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Eschew Mar 19th, 2012 12:13 PM

The ship has been renovated since last Spring (Dry docked last August) sp the ship should be in even better shape than what your Mom experienced.

Take lots of pictures and post them!

Leslie_S Mar 22nd, 2012 10:21 AM

Oh, good to know as she thought it was a lot nicer than she expected. I'll take pix. The problem will be narrowing them down to a postable amount but that's a chore I look forward to :)

Librarylass Mar 26th, 2012 10:25 PM

Hi Eschew,
Thank you for such a in-depth description of your time in the Galapagos on the Galapagos Explorer II! My sister and I will be leaving for Peru and Ecuador in 2 weeks covering some of what you did on your trip. You answered so many questions that I had about what to expect!
I have to say that I'm really curious about what happened to you in Ollantaytambo. You mentioned that you hurt your arm--did you hurt yourself while looking at the ruins? Is there something about visiting the ruins that we should be careful of? I hope your arm has healed by now.
P.S. Great photographs!

Eschew Mar 28th, 2012 03:27 PM

Librarylass, thank you for your comments.

My "injury" at Ollantaytambo was a total accident, and I blame myself for being a bit careless. At the time of our visit, it was the start of the raining season and it had been raining for a few days prior to our arrival at Ollantaytambo.

We walked up the steps to the top and the rocks were wet and slippery. It was raining steadily te whole time. The grounds were muddy and water was running down from the top, through the trail and the steps.

Two of us decided to take the terraces' steps to go from one terrace to terrace, to experince what the Inca people had done for years. Those "steps" were rocks that just stick out on the side of the wall of the terrace. (You will know what I mean by the terrace steps once you see it in person, and it is hard to show it on a picture.) That was fine as we were extra careful on those steps.

Once we were done with our "stunts", we got back to the regular path (and steps). On our way down, I slipped and started to slide down the side (not good) so I extended my right hand to break the fall (and slide). I ended up jamming my thumb and my right arm all the way up and to the shoulder very hard. It was quite a jolt, especially cosnidering my "advanced age" ;).

What to watch out for? Slippery steps when it is wet. :)

I was careless as I thought it would be nothing after racing through the Terarce steps. I was sort of "hurrying" to catch up to DW so that might have added to my extra opportunity for the mis-step.

I was okay the first day other than the bruises on my rear end and the back side. DW took a picture of the black and bruised rear end for "posterity" but it wouldn't be suitable for pubic viewing.:D (to Percy & Larry, you can hold back your laughter now)

The day after, my palm and my thumb started to swallon up (I can't even hold a pen to sign my name to check into the hotel). My neck and my shoulder get realy stiff and I lost some movement. i can only turn my head up to about 15 degrees (not very much) and I only have limited range of motion on my right arm becasue of the stiff neck and shoulder. As of to date, I am almost back to normal (as ormal can be).

By the way, I have added a handful of pictures to the Galapagos albumn. the additions were snorkelling with the sea turtles, the land bridge, and the "shell" game. I was surpirse that I did not post them earlier.

Have a great trip and I would love to hear about your adventure on a TR here!

Librarylass Mar 31st, 2012 08:20 AM

Ouch! Oh Oh Eschew --it sounds like something I would do. Last November--( perhaps while you were falling down ruins in Peru) I was in Kauai--running to tell my DH about the amazing whale spout I just spotted-tripped over a small lava rock planter and landed on a cement patio--fractured wrist (still bothering me) and ended up sporting multiple bruises and pizza-skin patches as well. I have a history of falling down while excited about seeing swell stuff. Now will make extra effort to be careful at Ollantaytambo/Peru ruins.
Enjoyed your added photos. We leave for Peru/Ecuador in 8 days!

Eschew Apr 1st, 2012 11:39 AM

Librarylass, I had good hiking boots on at the time. The combination of mud on my shoes, slippery rocky steps, and steady rain did not help.

If you are adventurous on your footware, you should check out the footware selection that I had worn at the Galapagos. At this point, we may return to thr Galapagos in May (in 2 to 3 year's time) and stop in other islands.

Are you going to make stops at Puno (Lake Titicaca) or Pisco/Ica to see the Nazca lines?

kenav Apr 2nd, 2012 05:29 AM

What shoes did you wear while on land in the Galapagos?

Eschew Apr 5th, 2012 10:49 AM

My Vivo minimalist or the Vibram 5-fingers depending on the terrain. If it is strictly hikes, Vibram. If it is hike & beach or snorkel, Vivo.

