The end of the journey

We’ve been home for a few days and are mostly caught up with ourselves. We jumped right back into work, so I for one am really glad it’s Friday and we have a quiet weekend doing nothing much. It’s sad how quickly vacations recede in our memories. The real world takes over so quickly and it feels like the vacation happened forever ago.  A week ago we were slogging through rainforest trails. One week before that we were oohing and aahing at blue-footed boobies. *sigh* The real world has nothing on vacation world. Anyway.

I thought I’d wrap up my trip postings with a lessons learned post. We each took one suitcase that weighed about 25 pounds. We followed the clothing recommendations pretty closely. Still, we blew it in a couple of areas.

Tip one: don’t take anything cotton. Running or workout shirts that are quick dry are best. Make sure shorts and pants are blends, and lightweight. The boat was air-conditioned which really helped cut down the dampness so we were able to stay ahead of things on the boat. We could lay wet stuff out on the sun deck and it would be pretty dry in a few hours thanks to the sun and heat. In the rainforest it was hopeless. Things got damp and stayed damp. And cotton was the worst of all. It got damp and got moldy-smelling. So no cotton.

Tip two: there is no such thing as too much sunscreen. Sunscreen costs a flipping MINT in the Galapagos (as in $25 per small bottle). So bring a lot with you. Worst case you’ll have leftovers that you can share with travelers coming when you are going. And the hat thing is no joke – bring a floppy hat, it will really help cut down on the sun-burned neck thing.

Tip three: bring  a first aid kit, and make sure there are bandages, antiseptic wipes and Neosporin in it. We were ready for illness but were ill equipped for cuts and scrapes, and between the lava rock in the Galapagos and the roots in the rainfoest, the odds are you’ll need some band-aids.

Tip four: get some good binoculars! We had binoculars, but they were not really up for the task. Ours were Nikons, 10 x 25mm, and we had a really tough time seeing things like birds at any great distance. The folks who had 10- x 42mm were much better off. I had never really learned how to use binoculars – by the end of this trip I was a semi-pro.

Tip five: if you’re going to do a two-fer sort of trip and go to, say, the Galapagos and the rainforest, or the Galapagos and Santiago/Quito – go to the Galapagos last. It is so amazing and wonderful there that whatever you do after will pale in comparison. We enjoyed the rainforest, but everywhere we went we couldn’t help but compare it to what we saw in the Galapagos. And the rainforest just couldn’t compete.

Ecuador uses the American dollar as their currency. The end. That makes life really easy, money-wise. For the most part you’ll get American change in return. Every once in a while you’ll get a few centavos coins. We brought a couple hundred dollars in various small bills and that was about right. We never had to use an ATM (good thing, the one time we tried our cards didn’t work. Thanks for nothing, Bank of America!). Cell coverage was pretty good in the Galapagos but non-existent in the rainforest. Internet access in the cities was not bad. In the Galapagos you’ll need to find an Internet cafe  (unless you’re Jeff Bezos and you bring a satellite setup with you on your boat – true story, we heard it from the captain!).

I can’t say enough nice things about Ecoventura (thanks, Paulina!). All we had to do was get ourselves to Quito – once there the Ecoventura folks took us under their wing(s), shepherding us onto our Aerogal flight to the Galapagos, getting us sorted at the airport, taking care of our luggage and getting us on board the ship. Then on the flip side, were equally well taken care of going to and from the rainforest. The trip wasn’t cheap, but we talked to people who went with “budget” groups and they didn’t have nearly as nice a time as we did. So, caveat emptor.

On the boat and in the rainforest our rooms were cleaned every day, and towels were refreshed as often as we wanted (in our case it was every two days on the boat, but in the rainforest they refreshed daily – understandable given how quickly the moldy smell can take over).  The food was excellent on the boat and good in the rainforest and there was a lot of it, but we stayed so active that we really didn’t have time to overindulge. The boat filtered all water and had a double process for drinking water. The rainforest filtered but we were more careful there. Bring a refillable water bottle with you – there were lots of chances to fill them and we didn’t feel guilty our plastic bottle usage. When brushing our teeth we always rinsed with bottled/filtered water – and we never got sick. One couple on the boat did, but they contracted it eating at a restaurant in Gayaquil, not the Galapagos.