did come and amongst all the ick
a plastic bead stuck in the valve, causing it to tick.
Fixed and back together I now can have fun
after some errands in town we have to run.
Probably off to the beach while time flies by
I will give the damn sea lions the evil eye.
so on this equatorial Christmas where I learn the hard way of the birds and the bees
Merry Christmas to all, fair winds, and following seas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Galapagos Passage & Welcome - Jo

We left Bahia de Caraquez/mainland Ecuador after being there for about 10 was more of a cruising community than Puerto Lucia so fun to meet up with some boats that are doing the same stuff we are.  Other reason for going there was cheap fuel..the last we will see for a long long time.  Did alot of boat prep and a bit more provisioning, some relaxing and hanging out.  We left for Galapagos on Sat. the 12th about noon on a rising was hairy going thru the sand bar with waves crashing against us(I hid my eyes a little of the time) but ended up just West we go and off into the great Pacific.  The first of many passages on this big big ocean.  Our first day out was quite pleasant/reasonable winds and for a change little seas.  By day two that had changed and the winds came up pretty strong and as usual not in the direction we hoped for.  Seas were quite lumpy and we heeled to a less than comfortable degree.  By that night poor Zak was quite seasick so we were down to 3 for watch tho that is what we will have to get used to as Zak will be leaving us in early Jan. and going back to the states.  Still working out the details of what he will do to finish up this gap  year but boats, sailing and being out here so unconnected to the internet are not his thing and so all have decided that it best he ducks out here.  By day 3 we decided to motor sail as we could make it in the next day and not have to do a 4th overnight.  Did that off and on which did in fact allow us to spot LAND HO early am on Tues.  Nice sight to see the high mountains of the Galapagos on the horizon and we had a lovely bunch of hours in a comfortable sail towards San Cristobal, our first stop.  Back to turquoise blue waters but not nearly as warm as the Caribbean.  Friendly town here but we are finding that you really can not do much on your own without tours/guidesand therefore major expense.  Yesterday we did an excursion to a place called Kicker Rock and did some snorkeling.  Saw Galapagos sharks, sea turtles,some large fish,marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, frigate birds, and lots of sea lions.  There are so many sea lions here and they have no fear of people...we are having a hard time keeping them off our boat which is a no no due to oil,mess and such on the transom.  Thurs we had taken our bikes and gone for what we thought was a 10 km ride up to a volcanic crater lake...however it was more like 17 k and was basically a straight up ride.  So after 3 hrs and lots of complaining and huffing and puffing we aborted and headed back down...thinking we had experience the highlands and would take the taxi the El Junco(the crater) on our way to the other side of the island next week.  Upon arriving back in town we did find that we had climbed 2000 ft up on those bikes and should have listened to the girl tour guide who suggested taking a truck with the bikes a good part of the way up rather than the young/strong guy guide who said no problema...ride up.  It only took Gram 9 minutes to get down, while I took 15 not being gutsy enough to barely brake.  Have figured out a few more activities we want to do here and will most likely stay thru Christmas as this feels like a good anchorage and the next one(Santa Cruz) is a bit more uncertain though in a larger town. Bill's brother Matt and family(Dawn, Adrienne and Simon) fly in to S. Cruz on the 31st so we will have good reason for a New Year's celebration. They will be in the Galapagos for a week and we will all spend some time on Santa Cruz and then move to Isabella.  Wishing all of you a merry merry Christmas, happy Hanukah, and peaceful New Year.  We miss all our friends at home but are having for the most part a great time.  lots of love...Jo

Friday, December 18, 2009

(Sea) Lions, & Turtles, & Bear(icudda)s...Oh My!

Isla Lobbos & Kicker Rock, Galapagos

Well, we didn't actually see Barracudas, but Sharks, Boobies, or Sea Iguanas doesn't start with a "bear". Today we went on a snorkeling expedition. The first stop was the channel inside of Isla Lobbos where we saw many sea lions both on shore and playing in the water. We swam around with them while they played tag and were VERY cute. There were also sea iguanas who unfortunately had already eaten today, so they were all on the rocks sunning themselves and trying to warm back up after their morning swims. We saw some angel fish, some cool fish with yellow lips, and Mexican Hawk fish, who look like parrot fish with a large bulbous forehead. We then crossed over the bar where we saw a green sea turtle feeding on the grass. We were able to swim along with him for 5-10 minutes from just a few feet away.

