Sunday, July 31, 2011

Whoa - no pictures today! We headed back last night to the Jatun Sacha site, but Tuesday EARLY in the morning we'll head out on our four-day tour of some of the islands. Most volunteers go on this tour, and Jatun Sacha really promotes it. That essentially left only this Monday, next Monday, and next Tuesday for volunteer work. How quickly time flies! With this ever present countdown, I wanted to capture some of the essence of the site that became home away from home. This turned out to be one of my favorite pages because it really brings me back to the kitchen.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 14: Relaxing with Darwin Finches and the Ever-Present Lobos

Sundays were always challenging because we were officially "checked out" of the hostels (though they stored our luggage). When siesta time hit, everything was shut down. Everything. What to do? Where to go? It's hot, muggy, and not the most pleasant time of the day. Time when you really want some A/C. However, Julia and I found a fairly comforting ritual of falling asleep in a nook under some bushes. Like a children's fort on this amazing, relatively unvisited beach.

We had visitors. Many different bill shapes amongst them. I asked them to hold still while I was sketching, but they did not seem to listen. After working on Spanish, I'll need to brush up on Finchish.

Droopy Wings by melbergink
Droopy Wings, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 13: Depressing Museum, Making Friends with Locals

20110625-256.jpg by melbergink
20110625-256.jpg, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Lots of dialogue in the journal, so I'm going to be brief here. Flickr has pictures of some of the sun bleached displays at the Interpretive Center if you are feeling the need to be depressed! But here's an upper, tomorrow is a DOUBLE journal page day!

My art challenge for the below image was trying to make it look like night on the harbor without using much gray and black. Tough! I think the harbor worked, but the pelly looks too orange/chocolate (trying to get the orange light reflection on him).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 12: Back to Town and the Loberia

Flight by melbergink
Flight, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Today was good.
I became friends with a booby.

Below are a lot of little things that need to be shared to get a better picture of the Port!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 11: Heavy Lifting with a View

Part of the Journey by melbergink
Part of the Journey, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Today’s work was one of the most challenging of the whole trip. Baby plants needed to be relocated up to El Junco, a large freshwater lake in a volcanic crater. Because San Cristobal is the only island with a reliable freshwater source, the locals get fresh water (and mosquitoes!). To relocate these plants, we carried them up an inclined trail in awkward crates. Soil is heavy when wet! I was very sore. For most of the day, it was misty, but we had a brief glimpse of the lake and surroundings occasionally.

Today's journal entry was done after returning and provided the reminder to look at things closely. Surprises come from all over!

Julia also let me upload her underwater camera pics, so I posted photos from days already covered (to the Loberia and from the Kicker Rock day trip). Sharks and turtles oh my!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 10: Routine Settled

By now the routine was pretty set, and Jatun Sacha was a stinky, wet home-away-from-home. Today's journal entry was a combination of missing home and shock at how even nice people can be oblivious of the people around them. Not the happiest day, but I got to practice some Spanish with the cook!
Leisure Suits by melbergink
Leisure Suits, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 9: Looking Up Through the Sweat

At this point I finally felt like I had a routine at Jatun Sacha, so I was finally comfortable enough to really notice the details around me. I randomly picked a tree to draw, and it happened to be the tree that identifies that habitat.

Today I went on a horrible hike to a fantastic destination. The path was not horrible, but the marching pace was. I felt like I was jogging! Anyway, it was a scary experience for me, but I actually chat about it on tomorrow’s page. Why let you know now? Because I am posting pictures from it today. We hiked to the spot where Darwin and the Beagle FIRST made land on the Galapagos. How cool is that!?

In the evening we had a large bonfire that took forever to start because it was so damp out. One of the volunteers was an extraordinarily talented musician. He not only serenaded us with songs we all loved, but some of his own creations. He was so good that I forgave him for playing the oh-so cliché, Hotel California.

