A Travellerspoint blog

Amazon Cruise - Sunday, 29 March 2015

Cruising the Amazon

semi-overcast 33 °C

Same drill as yesterday.  Wake up call at 6.30 am (but we set our alarm for 6.00 am), breakfast at 7.00 am and on the boat at 8.00 am.

We sat with Jenny at breakfast and she told us that she had a pet spider when she was 9. No wonder she was happy to hold the tranatula!

Our purpose this morning was to find several species of monkeys, which we did.  Julio is just fabulous at finding things.  How he can spot nocturnal, tiny monkeys in a hole in a very tall tree, is beyond me.  But find them he did.

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A ranger's hut in the flooded Amazon.

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We found about four different species of monkeys, jumping from branch to branch.  It was too difficult to photograph them, so I just watched the display.

Saw lots of butterflies today, especially some beautiful, bright blue ones. At one stage we nosed the boat into the jungle and sat there quitely, with our eyes closed and listened to the sounds.

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Mary got stung by something that landed on her arm and looked a bit like a wasp.  There was a big red welt on her arm but it was starting to go down by the time we got back.  Something dropped down the inside of my shirt.  Goodness knows what it was, but Julio squashed it.

On the way back to the boat, we approached some fishermen in a kayak and Julio bought some fish from them.

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This is a species of pirana and this is an Amazon trout.

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Before lunch we all assembled in the bar area and the chef demonstrated how to make a traditional dish - cheviche - raw fish marinated in lemon juice, plusca lot of other herbs.  It is really nice and Elfie won the completed dish by answering a question about which river we were exploring this morning.

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Then Ivan, the room boy, demonstrated how to fold towels.  He made a sloth and a turtle.  Very, very clever.

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Then Robinson, the barman, showed us how to make a Pisco Sour and I won the completed drink by telling them the name of the monkey that we saw this morning with the bushy tail - Michael Jackson!

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Had a delicious lunch and a rest.  I finished reading my Agatha Christie book "Elephants Can Remember" and much to my surprise had worked out the plot about half way through.

This is Jessica, our masseuse.

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Nice reflections.

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Back into the dinghy for our afternoon/evening excursion.  Now what else would you do on a Sunday afternoon in the Amazon?  Why, go fishing for Piranha, of course!  We pulled into a couple of spots and threw our lines in.  Our bait kept getting pinched but we persevered and everyone caught a fish except Phil.

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This piranha was caught by Robinson, our barman, who was on our dinghy.

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I believe my fish is called an Amazon Sardine!  Anyway, we had great fun.

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This is one of the nicest photos I have ever taken.

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Sometimes we got into some tight situations!

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Before sunset when we started spotlighting for nocturnal animals, both dinghys came together and we had nuts and champagne cocktails in the middle of nowhere in the Amazon.  Simply magic!

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Lovely sunsets.

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We found a Cayman and I held it.  It was okay until it started to wriggle about and then I handed it back!

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Back on board and before dinner we had a wrap up of the tour.  Then the crew performed a couple of songs with Ivan, the room person, whose nickname is "Elvis" and the Captain played the bongos.  We all got up and danced and it was really great.  FINALLY we went in for dinner at about 9.15 pm.  We sat with Sharon and John at dinner and then raced into bed as we have a very early start tomorrow.

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This is the piranha we caught today, all cooked up for us to eat. Amparo ate a whole one. They were very boney but I had a little taste. Not really my cup of tea.

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Another fabulous day in the Amazon!

Posted by gaddingabout 15:05 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Amazon Cruise - Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cruising through the Amazon

Well here is the bad news. While we were in the Amazon we did not have wifi, so I was typing my daily blog in draft emails and a week later when we were back in civilisation, I copied the draft into my blog and then deleted the draft. I have now discovered that the blog for the 28th of March has disappeared so now,10 days later, I will have to try to recall what happened on that day. Easy, you might think, but each day since then has been so full of amazing experiences, so I will have a look at my photos and try and work it out from them. Dumbkoff!!