We then hopped out of the water and headed over to Kicker Rock, so called because it resembles a foot. It rises from about 100+ foot depths to almost 600 feet high. The boobies nest here and hang out on the shear cliffs (think the cliffs of insanity from "The Princess Bride" which I happen to be reading right now). We ran around the rock in the boat first, then hopped in and swam through the channel between the two rocks. There we saw King Angel fish, some Jacks, and two nice small sharks, each about 4 feet long. The channel was about 50 feet deep, but I was able to get about 35 feet down and could see the sharks quite well. We then headed off around the wall of the smaller rock where we saw some REALLY cool red coral on the wall, another sea turtle swimming along, and some other larger schools of fish.

Back on the boat, we headed to a nice beach for lunch and a few hours of lounging amongst some more sea lions. One even came right up to Martina, our tour organizer who had joined us, and tried to steal her spot in the shade. Overall an amazing day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cruising with Wifi

San Cristobal Galapagos

I am sure this will be a continuing subject as we meander our way try across the globe, but I thought this was a fine time for an update on our Wifi system. Generally I have been VERY pleased with our wifi system. The Port Networks 250 pulls in signals at great range and seems to do fine with a fair amount of rocking and rolling. Wifi availability has been pretty good. We had excellent wifi in Cartegena, both in the anchorage from Club Nautico ($) and in our marina from Club de Pesca (free). The San Blas had ZERO coverage, but they barely had electricity so no surprises there. We were connected in Panama at Shelter Bay ($) and on a mooring at Balboa (included with mooring) in Panama City. The Las Perlas were a dead zone as we were near uninhabited islands, but we got service from the Tropic Star Lodge (free) in Bahia Pinas at the southern border of Panama. Coverage was good in La Libertad around the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club (included with dockage) as well as in Bahia de Caracas from the Puerto Amistad Yacht Club (included with mooring). In Bahia we even could pull in several signals when anchored a few miles out waiting for high tide and our Pilot, but they all were either locked or MAC address restricted.

Here in San Cristobal in the Galapagos, the City has free wifi (see screen shot above) throughout the Malecon (boardwalk) and it reaches quite well the half mile out to the anchorage, coming in stronger than the onboard Linksys router (probably due to the fact the linksys is mounted about 3" above the waterline and the Port Networks antenna is 15 feet off the water while only separated by 25'). In fact, we started pulling in working wifi 9 miles from town (see screen shot below) and more than 2.5 miles from the nearest land as we came down the western side of the island. In the Harbor I can still see that same AP (verified by mac address) I picked up 9 miles out, though there are others closer by with better signal strength. They certainly have some high powered access points here, but it is still amazing that I am getting at least 4.5 miles of working range (and maybe more) while underway at sea.

Almost universally, this is a connection shared between MANY boaters and sometimes many on shore as well, so it tends to get slow from about 10 am till 10 pm. Generally at night the connections are decent with maybe 40 to 50 kbps pretty normal. Many of these have firewalls blocking useful services and websites (blogs seem to get mislabeled as adult content quite often) though sometimes you can get around that by not using their DNS servers and inputting your own. It will be interesting to see how the coverage compares as we head west and further from civilization. I will keep up with some occasional updates for others to reference as they follow in our wake.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


San Cristobal Galapagos

We are currently 9 miles from our first harbor in the galapagos and
are managing to Pick up wifi. The passage was a little rough bit not
too bad and we made great time.

I saw two sea turtles "doin it" and a whale spout so far. More later
once we see land and hopefully some cool animals.

Update: Photo of sea lions on Malecon in downtown San Cristobal. They remind me of drunk beggars in NYC.

