Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back to America!

This morning we left the Galapagos for Quito. We took a bus, a boat, another bus, a plane, and a bus to get there. As usual Madeleine and I sat in the emergency exit aisle. They must know that we are experts at saving lives or something. We presented our on assignments that night and then went to eat dinner. We got cuy, which is guinea pig. It was like eating Tuck from Wonder Pets and it was kind of good. Our last night was sad and we stayed up late to buy the new Maroon 5 album at 11:00. We then woke up two and a half hours later to go the airport for our six am flight. The flight was uneventful, with most people sleeping and working on their books. We were probably all a little happy to be back in Houston. Running off of three hours of sleep is rough normally, and it was even harder since Sarah Jane and I went to the Coldplay concert. It was a great trip, and I will definitely miss the weather compared to 100 degrees!

Galapagos Day 3 & 4

The Senior Girls!

Today we are moved from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz. We took the boat that had taken us snorkeling earlier, a pretty big fishing boat. The ride was almost three hours long and not too bumpy, though some people got sea sick. After we arrived in Santa Cruz we ate lunch and then took a bus to see los gemelos, two sinkholes. We took some pictures and then went to see tortoises. Lonesome George was at another tortoise sanctuary. After the tortoises we walked inside a lava tube. A lava tube is a cave that was hollowed out by lava. It was really cool! That night we went onto the roof of our hotel and did light painting, where you set your shutter speed really slow and move flashlights around to make pictures.

Today we are going to see Lonesome George. We got to the tortoise sanctuary and saw all of the tortoises that they were breeding. When we got to Lonesome George's pen, we noticed that he looked kind of droopy and though he was sleeping. Later we found out that sadly he had died. After the tortoises we went to get lunch and then we hiked to a beach. We walked down a beach that was mainly for surfing due to the big waves and then to a calmer beach. We swam for a while in the turquoise water and it was so fun. That night we ate on this street that had a lot of restaurants and tables in the street. Julian recommended the slipper lobster, a lobster that doesn't really have claws and it was delicious! At dinner we found out that Lonesome George had died. It was our last night in the Galapagos, and we were all pretty sad.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Galapagos Day Two

Today we went snorkeling! We took a fishing boat out to look at some blue-footed boobies and then out to Kicker Rock. The water was really cold and deep. We swam around this huge rock and then through a channel where we saw a bunch of sharks! There were a lot of sea turtles too and really small jellyfish. We snorkeled there for about forty five minutes and then went to Los Lobos Bay to snorkel some more. It was shallower there and rockier with more coral and fish. A sea lion swam along with us and chewed on some of our flippers. We ate lunch next to a beach since you aren't allowed to eat on the beaches, and then walked around on it. Overall it was a really fun day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Goodbye Amazon, Hello Galapagos!

Today we are leaving the Amazon for Quito. It was raining when we woke up so we didn’t get to go on a morning canoe ride. Breakfast was really delicious, with a pancake that tasted like cake and an omelet. Our five-hour motorcanoe ride to Coca was extended due to motor trouble and the rain, so it was more like a 7 hour ride. We also got pretty wet, it was cold, and I discovered some more bug bites. Once we got to Coca we took another short plane flight back to Quito. That night we ate at the delicious sandwich place again.

Today we are leaving Quito for the Galapagos! Our flight was pretty crowded until the stop in Guayaquil, where most of the people got off. The plane was really spacious, especially for Madeleine (Hamilton) and I because we sat in the emergency exit row. It was around three hours long. We arrived on San Cristobal, the first of two islands we are visiting. Our Galakiwi guides met us at the airport along with our native guide, Julian. We ate lunch and put our stuff in our hotel rooms and then set off to go snorkeling. First though we walked through an information center with all sorts of cool facts about the Galapagos. After that we hiked up a hill to get a good view and then hiked down to a dock on a small bay where we were going to snorkel. We got in and the water was freezing even though we had on wetsuits. We swam with sea lions; saw sea turtles and all sorts of fish! It was really cool and fun! My waterproof camera really came in handy and takes surprisingly good pictures (thanks Daddy, by the way happy belated Father’s Day!). We walked to a beach with lots of sea lions and took pretty sunset pictures. For dinner we ate at a delicious restaurant the literally gave us a bucket of mashed potatoes, which were amazing. We probably ate the most of any meal that night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Today we are leaving  Mindo for Quito. In the morning we packed and went on a photo scavenger hunt. We had to take pictures of things like a butterfly, the virgin mary and an auto mechanic. It was raining but Madeleine, Clur and I dominated. We left for Quito in the afternoon and on the bus Michael, Madeleine and I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail the whole way. Once we got to Quito we went to the market and I went a little crazy buying stuff. Madeleine got a necklace like the one in the animated movie Atlantus which was pretty cool. We went to this delicious sandwich place and wandered around near some hoppin’ discotecas!