We have the whole boat to ourselves which means everyone has been accommodated on the top deck, all 15 of us. There are eight cabins on each deck, so realistically 32 people could be on board. We are so lucky!

Wake up call at 6.30 am (but we were up at 6), breakfast at 7 and on the boat at 8am. We have two skiffs to cruise the Amazon in - one guided by Daniel and the other by Julio. We were in Julio's boat and off we went for our first expedition. We are all terribly excited.

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This is one of the local ferries that transport the locals up and down the river. The trips usually take about five days and are definitely luxury cruises. They sleep in hammocks suspended from the ceiling. Not sure what they do for meals.

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We went down small tributaries and into grass. The river is in flood at the moment and is three metres higher than it should be and is expected to rise another metre. This means that we are unable to trek on the land, but I am quite happy about that. Too many creep crawlies for me! We have to keep reversing to clear the rudder from all the weed.

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Julio is amazing at spotting things. We saw many beautiful birds and butterflies, monkeys, frogs and lizards. How he could spot this guy who is camouflaged so well, I just don't know.

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We met up with the other boat and they had a pink toed tarantula on board and passed it into our board. Jenny was quite happy to pick it up and let it crawl over her hand! Good grief. Apparently they will only bite you if they sense you are scared!

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It is just so beautiful cruising along. It's like we are the only people in the whole world.

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These people came alongside in their canoe and tried to sell us things.

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We found these fabulous lily pads and one was in flower.

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Then these monkeys put on a fantastic acrobatic display for us. They are such show offs and make so much noise.

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We made a "comfort" stop at a resort deep in the jungle. This is me and Daniel, one of the guides. His daughter was called Wendy. There was a jaguar there that comes and goes and lives in the jungle and is not caged up. He was very scared of us and ran away as quickly as he could.

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Some locals in canoes. You wonder how many little children and babies fall in the river and drown.

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Some more locals!

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Back on board after a fabulous morning on the river for a scrummy lunch. This is the view from our bedroom window/wall.

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After lunch, back on the skiff and exploring again. There was an opportunity for us to go canoeing with some locals but Jenny and I were the only ones who took up the offer. It was a great experience.

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Then we could go for a swim in the Amazon but I was brave enough to do that. Jenny was the only one who did. The water was a bit too murky for me and I didn't want anything nibbling at my toes!

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The weather was quite overcast and I had block out on EVERYWHERE except the tops of my knees. Ouch! Actually they look worse than they feel.

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Into bed after a fabulous dinner and an amazing day on the Amazon.

Posted by gaddingabout 14:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima - Amazon Cruise - Friday, 27 March 2015

Fly to Iquitos to join our cruise

By the time we had checked in and fiddled around in our room, pressing all sorts of buttons and having electronic curtains open and close and blinds whizz up and down, AND having a very relaxing bubble bath AND FINALLY shaving the legs, we were in bed at midnight and fell asleep the minute our heads hit the beautiful soft pillow.  The bed is divine!

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We have a relaxed morning today before we leave for the airport at noon.  We have shed some more heavy clothes that we won't be needing in the Amazon and will collect them from the hotel on our way back.  We are leaving bundles of clothes all over South America!

We went for a quick walk to the local supermarket and bought some mixers for our gin and scotch.  We left some in our bag in Lima and put some in our bag for the MV Aria in the Amazon.

Went down to the foyer and met the five new people joining our group.  Rod and Andrea, and Jenny from Perth and Sharon and John from Sydney.

Arrived at the airport, checked in without a hitch and are now waiting for our flight to be called.

We have changed gates three times!  It is so funny here. Thank goodness our guide speaks Spanish. First it was Gate 6, so we all trudged down the stairs.  Just got settled and Amparo said the gate had changed to Gate 11.  We all trudged up the stairs again.  Just got settled and then Amparo told us the gate was changed again to Gate 5, so we all trudged down the stairs again.  Now she tells us that our flight has been delayed by 30 minutes.  And they have changed us to another aircraft.  Hope the bags make it.  This is a crazy place!  I think a flight to somewhere has been cancelled as all the people are yelling at the airline staff.  This is like a circus.