En Route Galapagos

0600 15 December
South Pacific Ocean
00 29.3S
88 19 2W
Winds 13 - 15 kn South to SSE

Winds have been shifty, changing in speed and direction through the night. We elected to motorsail at a low RPM
as this helped keep our speeed through any lull, and maintained a proper course towards San Cristobal. We plan to sail come daylight, and have 87 nm to go. We anticipate a late afternoon arrival at (inappropriately named) Wreck Bay.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bahia to Galapagos Day 2

South Pacific Ocean
00 08.1S 87 01.1W

Today was a rather nice day out on the ocean. The wind was decent and far enough aft to fly the reacher for part of the day and we made decent time untill the wind died off in the evening. We decided to motorsail tonight to try to make it into port before dark tomorrow so as to not have to wait offshore overnight or come into a strange harbor at night. Hopefully the wind will be cooperative tomorrow and we can sail some more.

Last night was rather rough out here...not as bad as our trip down from panama, but not so great in any event. Not a whole lot else to talk about. Zak and I are in the pilothouse, listining to David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day and looking out at the sky full of stars.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

En Route Galapagos

1800 hrs
South Pacific Ocean
00 01.8S 83 40.3W
Winds 13-15 knots SSE @ 190m
Speed 7.8 knots
COG 273m

Now 190 nm into our 565 nm passage to San Cristobal Island, we left on schedule yesterday, but we were greeted with winds stronger than anticipated, and winds with a significant westerly component . The old addage still holds: the best predictor of wind direction is from the direction to which we go. Winds did ease and come more south by midnight, but we had 12 hours of lumpy bumps till then.

Morale remained high, bouyed by Jo's dinner feast including Chicken Marbella, cous cous, green salad, and fresh strawberries with whipped cream for desert. Last night was uneventful with nary a ship in sight, but the wind today has continued to be more forward of the beam than ideal, and we have sailed close reaching nearly all day in 14 - 18 knots of breeze. Seas are modest, and this has been quite manageable...although I find myself falling asleep dreaming of south-easterlies.

Another first will occurfor us tonight as we have our first high speed potatoe latkes - consumed at 8 knots. At this point, we continue to hope for arrival Tuesday evening around dusk, but it will be close. We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bahia de Caraquez

Captains Log
Bahia de Caraquez
00 36.4S
80 25.3W

Today is the day we begin to head west as we will depart Bahia for the Galapagos Islands at 11:30 AM today. Our departure time is determined by the high tide at 12:40 PM; we will "hire" a pilot to navigate us out and over the sandbar, as we did on the way in. After we pass the bar, it is essentially a single port tack sail as we head barely south of west. We have been checking weather and delayed a potential departure yesterday as our Expedition program predicted a 12 hour period of stronger winds than we desired at the outset. It was a good move as we would have beem close hauled for the initial hours with winds up to 16 - 18 knots true, which is not a good way to start a passage...besides it was a Friday!

Today we anticipate SW winds 8-10 knots as we exit the bar and expect to be close hauled early on, but the wind should shift more southerly as we head west tonight, and we anticipate beam sailing around 10 knots for the remainder of the 560 nm. trip.

We will check into the Galapagos at San Cristobal Island, Puerto Moreno Baqueriz and we will plan daily updates.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Leaving for Galapagos

We leave tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 11:00 (high tide) for the Galapagos. It should be about 4 days which will leave plenty of time for some posts. Bahia has been OK, with the highlight being that I have played tennis 3 times with some of the other cruisers, including today for 3 hours starting at 11:30 in the heat of the sun. Lots of fun, but I didn't have near enough water with me.

Looking forward to seeing some boobies (the blue footed variety) in the Galapagos.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fixing Your Boat in Exotic (?) Ports

Bahia de Caracas - Ecuador (NE of Manta)

Well, Bahia may not be that exotic, but we came here with some chores in mind and the last two days we got a lot of them done.

The first big job was unexpected as our second AC refrigeration circulating pump failed in one month. There seems to be some design flaw with these new jabsco pumps that eats through impellers and lip seals like there is no tomorrow. We replaced it with a spare March pump that we had for the AirCon and it works great in harbor, but I am afraid of using it long term as it is not self priming and the engine room isn't that far below the waterline. We will know more by the time we get to the Galapagos next week.

Our biggest job was replacing the membrane in the watermaker which entailed preserving the old one in "pickling" solution, flushing the system, and installing the new one. It actually went pretty quickly and we even had time to finally finish screwing the watermaker base back down into place.