Today we are flying to Coca, then taking a five hour “canoe” ride to the dolphin lodge. The airport security was probably the fastest I have ever been through and the flight was only thirty minutes long, also the shortest plane ride I have ever been on. Once we arrived it was hot and humid, more like home. We were a little bit skeptical about the so-called canoe ride, but it turned out to be a long boat with a motor, no need to paddle! We got stuck a couple of times and had to maneuver around a lot of shallow spots. The ride was really pretty though and I think we all got in a good nap. Right when we got here we went out in canoes to explore the Piranha Lagoon. We all swam even because the guide assured us it wasn’t dangerous (living on the edge) and nobody was eaten by piranhas, although a few of us lost some limbs. After dinner some of us went on a bug hunt, which was interesting. We saw some gross bugs and were slightly swarmed by mosquitos. Some people got bitten by ants so we went back. Later as Sarah Jane and I were watching a movie I discovered that I had a cockroach/beetle thing in my pants, which was traumatizing but we got revenge in the morning when I found the bug and killed it.

We woke up early today to go canoeing and look for wildlife. We all piled in three canoes and the guides paddled us through the islands in the river. After an hour of canoeing we came back and ate breakfast. Our guides took us in the motorcanoe to a trail where we went hiking. We hiked for about three hours and we all wore our rubber boots because there was a lot of mud. We saw several Ents and even Treebeard(Lord of the Rings duh)! Our guide showed us how to use a palm leaf in like six different ways and what to do if we get lost in the forest (other than get eaten by a jaguar). Some of us also tried to climb a tree by using a vine wrapped in a circle and putting our feet in it. We came back to the lodge and had a brief photography lesson and then lunch.  After lunch we had a much needed siesta, and I slept in a hammock. After the siesta we went back in the canoes to look for monkeys. We heard a lot of mysterious noises that Madeleine and I decided were baby velociraptors feeding since this place resembles Jurassic Park. We saw some howler monkeys in the trees and a lot of trees with fruit that has cotton inside of it. Occasionally our guide had to machete our way through some of the trees and vines. After the canoe ride we had dinner and after dinner we went to search for caimans. We were unsuccessful in finding any caimans, but we did see some cool heat lightning and the stars were really pretty.

Today we got to sleep in till 6:45(so late!!!!) and after breakfast we went on another hike to look for wildlife. The guide Livio showed us several medicinal plants including one that is poisonous to animals and an antidote for humans. We all drank it so I hope he’s right about it! We also ate some ants that tasted like lemon. For lunch we had spaghetti, which was amazing and the first pasta I’d had in ages. After lunch we didn’t have a siesta and took the big motorcanoe to monkey island. After wandering around on the trails and listening to Livio do his monkey call we finally found some monkeys! They were a bunch of wooly monkeys and even one with a baby on it’s back! We took lots of pictures and watched the monkeys for a while and then took the motorcanoe back. We had dinner and afterwards there was the option of going on a bug walk, but some of us got out of it by touching a whip scorpion spider-like thing. Instead me, Callie, Sarah Jane and both Madelines had a dance party.

