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It's Ecuador, By George!
by George Pike


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It's Ecuador, By George!

From a series of letters and pictures by George Pike during his visit to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

[Name and content are published here with the permission of the writer]

Editors Note:  Selected pictures from the various slide shows mentioned in the text are included in web-sized versions here.  The original ".exe" files are not available for download here

Quito, Ecuador
February 28, 2004

Otavalo MarketWent out to the Indian market at Otavalo and spent a lot of money. Spent the whole day walking around looking at some pretty incredible stuff and some pretty yucky stuff. Mostly took pictures of the yucky stuff. It was a little hard getting good pictures because some of the stuff was inside and I didn't want to use flash. I find I get more candid shots that way.

Pig Barbeque
I'm just going to jump right into the slide show.
There is one thing that keeps recurring and that's the fact that these folks eat a lot of pig. The first time a pig pops up in the slide show is in front of a neighborhood restaurant. They kill the pig, hang it up whole, and slice off parts and cook them as the day goes along. In Georgia, we call this a barbecue joint.

Roses for sale in OtavaloOkay, first picture is of a police car in Otavalo. Thought it was cute. Then comes the first pig. Then a picture of a rose vendor - ROSES ARE A DOLLAR A DOZEN HERE and cheaper if you want to buy in quantity. Then just general pictures of the market, with mister (well, mister pig's feet) popping up again right after the grapes and then a few more market scenes and another mister pig then a couple of more market scenes and finishing with an old couple eating guinea pigs. (Hey, I promised to give you a flavor of my travels and I'm pretty sure that guinea pig has a flavor.) 

Dining on Guinea PigsPolice Car

Head out to the Galapagos tomorrow and the quality of pictures should improve - just don't know when I'll be able to send them to you folks.

Hugs and kisses to all,

George Pike
   [Name and content are published here with the permission of the writer]

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
February 29, 2004

Okay, the fun has begun. And since you're reading this, it's obvious I have found an Internet Cafe here on the island. Not sure when I'm actually going to send this since I've got a lot of stuff to do.

The trip over was interesting. I was supposed to take off at 9:45 AM, but the pilot decided he wanted to leave at 8:45 and we did. The flight to Guayaquil took thirty minutes - during which time they served a DRINK AND A SANDWICH! On thirty-minute flights in the US, the flight attendants don't even get out of their seats (sorry, Laura).

But before you start racking up frequent-flyer mileage on Aerogal, you should know that in addition to taking off whenever the pilot wants to, they are pretty independent about their communication with the passengers. When we got to Guayaquil, the flight attendant announced that we would be on the ground "for thirty or forty minutes or maybe longer - we don't know." I'm assuming the pilot had a short date in Guayaquil and that's why we took off early in the first place.

We were there almost an hour. But when we took off, they served beverages and lunch for the one hour flight.

After landing in Baltra and being met by my guide, we took a thirty-minute un-air-conditioned bus ride to the ferry with mostly locals on the bus (did I mention that it is hot as hell here). Then there was a thirty-minute ferry ride, followed by an hour's cab ride to Puerto Ayora. Oh, cabs here are not cars. They (as are most other vehicles) are trucks. I guess they figure that when you're going somewhere, you might as well make yourself useful and carry some cargo. I thoroughly enjoyed the convoluted trip and highly recommend the whole thing.

Okay, now comes a little education, but don't hit that delete button yet. I think you'll enjoy some of this stuff.

Galapagos TortoisesThe name Galapagos comes from Spanish for saddle because the people who discovered the islands thought the tortoises looked like saddles. Okay, okay, that little fact wasn't so interesting. But this one is (kinda): The Galapagos Islands are MOVING TOWARD THE SOUTH AMERICAN COAST. That's right! The whole place is drifting toward the mainland. It is only at the rate of 10 Center meters per year and the mainland is 1000 Kilometers so it's going to take about 100 million years before somebody has to yell "Watch out South America, we're about to ram you!" But I find it fascinating that the whole group of islands is moving every year.

The next thing I found fascinating (I know I'm not much of a judge since I was astonished to find out there is gambling going on in Las Vegas) is the fact that the primary thing those big old turtles like to eat is cactus. There are cactuses growing all over the place and those creatures just love to munch on the prickly stuff. 

