5/13 “Are you made of wood?”

Posted Posted in Ecuador, Scuba, Sightseeing

We woke up with the roosters, and Liz rallied out of bed for a quick 3 mile run.  Breakfast was at the hotel (the Blue Marlin) with the group, and a seemingly benign conversation about books turned into a talk about e-books and Fifty shades porn. Can’t make this stuff up.

Morning Marathon:

We walked down the the Galakiwi offices to get suited up for our morning snorkel trip.  This was my one opportunity to dive in the Galapagos – though I was the only diver – and I was excited to go underwater.

While we waited for the gear assembly we watched the handful of 100 runners who were running the Galapagos Marathon. It was a brutally hot day, and we sweat just cheering them on – but we still cheered.  They appreciated it since there was no one else out in this heat to clap.


This was a great group to travel with.  We all liked to laugh and have fun, as was evidenced by a re-visit from a big black (native) Galapagos carpenter bee.

Liz: *jumping up*  “Oh no! A carpenter bee!”

Lina: “Why? Are you made of wood?”

These things never seem as funny when written out later, but five of us laughed hysterically for a while.

Before our snorkel destination we stopped to bird watch and learned the differences between the blue footed boobies and frigates.

Leaving San Cristobal
Liz, happily watching sea lions swimming
Blue Footed Booby in Flight
Sea Lions Playing in the Surf

Snorkel #1:

As soon as my dive master Franklin realized I was a dive instructor, he quickly changed our itinerary.  “This is too easy a dive for you.”  So I snorkeled the first time rather than dove the first time out.  The visibility wasn’t great, but we had a very playful sea lion that came sort of close.

We knicknamed Amanda and Lina “the gigglers” becauser they constantly made each other laugh.  I loved being around a group that has so much fun together.

Sea Lion
Frigate Above our Boat

Dive #1 

For our first dive, Franklin and I dove through a gorgeous cavern.  We saw some black tip reef shark and another sea lion.  I love diving with sea lions – they’re so fast, sneaky, and playful.  One minute you’re diving along and looking at coral, and the next minute you have a pair of huge eyes and whiskery sea lion in front of your mask.  They like when you do flips underwater, because then they can dart in and out around you and your bubbles.  This makes me ridiculously happy.

My Sea Lion
Franklin, my dive buddy


We ate lunch on the boat, taking bites between an animated discuss about animated movie.  And then we had a walk a nearby beach. This was a bit of an ordeal since one of the motors wouldnt rise so we couldn’t back up too far into shore.  This prompted a hilarious process of each of us jumping off the side and wading in.  Pablo told us all about mangrove trees and how they use water to take root elsewhere on the beach.

Mangrove Seed Dispersal
Beach Beauty
Liz’s Shell Collection
The Gang on the Beach
Liz, practicing her crab calling skills
Sea Urchin Remnants
Juvenile Shark

Dive #2

Franklin and I returned to the cavern for another dive and in search of the hammerheads.  We saw eagle rays and turtles, and some schooling hammers off in the distance.

Sea Turtle
Eagle Rays
Hammerheads in the Distance
Heidi with a school of barracuda
Pic by Liz: me post-dive

Interpretation Center:

Back on San Cristobal we quickly changed and hopped on a bus to the “Interpretation Center”.  It was still hot and humid, and we were all walking a bit slower from the morning’s activity.  (“They don’t call this Active South America for nothin’!”).  The Interpretation Center was a place (unfortunately not air conditioned) where Pablo could use background maps and exhibits to tell us all about lava flow, the Nazca shelf, water currents, air, and animals, and how all of this created the Galapagos Islands as we see them today.  We learned that the easternmost islands are the oldest, because the Nazca shelf moves from West to East – with the east eventually disappearing underneath the South American plate.  Thus the volcanic activity.

Galapagos Plates
Branches of Finch Family

We also learned about the flightless cormorant, which we wouldn’t see on this trip because they’re only in specific areas of two islands.  There are also 14 different types of finches, though all of them can be traced back to one kind of finch.

Having said all of that, we also learned a great deal about Darwin.  I had no idea that he visited the Galapagos at 24 years old but didn’t actually publish his theories until the age of 49.

Pablo, lecturing about the Galapagos

Finally – when the heat had gotten the best of us and we all needed naps – Pablo told us about the crazy settlers who landed on Floreana.  Like the dentist who brought his lover to Floreana; they both pulled all their teeth so they wouldn’t have any teeth problems when they got there.  And then there was the “Baroness” Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosque who lived there with her two German lovers and who treated everyone as her underlings.  All of this is documented in a book called The Galapagos Affair which, as of this writing, has a whole five reviews on Amazon.com.

Dinner on our Own

After a walk back into town, we were all on our own for dinner.  Liz and I opted for athe “San Jose BBQ” which was outdoors with plastic tables and chairs.  There was a huge grill filled with fresh meats and fish.  We almost ordered pescado for two but decided to split it – a good thing too since it was HUGE.



