Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands- Trip Report- November 2012
I arrived to Quito, Ecuador, on Monday, November 5, 2012. The tour with ABD was to begin on Wednesday, but I decided to arrive one day early. Quito is 9,350 feet above sea level and I wanted to get used to the altitude. Thankfully, I did not suffer any affects from it, but one person on the trip did and it was not pleasant. After a 3-hour layover in Houston, my plane arrived to Quito at 10:40pm and I passed through customs with ease. I was met by an ABD representative who took me to the hotel– the JW Marriott— and I was in my room before midnight.
The hotel is really nice. There are plenty of television channels in English, but I enjoyed watching the Disney Channel in Spanish.
Internet access is available for $15 for 24 hours.
I booked the extra night through ABD at a cost of $230, including a buffet breakfast and taxes.
popcorn:: oh, oh, oh, so excited to get one more trip report before we head out two weeks from now! Please be sure to share any packing tips, or general tips! Thank you!
Despite trying to sleep in, I woke up around 8am on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The hotel offers a yummy breakfast buffet so I did have to get ready by 10am so I would not miss it. Fruit, queso fresco (fresh cheese) and eggs. Yummy. After breakfast, I met one of the two ABD Adventure Guides, Laura. On each ABD escourted tour, you have two Adventure Guides. One is from the United States and the other is from the country in which you are touring. This is one of the “Disney Differences”- two guides. When we toured Italy with another tour company a few years ago, we only had one guide and we were a group of 40. With two guides, the group can be split into two smaller groups, making for a more personal experience.
I was on my own this day and my mom arranged for a tour of Quito. I met my tour guide in the hotel lobby at 1pm and we were on our way. Our first stop was the Bascilica del Voto Nacional. It took over 100 years to build and the neo-Gothic architecture stands out.
Next on the tour was the El San Francisco Church. It takes up nearly two blocks and is more than 400 years old. After a walk through Plaza Grande, we arrived at La Compania. This church is one of the most significant works of Spanish baroque architecture in South America. It is the best know church in Quito because almost the entire interior is profusely decorated with gold-leaf.
Next was a quick stop at La Ronda Street. This street is the oldest in Quito and the city has gone to great lengths to restore it back to its original colonial charm. For expample, when the street was torn up to modernize the sewage system, each of the 18th century cobblestones was numbered and replaced in its original position.
The last stop on the tour was Panecillo….. a hill that overlooks the city of Quito.
Hi Kristilew--- are you going on this trip (Ecuador)??? :goodvibes
Great start, looking forward to your report!:thumbsup2
The hotel phone rang promptly at 6:00am on Wednesday, November 7, 2012. Didn’t we just go to sleep? Oh well. Get up and get dressed. We had just over an hour before our suitcases had to be outside the door. (Then Tinkerbell comes and takes them to the bus. It’s called Disney magic).
The other people on the trip began to congregate in the lobby of the hotel. This was the first time that we were all meeting. We also got to meet the other Adventure Guide, Eduardo. He is from Quito so we were in good hands. We started the day with a welcome breakfast at the hotel.
Then it was off to the Equator. Ecuador means “equator” in Spanish. We did not go to the “Middle of the Earth” monument in Pichincha because that is geographically inaccurate. We went to the Quitsato Sundial, which is truly N 00*00’00″.
After the equator, we stopped at a rose farm. These roses grow more than 6 feet tall and come in every color. Ecuador is one of the top producing country of roses. We watched the process of how the roses are grown, cultivated, clipped, stored and shipped. It takes about 10 days for a rose to get from the farm to an American store. We also saw a llama attack one of the gals on the trip (Lori is fine, but now stays far away from llamas).
Then we went a famous flute maker. We even got to make our our flutes. Afterwards, we visited a weaver.
Finally, we arrived at Hacienda Pinsaqui, near Otavalo. The hacienda was built in 1790 and is very beautiful. We had a wonderful dinner at the hacienda that evening.
Thursday, November 8, 2012, was another day in the Ecuadorian Highlands. Our first stop was the Parque Condor, where they rescue and rehabilitate condors and other birds. We also saw a bald eagle fly over the Otavalo Valley.
Then it was on to an open field where we fly some kites. After many tries, I finally got my kite in the air. We had lunch at Puerto Lago and then did some shopping at the famous Otavalo Market. We saw many beautiful handmade items– scarfs, rugs, paintings. I bought a few items for my kids, but I could have spent a lot of money there.
