writer, teacher, traveler, and lazy gardener

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 5)

Boobies and Tortugas, Galapagos Islands, Part 2

As pumpkin spice season has descended with a flurry, (Trader Joe’s wins the prize for oddball pumpkin pairings: pumpkin salsa, anyone?) here’s my last gasp attempt to  call up “my Galapagos feeling.”

A trip to the islands wouldn’t be complete without enjoying the goofy antics of the blue-footed boobies. The name comes from the Spanish word “bobo,” which means clown. The seabirds got the moniker when the explorers observed their clumsy waddling.

The Galapagos Islands were named for their giant tortoises; early explorers thought the shape of the tortoise shells resembled saddles. “Galapago” means saddle in Spanish. These lumbering creatures can weigh up to 800 lbs. and live to be about one hundred. The older they are the less you can see the rings on their shells

Park rules prohibit taking anything from the islands, so I had to be satisfied with taking photos of some interesting shells.

Thanks for checking out my pix!

Galapagos Islands: A World Within Itself

The Galapagos Islands, the chain of volcanic islands about 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are a wildlife lover’s dream. On my trip this summer, I got to see creatures found nowhere else:  pre-historic looking marine and land iguanas, a variety of aquatic birds, including blue-footed boobies and the impressive gigantic tortoises. Hiking among its landscapes—sandy beaches, expansive lava fields and desertscapes, which change from island to island—I got to experience how unique this region truly is. As Charles Darwin so aptly said about the Galapagos Islands in The Voyage of the Beagle, the account of his expedition to the islands that led to the development of the theory of evolution: “The archipelago is a little world within itself …”

As the islands are considered a national park, tourism is highly controlled. Upon arrival, we were given a list of regulations, particularly about how to interact with the wildlife. In a word: Don’t! No physical contact, no aggressive gestures and keep voices down. Consequently, the animals don’t consider humans as predators, and they freely come right up to you. Let me tell you, when sea lion pups would flop at my feet or glide around me while I was snorkeling, I’d have to fight every impulse to reach out and touch them.

Next post: boobies and tortugas!

Machu Picchu: the Real Thing

mona_lisa_by_leonardo_da_vinci_from_c2rmf_retouchedGrowing up, there were two works of art that made a big impression on me. One was the Mona Lisa  and the other was Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Poster-sized versions (24″ x 36″) were mounted in my father’s study, and I’d see them regularly.  They were significant not because I found them beautiful or fascinating, but based on my experience when I saw them in real life for the first time. les_demoiselles_d-avignon-boostedThe Mona Lisa is much smaller and the Picasso is enormous compared to the poster: roughly 8 ft by 8 ft. My expectations of each were turned upside down.  I couldn’t reconcile the indelible image in my mind with the real thing. The Da Vinci was less compelling while the Picasso overwhelmed me. I recall it took me a few moments to view the art as it was—rather than what I thought it should be.

I’ve never felt this more keenly than at Machu Picchu. As a teen I was rabid to visit the Incan ruins once I saw the documentary Chariots of the Gods, based on the Erich Von Daniken book. The movie theorized that aliens were responsible for its construction along with other ancient mysteries, like the pyramids. A place built by aliens? How could I not see that?! Finally, this summer, a teen dream was fulfilled.

For the first hour in Machu Picchu, I had to pinch myself because a) I couldn’t believe I was there, and b) I again had to reconcile my expectations. While the stone ruins were absolutely a marvel of engineering: How were granite stones fitted seamlessly without mortar? How were the structures built without the use of the wheel? Was it a city, temple, agricultural center or all three? … What transfixed me more was the landscape. The breathtaking site was framed by the magnificent Huayna Picchu or “young peak.” No photo can truly capture it.  As the mist rolled in and out during the day, the mysteries of the sacred citadel were amplified even more.

Here are a few photos. Of course, they don’t do it justice, but for me, they are a new placeholder in my mind of the real thing.

As for the alien theory, I’m no longer buying it.


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