Vivo are very easy shoes to get used to. The Vibram, on the other hand, take some getting used to. You can definely use Vivo for all ocassions (except for sharp volanic rocks, you want a thicker bottom layer for that.) If you don't want to try Vibram, normal hiking shoes will do for the sharp volcanic rocks.

If you do not wear fins for snorkelling, the Vibram will work fine for beach & snorkelling as well. You can defineitly get both shoes wet with no issues. They are meant to get wet,a nd dries relatively fast. The Vibram may takes longer to dry than the Vivo (depending on which Vibram model you bought).

If you are not adventureous with your footware and do not want to try minialist shoes, Crocs would certainly do the trick for all wet landings and comfortable.

Librarylass Apr 6th, 2012 06:58 AM

Hi Again Eschew,

Yup, I have light hiking boots (Merrill waterproof)for walking the ruins and the rough parts of Galapagos. My trusty old Teva's will work for wet landings in the islands.
Do you recall if you did wet landings and rough terrain walks in the same panga trip? If so I may attempt barefoot landing and take my boots with me. I hate getting pebbles and stuff in sandals while on trails==ugh.
Oh, unfortunately we won't go to Lake T or see the Nazca lines--sigh. Really fun to see your pix of those spots!We are traveling with a Smartours itinerary so will not see as much cool stuff as you did. Thanks again for taking the time to give us such a comprehensive report--it was sooo helpful!
Chow for now!

Leslie_S Apr 6th, 2012 07:51 AM

Librarylass -- Hope you enjoy your rapidly approaching trip. Will you be writing anything up when you return? We're also doing a smartours Galapagos trip (not until May) and would love to hear your opinion (unless it's awful - then I don't need to know!!).

We're only doing the Ecuador portion because we've been to Peru recently.

I'd be especially interested to hear about the shoes you end up using & would recommend. Some make it sound like real hiking boots on lava are good to have but some have done it in flipflops (I would never do that) so there's quite a range when you read about other people's thoughts on footwear.

Librarylass Apr 6th, 2012 07:11 PM

Hi Leslie S,
We are flying to Miami tomorrow! I'm not much on keeping a journal--so don't plan to do a comprehensive review--but certainly will be willing to respond to questions! We will return home (CA) on 4/24--so will check back then and let you know what I see re: shoes. My sis plans to wear her regular walking shoes--not hiking boots--so we will make a comparison. She also has Tevas for wet landings.
Chow for now!

Eschew Apr 6th, 2012 10:13 PM

Librarylass, we have done wet landing and then hike (landed on the beach with volanic balck sand) If you plan to remove shoes, go barefoot when borading the zodiac, bring a small towel. Wet landing, wipe feet, put on shoes. That's where the minimalist shoes and Croc shoes comes in handy. I hope you catch this reply before you leave. Have a great trip!

Librarylass Apr 26th, 2012 07:36 AM

Hi all,
Just back from my SmarTours trip to Machu Picchu and Galapagos (5 days 4 nights) "cruise" on the MV Explorer II..and I'm still in the "wow--did all that really happen?!" stage of adventure travel. If you have any particular questions--ask me soon--I didn't have the time or energy to keep a journal--so don't know how long the gray matter will hold on to it all--and it was truly an action-packed and amazing journey! wow!

Leslie_S Apr 26th, 2012 08:23 AM

Welcome back! Sounds like you had a great trip from the little bit you wrote above. Did you think smartours did a good job? No problems with the hotel in Quito or the touring there?

Can you give me a hint about the level of "dressiness" on the ship for dinner? I'm hoping to be very casual - or did people get done up in the evenings?

Also - can you tell me what kind of shoes you wore? The whole wet landing thing perplexes me. I have some teva-like sandals that are waterproof but will I want to change out of them after getting on land into something sturdier and covered up? Should I take for example running shoes in my backpack and switch once we land?

Should I be doing research on Quito as far as restaurants near the Hilton (assuming you stayed in the same hotel we will be in a couple weeks) or are there good options close by?

Thanks for any answers or other advice!