We were back to the Hacienda at 3:45pm. Unfortunately, I needed to check my email (I may have been on vacation, but I need to be there for my clients) so I missed a painting activity. It’s okay though because I am not an artist. My stick figures are pathetic. I can’t say much for my cooking skills either. At 6:15, there was a cooking demonstration and I made the ugliest empanada. It tasted yummy though.
At our BBQ dinner, they served an Ecuadorian delicacy— guinea pig. Most of the people on the trip (BTW- it was all adults on our trip) tasted it, but not me!
“Hello lady, wake up call!” That is the phone call we received from the people at the Hacienda at 4:00am on Friday, November 9, 2012! Yes, 4:00am. Bags out at 5am and off to breakfast. We had to be on the bus by 6am for the more than 2 hour bus ride back to the Quito airport. It was off the the Galapagos Islands.
Disney arranged for us to wait in the VIP lounge at the airport. That is another Disney differnce when on an Adventures by Disney trip. We were able to check our email and have something to eat and drink. We also waited for the hacienda worker to arrive with Lori’s passport.
It was day 5 and Lori had already been through a lot.
1. The day she arrived, she got altitue sickness (headache, fatigue, dizziness). Disney was right on top of it and had a pure oxygen tank for her. She did feel better after the first day.
2. At the rose farm, Lori got attacked by a llama. Laura, our Adventure Guide, grabbed the llama and Lori was unhurt.
3. One morning at the Hacienda, we got on the bus to go to the Parque Condor and Lori noticed the large center diamond from her wedding band was missing. All the agents got out and searched. Lori did find the diamond in her room. Whew.
4. And, finally, Lori left her purse…. with her passport….. at the Hacienda. She did notice this about a half hour into the trip to the airport so Laura called the Hacienda and one of the workers got into his car and drive to the Quito airport. Disney talked some magic and the airport security people allowed her in the VIP lounge, but she needed the passport to actually get on the plane. Just minutes before the plane took off, Lori’s passport arrived!
We had a 35-minute flight to Guayaquil, which is actually the largest city in Ecuador. A 45-minute layover and then a one-hour and 35 minute flight to Baltra. The Galapagos Islands are 600 miles west of Ecuador and consist of 13main islands and more than 100 islets.
Upon landing in Baltra on Santa Cruz Island we had to take a bus to the ferry to another bus to get to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Scientists here are constantly working on conservation of the Galapagos ecosystems. Then we took a zodiac (dingy) to the Galapagos Explorer II ship. We had about hour before the 7pm safety drill and dinner.
Today (Saturday, November 10, 2012) we got to sleep in….. until 6:30am. About an hour later, we were the first ones off the ship. (Another “Disney Difference”— those on the Adventure by Disney trip were allowed off the ship first. This means that the we were the first to see the animals and had more time on the islands). We took a nature walk and saw land iguanas, flamingos and crabs. Then we had time to snorkel.
After lunch back on the GEII, we took another excursion on Santa Cruz Island. On this hike, we saw lots of Galapagos Sea Lions and Fur Sea Lions. Being fairly social, and one of the most numerous species in the Galápagos archipelago, the Sea Lions are often spotted sun-bathing on sandy shores or rock groups or gliding gracefully through the surf. Their loud bark, playful nature, and graceful agility in water make them the “welcoming party” of the islands.
We had another nice dinner on the ship and then off to bed for me.
During the night, the GEII sailed to Genovesa Island where the ship docked in a crater. The next morning, Sunday, November 11, 2012, we were off the island for a nature hike with our nature guide, Vico. On this hike we saw more sea lions (I love them!!!), nazca ****ies and red-footed ****ies. These birds got their name from the Spanish word “bobo”, which means “dunce”. During mating season, the males do a goofy dance in order to attract a mate.
After lunch on the ship and an afternoon “white elephant” game with our group, it was time for another trip to Genovesa Island. Unfortunately, I decided to stay on the ship because I was not feeling well. The others went snorkeling and sat on the beach with the sun bathing sea lions.
Disney had a wine and cheese social for us before another delicious dinner.
Today, Monday, November 12, 2012, was my favorite day of the trip. This morning we were on North Seymour Island and our excursion left at 7:45am. Here we saw some blue-footed ****ies and more sea lions (I can’t get enough of those cuties!).