The other big chore of the day was getting fuel. A big reason we came to Bahia is that the fuel is cheaper there, but not the easiest to get. We ordered about 300 gal which comes in 100gal increments on a panga with a black rotomolded tank and sketchy rotary vane pump. Carlos pulled his boat up and started the pump up. It immediately seized which required him to free the vanes with a kitchen knife. To re prime the pump he reaches into the tank, pulls up the pickup hose, fills it with fuel and blows the fuel into the pump, quickly pushing the hose back under the fuel level so it doesn't pull too much air in. This worked for the first 100 gallons. While Carlos went back to the gas station where apparently he fills his tank using a two long hoses and a few chairs to prop it up we went about filtering the fuel and distributing into our other storage tanks, being careful not to overfill and force fuel out the vents and all over the deck. When they returned 45 min later and started up the pump, it seized again, this time breaking one of the remaining 3 vanes. It didn't work with just two vanes, so they went about fabricating vanes out of scraps of wood. I supplied some more finished scraps, sandpaper, and a saw so they could stop using the steak knife to saw wood and in 30 mins they had created 4 teak vanes that fit the pump fairly well. This worked and we got our next 100 gallons. Again they went to fill back up while we filtered the fuel into other tanks, filling the aft and mid tanks and leaving room for 85 more gallons which they filled in two more trips as we underestimated the first time. In between trips I managed to fix the manual Salt water pump in the galley so we can conserve our water more easily. By 6:00 we had finally finished and headed in for showers and dinner, followed by a short walk to some great ice cream.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hola from Ecuador

Where did Nov go??? Since I wrote last we have had a wonderful visit from Sierra, Rob and Emma which included some travels around Ecuador with them and then we spent another 2 weeks seeing more of this beautiful diverse country. We met up with the Dietz' in Quito on Nov 6 (Bill returned from a work stint in W. that same time). Had one day to explore the old city of Quito the highlight being La Compania, a church with more gold than any of us will ever see in our lifetime...the architecture and grandeur was quite something and one can only think how important the Catholic religion is to the 95%of the population that are in that sector. From there we went about 2-3 hrs North with a guide/taxi driver who showed us some interesting towns,treats and sights. Spent the afternoon in Cotatachi, the leather capital where Zak scored a beautiful leather jacket and Sierra and I drooled over some pretty bags in lots of colors. We ended the day at our pretty little hotel in Peguche..La Casa del Sol...complete with a few resident llamas, and colorful courtyards in a pretty little mountain setting. Bill and I went for a run up to the waterfall that is a very sacred place to the natives. We have loved seeing how important family and enjoyment is to the locals and note how much weekend time is spent doing things together with 2-4 generations of the families . Next am we all went back there to revisit these falls and had a great pre-breakfast hike.

After a yummy meal we headed in 2 taxis to our next stop...Hacienda Zuleta. Amazing countryside and colorful indigineous dress were part of our sights,along with windy,bumpy roads leading heaven knows where. 2 hrs later we arrived at Zuleta ...where the idea is of being taken into the home of a wealthy,old,Ecuadorian family....that they did. The first impression of luxury was flowers floating in the toilets in our rooms!!! Lunch was amazing as was every meal they served us those 2 days...local farm raised trout, cheeses from their dairy,quinoa soup,and deserts to die for. When they found that Zak wasn't fond of fish they asked if he would be OK with a beef tenderloin...twist his arm and watch him smile...We went on a hike that first afternoon up to a condor lookout point and despite the altitude we were able to make it up there...amidst some huffing and puffing/especially by the ones that had Emma in the backpack. The land here is all farmed and the places they are planting crops( at angles like 80%) quite a sight. Day two Sierra, Gram, Jo and Zak saddled up and went on a 4 hr ride with a guide who took us all over the Zuleta property. Bill rode a bike and R & E met up with us at the beginning when we saw the condor rehabilitation area they have set up. HUGE birds that were something to see. Afternoon had us milking some cows (Bill had the best technique) and Emma thought it all pretty funny. We spent the early eve. beside a roaring fire, tasting the various cheeses that are made here and enjoying some wine and the company before yet another amazing meal served up family style with a few other guests joining us.