Librarylass Apr 26th, 2012 01:53 PM

Hi Leslie S! Yes SmarTours did an excellent job of taking care of us--that's the way you will feel--well taken care of. I hope you get William Arevalo for your Ecuador Tour Guide--he is excellent! We were surprised to discover that he was to go with us to the Galapagos as well--and it was so good to have him there with us. He really filled in all the little blanks for us and made sure we were happy with everything. Oh the hotel in Quito is really nice--the Hilton Colon--right? Just like Eschew we bingoed with a view of the park and mountains from our 9th floor room on the first go around--but didn't get that view on our second visit--however the room and service were still excellent. We left our big luggage in the hotel storage(free service through smarTours) and took a duffel bag of appropriate clothing with us to Galapagos. When we returned from the islands our big luggage was already waiting for is in our new room---great service. Some folks decided to take their big luggage with them--which is OK if under 44 lbs. We didn't want to be bothered with our clothing from the Peru part of our trip. There are a couple good restaurants in Quito that William recommended and several folks went to and were very pleased with the food, etc. Be sure to only use taxis that are approved by the hotel and verify the fare before you get in the taxi. When you leave the restaurant to return to hotel have them get a taxi for you--then you know it will be an honest driver. A couple ladies had a bit of a problem with a taxi driver they waved down on the street --he wanted to keep the fare open to reveal at the end of the trip--not! Frankly, my sis and I ate in the hotel--the food was fine... and we were too exhausted at the end of each day to bother with finding a restaurant, etc.
On the ship-- dinner is about 8:00-ish each night and the most dressed woman up I saw had a dressy top with sparkly bits on it. Nothing anywhere near cocktail dressy. I wore white capri pants and nice tee shirts and sandals. There were no " appropriate clothing police" and some folks even wore their tevas or sneakers to dins. A couple ladies wore summer dresses--but nothing really fancy.
As far as footwear to/on the islands --I wore teva sandals for the wet landings--I'm glad I didn't go barefooted because there were small rocks even in the sandy parts and I personally didn't want to take chance with bruising my feet.
Once we had a wet landing with a hike--and they recommended that we take walking shoes along if we wished. I opted to just wear my tevas for the landing and the walk and later regretted it. I should have done as Eschew suggested--taken my walking shoes with me to put on after the landing. The tevas just didn't give me the stability I needed for parts of the hike. I thought the hike was going to have a smooth path--but it didn't--silly me. My sis wore her regular walking (tennis/running) shoes for all the hikes and the dry landingd. For the dry landings I wore my lightweight hiking shoes (Merrills) because I really appreciate the extra stability they give me. A couple of the dry landing hikes (especially on Espanola)you are walking on lava rocks (seemed more like boulders to me sometimes!)--I felt that the potential for me to twist my ankle was high ( I will be 70 in a few months--and just not as nimble on my feet as I wish I could be!) the hiking shoes gave me confidence and stability--that and watching nearly every step I took!
Oh-- when we returned to Quito our guide William offerred an optional day trip to the cloud forest for the last day there. Since I'm not a big shopper (anymore) and love to do birdwatching, and other nature stuff-- so me and my sis took that trip ( most of our group did) and wow! was it wonderful--if it sounds like something you might be interested in doing--let me know and I will tell you more about it. Some people opted to stay in town and shop, etc and they had fun too.
Have you received your final itinerary from SmarTours yet?It will have the name of your guide for the trip.
Chow for now,

Leslie_S Apr 26th, 2012 02:55 PM

Hi Librarylass -
Wow thanks for all of the helpful info. We have a different guide, Henry Teran the itinerary says, so hopefully he'll be as good as yours.

I'm thrilled to hear smartours came through - the prices on their trips are so cheap it seems way too good to be true. I've taken one trip with them previously to India/Nepal and thought it was fabulous so I was willing to take a chance on the Galapagos trip with them.

So glad to hear dinner on the ship is not dressy. I'm trying to pack super light and that'll be much easier if I don't need frou-frou clothes and shoes. I think we'll each have one small roll-aboard piece and a backpack so maybe we won't leave any luggage behind in Quito. We're not doing the Peru portion of the trip so we'll have less than you guys did.

And I'm happy to have the low-down on footwear. I'll wear the waterproof sandals I have but take my trail shoes - running shoes but a little sturdier -- to change into for hikes.

How did you do with snorkeling? Was the water an ok temperature? Any up close & personal experiences with critters -- sharks, penguins, sea lions? I'm a little bit wimpy but I'm going to force myself to snorkel unless I see sharks and then I am outta there!

What about the temps in general - I'm imagining in Quito we might need some warmer clothes - will a fleece be enough do you think? I remember Cuzco, Peru at night being very
chilly so I want to make sure to be prepared. Once you're in the islands was it cool in the mornings or night - any need for warmer clothes there too?

The cloud forest trip sounds great - I'd rather do that than shopping. I'm glad to know it's worthwhile from your firsthand experience. I hope it's offered to our group also.

