Monday, September 25, 2006

T minus 2 days and counting

I'm finally starting to get used to the idea of the new itinerary. I took Arianna to the library yesterday and looked up a couple of books on the Galapagos that had a lot of pictures. The following two books had some spectacular pictures.

"The Galapagos Islands" by Pierre Constant 2006

"Galapagos, islands born of fire" by Tui De Roy 1998

Some of the most spectacular pictures were taken on Fernandina and Isabela, although I'm not sure they were from areas that I will actually see. Hopefully I will at least see some of the spectacular scenery.

The other thing that is making me a little happier with the itinerary is that currently is appears as though I may have a room to myself on the Beluga. When I look at ship availability for my dates, there currently shows 1 berth available and noted with female share, last minute rate.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bank Robbery?

I went to the bank today to get cash for my trip to Ecuador. There were several 'unsavory' looking people in line, so I decided to write down the amounts of each denomination that I wanted, rather than being overheard talking to the bank teller. I found a piece of paper in my bag, and wrote down that information, then at the top of the page scrawled "Crisp Unmarked Bills!"

I then wrapped that piece of paper around my withdrawal slip, bank card, and driver's license. When I got to the window, I slid the whole thing under the glass, oblivious that the only thing he could see was
Crisp Unmarked Bills!

It took me a split second to realize why he had a look of panic on his face and then I quickly corrected the looming problem by telling him to unfold the paper - that my ID and withdrawal slip were inside. He chuckled and told me that "unmarked bills" is a term that I should avoid during future trips to the bank. D'uh!

That problem solved, the teller tried to fulfill my request of a specific number of each denomination that was crisp, clean, and free of any tears or extraneous markings. He had to dig through several tellers' drawers in order to find enough bills that fit the order. Finally he got everything I needed, and as he was handing me the money, he commented that it probably would have been easier if I had held him up!

*The official currency of Ecuador is the US dollar. I read on several tourist information sites and guide books that it is best to carry small bills, and that it is hard to get people to accept the bills if they are torn, dirty, worn out, or have writing on them. Hence my desire to have small unmarked bills.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bumped into an "upgrade"

Back in May, I booked a Galapagos Island cruise on the yacht, Fragata, which was scheduled to leave later this month. Today, I received an email with the following information:

Due to an unintentional error on behalf of the operator of the Fragata, they have upgraded you to the Luxury class motor yacht, Beluga! For more information on this yacht, feel free to go to

While the "new" yacht is probably nicer than the Fragata (it costs more than 2X that of the Fragata), I didn't pick the cruise based on the yacht. I picked it based on the itinerary. With the Fragata, I would visit Genovesa, Santa Fe, and South Plazas islands. The Beluga does not go to any of these three islands! Instead, it goes to Fernandina and a couple of places on Isabela islands.

I'm sure these are very nice, but I spent weeks researching the different islands and which animals I wanted to see. I was willing to pass on seeing the flightless cormorant (on Isabela) to see the red footed boobies, red-billed tropic birds, and short eared owls on Genovesa. (I can see the latter two birds on some of the islands that remain the same for both itineraries, but they aren't as "easy" to find on those islands as the ones I am giving up) Both Santa Fe and South Plazas are excellent places to see land iguanas. I'm not sure I will see them on Isabela.

While I'm sure that I will have a great time once I'm there, I can't help but feel extremely disappointed that the trip I invested a great deal of thought into planning (and paid for months ago) was drastically changed so close to my departure!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Caught without a camera

The Arizona monsoon season has brought quite a bit of rain this year, and the desert is rather green and pretty. I drove up to Flagstaff earlier this week for work, and thought about taking my camera in case there were some really nice pictures. I wish I would have. The desert was absolutely beautiful, and once I got closer to Flagstaff, the fields were covered in "black eyed Susans". There was just field after field of gold flowers. It was absolutely beautiful. I also hit a hail storm and some amazing lightning. I really wish I had brought my camera.

In fact, there have been several times when I have been on the road for work that I wished I had my camera with me. Earlier this summer, I had to be in Yuma by 9:00, so left Phoenix around 5:45 am. As I was leaving Gila Bend and driving through all of the agriculture areas, there were field and fields of white cabbage butterflies and yellow sulfur butterflies. There had to be millions of them! I felt like I was driving through a blizard, but instead of big fat snowflakes, juicy butterflies splattered against the windshield. I actually pulled over to just experience standing in the giant cloud of butterflies.

I think one of the reasons I don't carry my camera (Fujifilm FinePix S3000) around when I travel for work is because it is big and bulky. It doesn't fit in my purse or laptop bag, so either I need to carry a bigger purse or a third bag. It's just not practical.

I just got a new camera (Olympus Stylus 720SW). It's tiny! The picture quality isn't as good as the Fuji camera (at least not yet - I'm still learning how to use all the settings), but it's small enough to take with me anywhere. Plus, it's waterproof so I can take it snorkeling or under waterfalls. That was the main reason I bought it.

When I go to Ecuador and the Galapagos later this month, I plan to take both cameras. The Olympus will be great for walking around Quito, since it's small and easy to carry. It will also be great for snorkeling and night shots. I still plan to take my Fuji to capture landscapes and animals.