We woke up early today to go on a monkey hike. We were mostly unsuccessful except for a glimpse of a small monkey. At breakfast we got extra rolls, which was really exciting. After breakfast we took the canoes to go piranha fishing! Our guide Juan caught the first two, and the second one bit his finger a little and was bleeding profusely so we had to go to Livio’s boat to get a bandaid. After that I caught one and had to drop it in the floor of the boat and whack it with the paddle to kill it. Madeleine and Michael both caught smaller piranhas and Juan caught a couple more. We brought the piranhas back and they cooked them for us, and they were delicious! We had a siesta and then we swam in the water we had just caught piranhas from. Madeleine and Michael practiced their dinosaur calls, and it was cool because it was so loud it echoed.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mist Netting

Today was our second day of separate group activities, and my group went mist netting. We took a taxi to a trail that we had to hike to get to the bird cabin. It was kind of muddy and sometimes steep, so I became president of the falling club. I kind of felt like Luke Skywalker with Yoda as my backpack trekking through the wilderness. We got to the bird cabin and met Luke and Katie, a biologist and a teacher who are in charge of the mist netting project. Mist netting is when they set up thin nets in the rainforest to catch species of birds and tag them. They measure them and check their weight to see how they are doing and then rerelease them. We caught a total of eleven birds and it was really interesting to see them up close. The hike back was a little worse than the way down because it was hotter and more uphill. After the hike we went into town to get pizza, which was really delicious. We got back to the hotel before the other group and we all fell asleep on the hammocks. Later that day we went to Nikki’s restaurant and had some good food.


Today we split into to two groups. My group (me, Callie, Michael, Lauren) went to take a cable car to the rainforest to hike to some waterfalls while the other group went to go mist netting. We got to wake up later than the other group, leaving at 9:00 to go to the cable car. The car took us across a big ravine, which had really beautiful views. We hiked down to three different waterfalls, all the while learning interesting things from Nikki, a resident biologist. Did you know that algae grow on sloth’s fur and that they poop once a week? Me neither! The water was freezing cold which felt so good on my 100+ sand fly bites (I have resorted to sleeping with socks on my hands so I don’t scratch them while I sleep). Only Michael and I braved the arctic waters, which Callie and Lauren definitely missed out big time on. Later that day we had another critique by Massimo. 


            Today some of us woke up early to go to the hummingbird sanctuary early, at six. We saw a ton of hummingbirds and two toucans and snapped a lot of pics. We came back for breakfast and then the rest of the group joined us to return to the bird place. After being there twice, I’d say I got a solid 500 pictures of hummingbirds. We split into groups to go find a place for lunch. Callie, Michael, Sarah Jane, Clara and I went to a restaurant that was a little out of our budget, so all we got was rice and milkshakes. Needless to say it was delicious! After a quick photo uploading session we split into groups of three to wander around the town and take pictures. Clara, Madeline and I wandered around the back streets and snapped some quality photos. After our urban photo shoot our leaders surprised us with a chocolate making expedition! I basically live for chocolate, so this was very exciting. We saw how they make the chocolate from cacao beans and got to help make fondue. It was really delicious and I definitely ate more than my share. We literally sprinted back to the hotel to be able to make it to the restaurant in time for dinner. At dinner we were served a whole fish each, which Bailey and I had a superb time dissecting. Cutting the head off and looking for the brains was fun! I discovered that fish eye and fins actually taste pretty good. After dinner we went on a night bug hunt, where we found a “toilet paper” leaf and a couple of spiders and cockroaches, which are surprisingly smaller than Texas cockroaches. 


This morning Sarah Jane discovered how slippery the floor was while wearing socks. We had a photography lesson and then went to a butterfly sanctuary to take pictures. A truck picked us up and we all rode in the back. The road has a lot of potholes, so it was quite bumpy. We snapped a lot of good butterfly pics and got to hold them on our hands and faces. I stalked the blue morpho butterflies, following them around and trying to get a good picture of their wings. After our butterfly photo shoot we walked across the street to the river to go tubing. We rode in a giant raft consisting of nine inner tubes tied together in freezing cold water and it was so fun! I tried out my waterproof camera for the first time and luckily, it worked! We got back to the hotel and tried out the hot tub, fitting 11 people in it at one time-lets just say it overflowed a little. Tonight we ate at an Italian restaurant and the nine kids ate 38 pieces of pizza, taking advantage of the familiar food.