A Little “Diversion” on Trip to Peru

Overseas flights tend to be long, tiring, and for hubby and me, who seemed to be frowned upon by the Trim Gods, frequented by electrical problems that cause delays or diversions in the airliner’s flight plan. To prove my point, look back in the blog archives for a story about a fuel dump from last year’s trip to Morocco (Morocco Part One: Fuel Dump, and Flight to Morocco Part II).

Plane we took to Peru.

Plane Boeing 767 we took to Peru.

Headed to Peru and halfway to Lima on an evening flight, the Captain popped on the cabin lights and announced they had a little electrical problem and would be diverting to Guayaquil, Ecuador. While, I’m usually up for visiting new countries, we’d visited Ecuador a few years ago on a trip to Quito and the Galapagos Islands (Blogs: Exotic Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, and Galapagos (Giant) Tortoise). As travelers we have learned to be flexible and “go with the flow,” and lauded ourselves for planning in extra time at the beginning of our trip just for such an occurrence. Considering these delays have happened more than once, it’s not a bad piece of advice if you can afford the time.

Welcome to Guayaquil sign in Ecuador airport.

Welcome to Guayaquil sign in Ecuador airport.

Once on the ground, the Captain filled us in on the circumstances. The aircraft had a battery problem. The good news…maintenance would look into it. The bad news…maintenance had to get a copy of the battery (what they believed was causing the problem) manual. Ah, the joys of contract maintenance.

Pilot hubby guessed that it would probably mean a plane change, which considering our destination, posed a logistics challenge. There were no other B767s in Guayaquil. The plan…another flight from the airline would be arriving on a planned flight from Miami to Guayaquil in a few hours. Once unloaded, that plane would then take us to Lima.

The positive outcome? This time we didn’t land to fire trucks and ambulances, and the little cafe in the Guayaquil airport had coffees, tasty banana bread, and beer.

The little coffee, sweets and beer cafe in Guayaquil Airport.

The little coffee, sweets, and beer cafe in Guayaquil Airport stayed open late in the evening.

Eventually we made it to Lima, our connection picked us up (in the wee morning hours), and upon arriving at our delightful, boutique hotel, discovered cookies and champagne waiting in our room. Ate the cookies and saved the alcohol for the next night when we celebrated hubby’s birthday.

Bohemian little boutique hotel in Barranco (Lima), Peru. Loved all the little touches and wonderful art in the restored old summer home.

Hotel B, a bohemian little boutique hotel in Barranco (Lima), Peru. Loved all the little touches and wonderful art in the restored old summer home. Note champagne bottle at end of bed. Sweet little cookies were on the small desk. Security all over Lima and in this high-end area was high. Even though this neighborhood was a safe one and the Spanish embassy was across the street, a doorman had a key and unlocked the front door for arrivals and departure in the evenings. Absolutely wonderful  place if you’re one to avoid big hotels.

Galapagos (Giant) Tortoise

Studying science in college opened my eyes to the unique creations of our world and the men, like Charles Darwin, who have studied nature’s secrets. So when I had the chance in Spring of 2010, I grabbed my camera and headed for the equator. The Galapagos, discovered in 1535, is an archipelago (a collection of volcanic islands) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador. The best way to experience them is to fly in and live on board a boat. While my stay was short and I made it to only half the islands, it is a place I never imagined getting to see firsthand.

Coral I. Our floating home while in the Galapagos.

Coral I. Our floating home while in the Galapagos.

One of the first stops I made was Santa Cruz Island where the Charles Darwin Research Station is located. The results of Darwin’s 1835 study of the Galapagos flora and fauna were published as “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.” People from around the world have become involved with saving these land tortoises and other natural species of the Galapagos. For more information check out the Giant Tortoise Recovery Project part of the Galapagos Conservancy.

Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.

Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.

I did have the chance to see one the islands most famous inhabitants, Lonesome George, a Giant Galapagos Tortoise. These tortoises made an easy meal for whalers and others who visited the islands in the 1700 and 1800s and almost became extinct from over-hunting. George recently died at over a 100 years old, and originally was thought to be last of his kind. Genetic studies started in the last few years have been done on young tortoises similar to George and provide evidence that hybrids of George exist and have been born within the last 15 years (since George had been in his safe reserve). Are there more of George’s family (subspecies) still out there somewhere?

One believed the last of his subspecies of Galapagos Tortoises.

Lonesome George. So named because he was once believed to be the last of his subspecies of Galapagos Tortoises.

There are actually 14 subspecies that have been discovered over the years although according to “Birds, Mammal, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands An Identification Guide” by Andy Swash and Rob Still, only 11 still exist many unique to a particular in the Galapagos Islands (remember these are land tortoises, not the Green Sea Turtles which also inhabit the islands and love the water). There are two categories into which these tortoises fall and that is determined by the carapace (body shell). One is a dome-like carapace and the other is called saddleback.

Dome Carapace

Dome Carapace

Saddleback Carapace

Saddleback Carapace

The Charles Darwin Research center (Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center) on Santa Cruz Island is hoping to restore the tortoise to the island where their habitat was wiped out by an introduced goat population. The photos below come from the rearing center.

Galapagos Tortoise hatchlings being raised in their pens at Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise hatchlings being raised in their pens.