Again, I'm so glad you had a wonderful time!


Librarylass Apr 27th, 2012 11:47 AM

Hi Leslie S,
Oh I'm sure your guide is going to be super--SmarTours contracts with South America Tours for the guides and they have all been excellent. Yup, we had a small group of 22 and then 4 more joined us in Quito for the Ecuador portion. Our group had several birders (birdwatchers) so we asked our guide for a chance to bird in the mountains and that's how the cloud forest tour happened for us. Your guide will have some good options for you as well. BTW no one opted for the Quito at night w/dinner tour for $49.00 that was offered in the written itinerary.
Snorkeling--well, I am used to bobbing around in a protected cove to snorkle (ala Hawaii) so did rent all the gear only to discover that the currents were a bit rough for me--I'm not a strong swimmer. My sis,however, is a good swimmer and she did snorkle. She said the best snorkeling was the Ribida tour--she saw tons of colorful fish. She was bummed because she wanted to do the snorkle where you jump of the boat--but her mask was leaking and the snorkle tube wasn't working right so she had to cut that trip short. The pangas/zodiacs are right by you most of the time and watch you very carefully. Be sure to take 2 swimsuits unless you don't mind putting on a wamp/wet swimsuit the next day--it takes a couple days for suit to dry in the cabin and water stuff is offered once each day.
Critters?--oh the sea lions are plentiful and curious and fun to watch ( the babies are so cute). We did not go to an island that had penguins--but saw pretty much everything else that you anticipate seeing. Also saw Albatross and Swallow-tail gull hatchlings--what a treat. Rabida also had two "scout" flamingos that gave everyone a treat to see. I was a bit surprised that many of the islands reminded me so much of the dry sides of the Hawaii islands--but of course they are all volcanic islands.
Warm clothing? You should do fine with a fleece and windbreaker. Out guide said to expect four season--in one day! and that was about the way it went. My windbreaker was waterproof--and we did get rained on a few times.
Oh--also, if you have a camera and or binoculars--be sure to put them --and any other easily damaged items --into a plastic bag before putting in your backpack when you are taking the panga/zodiacs to the islands. Waves can hit you and also it may rain. A couple folks in our group killed their cameras when a wave washed up into the pangas.
Better run for now--chow!

Leslie_S Apr 27th, 2012 12:35 PM

Thanks again!
I have a waterproof backpack so we'll have that for the cameras in the zodiacs.

Ah, I forgot about renting the snorkel gear - do you guys also rent shortie wetsuits or was the water warm enough to not need them? If you choose not to snorkel do you have another option during that time period?

Fleece + rainjacket sounds like it should cover it then. 4 seasons in one day - that makes it challenging to pack light!
That plus the fact that washing clothes in the sink is probably not going to work if it's so damp that stuff doesn't dry. I have some great wool t-shirts that I travel with that dry overnight but maybe not in this kind of environment.

Not sure if you live in Hawaii or have just visited there but either way, lucky you!

Librarylass Apr 27th, 2012 02:07 PM

Oh--weather-wise I forgot to mention--it was REALLY HUMID in the Galapagos--and I was pretty happy with cotton and lightweight breathable clothing...some I did wash in the sink and they got about 2/3rds dried in one night--but not the swimsuits. Oh I just flopped around in the shore water while my sis snorkeled. One day there was an option to take the little glass bottom boat --for folks who don't want to do any water stuff. Be sure to go to the front desk and sign up immediately if that becomes available. I toyed with the idea and waited too long --and the 2 glass bottom boat trips offered on the same day filled up. The folks who did it said it was fun (aka better than nothing, I think) OH--don't forget insect repellent! Yikes the mosquitoes were pretty heavy on a couple of the islands. I know Deet is nasty stuff--but at least bring it along on the islands to use if you feel you need it.
Nope, don't live in Hawaii--yet! But we have thought about it... a lot! We live in San Francisco Bay Area and try to make it to Kauai (our favorite island) at least once a year..sigh.
When do you leave for Ecuador?

Librarylass Apr 27th, 2012 03:00 PM

PS. I doubt if you will use the fleece in the Galapagos--it never really got cool enuf--however, you most likely will need to use a rain jacket/windbreaker/rain poncho at some point --either on the zodiac or the hikes. I don't recall ever feeling cold in the Galapagos...but it did get a bit cool in the evenings in Quito--and that's where you might need the fleece.
Oh, and a wetsuit for snorkeling? They do have them to rent--but the water was pretty nice--there were a couple people who had on their own shorties but most folks did not.

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