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Flour Girl
The Homeschooling of Zack on a Cheoy Lee Offshore 44
Horseback Riding in the Galapagos
04/17/2013, Isabella - Galapagos

We had the absolute best day riding horses up to the Sierra Negra Volcano. We were trying to decide on activities to do while in the Galapagos. Budget constraints being what they are. We were going to do a "West Coast" tour because friends of ours on MacPelican said it was fabulous. From what we hear this is a relatively new tour being offered by one person, Paco I think. Well when we first arrived the price was $110 per person, even children if you had a full boat. We then heard $120, then $130, by the time we were ready to book it was $140 per person. Well we decided to look around. Nathalie and I talked to a couple of tour operators and found some good options. We decided to ride horses to the volcano and do a tour of Las Tuneles, which is a shorter version of the West Coast tour. For kids the shorter tours are actually better. We used the tour operator in the center of town next to the church for anyone following us and the service was great, I will try to get the name for the next post.

We started our day by arriving at the tour office for 7:45. We waited about 20 minutes for the office to open and our guide to show up in a taxi van. The tour office had said they provided a "snack" and we should pack a lunch and water, fair enough. The price was $60 for each adult and $30 for Zack. We were not expecting a whole lot. Well, the snack was a bottle of water, a juice box, a tuna sandwich, a breakfast bun with cream cheese, an apple, a pear, and cookies. Let's just say we had a lot of food! Our guide was great and spoke some English. Everyone with us in the group was speaking French so it was a very tri-lingual day. We took the taxi for about 40 minutes up into the countryside, a very pleasant drive and an opportunity to see some of Isla Isabela.

We got up to the farm and the horses were saddled and waiting. Zack had decided to ride with David because he has never ridden a horse before. We were told to name our horses, I called mine Velero, which means "sailboat" in Spanish. Zack named their horse Leader, than he changed it to Lead, and then to Swift. Poor horse, so confused. The names did not help at all, the horses did their own thing. To be fair they were very tame and gentle, but they do this trip often and need little direction. They did have a tendency to bunch up and whenever the path opened up a bit the horses would trot to get in front of each other. The ride was about 1 1/2 hours each way and we were all having a great time passing each other and trying to get our horses to move a little faster, yelling Undele, undele. There are some good pics and videos coming.

We rode the horses to the top of the volcano and when we dismounted we had lunch and the did an 1 1/2 hour hike onto the volcano. Our guide was great, pointing out lava tunnels and formations. It was quite interesting and I think Zack got a lot out of it. He found some shiny lava rocks and deduced that the volcano was also shooting our gold. So he started collecting in earnest. Unfortunately the guide set him straight and it turns out we are not going to be rich. Oh well. The hike was a bit grueling and the landscape was akin to Mars. We were really glad that we had horses to carry us back. Most of the people hiking did not and it is a 16 kilometer hike! I felt a bit guilty riding past some of the older folks.

The ride back was great also. Zack decided to ride with Guillaume. He was by this time wishing he had his own horse as was Neomie. Neomie decided to ride with me, which was great but it is far more comfortable on your own horse. David was grateful when Zack decided to go with Guillaume. Zack and Guillaume were having the time of their lives trying to pass everybody. David's horse definitely wanted to be first and mine wanted second place. Whenever we got in front Velero would slow to almost a stop, but if anyone passed him he would trot to get in second place, sometimes through the bushes. Guillaume was in the front and Zack was on the back of the horse. About 1/3 of the way into the ride Zack announced he was changing their horses name to "Nut Buster" because that was what was happening to his privates. Well I tried to reprimand him but he had the whole crowd in hysterics the way he was carrying on with it that there was no point. I have to admit it was pretty funny. So look for the video.

We were all pretty tired by the time we got home, but I had promised Zack that Guillaume could have a sleep over, so I pulled it together and made some dinner. At 7:30 I said I was going to go lay down and read. Guillaume was like "why are you tired, it's only 7:30". Yeah right! I think I was asleep in 20 minutes.

To anyone following I would definitely suggest the horse tour, it was great!

