Origin of the Species

Guayaquil turns out to be a pretty awesome city, though a bit large for our tastes. It has several fancy and modern malls, a few of which might even rival the Scottsdale malls. Mike and I frequented the Mall del Sur because it is close to the house where we were staying, it is where Denis works, it has free Wi-fi, and it contains the best dessert shop ever. The Sweet & Coffee looks like a Starbucks, but the desserts far surpass anything Starbucks has to offer. We literally ate the raspberry cheesecake everyday. We also tried the triple fudge brownie, the caramelo cheesecake, the chocolate y manjar cake, and the oreo cheesecake. Divine.

In addition to eating at the Sweet & Coffee everyday, we visited several of the very nice parks in the city. The Malecon 2000 and the Malecon Salida are two separate boardwalks along the rivers. Both are very nicely landscaped and feature shops, eateries, etc. We also visited Las Peñas, which is a neighborhood on one of the hills by the river. The entire area has been renovated and made touristy in recent years. It’s very cute and colorful.

This is one of the colorful houses in Las Peñas.

Here’s another Peñas scene.

The steps up to the top of Las Peñas were helpfully numbered. I think they went to 400-something. Anyways, there was a lovely little lighthouse up top and a fantastic view of the sprawling city.

After a long and very comfortable stay in Guayaquil (thanks to Denis and his aunt and uncle), Mike and I have landed in the Galapagos Islands. We are spending a week and a half here, squeezing in as much wildlife watching as we possibly can, both on land and under the ocean.

We spent our first few days in Puerto Ayora, on the island most commonly referred to as Santa Cruz (most of the islands have 2 or 3 different names). We visited the Charles Darwin Research Station on our first day here and saw baby turtles. Since many species of the giant tortoises that call the Galapagos home are endangered, the CDRS has a breeding program. The baby turtles usually live at the CDRS for about 4 years before they are returned to the wild.

The following day we took a highland tour on Santa Cruz. First we briefly visited two sinkholes called “Los Gemelos” (which means “the twins”). Next we walked through a lava tube for about 1 km. We ended our tour by visiting a giant tortoise reserve. Those buggers were everywhere. Mostly they just sit around, but they kind of sound like cows when they’re having sex in the bushes. When we got back to the main building at the reserve, Mike and I both tried on a tortoise shell (real ones, from dead tortoises). They’re pretty heavy, so it’s no wonder the tortoises move so slowly!

On Thanksgiving we began a 4-day cruise on the “tourist class” yacht “Amigo.” “Tourist class” is a fancy way of saying “budget” on the Galapagos. Nonetheless, the yacht carried 16 passengers, and we got a private cabin with bunk-beds and a “hot” water shower. There were no other Americans on board, but that didn’t stop us from being thankful (especially since we have a lot to be thankful for).

During our cruise we made stops at several of the other Galapagos islands. This is important on any Galapagos visit, because some of the animals can only be seen on specific islands. I’ve got a lot to fill you in on in regards to our cruise, but I’ll wait until I have the pics to accompany the stories. Unfortunately the Internet is slooooooow here on the island and Mike can’t upload pics very fast. You’ll just have to wait to see the tortoises, flamingoes, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas, crabs, giraffes, etc. Just kidding…we didn’t see any giraffes…yet.

Here’s a ridiculous picture to hold you over for a few days:

Some man-hole cover manufacturer got the hook-up on the Guayaquil order. This city has more man-holes per square kilometer than any other city on Earth, I’m pretty sure. I can’t imagine that they all go somewhere, so some of them must be just for decoration. This picture doesn’t quite capture the ridiculous overabundance of man-hole covers since I could see 25 from where I was standing, but at least Mike managed to get a half a dozen or so of them in the frame.

Well, we’ll get those pics up for you ASAP. We hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

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