Growing up is so hard to do. It takes tortoises about 25 years to reach maturity.

Growing up is so hard to do. It takes tortoises about 25 years to reach maturity.

Darwin studied not only the creatures of the Galapagos, but also the flora. The two prickly pear trees in the photos below survived perhaps by necessity by growing tall. They are quite unique to the islands.

Perhaps to escape being eaten prickly pears grow into almost tree-like form on the islands.

Perhaps to escape being eaten prickly pears grow into almost tree-like form on the islands.

Look at the long trunk of the unique cactus plant.

Look at the long trunk of the unique cactus plant.

The following photos give you an extra insight into the physical appearance, slow movement, and daily life of the Galapagos Tortoises. Enjoy. If time and money ever permits, I’d love to go back someday and visit the other islands that I missed.

Galapagos Tortoises are large reptiles that move slowly.

Galapagos Tortoises are large reptiles that move slowly.

Notice the claw-like toes on this tortoise.

Notice the claw-like toes on this tortoise.

This tortoise knows how to pose for the cameras.

This tortoise knows how to pose for the cameras.

A drink at the water hole.

A drink at the water hole.

Ah, content.

Ah, content.

Full face close-up.

Full face close-up.

Move over. You're such a camera hog!

Move over. You’re such a camera hog!

Exotic Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands. Their unique flora and fauna once captured the attention of Charles Darwin and led to his writing the “The Origin of Species” in 1859. If you ever have a chance to go, take a camera and a video recorder. The photos below are from my trip (and require permission for use of any kind). You’ll be within feet of magnificent creatures and watch mother sea lions suckle babies, giant turtles swim, thousands of colorful fish swirl in the ocean, and giant birds play, nest, and court. Their antics are fun, amazing, and memorable, like the Blue-footed Boobie below.BlueFootedBoobie

We flew to the islands from Quito, Ecuador on Aero Gal. The airport on Galapagos is understandably small and open; a place to simply congregate for flights and check into the island on arrival.

AeroGal Airliner taxiing in after landing on the Galapagos Islands.

AeroGal airliner taxiing in after landing on the Galapagos Islands. Notice the frigatebird near the tail.

The number one way to get around in the Galapagos (a province of Ecuador) is by boat. Tourists often stay on one of many small yachts. Ours held about twenty people (there are large and small ones) and had a dive platform to ease getting on and off dinghies that would take us out to the islands.

These are the type boats typical in the islands.

These are the type boats typical in the islands.

The volcanic islands rest on the equator 960km from Ecuador. The black basalts are visible just about everywhere and create dramatic landscapes.

A nice little cinder cone peaking up from the island.

A nice little cinder cone peaking up from the island.

The first stop was at the National Park to see several different species of the big turtles and the nursery set up to study and nurture babies.

Galapagos National Park

Galapagos National Park

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

During our short stay we stopped on only half the islands (unfortunately I didn’t record the names of the particular ones we visited- lesson learned). One in particular had stunning basalt cliffs. Nazca Boobies, Marine Iguanas, sea lions, the largest breeding bird in the islands (the Albatross), and endless numbers of smaller creatures like lava lizards and crabs.

Basalt Cliffs

Basalt Cliffs

Large Marine Iguana

Large Marine Iguana

Marine Iguanas are well-camouflaged on the black basalts.

Marine Iguanas are well-camouflaged on the black basalts.

Beautiful sea scapes on the island.

Beautiful sea scape on the island.

Nazca Boobie's nest on this island.

Nazca Boobie’s nest on this island.

Two boobies with waves crashing in the distance.

Two boobies with waves crashing in the distance.

Parent and baby Nazca Boobie.

Parent and baby Nazca Boobie.

Blow Hole near nesting site.

Blow Hole near nesting site.

The sea lions had no fear of people. Kids in our group came across several sunning themselves on the beach and lay down with them, mimicking their sunbathing. Another day a sea lion launched himself onto our boat platform and worked himself up to the saloon. One of the crew eventually coaxed him off the boat.

Baby Galapagos Sea Lion nestled in the warm rocks.

Baby Galapagos Sea Lion nestled in the warm rocks.

Sea Lions on Beach

Sea Lions on Beach

The sea lion who climbed onto our boat.

The sea lion who climbed onto our boat.

Other islands had weathered down and provided interior marshes that were home to flamingos, smaller crab species, rays in the bay areas along the beach, and species of finches and other smaller birds.

I believe this is a Yellow Warbler. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

I believe this is a Yellow Warbler. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

Sea Urchins and echinoderms.

Sea Urchins and echinoderms.

Beautiful red crab.

Beautiful red crab.

One of the most fascinating islands gave a hint as to what awaited us as we approached the island. Cyclones of circling birds turned out to be frigates. Below the swirling birds, hundreds of nests were positioned in the rough scrub on the island.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Nesting area of the frigatebirds.

Nesting area of the frigatebirds.

Nesting frigate.

Nesting frigate.

Frigate baby.

Frigate baby.

The frigate island had huge Sante Fe Land Iguanas. We stood within 15 feet of a pair facing off, positioning, and enacting half-lunges. This was the trip of a life time and one if time permits may take me back to see the rest of the Galapagos Islands.

Santa Fe Land Iguanas facing off.

Santa Fe Land Iguanas facing off.