20110621-188.jpg by melbergink
20110621-188.jpg, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 8: Taming the New Area

Back to the site - No photos today! Too much work to do! Julia actually took some photos of the work today, so in the future I may post some up. Not much to explain, the drawing relays most of the info for today.

I miss having fresh juice every day.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 7: Escape to Kicker Rock

Kicker Rock by melbergink
Kicker Rock, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Today Julia and I took a day trip with Chalo Tours to Kicker Rock and Los Lobos island for snorkeling fun. We snorkeled in between those two giants rocks - what a crazy channel! While we did not see any hammerheads (no one did the weeks we were there), Galapagos sharks checked us out and immediately decided we were boring. Better that then edible!

Los Lobos had marine iguanas and one was nomming underwater. Beautiful and graceful - one of the highlights of the trip. On Kicker Rock there is ONE marine iguana the guides all call Georgina. She looked quite empowered actually!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 6: Becoming Familiar with Town

First full day in town. By the way, when I say "in town" I mean the few streets that are there. Not very big! Today Julia and I got our laundry done and just got comfortable with our surroundings.

If anything got wet at the station, which happened often, there were lines to dry clothes. By the end of the week the clothing item was damper than when you hung it up. Weekend drop-off to Sebastian laundry was CRITICAL to get anything dry. Plus, everything smelled faintly of pineapple afterwards. Better than that bug spray smell!

Shade by melbergink
Shade, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 5: Friday = Head to the Ports!

Friday’s work was quite simple; we filled little bags with dirt (see yesterday’s illustration as an example). Jatun Sacha took us to Puerto Chino for the afternoon, which was a lovely beach that started out rainy. The clouds cleared soon, and we enjoyed floating on the waves. It was a day of firsts for a lot of the animals. While body surfing waves, I saw my first blue-footed boobies diving for tasty fish. I was so excited that I kept screaming – “BOOBIES!” in 100% earnestness. Considering that my companions were on average 19 yrs old and not there for specifics on the biological organisms in the archipelago, they just thought I was strange (in an adorable Biology teacher sense).

Puerto Chino was just a beach, but later we went to the little fishing town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (Note: spelled incorrectly in the journal). They had tourism too, but nothing like Santa Cruz’s city. There I got to see los lobos marinos (sea lions), a marine iguana, and all sorts of frigatebirds and pelicans. The port is where we spent each weekend because no one stays at the site on the weekend. The hostels were not fabulous, but there was a lot more to do at the port than the station and a lot less mosquitoes!

The sea lions were like bison at Yellowstone. Everywhere. As you can see in the Flickr photos. They were adorable and smelly.

Pelly Preen by melbergink
Pelly Preen, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 4: The Work Begins

Click pic for larger.

Today we started working by helping out the National Park. More often than not, we stayed at the site for work, but some days we hopped into the truck and barreled down to the National Park nursery. We moved plants, pulled weeds, packed soil – basically whatever they pointed and told us to do. Actually, with rough Spanish comprehension, it was more of a miming of the task. Comical and sad! I also had a splitting migraine that day, which made me very nervous. Would I have one every day? What triggered it? I’m not stressed. Plenty of water drinking. Gah! Plus, I did not bring Excedrin migraine with me on the trip – what was I thinking?? I used some

pathetically wimpy ibuprofens that did not help. I did not want to seem week and cranky on my first day on the job.

After the manual labor, we got to visit the tortoise breeding center right across the street. Another perk of being a Jatun Sacha volunteer. Fortunately I got to see another breeding center later without my head throbbing. The migraine did go away and it was weeks before another hit. Yay!

A note on machetes – another group of volunteers used them today, but I don’t think I have other pictures of them. Machetes were a regular tool throughout the volunteership. Sort of like a stapler at the office. On that first ride they were quite shocking to see, even if wedging them under the tire prevented them from accidentally wedging into someone’s calf. After the first time seeing them around, machetes were totally normal.

How cool is that!

