In Darwin’s Footsteps, the Gal├ípagos Islands

Our flight left Quito at a silly hour in the morning, but that meant we arrived in the Gal├ípagos Islands by 9 AM.  We decided to explore the islands from the land, rather than cruise ship, as this cut our costs significantly.  So, our first stop was Santa Cruz island, one of the largest and home to the biggest town, Puerto Ayora. We started with a hike to the twin craters formed by the collapse of a magma chamber and followed this with a walk through a lava tube and a visit to a private ranch with a giant tortoise habitat, where we saw half a dozen of these incredible creatures.


Inside a lava tube 


Our lodge was home to sea lions and marine iguanas, who came right onto the deck, and lots of birds.




Sea kayaking was our next challenge, one we all enjoyed.  Boy was less enthused about our snorkeling expedition, though he did like spotting a school of fish in the wild.  Sharks he was less excited about.


Boat travel was up next as we moved to Isabela island, the next largest where we hiked a volcano and did a bit more snorkeling.

Back to Santa Cruz, we stopped at the Charles Darwin research center to see the baby tortoises at the breeding center.


School work this week was hands on learning, meaning we spent lots of time learning about animals in their natural habitats while discussing Charles Darwin.  We also calculated the circumference of the volcanic craters as we hiked.  We did get in some reading time, though.  Here are a few of our books:


And our school room:



Beneath the Volcano in Quito

After two weeks in Cusco, Peru, we weren’t bothered at all by the altitude in Quito, Ecuador, despite its reputation as the highest capital city in the world.  Our apartment, in the new town area, had view of the volcano from the living room window, really quite a sight.  Boy was not certain he liked being this close to a live, volcano, no matter how dormant it seemed at the moment.  It took some convincing before he was willing to stop watching for smoke plumes and go to bed.


We decided to get up high to check it out in more detail and took the teleferiqo cable car to the very top of the volcano.  There is an amusement park at the bottom, Vulquano Park, but Boy was not interested in spending a moment longer than he had to at that site.  We spent the next day, a Saturday, at Parke la Carolina watching the locals paddle boat, play at the playground, and ride on a dirt bike track.

After a rest, we went up high again to the Panecillo, another hill outside of town with a huge, silver statue of a winged Virgin Mary.  In the Old Town, or Historic Center, we visited churches, each more impressive than the one before.  The Compania church, was gilded, floor to ceiling, with Spanish conquistador gold.  Old town was also where we found the Museo de la Ciudad, a surprisingly good museum, with life size reconstructions of different centuries in the history of the city of Quito.  The Museo Nacional had a large collection of prehistoric and Incan artifacts, well presented, despite ongoing construction work on the building.  The Numismatic museum, also called Banco Central, was another winner, the coin collection was impressive, there was a pleasant children’s area and great exhibit on the phasing out of Sucre and introduction of US dollar in 1999.  Our final find was the Quito Observatory, centrally located, it had a nicely displayed collection of antique astronomical and seismographic equipment.

The Winged Virgin


The observatory



We also took a day trip outside the city to the Mitad Del Mundo, the center of the world, also known as the EQUATOR!  According the the GPS, the site is actually off about 250 meters, but this is where scientists measured the equator to be in the 18 th century.  It was too expensive to move the tourist site after satellites were invented.  We still had fun straddling the painted equator line to be in both hemispheres at once and testing our ability to balance an egg on its end.

The Equator at Mitad Del Mundo



Overall, Quito was somewhat confusing.  We found numerous things closed, unexpectedly, during posted open hours and days, though with two full weeks here, we had plenty of time to try again another day.

School work this week included Spanish and LOTS of science.  We had a stop at the Museo Interactivo de Ciencas, for some hands on experiments.  We checked out the observatory, the equator, and the volcano and watched lots of science videos about volcanos and the layers of the earth’s crust.  A few videos we borrowed were about Charles Darwin and evolution, to get ready for next week in the Galapagos.  This was all thanks to our local library, from Kansas City, adding Bill Nye, National Geographic, and PBS videos to their online video streaming service.  We LOVE the digital offerings of our library from back home!