Liz, Demonstrating how big our fish was
Also demonstrating the size of the spider in the bathroom
And the size of the chicken
The fish, aftermath

We also ordered beer but the waitress said something about “no” and “Sunday”. Liz joked, “Apparently they haven’t evolved that far yet.”

On the way out of the restaurant we ran into Pablo and asked him to point us to dessert.  He sent us to a tiny little bakery right around the corner. There, we waited for over 5 minutes – which is notable because we were the only ones there until 5 Ecuadorian women came in after us and walked right in front of us to the counter. Apparently Aggressiveness is rewarded here, so after a few minutes of still not being served, Liz looked up “cake” in her dictionary and then got her pushy on. The end result: us back in the room with a cake and a chocolate covered donut.  (a word which, incidentally, has no translation in Spanish)

Hard-won cake

Again, we were in bed by 9:00.

Rock-hard Pillows at the Blue Marlin

11/21: Taganga y Santa Marta “We did not walk there”

Posted Posted in Adventure, Colombia, Scuba, Sightseeing, South America

Scuba Adventures

 Breakfast at the hotel

We got up at the crack of dawn, had breakfast, and caught a taxi to Tagonga where we landed at 7:30 on the nose. Johann at the Aquantis Dive Center was expecting us, and set us up in the video room so Ji could watch her “Discover Scuba” video. This would be her first time diving and she was looking forward to giving it a try. I sat with her and read my book as we both fended off the mosquitos that were breeding in the room. Then she took her exam and nailed a solid 100%. (We’re so proud)

12-1: Misool

Posted Posted in Asia, Scuba

Our last dive day. We had the option of only one dive and ending the day with a trip to see some rock painting and some flying foxes. I wanted to go, but then I learned it’s a 1.5 hour trip there and 1.5 hours back, and we had a five hour boat trip to Sorong the next day. So I preferred finishing our trip with my favorite dive site and then naptime on the porch.

Dive #1: Magic Mountain
No mantas to say goodbye, but we had such a lovely dive on the shallow pinnacle. Loads of fish and coral. I took a 360 video, just because sometimes I like to have them.

Loads of fish


11-30: Misool

Posted Posted in Asia, Indonesia, Scuba, Sightseeing

The weather in Indonesia was beautiful every day, but this day was near-perfect. White, puffy clouds in the distance and smooth, glass-like water as far as the eye could see. This was a day made for polarized lenses.

We had a packed dive schedule and – because of the number of live-aboards in the area – we had to dive 30 minutes earlier to make our dive sites before dozens of live-aboarders crashed down on our heads. (This is a funny comment, since often it’s the people in this group who are the live-aboarders. But for some reason we feel superior and obligated to our local dive sites.)

Dive #1: Boo Window
Boo was amazing. The current was light, but enough that fish were absolutely everywhere. We went down to 60’ to see some grey reef sharks swimming in the blue, then we gently paddled our way around the rest of the site. I gave up on macro in favor of hovering mid-water simply to look at the hundreds of fish around. I snapped a few pictures but my camera doesn’t do justice to the image of being surrounded by gorgeous, colorful schools of fish.

Fish and fish and fish and fish

11-29: Misool

Posted Posted in Asia, Indonesia, Scuba, Sightseeing

Dive #1: Magic Mountain
When we arrived at the deeper pinnacle there were two mantas swimming through the cleaning station, but they both swam off when we got closer and never returned. So we spent much of our dive at 70’, puttering around and waiting for the mantas to show up again. They never did, but our safety stop was lovely. The light was gorgeous and the current perfect enough to have fish all over the place.

Life at seventy feet

11-27: Misool

Posted Posted in Asia, Indonesia, Scuba, Sightseeing

I woke up Saturday morning with an annoying inflammation in my left ear. It wasn’t an infection because the outer-ear didn’t hurt, but clearing my ears caused pain. And since I knew the boat would be gone all morning on a two-tank dive today and planned to see the manta rays on Magic Mountain tomorrow, I thought it best to take a day off from diving and keep my head dry so I could be 100% for the mantas. It was a great decision, since I spent the day lounging all by myself, reading, and occasionally wading into the water from our porch.

 The blue boat, leaving without me

11-26: Misool

Posted Posted in Asia, Indonesia, Scuba, Sightseeing

On the walkway from the dive hut to the eating area is a particular tree that swoops down from the rocks and back up again. It’s fine if you’re the average Indonesian height, but if you’re an average Westerner you have to duck to avoid it. Unless you’re Julian. Then you bonk yourself right in the head with it. He used my camera to take pictures of his minor injury which I was going to paste here, but I later realized he’d deleted them. Darn him.


11-25: Misool

Posted Posted in Asia, Indonesia, Scuba, Sightseeing

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of Thanksgiving, I woke up to photograph the sunrise. I love how quiet and peaceful the world is at 5:45 in the morning. Everything is asleep – except the ocean. In the thirty minutes I sat perched on the porch I witnessed all sorts of fish jumping out of the water, chased by bigger hungry fish looking for their breakfast. A huge barracuda chased another fish all around the shallows under the dock.

 Sunrise over Misool