Machetes by melbergink
Machetes, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 3: Flight to San Cristobal and Settling In

20110615-054.jpg by melbergink
20110615-054.jpg, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

Needed to be at the airport VERRRRRY early, so Patricio picked us up. He had to leave early because at a certain time, he was not allowed to drive. To lower congestion, people are only allowed to drive on certain days. I guess on the other days it encourages carpooling. Interesting system – brilliant, but I would probably be frustrated with it.

After landing in San Cristobal, we saw a double doppelganger – a mesh of TWO friends. She was stylish and cool in her own way. Julia and I were both fascinated. We were happy to get off the flight, which contained an entire class of late elementary school kids. It was very difficult to not try to be responsible for their annoying antics. I wanted to go all teacher all over that bunch! They were crawling over everything!

We hopped into the first truck ride of many to the Jatun Sacha (pronounced Hah-toon Saw-cha) site. About 45 minutes, half paved / half muddy and bumpy. The folks we rode up with were not too friendly (not the norm, they were the one-week Brits and exclusive in nature). At the station we lugged our packs to the bunkrooms and found everyone in hammocks. They were already done for the day! The schedule was as follows:
7 Breakfast
8-10 Work
10-10:30 Break
10:30-12 Work
12 Lunch
2-4 Work
6 Dinner

If the morning work lasted until 1, therefore delaying lunch, then afternoon work was canceled, which was the scenario today. Non-work times were usually spent recovering from heat, humidity, and labor. Also known as the SIESTA. I think I may campaign for it here in the US. Fabulous.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 2: A Day in Quito

Basilica Iguanas by melbergink
Basilica Iguanas, a photo by melbergink on Flickr.

We needed to go to a 30 min orientation in Quito before going to the Jatun Sacha site on San Cristobal, so that meant one day in Quito! I never felt entirely safe there, especially since we were such obvious tourists. I learned later that quite a few of the volunteers were mugged at knifepoint, but it was always when they were walking alone. We explored with two other Jatun Sacha volunteers that would be going to one of the other of the five total volunteer sites (such as the Amazon or San Cristobal). They were very strong, independent women to be traveling alone! Very kind as well. What a great way to start meeting new people.

We visited Itchimbia, which was this cool glass building with a great view. After that, a visit to Old Town, where the Basilica’s native gargoyles like iguanas were fascinating. We hunted down authentic Ecuadorian food and made the discovery that Ecuadorian food is not terribly flavorful. Tasty food with variety was one of the biggest things I missed over this trip. One thing I loved about Quito was the graffiti. Most was generic for sure, but so often I found either ingenious or extremely well-crafted pieces. Some just made me laugh.

Patricio worked with Jatun Sacha and took us to orientation and stores to get rubber boots (ESSENTIAL). He told us all sorts of fun and interesting information and made us comfortable in his city. I was very thankful as a new traveler. He taught us "Chévere" which essentially means "Awesome!" We heard and used it a lot over the trip. Now Adam and I are calling our home "Casa Chévere".

Click for larger image!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 1

Click the image to see a larger version. I'll also be posting all journal pages in a Flickr set. I WILL NOT DIGITALLY EDIT ANY JOURNAL PAGES. I will tweak the color so it is as close to the original as possible, but any mistakes, errors, etc. will be left as is.

First day of the journey - mostly traveling. We did not get in until verrrry late that night! I brought my Pentel pocket brush, but changes in altitude made it temperamental. It was smudging/exploding randomly, so I decided to shelve it for the trip. Also, after this page I decided that I need to start thinking about layout. In general, all future pages are either horizontal or vertical, not a mix like this one. No pictures today, but tomorrow was the first day in Quito, so pictures will be coming manana.