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Surfing Galapagos
04/13/2013, Puerta Villamil, Isabella - Galapagos

We are all really enjoying the Galapagos, in fact it is becoming our favorite island to date. Every time we go ashore we watch the sea lions lying around lazily on the benches and walk ways without a care in the world. Yesterday when we went in there was two large rays right at the dock. One surfaced and was just floating along. The wildlife here is not hunted or harassed so there is no fear of humans. The sea lions seem to feel they own the place. One chased us down the dock the other day. Zack loved it, he has been really enjoying the animals and we watch for them under our boat every morning.

We went boogie boarding yesterday afternoon at the surf beach. There were a few Galapagos "surf dudes" out there and it was fun to watch them catch waves. We had a great time boogie boarding in the biggest waves we have ridden yet. It was one great ride after another. David and I took turns on Zack's spare board. Zack was glowing he was having such a great time. After 2 hours we were all pretty wiped out so back to town for a shower. Isabella has public showers, they are not great but free water is better than making your own and it is great just to stand under the water for 5 minutes and not have to worry about wasting each drop.

We have been frequenting one of the 3 bakeries here. The lady who owns it is really nice and very friendly. The baked goods are ok, mostly white flour. We have not found a "healthy" bakery anywhere in Latin America, or for that matter much vegetarian foods. Zack is liking the Dulce de Leche rolls. It is amazing how inexpensive the bakery is. Nothing seems to be more than a dollar. I'm not sure if the sub rolls are 2 or 4 for a dollar. We went out for pizza the other night, it was quite expensive but it was good. The prices here are strange, things geared more towards locals are very cheap and products geared towards tourists are very high, but not as high as St. John. We always say it is difficult to sticker shock a St. Johnian. David also reported that the hardware store is very well stocked and inexpensive for anyone following us who may need supplies.

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Enjoying the Galapagos
04/10/2013, Puerta Villamil, Isabella - Galapagos

We have really been enjoying our time in the Galapagos. The island is beautiful, the people are exceptionally nice and the weather is perfect. We have spent most afternoons boogie boarding at the beach. The waves are great and the water is not warm but not as cold as I thought it would be. I can stay in for hours after I get used to it. The kids think it is just fine.

We rented bikes for the afternoon to ride out to the Wall of Tears. The Wall of Tears was built by prisoners when the island was used as a penal colony. It is made of lava rocks. It is easy to see why it was called the Wall of Tears. It is massive and as the sign reads "Here the strong cry and the weak die" The bike riding was great, we road along the beach, which is like a Cape Cod beach with big sand dunes. We saw turtle nests and as we got past the beach into the more wooded areas we saw Giant land Tortoises. It was a long ride (8 kilometers each way I think) and by the time we got to the wall Zack had shed a few tears of his own. He really hasn't ridden a bike in about a year and it was a bit much. Fortunately the ride back was mostly downhill and a whole lot easier, except when he crashed into the bushes. He did end up being really proud of himself for finishing the ride, as the other younger kids in the group had turned back at a little over half way. All in all a great day.

We went to swim with the sea lions again so that David could do it. When we arrived there was one sea lion swimming around but he swam off. David snorkeled the entire bay but did not see any more sea lions. I think we were too early. We did see a lot of them playing in the mangroves, but the tide was low and I think they wait for high tide so they have an easy swim back to the bay. We will go again, because it was magical to swim with the sea lions.

Nathalie, Bernadette, and I joined a trip out to one of the farms on Isabella. It was great! The farm was in high country and it was a little cooler. It was a nice size farm with lots of animals running around. Ducks, chickens, dogs, cats, pigs and lots of little chicks. I think it was the owner, took us around in a group for a tour of the farm and if we wanted what we were passing he cut it for us and we carried it along with us to purchase when we got back. I got a pile of the best green beans, tomatoes, watermelon, pineapples, basil, cilantro, and limes. It has all been great.

Today I am baking bread and cake for dinner on Sueno. Unfortunately MacPelican and Gallavanter are going to be moving on towards the Marquesas on Thursday. We have almost 2 weeks left to enjoy here.

