Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Submitted by RW

After our week-long cruise in the Galapagos and several days of scuba diving, we returned to mainland Ecuador. Our first stop was a small organic cacao farm just outside of Puerto Quito, near the Choco rainforest. Well, I say ¨first stop¨, but getting there was an adventure in itself.

We had always planned on making some chocolate as part of our honeymoon, but when we arrived in Ecuador we discovered that the farm recommended in our guidebook was no longer operating. Going by word of mouth, we were told to take the bus to Puerto Quito, hop off at the pharmacy and ask for Yamile. What we had thought would be a 2-hour bus ride turned into 5 hours. We accidentally passed Puerto Quito, had to hop off at the next town, return on the bus in the opposite direction, get off at the correct location, find a pharmacy, ask for Yamile, find the OTHER pharmacy, ask again, be assured that every taxi in town knows Yamile, flag a taxi, flag a taxi that worked (the other one just got pushed down the street for about a quarter mile and never started), figure out that we didn´t know where we were going, return to the pharmacy for directions, drive about 20 minutes down a dirt road, and show up at a completely dark house at night. Hmm.

But the taxi driver honked and hollered until people at the house heard us, and Yamile, the owner of the cacao farm, came and gave us a warm welcome even though we had shown up with no notice. We stayed for several days and were able to toast and grind cacao beans, then press the paste into bars which we were able to take with us. While there we also ate a lot of fantastic food, went swimming in the river, and took a tour of a local shade-grown cacao farm with over 40 types of fruit trees and a tour of the local cacao cooperative´s processing plant in town. We had a fabulous time and were sorry that we had to leave so soon, but we had already booked a trip to the Amazon.

After 8 hours on an overnight bus, 2 hours by truck, and 5 hours by motorized canoe, we arrived at our camp in the Cuyabeno National Park. For the next four days we spent our time hiking, motoring, and paddling through tropical rainforest, and we were very pleased by all of the animals that we saw. Some of the highlights include two species of river dolphin (the pink dolphin, which looks like a prehistoric beast with a bump on its forehead and a keeled back, and the gray dolphin, which is just like a miniature bottlenose - cute!!!), six species of primates, a tiny juvenile poison dart frog, and best of all, two river otters (not the giant species, but a smaller species) that we were able to view for several minutes swimming around and catching fish and squeaking. We left feeling that we had seen as much as we could reasonably expect, although one always hopes for the best (We really wanted to see a sloth, which apparently we only missed by a couple of days, and the same happened with an anaconda that had been regularly sighted in the area). Now we have a lot of good memories and hopefully no malaria, despite the weight loss incurred due to our inadvertent blood donations to the mosquitoes!

The days have been flying by, and with a month of travel under our belts, we decided we better get ourselves to Peru ASAP. We flew from Quito all the way to Cuzco (overnighting in the airport in Lima).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Galapagos Islands

Submitted by RW

Galapagos - what a great place both for wildlife and scuba!We saw lots of great things, and about all of them up close and usually avoiding stepping on them including but not limited to sea lions, giant land tortoises, land and marine iguanas, magnificent frigate birds, albatrosses, masked and blue-footed boobies, a Galapagos hawk, many-a-Darwin finch and some other stuff. Scuba diving we saw green and hawk's-bill sea turtles, spotted eagle and sting rays, white-tipped reef, Galapagos and hammerhead sharks, sea horses, moray eels, scorpion fish, frog fish, tuna, pipefish, barracuda, and more!!

Saturday, January 06, 2007


If you don't already have one (and only 27% of U.S. citizens do), it's time to get a passport. Beginning January 23, passports will be required for all air travelers returning to the U.S. from Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico. Land and cruise passengers will face the same requirements within the next two years. Visit for information on applying for or renewing a passport.