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We all squashed on to the bus which was to drive us to our plane.  As we were driving along the tarmac, a huge big plane came along side of us and did a right hand turn right in front of us.  We braked, just as well, or else we would have been wiped out by a wing!  As I said, this place is a circus.

Our flight to Iquitos, which means "people isolated by water", took about one hour, forty minutes.  When we checked in at Lima, airline staff told us that there was really bad weather in Iquitos.  Maybe that was why our take off was delayed.  But the flight was pretty smooth and there didn't seem to be much evidence of a storm when we landed.

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Lima always has a polution cloud hanging over it and this is because it NEVER rains in Lima.  All the cars are dusty.  I'm not sure where they get their water from. I'll have to ask Amparo.

We drove for quite a while in the bus to get to the wharf.  It was dark and it was about 6.30 pm. The streets were teeming with traffic - cars, motor bikes, overloaded buses, trucks and the good old Asian tuk tuks.  Actually, it was like driving in Vietnam or Bali.  Some kids were coming out of school.  They have two sittings - 8 am to 1 pm and then 1.30 pm to 6.30 pm.

At the wharf we boarded some skiffs, which were metal boats with seats along each side, and no roof.  It was just lovely sailing across the water in the dark, with the warm air blowing in our faces.

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Then our first glimpse of the MV Aria.  It is just lovely and the good news is that we are the only ones on board.  It has 16 cabins which means it could hold 32 guests, but we are only 16, which will be tremendous.  We have a room safe, but no door keys.  You can lock the door once you are in your room, but not when you leave it.  It's really good not having to worry about a room key.

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There is a security guard on board who remains hidden from the guests.  He is equipped with guns etc and is here for the safety of the guests.  Apparently, a couple of years ago, pirates took over one of these ships and tied up all the passengers.  Scary, but there don't seem to be many ships around.

We had a quick briefing in the lounge, then a life jacket drill, then into dinner, which was seven small courses.  I am so full!

Our cabin is wonderful.  Lots of room and a very comfy bed and the outside wall is a floor to ceiling window.  I can hardly wait to see it in the day light.  We are now sailing and it is time to go to sleep.  For the first time during this trip, I am having a hay fever attack.  Bugger!

Anyway, I think I have died and gone to heaven.  Looking forward to tomorrow.

Posted by gaddingabout 19:31 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Galapagos Islands - Lima, Peru - Thursday, 26 March 2015

Fly to Lima, Peru

Our alarm was set for 5.30 am but we were awake before then and did a final packing of our big bags and were down for breakfast at 6.00 am.  Only five of our group, Annie and Byron, Lol and Tony and me are going ashore for a final excursion.

We left just after 7.00 am to go ashore.  The morning was cool and beautiful and we even photographed the sunrise.

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It was a "wet" landing and then we walked along a very soft, sandy beach.  We saw lots of places where the turtles had been ashore the night before to lay their eggs.  Once the turtle has laid her eggs, she leaves them buried in the sand and never comes back for them when they are hatching.  They then have to fend for themselves.  Only about 6 per cent survive.

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These are turtle tracks.

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These are the remnants of the barge landings by the Americans on Baltra Island - hence the name.  The people couldn't say "barge", so in their language it became "baltra".

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We walked up a small rise in the sand dunes and came across "the flamingo restaurant" and lucky for us, there were four flamingos having breakfast.  It was quite a peaceful and beautiful scene.

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All too quickly we had to leave to go back to the ship and that was the end of our Galapagos experience.

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Once we were all back on board, the ship sailed a very small distance and anchored and then the disembarkation commenced.  As with our recent embarkations and disembarkations, it all went like clockwork and before we knew it, we were arriving at Baltra Airport, being greeted by Ampara with our boarding passes.