Then it was time for snorkeling. I am not much of a water person but I was not going to miss this last chance to snorkel in the Galapagos. I jumped into the water, wet suit and all, and I thought I was going to die…… the water was FREEZING (70 degrees IS cold). I debated getting back on the zodiac, but I finally warmed up and started snorkeling. Fishies. Fishies. More fishies. And then…… a “teenage” sea lion came to swim with us. He swam over, under and around us. I can’t explain how exciting it is to swim with an animal (and such a cute one) in the natural environment.
During lunch, the GEII sailed back to Santa Cruz Island. Here we went to a farm to see the Giant Galapagos Tortoises. These are the largest living species of tortoises, weighing around 800 pounds and reaching lengths of about 6 feet long. They live around 100 years!
We were back on the GEII around 6pm and had about two hours to rest before dinner. Unfortunately, it was our last night and it was time to pack after dinner.
DAYS NINE & TEN
The next two days (Tuesday, November 13 and Wednesday, November 14, 2012) were travel days. We woke up at 6:00am because bags had to be out by 6:30am. Disney arranged for us to be the LAST off the ship (another “Disney Difference”). After we disembarked at 10:00am, we spent some time at the San Cristobal Interpretation Center and then shopping in town.
We flew from San Cristobal to Guayaquil, Ecuador and then to Quito. We arrived back to the JW Marriott around 6pm. Adventures by Disney arranged a special farewell dinner for us a local boutique hotel (Hotel Plaza Grande).
After dinner, there was not much time for sleep because I had to meet my airport transfer at 4:00am. Here is my itinerary for Wednesday:
•Depart Quito at 6:17am and arrive Panama City, Panama at 8:12am
•Depart Panama City, Panama at 9:45am and arrive Montego Bay, Jamaica at 11:45am
•Depart Montego Bay, Jamaica at 1:40pm and arrive to Charlotte, North Carolina at 4:15pm
Don’t feel too bad for me— I used my frequent flier miles to upgrade to first class. And that is the end of a wonderful trip with Adventures by Disney.
I hope you enjoyed my trip report. Please ask me any questions and I will be happy to answer. I would have posted pictures by I don't know how. LOL.
Some packing tips:
Hat. They tell you to bring a hat, but I hate hats so I didn't. My head got sunburned this first day so then I bought one.
Shampoo and conditioner. The shampoo and conditioner at the hacienda and on the ship leave much to be desired.
Comfortable shoes. Like hiking shoes or tennis shoes. The hikes on the islands are on uneven ground. They aren't difficult, just uneven ground.
Bug spray. And use it. I brought it and forgot to use it the first day. Then I itched like crazy.
Lightweight windbreaker. It did not get cold, but it got VERY windy. I do not get cold so I just dealt with the wind, but the windbreaker would have been good.
I'll keep thinking and add to the list as I remember.
Great report! Where did you have lunch after the Rose Plantation? I also noticed they took out the waterfalls- we all heard about that happening. And of course Lori reported her Llama " attack" on another thread ....LOL! Luckily, Laura was there to save the day!
I'd love to see some picks, and if you are willing I will walk you through it:
1) find a website to upload your photos to; you can use your own FaceBook account, or one of many photo sharing websites.
2) from there you can either
A. Share the link to the photo hosting website here OR
B. Go to the photo you want to post and right click on it. You will be given an menu of choices; choose to "copy image URL"
3) go to this thread and "paste" into a post...this will bring up a little string of words, the URL eg. http/www.shutterfly.com/rosefarm
4) The exact words don't matter, that's just an "address" of where the photo is. To make it " a picture you can see" you need to add this...
Don't forget that you need to put a "dot" or period in right before that jpeg word! .jpeg
5) when you add those characters written in orange to either end of the " words" it will go to the website where the photo is and show the photo right in your post.
6) you can test if you added the right characters and see if it posted the photo by doing "preview post" and if the photo comes up- it worked! If not something in amiss ( missed a slash or a period or maybe the photo never posted properly on the host site.)
If you want, try it with just one or two photos...I was afraid to try at first, but once I got used to it, I learned to do it quickly! The key thing is finding a website to host your photos so there is an address to refer to!
Some general tips:
Arrive one day early. I am so glad I did this. First, the city of Quito is wonderful and worth a visit. And it is good to get acclimated to the climate and rest after a long day of travel.
Bring small bills (money). For more than 10 years, Ecuador has used dollars, but they like small bills such as $1s, $5s and $10s.
Oh boy, I am still thinking. I will add them as I think of them.
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