Sadly the next morning (late as we could make it) we had to leave and headed to Otavalo, the town that is best known for it's fabulous market. So we a few things for the store to resell and had fun with the haggling thing ...a colorful experience to say the least. Rob got a little sick,maybe from the altitude, maybe a bug but was better in 24 hrs at least. Next morning we took the bus back to Quito (windy road so not a terribly pleasant experience) and then flew to Guayaquil to return to the boat for a few days. LONG day but felt good to be able to settle in to something familiar for a couple of days.

Fri. was not particularly nice day...back to the grey skies of the coast so we went to the fresh market and fish market and showed Rob and Sierra this new way we shop for food. Laid low and just enjoyed being together and watching Emma be her totally cute self. Sat we awoke to a beautiful sunshiny day/the best one we had had in La Libertad. Hung at the pool all day! Back to grey the next day but we went to the beach in the next town for a bit of the afternoon anyway. Mon. we all packed up, bused back to Guayaquil and took a 50 min. flight to Quito. these short hops on the National airlines are reasonably inexpensive, very prompt and efficient and save 10-12 hrs on exhausting bus rides! Back in Quito we wandered into a Mongolian restaurant that serves lots of vegies and meats that you pile in bowls and they cook on a big grill. All you can eat(they lose money for sure on Zak and Bill) and the cost for the 7 of us with drinks was a mere 60.00. Can't beat that!

Next morning was a sad one as we were sending R,S, and E off to the airport to fly home. Realizing this would be the longest time I will ever (in our 34 yrs together) be away from Sierra was very hard. And Emma will be a different kid when I see her in May(next plan is for them to meet us in Tahiti). She was an amazing traveler and has more stamps on her passport than many grownups I know. Just a few moments after they left we got a text from Sierra saying that they had forgotten Dolly in their bed at the hotel. So we picked her up and now we will chronicle "Travels with Dolly" for Emma.

So they were off and we headed to the French Embassy to finish up our long stay Visas for the French Polynesian Islands. It was remarkably smooth..thanks to earlier legwork started in Boston before we left for Panama and we were out of there in an hour. So, trying a new approach to travel to have the flexibility of our own wheels we rented a car and headed for the Quilotoa Loop...a Park/highland area south of Quito. The roads and detours make driving the backroads of main look smooth as glass but the vistas were worth it. after 5-6 hrs we arrived at our next stop/ Black Sheep of the many Ecotourist places that have gotten so popular in Ecuador. Very crunchy...Zak got his first view into how his hippy mom lived when she first arrived in Maine so many years ago..complete with composting toilet that like ours was in a greenhouse structure. The vegetarian meals served there were quite good and we enjoyed the family style dining once again meeting some interesting who were also travelling Ecuador. Hired a guide to take us into the cloud forest the next day and went on a good hike seeing the valleys below and all the native farmers tending crops and herding sheep and cows. These people work so hard physically it would blow your minds. Little old ladies carrying humongous bundles of crops and brush on their backs...and many doing it barefoot! We are such pussies. The boys drove back..getting quite lost along the way so we beat them back even tho' we walked back thru a few towns and over the hills and valleys to Black Sheep. Rainy afternoon so we relaxed(what's that??) by a woodstove reading and talking to some of the other guests.

Next morning we headed out, giving a ride and an enjoyable extra visit with Neda, a young Aussie who has been travelling in So. America for a year. We stopped at the famous Quilotoa Crater...a Lake formed in the crater of one of the Volcanoes and hiked down a ways. Drove thru more beautiful farmlands perched high in these steep steep cliffs and stumbled into an Artisans Gallery in Tigua where these somewhat famous paintings are done on Sheepskin. We each purchased one and will have great memories spurred on by them as they really do a good job depicting the landscape and the lifestyle of the highlands. Dropped Neda off in Latacunga and headed toward one of the more reknowned markets but it was kind of late so we missed most of it. On to next hotel near Cotopaxi Nat'l Park...a nice place that served quite a tasty dinner so we were happy once again. (Steak for Zak after 2days of trying to get into vegetarian cooking) .