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04/11/2013 | carol
very cool love
the blog
Galapagos - Paradise Found
04/07/2013, Puerta Villamil, Isabella - Galapagos

Our last few days of passage were good. We had about 40 hours of perfect wind. 15 to 20 on the beam and we were flying! We averaged 7 knots and covered a lot of miles. Our last 36 or so hours we had no wind, well a few knots but on the nose. We motored the rest of the way to Isabela. On our way we saw sea lions and a huge sea turtle. We arrived at about noon and pulled into the harbor. I would not recommend coming in at night. The anchorage is small and there is some shallow reef. Our friends on MacPelican were there to guide us in, which was great. They came over and gave us the lowdown on the island. First we had to call our agent. You are not allowed off the boat until you are cleared in. Zack was upset, he was so ready to get off the boat after sailing 8 days straight. Finnley came over and that helped a lot. Sueno pulled in about 2 hours after us and all the kids spent the afternoon on Sueno which was great. I needed to clean the boat as it was a total wreck after our sail. David and David brought our paperwork into our agent to start the lengthy check in process. As I write this 4 days later we still do not have our park passes or our paperwork back. In the afternoon Bernadette grabbed Nathalie and came over to Flourgirl with a bottle of wine and we all celebrated our first big crossing.

The Galapagos is probably the most magical place we have been yet. We have sea lions swimming by our boat daily. We had a penguin swimming around our boat for half an hour one morning, One afternoon we came back to a Manta Ray swimming by our boat. Zack is in heaven and we spend most mornings watching the sea life swim by us. He is out snorkeling for penguins with his buddy Guillaume right now.

We spent our first days just checking out the town. The town is small, but really nice with small restaurants, 3 bakeries, a lot of small very clean stores. Prices are high but not as high as I had expected. The first afternoon as the kids were playing on the beach Guillaume got a nasty cut on his leg from the black lava rock that covers a lot of this island. Our agent was close by and he took us to the clinic. We thought this was a bit much but he insisted. All medical care in Ecuador is FREE, locals and tourists. He got stitches and antiseptic, it was great and no charge. Crazy.

We spent a morning swimming with sea lions at Concha de Perla. The sea lions seems to have no fear of humans. They seem as though they are doing tricks for the people. They swim right up to you and do flips and twirls. Zack spent over an hour in the water, an amazing time. The sea lions are everywhere here, they lay all over the beaches, on and under all the park benches. You can walk right up to them and they could care less. We have a million sea lion pictures! We have also seen lots of Marine Iguanas, a truly ugly creature, but it is fascinating to watch them swim. They also have no fear of humans and you can get very close to them. Yesterday morning we went for a hike to the Tortoise Sanctuary. We saw hundreds of tortoises in every size from just hatched to 150 years old. It was very educational for the kids and a very well done sanctuary. The hike out was on a boardwalk that ran for about a kilometer through wetlands and forest. The sanctuary collects eggs and raises the tortoises until they are able to fend for themselves in the wild. They also breed in captivity. Unfortunately introduced predators make it difficult for the tortoises to survive on their own. We had ice cream and hiked back to the boats. It is really hot midday on the equator.

In the afternoons we have all been body surfing and boogie boarding on the beach. The waves are perfect. Zack is loving his life in these waves. It is great how animated he is when telling us about his surfing adventures. Somehow the 3 foot waves are 6 feet and any fall is a total yard sale type crash. David and I took turns surfing with him yesterday and it was perfect. He was telling me which waves to take and how to surf them and giving me high fives when we got good rides. Could life be any better?

Today we are going to an all harbor pot luck on the beach at the bar owned by the agent. Zack can't wait to surf all afternoon again. Where does he get all the energy?

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Flour Girl is now in the Southern Hemisphere
03/31/2013, The Equator

We have crossed the equator, and also have lost the great wind we have had for the past two days., Looks like we might have to motor the next 200 miles to Isabella.

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04/06/2013 | HARRIET GROSE
Galapagos Passage Day Six
03/31/2013, Pacific Ocean - 00 17N 87 19W

We should be crossing the equator sometime this evening. For the past day and a half we have been in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (aka The Doldrums) and are having unusually favorable winds for sailing. The forecast is for light and variable winds but we have had 13-15 knots out of the South South East for the past 24 hours. Sailing along at around 6 knots towards the Galapagos. Hope the wind holds so we don't have to motor the rest of the way.

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