Oct 9, 2008

Buses 24/09/08
23:00 – Our first bus (Armenia to Cali) departed. We decided not to take the earlier direct Armenia-Ipiales bus, hoping to enjoy the mountainous part of the ride at day time. We arrived quickly and comfortably to the deserted bus terminal at Cali, sleeping most of the way. It was almost 03:00 and the only bus headed south was this “tiny green bus” (lacking a better description), “Trans Ipiales”. Rami didn’t want to wait at the gloomy bus station, so he persuaded Gal who wanted to wait for the Bolivariano bus (“cause every little thing gonna be all right”), we were over charged and on our way. Gal missed the previous bus (Bolivariano), with the printed tickets, the marked seats, shockers, air con…
To our surprise, the bus reached Ipiales. Actually, it only reached Pasto, where we were downgraded to a van, for the final 2 hours.
We were dropped at the bus terminal at Ipiales at 15:00 after too many hours. Gal had a terrible headache. We took a good hotel room and rested.
The next morning we took a shared taxi to the border. A policeman thoroughly searched our bags (standard when exiting Colombia), checked our passports and sent us back to Colombia immigration, where we thought we were. 5 minutes later we were out of Colombia and in Ecuador.
A van to the central bus station in Tulcan and, welcome Ecuador, many small Ecuadorians jumped on us , “Quito! Quito!” - promoting their bus. We walked between the buses, asking about toilets and time tables. We chose the green one. It left immediately (surprising, usually they wait till the bus is full), but then stopping every 5 seconds for passengers, mostly venders of this or that fast food, adding to the 3rd world atmosphere. Gal nagged the ‘bus driver assistant’, to unlock the toilets every time she had to pee. In 5 hours (but who’s counting?) we were in the center of Quito, Gal with a headache, again.
We stayed the night in Quito, to rest, enjoy the beautiful old quarter and not waste the time in Guayaquil.

The impressive cathedral in Quito.

Quito, from the top.
Finally! tasty crab soup (Gal will pay for it...)

The following evening we went back to the bus station, after doing our homework about the timetables. We arrived to see millions of people, pushing, selling, waiting, drinking... it was the night before elections and everybody were on their way to their ‘voting area’. Gal didn’t allow Rami to take a picture, afraid that the camera will be stolen.
We found a bus, leaving at 23:30, an hour and a half away. There was a big mess. At 23:30 we were taken to the bus, which couldn’t enter the terminal due to traffic jams of buses. The 8 hour bus ride was terrible; during the first 3 hours the bus took the curves and switchbacks of the 3,000m descent to the coast too fast while the real disturbance was a big group of 40 years old drunks, acting like 17 years old drunks on a school trip.
In Guayaquil central bus station it took us a while till we figured out which bus goes in our direction. The bus dropped us 500m from the hostel, but it took half an hour to find out in which direction. We finally found the hostel, excited about meeting Ramis´ parents.

The Rosenbaums - part II 28/09/08
At around 07:30 Ralph opened the door; many hugs and kisses, even a few tears from Rachels’ eyes.
We spent the whole day in the relaxed hostel, which was more like a big villa. We bought food for the BBQ dinner. Due to the “Ley seca” – the ‘dry’ law, no alcohol was sold during the election period. It will end tomorrow, 12:00, an hour after our flight – bummer!
We enjoyed the day, doing nothing but catching up. The BBQ was a success, reminding us of weekend BBQs at Raanana.

The reunion.

At the duty-free we bought Tequila; no “Ley seca” here. Funny, Rami noticed the same bottle at the islands, but cheaper.
The flight was quick, especially due to the 4 only business class chairs. An hour and a half later we landed on a flat desert island. A bus took us across Santa Cruz Island, to Puerto Ayora, ‘the big city’, where we found Chilean wine (not as a expensive as one would expect). We were taken to our ship, the “Golondrina 1”.

Business class.
The Islands from above.
Welcome to the Galapagos.
Our first sea lion.
Gal, scared by the turtle.
Mom isn't.

First fucking birds - the Galapagos somthing.
Love is in the air...

Not much to write about, but, in the next 6 days we had breakfast, a tour in an island, lunch, snorkeling, dinner and a night cruising to a different island. Sometimes we cruised the whole night (the engine roared in our ears), sometimes during the day. Living on the boat was an interesting experience; a bit less interesting when not doing anything (cooking, etc.), but sleeping on the upper deck, in the open air, with a million stars, and waking up to see the ocean, was relaxing, reminding us of previous sailing experiences.

The Golondrina 1.