The next morning was very cloudy so we decided to pass on going to see Cotopaxi(highest Volcano in Ecuador) as it would be shrouded in clouds anyway and will try to catch it on our way back thru in a few days. So headed south to Banos...a resort town known for its thermal baths and a place that Bills brother Matt had suggested as his best friend Charles' stepdaughter was working at an Ecohotel there. So, landed at la Casa Verde in the early afternoon, explored town a bit, and went to the baths early that evening before we went out for a fun Mexican dinner with Sophie and a few of her friends. Adventure for the next day was decided on...a bike ride thru a tunnel or two and along some roads and some bike paths on a route that followed a string of waterfalls. I think we saw 5 in total..hiking to some of them and stopping for lunch along the way. They were quite awesome and I'm hoping that you all are checking out the blog as many of the pics from these past few weeks have been posted I think...check the upper right corner for a link to the web albums on the, fun ride followed by another good meal out that night and back to our hotel for some good sleep.

Got going fairly early on Sun so that we could stop on our way to Quito in was quite a sight to see that volcano coming in and out of the clouds and again the driving was beautiful albeit grueling...cobblestone roads make for slow go but the sights are worth it. Returned to Quito (rental car worked out better than incidents or accidents/hooray) for the night with an early departure next day for the jungle. We had booked ourselves at Sacha Lodge one of the premier jungle lodges and were in for a treat. Started with a 30min flight to Coca/an oil frontier on the Napo River, then a 2 1/2 hr motorized canoe ride up the river, followed by a 20 min hike and a short canoe ride across a tanin lake to the lodge. It proved to be more luxurious than we had expected and the food and activities there were awesome. Did evening hikes and canoe rides with and English speaking guide and native naturalist who showed us much of what life in the jungle has to offer. There are 2 towers which get you above the canopy and from there we could see amazing and abundant birds...never thought watching birds would be all that exciting but the variety and colorfulness made it pretty cool. We saw monkeys and lots of insects and learned alot about the medicinal plants that the indigineous Indians in this area all use. Pretty fascinating combined with relatively comfortable comforts and fabulous food made a great combo. Afternoons we had some time off which was good because they had 5:30-6:00am wakeup calls to get out and about while it was still cool and the animals were most active. The lake proved to be a great afternoon spot to cool off and get a nap in/not in the lake but on the dock of course! Had three nights at Sacha and would encourage anyone who wanted to venture off to Ecuador to book there. Return trip was the same as arrival in reverse putting us back in Quito early afternoon with a connecting flight to Cuenca...our last stop on this journey thru inland Ecuador.

Cuenca is very different...much more cultured, wealthy,and westernized. A colonial city with drop dead architecture we found it both charming and of definite interest as a place to live for a winter time escape from the frigid North. Had Thanksgiving dinner at a 5 star restaurant that was recommended to us by our innkeeper who spoke great English. All the other patrons were Ecuadorian and obviously were not celebrating Thanksgiving but otherwise having their own celebrations... We missed being with our families in particular that night as Tgiving is certainly my favorite holiday...having no retail bent and just being about family,food and being grateful. A four course dinner for all 4 of us (the boys eating all that they could indulge in) cost a mere 100. Would have been a 400. dinner in NY and couldn't have been any better! Saw some good museums, wandered the streets and gawked at the beautiful buildings vowing to return to Cuenca at a later date. Sat. we hopped on a late morning bus back to Guayaquil with transfer to La Libertad and our return to Visions...The bus ride was scarier than scary and all I could imagine was falling off the steep cliffs that had no guardrails and plunging down into a ravine to be written about days later...but we did fine and arrived safely if not terribly carsick and tired from the journey.

So that's the story/sage of our travels thru Ecuador...saw some fabulous sights, ate some wonderful meals and are readying ourselves for the next phase of this include moving the boat up the coast a bit to a place that more cruisers hang out in preparation for our next leg to the Galapagos in a week to 10 days. Zak has been working on getting himself a position at a research lab so that he can make sense of this gap year but not have to stick it out on the surprises but he really cannot wrap his arms around this cruising life and goes from miserable to minorly unhappy but it clearly is not working for him. So he will be able to get to enjoy the Galapagos( the most desirable part of the trip for him anyway) and then probably head home and on to Montreal or Bar Harbor for the rest of the winter...And then there were 3 (me, Bill and Gram that is) So more to follow..hope I have not tired you out or completely bored you with all the details...since nothing was written for a full month there was alot to tell...Miss our peeps and at times our comforts of home but all in all having a great Jo