Sunday, September 17, 2017

Galapagos Islands

         
          






 June 6th-11th, 2017


 Galapagos Islands
Up close with a sleepy fur seal!

           I was fortunate enough to explore the Galapagos Islands in June of 2017. Continuing the Southern American journies, my mother, sister and I booked ourselves on a one-week cruise on the Ocean Spray luxury ship. During our days exploring the islands, my family surrounded ourselves amongst hundreds of thousands of birds, sea lions, iguanas, and other native species in the region. On our five day cruise, we visited the islands Baltra, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Genovesa, and Isabela. My personal favorite was Santa Cruz! Our travels were filled with daily snorkeling and island hopping, followed with nightly margaritas with the other fourteen passengers at the ships bar! 


Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Galapagos Penguin
        Something incredible about the islands of the Galapagos is that the entire area is protected by the Galapagos National Park Service. All of the islands are protected by dedicated wildlife and environment enthusiasts. Every day the team works to preserve the islands by collecting trash, surveying animal populations, and aiding the habitat in any way possible. 

        The OceanSpray was devoted to being environment-friendly as well. Everything was bio-degradable or recycled. We even had divers who picked up fallen trash in the ocean!
     



         Another fascinating fact about the islands is tourists can actually observe wild penguins! These penguins are native to the islands, so they are accustomed to the heat. Scientists believe they wandered over here before the countries drifted apart due to the movement of the tectonic plates.  So now, I do not have to tour the Arctic to see a wild penguin. 




Red-Footed Boobie                                                       
            This is a Red-Footed Boobie! Unfortunately, I was not able to capture any great photos of the bird's famous cousin: the Blue-Footed Boobie. These magnificent creatures native to the islands are known for their clumsiness and colorful bodies. The name comes from European colonists, who used the Spanish word "bobo" which translates to "stupid" probably referring to the bird's ungraceful, flopping-like landing.       


My Sea Lion Friend

                This is my sea-lion friend, that took a nap close to me while everyone else was snorkeling off the beach of Genovesa Island. I'm not much of a snorkeler, so I sat and read my book on the beach when this curious little guy wandered up to me and fell asleep. Our tour guide was very insistent at the beginning of our cruise that male sea-lions are incredibly dangerous, aggressive animals- and that we should do our best to steer clear of them. So, naturally, I was a bit nervous about this young male flopped up to me! But he just fell asleep and minded his own business. 

My Cabin's Private Deck
Santa Cruz Bar


             Of course, I'll always have time for an island margarita! Our luxury cruise always had a buffet for breakfast and lunch, complimentary with all the indulgences one could ever need! But the dinners were to die for; four-course customary meals for your specific dietary preferences. 
             
             No pizzas for me on this trip when I was catered with incredible five-star dishes! Each night the passengers were served a craft salad, a soup, an entree and then dessert with cappuccinos. 

Galapagos Tortoise!

            On the Island Santa Cruz, we had the chance to visit the Galapagos National Park headquarters. Native to the Islands, these giant tortoises actually inspired the name "Galapagos Islands". The Spanish word "Galapagos" means tortoise. During our exploration of the islands, my family had the opportunity to walk around on a tortoise conservation farm with this 150-year-old vertebrate. The photo is definitely not to scale, but this particular big boy weighed over 600 pounds!
My Sea-Lion Friend



Monday, July 24, 2017

Peru




                                                                                                                                              Alpaca's are a valuable livestock in Peru

                Peru was my first South American destination, as my family has always traveled Europe. Originally planned as a medical mission trip, my mother, sister, and I booked a Peruvian expedition that later turned out to be solely a touristy vacation. The trip was planned June 1st through the 5th, scheduled to visit the major cities Pisac, Cusco, and Lima. After several layovers, we arrived in Pisac, where my family drove into the Andes to see The Sacred Valley of the ancient Inca Empire. 






                            After learning about the history of alpaca weaving and watching townspeople create beautiful works of art, my family headed to the town Ollantaytambo for lunch. Peruvian food definitely differs from Texas fried chicken, but I have always been an adventurous foodie. We settled in for the night at our hotel in Cusco, awaiting our 5:30 a.m. wake up call for hiking Machu Picchu!


                      Machu Picchu Mountain, mid-way up the mountain where the abandoned Incan city lies. The ancient citadel is photographed by thousands of people every day, serving as a prime location for tourism and history to collaborate. 


                   In order to hike to the top of the mountain, one needs to purchase a ticket well in advance. Only 400 hikers are allowed to "walk" upon the trails each day- and the hiker must be on the path before 11:00a.m. If the stair-master is your choice of cardio, then Machu Picchu is the vacation for you. At no point of the hike does the path even out to flat ground. The journey took my sister and I an hour and a half to reach the peak, and an hour to get back to the ground. 
                     
                   Tips for Hiking:

                                - BE IN SHAPE. This trip is not for the faint of heart. If you have any medical conditions, are pregnant, or even have a swollen ankle- the trek up Machu Picchu is not for you. My sister and I are early 20's, in perfect health and great shape and the overall trip took us 2.5 hours.

                                - Bring plenty of water and a snack for the top of the mountain. 
                                
                                - Wear comfortable, breathable, athletic clothing.      
  
                                - Become acclimated to the elevation difference. At ground level, Cusco is about 4,000 ft higher in elevation than the United States. No matter how in-shape you are, you will feel a difference in the air. 


     *The peak of Machu Picchu mountain closes at noon, so all people must be off the mountain top by 1:30 for weather purposes, so make sure to start out early.*



Perfect spot for some meditation!



             The drink I ordered is a Pisco Sour, the signature drink of Peru. A Peruvian version of the Whiskey Sour, the modernized drink was created in the 1920s- adding Angostura bitters and egg white to the recipe.  

INGREDIENTS:


  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon pasteurized egg white
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup crushed ice
  • 2 ounces Peruvian pisco (1/4 cup)
  • Angostura bitters

              In my opinion, the drink tastes almost exactly like a classic Margarita. Overall- definitely a must-try when traveling in Peru! 

Pizza! As someone who has never been exposed to Southern American cultures, I struggled with eating Peruvian food. Many dishes utilized ingredients I would have never ordered on a typical day; such as the purple dates shown on the pizza. When vacationing in Peru, be ready to try a variety of new foods. 











 

design + development by kiki and co. creative