On our tours of the island we saw a million birds: 200,000 Galapagos Finch (all the same), 200,000 Pelicans (all the same), 200,000 Albatross (all the same), 200,000 Boobies (Blue Footed Boobies, Red Footed Boobies and just plain Boobies) and 200,000 Galapagos Hummingbirds or some other Galapagos birds. Don’t get us wrong, it was nice to walk around between them (they are not afraid of people, it’s true), you could see all the chicks in the nests, near you, but, 7 days with too many Boobies! We are not big bird fans and we expected something else. Yes, we saw a million lizards, mainly iguanas, but nothing more special than the millions of iguanas we saw till now (Mexico, Costa Rica and everywhere else); well, maybe they were more special, endemic (a word used too often in the island, it irritates), but who cares? Any iguana is cool in the eyes of a westerner.
Very quickly we got tired of the 5 types of birds in the island (our guide: ”A Finch, guys, a Finch! A Galapagos Finch!”). The island were not beautiful, arid and flat; not the pacific islands one dreams of (Jurassic Park). One island we found beautiful, but also dry.
Another thing which disturbed us was not being able to walk freely, but only on a specific path, in a big group.
The snorkeling was nice. We saw small sharks, big sea turtles, manta rays, sting rays, a few miniature penguins (cute) and a gazillion sea lions – the stars of the trip; so big, stinky and clumsy on the beach, laying on the most uncomfortable jagged stone, enjoying the sun, and so graceful in the water, curious, swimming and playing with you.
Visibility was poor; probably much better in a different season.

Seals ;-)


Taking pics of the Galapagos hawk.
And Gals turn...
Black lizards.
Blue Footed Boobie!!!

Rosenbaums (us) and cliffs.

What a beauty. Big bird.
The mean birds.


Eating, on the Golondrina 1.
Upper deck, cold.

Red Footed Boobies?

Beautiful babies.

One of Gals favorites.
And, she's back.
Miniature penguins

Trying to see mosquito bytes on the forehead.

More fucking lizards...

Galapagos tourists.

Another bird.


7 days at the Galapagos was a bit too much for all of us (מ`צעמם, מ`צעמם, מ`צעמם), but it gave us fantastic quality time, telling stories, getting updates about the family, taking the piss out of our terrible guide and joking around.
To conclude, the Galapagos islands were disappointing for us, but it was a fantastic vacation with Ramis’ parents.

We all flew back to Quito (saving us 9 hours of buses ; - ) and spent there a day and a half. Rachel and Ralph dared to trust us and canceled their hotel reservations and joined us to our budget hotel, in a colonial building, at the center of the old town.
It felt good to walk around freely on solid ground.
We bought the “Guia Vial Del Ecuador” (road map, the blue one, not the other!), grate resolution, distances and altitude, even though we had a Nelles map (actually we had 2 Nelles maps: Colombia/Ecuador and Peru/Ecuador) and photos of the Reise map. We were still excited! Ramis’ dad paid for it – a gift! Thanks, dad!

An indigenes.
A plaza in beautiful Quito.

A shop?
Lots of gel in this country/continent.

Back to real life 08/10/08
Rachel and Ralph left early for their flight. We later heard they had problems with a crooked taxi driver, but they survived. They flew to Bogota, Hector Castro invited Ralph to lecture at the university (another TAU physics geek); they enjoyed the Castros’ hospitality and company.
We took the 5 hours bus to the border. On the way the driver stopped to buy a Yuca plant from a field. We all waited as he plucked the plants.
Border crossing was smooth; we got a 60 days visa...

We arrived to Ipiales at the afternoon; found it exactly as we left it. We spent there the night. We learned from past mistakes and immediately bought tickets for the direct Ipiales-Armenia bus, with Bolivariano, Gal favorite bus company: comfortable chairs, clean toilets, 2 polite drivers (15 hour drive), air-con, windows and everything working (also the drivers – don’t stop to buy Yuca…). The bus dropped us at Calarca, after a smooth drive.

To conclude, “How about meeting at…” is not as easy as it sounds, but it was worth it!

Galapagos Islands Impressions
by Rachel and Ralph Rosenbaum, the parents of Rami

We had planned a holiday trip in September to visit Peru and Ecuador, including a visit to the Galapagos Islands off the Pacific coast of eastern Ecuador. We considered the possibility of meeting Rami and Gal during this time. According to their bicycle schedule, it appeared that the cyclists would be in the southern part of Colombia at this time, and a rendezvous might be possible in the coastal sea town of Guayaquil, Ecuador. Friends of us had recommended an eight day tour of some of the islands on a small tourist class yacht. In early spring we made reservations on the “Golondrina I” yacht, a small boat housing 14 guests plus a crew of 7 through the agent – Galapagos Travel Line (c/o Mr. Galo Estrada). Tickets for air plane flights from Lima to Guayaquil, and then from Guayaquil to Baltra Island and finally from Baltra to Quito were also purchased early to take advantage of discount prices on the flights. We held our breath that everyone would be in good health and spirits to participate in this “mini reunion”.
We indeed had a wonderful time together. Gal and Rami have summarized their experiences in their “Galapagos blog” contribution. We like to supplement their blog with our comments and recommendations. In retrospect, we would have changed our itinerary, had we been familiar with the features of the Islands.