I need to go back to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to see if that magically named tea really exists, or if it was just a special day!
Added note: I went to Coffee Bean's website and found Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearl Tea listed, but when you click on the link, it goes to a File 404. Magical mystery continued!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ecuador Journal

I am officially BACK! Hurrah! I have so many pictures and a jam packed journal that I need to share. To avoid overwhelming myself and you, I am going to update one day, every day over a span of about a month. My journal has 35 full spreads and two half spreads. I was gone for 33 days, so I have one spread a day, two "bonus" spreads, and two half pages (sort of like intro and a "The End" pages). For each entry I'll let the journal page tell the story and will add little comments to either the actual occurrences of the day or contemplations on the actual drawing itself. I'll also add a link (or actual photo) to my Flickr account of my favorite picture of the day. If there is not photo or link, then no pictures were taken that day. If there is a photo, that suggests that there has been an update to my Flickr account with MANY new photos. I went a little nuts, but come on, it's ECUADOR! So check out m Flickr account to see the rest.

Below is the first half page ("Intro") that I worked on in the airports and airplanes. I wanted to get a lay of the land, literally. This way I could start recognizing the islands. I added in some animals that I hoped to see. My reference was the guidebook to Ecuador, but I tried to use an olde world style for fun! Doesn't Isabela look like a seahorse? Our guide pointed that out later in the trip.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Galapagos Post #4 (The Last)

Waaaah! I am sitting in the internet cafe counting down the two hours before we leave the Galapagos. It is so strange how quickly this place became home. San Cristobal specifically. If there were island sports teams, I would wear San Cristobal's jersey with pride. The other islands were amazing, but I loving this little island of fishermen and volunteers.

It is also amazing how close you get with people that you only know for three weeks. A few individuals were especially hard to leave. Vivacious and compassionate people! There were quite a few people that rubbed me the wrong way, but that provided entertainment.

What happened this week? What every true travel should experience - a gastrointestinal explosion! Not pleasant, but I would rather have that than be seasick again. At least my head is not being whacked across the deck! I basically curled up under the mosquito net for 24 hours with occasional bolts to the bathroom (crawl down the top bunk, hobble down the stairs, skitter through the woods to the shack). At least I got sick at the station where I could recuperate peacefully. A lot of volunteers got sick on the four day tour. I felt so bad for them! I had it easy.

I got one of the best compliments yesterday! One of the volunteers, besides wanting a picture to remember Julia and I, said she needed a picture of me because I look just like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. She wanted proof with a pic. :)

Okay, off to have my last San Cristobal batido while watching lobos marinos (sea lions). Then to see my wonderful husband in Quito and begin the next phase of our journey!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Galapagos post #3

I feel like I am swaying at the computer right now! Just finished a four day tour to see Isabela, Floreana, and Santa Cruz. Isabela was by far my favorite, but I am oddly glad to be home at San Cristobal. By now I feel like it is "my" island. I know where to eat, where to sleep, etc. Jatun Sacha volunteers are everywhere, so there are always friendly faces. It is so small that you are not nervous walking around (but I am still traveling smart and safely!). Once I get back, I am going to scan all of my journal pages in to give you a much better understanding of what's been happening. My favorite moment from the tour was visiting a small islet off of Isabela named after the white-tipped sharks that you can see right off the shore. The island has no snakes, so it is where all the baby marine iguanas are - hundreds of them! I also saw the Galapagos penguin and wild flamingos. Way pinker than the zoo ones!

Over the last four days, over 10 hours were on a boat. Turns out, I get really sea sick. I wanted to shoot myself. Tried a different type of pill each time and on the last trip finally found something that worked. Ugh. Boats are for reading about only. Lost my sunglasses in one hurling event.

Probably my favorite part of this whole trip so far was swimming with the sea lions again. This time there were three, and I actually swam with them instead of watched. I twisted and curled around them. Snorkeling was limiting me to the surface, and I suddenly remembered how I am a water baby and am more comfortable in water than on land. Got rid of the snorkel tube and when to diving and leaping, it was like dancing. Constant eye contact. It was like the sea lions were happy to have someone to play with instead of just watching them!

After this weekend, where I'll let my body recuperate from the boats, we only have two more days at Jatun Sacha fighting evil mora (invasive blackberry). Then back to the mainland to see what Adam has planned for us!

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