A few of us used the ATM at the airport to replenish our supplies of American dollars.  The machine was slow and temperamental, but worked in the end, with a lot of help from Ampara.

On our way to the gate, we bumped into Anna Maria, who we met in Buenos Aires and who is now the Scenic Representative for all of South America.  We were expecting to see her in Quito but missed her by a day.  She had with her Jade, from the Scenic Office in Newcastle who is on a fact finding tour.

Our flight for Guayaquil left at about 11.30 am and is expected to land at about 1.10 pm.

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I am so pleased that the whole time on board I didn't get sea sick and didn't have to use the ear patch.  Mind you, it was pretty smooth sailing and the sea was very calm.

We had an uneventful flight to Guayaquil and upon landing we all hurried out to the arrivals hall to meet our guide who, for 45 USD, was taking us on a tour of Guayaquil for a few hours, because our flight wasn't leaving until 6.30 pn.

Guayaquil is a lovely city, but it is very hot and steamy.  Apparently it is like this all year round.  I couldn't stand to live here.  Our first stop was a lovely park with a huge statue commemorating the independence of Guayaquil from the Spanish on the 12th of October 1820.  I am sure a lot of tourists come to Guayaquil, but we are causing quite a stir.  Everyone is looking at us and waving and saying "hello".  It's quite weird. The iguanas just stroll around the park, just like cats or dogs.

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Next stop was the boardwalk along the river.  It is a huge river and the boardwalk is very modern and has a few statues on it too.  The buildings are really special.

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We went to Bolivar Park which is lush and green and has iguanas walking all over it.  They are in the trees, on the ground and in the pond.  We are becoming a little blaźe about iguanas now.  We see them everywhere.

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There was a church over the road from the park.  We went in for a look.  It was a typical church with not much decoration.

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We then drove to an old area of town that has been restored to its original condition.  Houses in this part of town cost anything from half a million to one million.  We are all so hot and as much as we enjoyed the tour of Guayaquil, we were glad to be back on the air conditioned bus, heading for the airport.

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We were the first of our group to go through immigration, and it took us 30 minutes to get through.  Phil was processed quite quickly but I was the problem.  Even though I had all the correct stamps in my passport, apparently I had not been entered into the system and they were having a problem with the hard drive.  They photocopied my passport and then let us pass.

One of the cafes inside the airport had free wifi so we all ordered some late lunch and a beer and caught up on our emails.

Just as we boarded the plane, a huge thunderstorm hit and we sat on the tarmac for about 40 minutes until it passed.  There was a lot of rain and lightning and very loud thunder claps.  We finally took off for the one and a half hour flight to Lima, Peru.

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Posted by gaddingabout 19:32 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Galapagos Islands - Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Sailed during the night to Seymour North Island.  Wake up call at 6.45 am.  Breakfast at 7.00 am and the first group went ashore at 8.00 am.  Because we were first ashore yesterday, we were one of the last groups to go ashore today.  Took some lovely sunrise shots today.  There were lots of Frigate birds gliding over the ship this morning.  It was mesmerising watching them.  They were so elegant.

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It was supposed to be a "dry" landing, but when we arrived at the landing site, they decided to land in one particular area which meant we had a small area of sand to cross, BUT the waves were washing over it from both sides.  You just had to be patient and wait for the waves to subside, and then make a run for it.  I was fine in my Sketches shoes which are actually designed to get wet.

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Once we were across the other side, our walk started.  It was very hot and humid and no breeze.  We walked along the beach for a while and then headed inland.  Before we went inland, we saw some iguanas on the rocks.  They are so beautifully camouflaged.  There was also a Blue Heron.

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Everything is so beautifully camouflaged except these crabs.  It's a wonder they haven't evolved into something else.