1st Day: Baltra Island Airport, Bus ride to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island and a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station. We enjoyed the Research Station, where we received our first introduction to the life habits of the Galapagos
tortoises. In Israel, we do not have such large land turtles.

2nd Day: Highlands of Santa Cruz Island – disappointing and wasted morning.
Cruise to Santa Fe Island in afternoon – exciting and enjoyable snorkeling amongst the sea lions along the shore of a small volcanic cone outcropping just off the shore of Santa Fe Island. This volcanic island is the home for numerous birds.

3rd Day: Española (Hood) Island. For us, Española Island was the super highlight of the week. It is the oldest island in the archipelago, approximately 3.3 million years. The views from the high cliffs of Punta Suárez are really spectacular owing to the large geysers of water and the resulting water mists rising from the blow holes along its shore. Watching the sea marine iguanas climbing out of the water pools onto the volcanic rocks was a real treat too. And what a surprise to see (only a few feet from us) the large number of baby waved albatross birds nesting with their parents on the broad plateau above the cliffs. Our only complaint was that the walking path was too short; and we strongly recommend to the Nature Reserve Administration to extend its length to cover more of these breathtaking cliff views.
In the afternoon, the Golondrina I sailed to Garner Bay for snorkeling and bird observation. We were greeted by a large colony of sea lions, and there saw the cruel behavior of the parent sea lions to the newly born babies. After birth, the mother sea lion swims out to sea to gather food, leaving her baby alone for a day or two. This “cub” wandered amongst all the adults trying to locate his mother, but all the adults cast away this stranger with powerful blows from their fins. It was a cruel and sad sight to see the struggling cub searching for this mother. Apparently most of the cubs survive this ordeal. Their population is large on all the islands.

4th Day: Floreana Island and Flamingo Lagoon – OK. On our visit, the colorful flamingo birds were feeding on the shrimps at the far end of the lagoon; and owing to their distance from us, the view of them was relatively poor. The Barrel Post Office was a disappointment.

5th Day: North Seymore Island just north of Baltra - nothing special. There are a large number of blue-footed boobies. At noon time, the “Golondrina I” refueled, supplied, and received new passengers. For us this was a “wasted” day.

6th Day: Genovesa – fair impression. Great collection of birds, including the boobies, frigates, herons, and gulls and interesting vegetation including the prickly pear cactus and shore petunias. Special sights were the fish swimming in the small ponds enclosed by the lava cliffs.

7th Day: Bartolomé Island located in Sullivan Bay off James Island – highly recommended. An early rise at 5 am is necessary to observe the small penguins diving into the Bay at about 5:45 am. The walk up to the summit of the volcanic peak is fun and the view of the neighboring islands is magnificent (we had clear weather!). We then returned to the shore to visit the “South Beach” of Bartolomé Island where we saw abandoned nests of the sea turtles and great views of the American Oyster Catcher birds digging up shrimp with their red long beaks. The snorkeling on the “North Beach” was also good with views of swimming penguins, ray fish and colorful smaller fish.
In the afternoon the yacht returned to the north part of Santa Cruz Island for a visit to “Black Turtle Cove”. For us this was a wonderful experience to see the green sea turtles and sharks swimming so close to us. This day was very successful.

8th Day: Morning visit to Plasa Sur (South Plaza Island) – Nice. Good cliff views of the sea and frigate birds as well as great display of “large” land iguanas and tall impressive prickly pear cactus. Returned to Baltra airport for the flight to Quito.

The crew of the “Golondrina I” yacht was great and most helpful. The guide was OK but sometimes obnoxious.

If we were to repeat the trip, we would arrange a four day visit to the Darwin Research Station, Española Island, Bartolomé Island, Black Turtle Cove, and South Plaza Island, and then spend the last remaining three days touring the large Isabela Island which we hear is worth visiting.

Rachel and Ralph Rosenbaum


Gonzalinho said...

deine photos sind gut
und dir bist shöen auch
endschuldigun¨für mein Deutsch aber I sprache spanhisch, Ich bin aus Bolivia (süd amerika)
ein gröse Küss fur dich

Anonymous said...

Hey, I love your photos...they are really nice..

Gonzalinho said...

sorry, I comment on wrong window,
I was looking your pictures are nice,
and you are beauty too
sorry by my english, so I speak spanish, I am from Bolivia (south america)
well, a kiss for you