The next thing I find fascinating is the currency of Ecuador. It's the US Dollar. I don't just mean that they accept US currency - I mean that it is the official currency. There is no Ecuadorian money - just the US. They don't have to have print money or worry about other stuff like that. And it is very easy for Americans to convert since $5 is $5. 

Boobie Chick - Galapgos IslandsAnd one final piece of information that you will find utterly useless as you go about your daily affairs. You cannot live in the Galapagos unless you were born here or marry someone from here. Even though it is part of Ecuador, people from the mainland cannot move here. 

Well, enough of that fascinating discourse. 

To see all the fabulous sights and creatures, you have to do a lot of walking and I mean a lot of walking.  It's not like the Grand Canyon where they just built the place next to a nice paved highway.  No, here you have to hike up and down trails and non-trails littered with volcanic rock while sweating like crazy (Did I mention that it's hot as hell here?) 

The nights are cool though.  And my room is air-conditioned, while many are cooled only by a fan. It pays to talk nice to the clerk at check-in.

I went out and saw my first tortoises today. Absolutely incredible!

Closing down for the night.

George Pike   [Name and content are published here with the permission of the writer]

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
March 1, 2004

Had a fantastic day - even though I probably sweat off a few pounds.  Did I mention that it is hot as hell here?

Took a cruise to one of the other islands and saw lots and lots of sea lions and lots of iguanas and lots of birds of all different kinds.

Frigate BirdThen in the afternoon I went snorkeling and it was fantastic! The water is totally sparkling clear and the sights are unbelievable. When my daughter Heather was 10 or 11 years old I took her snorkeling in St. Martins and she was so shocked at how many fish were swimming around her that she refused to go into the water for the rest of the trip. Well, there were fish of every description swimming around with me. And the absolute highlight of the afternoon was when I was joined by a curious sea lion. He/she (didn't get a chance to check for sex) swam beside me for a couple of minutes and it was totally exhilarating. 

I got some great photos yesterday and today and have decided to wait until I get back to send the slide shows. I do promise that you are going to love them. Right now I'm having trouble deciding on which pictures to send - there are so many good ones. It's a lot easy taking pictures when you're not bored silly with your subject.

Land Iguana - Galapagos IslandsI decided to see what kind of night life Puerto Ayora has to offer and strolled "down town" after dinner. I found this place called The Iguana that had a big sign outside promising TOPLESS DANCING and went inside. At first I was a little disappointed to find out the topless dancer was an iguana, but after a while I got into it. She could really shake her tail! Actually, there is so little to do at night here, I think I could make a go of a topless-iguana bar.

I'm staying at the Hotel Silberstein, which is very small. There are only 22 rooms in the whole place. I felt a little reluctant to put my valuables in the "safe" here because the last time I did that in a small hotel was in Zanzibar and the hotel ended up robbing me. I hope I get my stuff back when I leave.

It actually is very nice and I highly recommend it. 

Everybody drinks bottled water because the local stuff is totally unsafe. In each room there is a small amount of safe water for teeth brushing. I have found the only way to start brushing and using the tap water is to hide my toothpaste away from the bathroom. That way I have to look for it and reminded not to use the tap water. I did get a little diarrhea and figured out it was coming from the ice, which evidently is made with tap water. I've got pills, so no big deal. I just have to give up ice for the rest of the trip. It's unbelievable how much water I'm going through. Did I mention that it is hot as hell here?

George Pike   [Name and content are published here with the permission of the writer]

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
March 2, 2004

Puerto Ayora - Galapgos IslandsHad a cruise starting at 5:30 this morning that I chose to opt out of. I'm going to explore a little and take a few pictures of Puerto Ayora. That should take about five minutes. It really is small.

I have already noticed that there are several Internet Cafes so I'll send this this afternoon. It will probably be my last communication before I head home. Am still having an absolute blast.

Hugs and kisses to all,

George Pike  [Name and content are published here with the permission of the writer]

Editors Note:  Selected pictures from the various slide shows mentioned in the text are included in web-sized versions here.  The original ".exe" files are not available for download here.  