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At the beginning the path was quite rocky and difficult to walk.  You really had to watch where you were stepping.  The mud was extremely sticky and stuck to the soles of our shoes.  There were also some big puddles of red water.  Quite a stunning landscape.  Lots of different species of birds flying around and then we spied the big land iguanas.  They are bigger than the water ones, but weren't as plentiful.  They were a bit more active than the water ones, probably because we saw the water ones early in the morning and they were lying on the volcanic rocks trying to warm up.

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This is a land iguana's burrow.  They are all over this island.  The female lays her eggs in there and then leaves them.  The new born iguanas have to fend for themselves.  They have a survival rate of about 60%, which isn't too bad.

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It was very, very hot walking and then we came up a little rise and had a beautiful view of the ocean and the ship.  We had another group photo taken.

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We then started back to the landing place and Fatima went at a cracking pace.  I felt sorry for those at the back who perhaps weren't quite so fit and were feeling the heat.

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I was glad I was up front with her because we came across this fellow walking along the path.

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Back at the landing spot, the tide had subsided so there was no problem walking across the beach to board the zodiac.  Also, the sea is a lot calmer today so climbing on board was a lot easier and less stressful for some than yesterday.

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When we arrive back on board after an excursion, there is usually a little snack waiting for us.  Today there was a chocolate fountain. Yum yum.

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Just time for a quick shower and down to the bar for a disembarkation briefing.  Ampora then gave us our own disembarkation briefing and we went to lunch.  I left lunch a bit early to enter these two photos in the photo competition.  I was supposed to have them on a memory card, but they are just on my tablet, so the guy very kindly took a photo of my photos with his phone and submitted them for me.  Fingers crossed!

We met with Ampara to choose our excursions in Peru and then started to pack for our departure tomorrow.

Before we knew it, they were calling the groups for the 4.00 pm excursion ashore.  It was a dry landing onto the rocks and as we walked up the steps, there were a couple of sea lions basking in the sun.

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As we came up from the beach, it was quite evident that this "bird heaven".  They were everywhere - flying around, nesting in the trees, walking along the ground.  There were also iguanas everywhere you looked - land iguanas.  We are almost becoming blazè about the iguanas.  We have seen a lot of them.  These were very active - walking around, climbing trees - because it was very, very hot and as they are reptiles, they need to be warm before they become active.

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The birds!  What can I say?  They were everywhere.  We saw Galapagos doves, Frigates, Blue Footed Boobies, and many, many more.

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This is the male Frigate, of course, trying to attract a mate.  They are magnificent birds.

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The wing span is huge and this poor mother is trying to feed her baby (who is almost as big as her) in a really spikey tree.

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These male and female Blue Footed Boobies were doing a mating dance.  We could have stayed there for hours watching them but unfortunately, we had to move on.
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It was so hot and there was hardly any breeze. 

We came across more Frigate birds and we were so close to them and they just sit there - they are not frightened and don't feel threatened at all.

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When the time came to board the zodiac to go back to the ship, there was a small obstruction on the steps down to the zodiac.  A mother seal with her cub had taken up occupation of the steps and wasn't moving for anyone.  Also it is not the done thing in the Galapagos to shoo animals away.  YOU walk around them.  So here we are, scrambling down the cliff side while she lies there suckling her cub.   As we passed you could hear the sucking/slurping noise of the cub feeding.  It was so special.

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Back on board and got ready for our farewell dinner.  There was a large bottle of complimentary champagne in our cabin when we arrived, so we decided to share it with our group at our farewell dinner.  Everyone appreciated the gesture. 

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After dinner we went upstairs for the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party, which is really funny because the Captain doesn't attend.  We had a cocktail which I sat on the coffee table and it had a ridge on it which I didn't see and it tipped over and went all over Tony's pants.

This is Chantal, who joined our group of Cormorants. She had a great sense of humour and was great fun. She lives in Scotland.

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The winner and runner up of the photo competition were announced and it wasn't me.  A photo of a bird in a tree won and one of an iguana came second.

Into to bed as we have an early start tomorrow - disembarkation day.

Posted by gaddingabout 06:27 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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