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Friday, July 23, 2004

A dot point summary of where we went and what we did and what we saw on our South American holiday - just so I remember on twenty years.

1.  Santiago.  Capital of Chile.
First impression was that of extreme smog, then got a glimpse of the snow capped mountains surrounding the city - wow.  Friendly hostel.  Noisy fellow hostel guests.  Raging hostel party on outdoor terrace outside our room until 4am.  Very dirty bathroom.  Lesson learnt - you are too old to stay in hostels.
Ate bad hot dog for lunch one day, white goo was some sort of cheese mayonnaise type thing.  Ate very good seafood at nice restaurant (ceviche - raw fish marinated in lemon juice, herbs and chilli - yum).  Lesson learnt - only eat in nice restaurants.
Saw Santiago, nice city, didn't get mugged, avoided park at night as advised by hostel owner.

2. Quito, Ecuador.  Over 2,800m in elevation, was a little breathless.  Stayed in new part of city - nice hotel after lesson learnt in Santiago.  Old town had much more charm, although guide book says to avoid at night.  I wonder how much of that stuff is true sometimes.  Day trip to Cotapaxi volcano, drove to 4,500m, now very breathless.  Look at short walk to refuge hut at 4,800m and decide it wont take long.  Over and hour later realise we had no idea and collapse in hut, thankful we were not blown off the mountain or lost in the whiteout as there were blizzard like conditions on the way up.  Now have bad headache and feeling rather ill.  Lesson learnt - don't underestimate altitude.

3.  Galapagos Islands.  Fly dodgy "Tame" airlines - pronounced "Tah-may".  Glad to arrive in one piece, worst landing ever.  First impression of Baltra island, barren and ugly.  Sky is cloudy, water is grey.  Sun comes out and it all looks a bit better.  Transfer to boat and am very excited to see sealion sunning itself on back deck of boat next door.  Five days later, sealions are so commonplace nobody bothers to point them out.  Visit Charles Darwin centre and see hundreds of baby giant land tortises.  They have a couple of hundred years to grow.  Take too many photos of tortises and land iguanas.  Be thankful for digital photography so we can delete later.
Very cool boat - 16 passengers, very good food.  Overnight sail very rocky, Mr R nearly falls off top bunk.  I am nice and snug on bottom bunk - shows who has the brains of the relationship.  Wake up to dolphins swimming around boat, wow.  Over next three days see amazing wildlife.  Frigates, blue footed boobies, albatross, pelicans, penguins, marine iguanas, land iguanas, crabs, fish, sharks, stingrays, sea tortises, and the best is to snorkel with sealions.  Get so close to wildlife you have to step over it.  Mr R has run in with baby sealion that chases him down the beach.   I fail my first "wet landing" where you have to jump from dingy into water and wade to shore, and manage to somehow land face first.  This makes me laughing stock of whole boat.  Food is good but sometimes unusual, eg the potato and pineapple salad with thousand island dressing.  Lesson learnt - four nights in Galapagos is not enough.

Ok - this is taking much longer than originally anticipated, given that I am a week into the trip!  To be continued - stay tuned for exciting tales of homestays in indian villages and run ins with tarantulas.

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