Quito, Ecuador
March 5, 2002

I'm on the way home. It's been a different type trip - that's for sure. I did get some great shots and am trying to figure out how to break them down.

Anyway, on my last night in the Galapagos, I decided to go out on the town to celebrate the trip. And as I was walking down the street I saw a sign that said 


Well, I was a little reluctant after my experience the other night. But I figured I didn't have anything else to do so I went in. And I have to admit I did get a little suspicious when I spied that topless iguana hustling a sea lion for drinks at the next table. 

But I ignored them as I sat drinking my Scotch and papaya juice (with no ice). And my great anticipation of what was to come was so great that I actually had three of them before I realized it was the worst thing I had ever tasted. But I was excited about seeing Boobies. I'm always excited about seeing Boobies. And I wasn't disappointed!  I saw Boobies. I saw lots and lots of Boobies. And they were hot! (Well, actually, everything in the Galapagos is pretty hot - have I ever gotten around to mentioning that it is hot as hell there?)

Blue-Footed BoobieOkay, download the file Boobies.exe. (Don't ask me how I came up with that name - I'm just so smart it just came to me like a bump in the night.) Anyway, close the blinds so that the neighbors won't know that you're looking at pictures of Boobies and click on the program and see Boobies, Boobies, Boobies.

Lots more good stuff coming when I get home.

Hugs and kisses to all,

George Pike  [Name and content are published here with the permission of the writer]

Blue-Footed Boobies

Blue-Footed Boobie

Blue-Footed Boobie


Roswell, Georgia
March 8, 2004

First of all let me apologize for "double sending" a couple of times.  It happens when I'm at an Internet Café in a foreign country and the program is running at a snail's pace and I'm not sure if the "send" has actually taken place.. 

And it is almost impossible for me to change an address while I'm accessing from a foreign country.  In Australia you have to stand on your head to do that. And in the Galapagos, you have to kiss an iguana before making an address change.  Just trust me, it's hard.  Okay, enough housekeeping. 


Galapagos IslandsI'm going to try to explain the Galapagos. They are very beautiful. They are pretty much in pristine condition. Translation: you have to walk a lot. They sell a T-shirt there that has a picture of a guy loaded down with a pack and carrying water, insect repellent, sun block, a camera, a first-aid kit, a compass and a global positioning system and flares to send up for emergencies. His clothes are soaked through and through and sweat is pouring off his face. And he is saying "Are you sure this is a vacation?"

Some of you very astute folks have by now figured out that it was hot as hell in the Galapagos. It is possible that I might have mentioned that at some point.

So if your idea of wild adventure is riding an air-conditioned tram above the animals at Busch Gardens, you should probably skip the Galapagos.

But if you want to see iguanas, sea loins, truly exotic birds, and giant Tortoises in their natural habitat while you sweat a lot, you should definitely jump on a plane to the Galapagos.

Every time I returned to my air-conditioned hotel room at night, I kept thinking "Boy, am I having fun or what?" And a little voice would answer ‘WHAT!"

I already mentioned swimming with the sea lion. What I didn't tell you was that just before he jumped in, I'm pretty sure I heard him say "It's hot as hell here!"

Old Town in Quito - the natives are restingActually, it was a great trip. It's definitely not your run-of-the-mill trip. I think it would be better to go in May or June, which is their "cooler" period. A guide told me that it actually gets cold sometimes in July and August. But she had no idea what I was talking about when I asked if they got ice and snow. 

I'm going to try to share my impressions with you in some slide shows. The first is attached and is just a general overview - just a quick tour in photos. 

In a few days I'll send what I think is a neat slide show featuring birds. Hey, hang in there - you might actually enjoy it. And then I'll send you one that shows sides of the Galapagos that you probably only get from someone with my strange way of looking at things..

The first slide show is called Galapagos.exe (I was up until three a.m. coming up with that name.) The only explanation needed to the show is that there are A LOT of birds in the Galapagos. The white stuff you see on the rocks is bird poop. Oh, the things you would never know if you didn't have me to point them out.

Hugs and kisses to all,

George Pike  [Name and content are published here with the permission of the writer]

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