Saturday, September 18, 2010

Goodbye Vancouver (again) and Hello Asia!

Hard to believe that South America was just 2 weeks ago. I wanted a more comprehensive, we traveled x amount of kilometers but man, I'm not sure I like google map. But here's a quick map with all the places we went to. Tally - 1 continent, 7 countries, over 30 cities and countless friends:

View South America - Te amo! in a larger map

I'm fully aware that time does fly but I'm in complete shock how quickly being home in Vancouver has come to an end. I have never had 17 days go by so quickly. It's seriously been a whirlwind. I barely had enough time to refuel on best friends, get a new passport (with more pages of course) and get things done. When I first got back, I had a bad case of 'Reverse Culture Shock' - I was really weirded out by everything, including seeing an immense number of white and Asian folks (I know, I'll have to get over this. lol) Everything just felt so surreal. It's been great being back but it still doesn't feel real and yet here I am completely panicked about leaving in a few days. To be honest, it was too short - I didn't even get a chance to see everyone, or do everything much less process and reflect about how traveling has impacted and changed me. I would have loved to have spent more time with people. I don't really want to go through the whole "missing everyone" ordeal again. I'm a little heart-broken about saying good bye.

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about exploring Asia. I bought a one way ticket to Manila and start in the Philippines with my whole family for my Grandmother's 90th birthday! It'll be epic and a fantastic party! After that, I'm not sure what I'll be doing. I do plan on staying put for a little while, slow down a bit and do some volunteering. This part of the journey will be different since I'll be on my own - I'm going through Yuko withdrawal already! :( However, I know that it'll be filled with new experiences, lessons and more adventures.

PS - I've given everyone a hard time on this but I really REALLY want people to keep in better touch. Technology makes it easier with Emails, Facebook, Skype- charinascruz. Despite wherever I am, I still want to feel connected and hear from everyone!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Galapagos Islands - The Origin of Species

How do I even begin to start choosing highlights from a trip to the Galapagos? It's hard to describe the feeling of being on the islands - I'll admit, I wasn't completely blown away in the beginning of the trip. I dunno, maybe I've been extremely blessed and have seen some amazing things around the world but as spectacular as it is, it wasn't earth shattering...I know, it's awful to admit that. But as the days continued, there were just so many things to appreciate. How can you not fall in love with nature when turtles swim around you, the sea lions laze around and frolic in the waves and you see ancient giant tortoises in their natural habit. I went on a cruise and spent 8 days on a 16 passenger boat named the Golondrina. I was fortunate enough to be with a great bunch of people and have a friendly and knowledgeable guide. I must say, there were some fantastic moments of complete bliss sitting on the deck soaking in the sun and smelling the fresh sea.

  • Animal watching - The best thing about the islands is that it's the humans that have to move around animals and not the other way around. Seriously, what a concept...but it really adds to the experience when you have to look at where you're walking so you don't trample the iguanas in their little kindergarten sanctuary.
  • Sea Lions - OMG, they are the cutest things in the world. I've learned that it's impossible to take too many pictures of them (as seen on FB). We even got really lucky and saw a newborn baby being cleaned by its mother on its first day on earth! Though I did find that it's a little freaky to swim with them cause they are huge and fast but it's crazy cool how close to you they get.
  • Random sightings - We saw 2 whales on our way to snorkeling and penguins while we were sitting on the deck sunbathing.
  • Snorkeling - The water was freezing! I have never had to wear a full body wetsuit (you feel like a sausage it's awful. lol) but there were a few things that I'd never seen before such as the Galapagos Octopus & a Yellow Puffer and schools of mantle rays.
  • Swimming with the tortoises - It's mesmerizing watching them eat and swim surprisingly fast...I don't know why they have such an unfortunate rap, I mean their hundreds of kilos heavy, it's amazing they can move in the first place.
  • Scuba diving and seeing 2 sharks sleeping and a hammerhead shark. I'm surprised that I didn't guzzle my tank faster than I did!
  • I love Boobies!!! Blue footed boobies (the famous Galapagos bird) look kinda cross-eyed and dopey and I think they're sooooo cute. Red footed boobies are pretty cool too. Seeing little kids with the "I love Boobies" shirt around town makes me laugh every single time.
  • I had a fantastic cabin mate - Thanks Monika!

  • Being sea sick...T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E...the rocking of the boat did not feel like a lullaby despite how much I willed it to! Pills don't really help much...and neither does drinking...I still kinda feel like the earth is constantly shaking like it's on a gigantic wave. I'm kinda over boats for now...
  • The waves. There are some strong currents here!
  • My brand spanking new waterproof camera is NOT waterproof - The downside is that I had to get pics from other people but I'm happy to say that there is a better ending to this story now.... The amazing Romana got me a refund...I can't even begin to tell you how impressive watching her negotiate in Spanish was!

I've had some pretty cool chilled days walking around Puerto Ayora. I went for a monstrous 40km uphill bike ride that took me to a beautiful turquoise beach - let's just say I'm just trying to lose weight I gained during the 8 day cruise (and other places). It's amazing how you can do absolutely nothing on the boat and all you want to do is to eat and sleep.

After the Galapagos, we ended up in a really cool little beach town in Ecuador called Montanita. We hung out with Jess and the Israeli boys enjoying the laid back atmosphere and soaked in more sun and the wicked hippie atmosphere (you'll see the cute trenza that I got as a souvenir).

Hard to believe that 7 months in South America has come and gone. In many ways it's gone by ridiculously fast. I can't believe this is the last blog in this continent. There are some amazing things to see and experience and it's truly been great. I wish we had more time since there are so many other places I'd love to see, ah well there's always next time...We're in Lima enjoying our last few nights in the continent with our fave Londoners who we bumped into on our 30 hr bus trip (our longest ever). Great way to end this part of the journey. It's hard not to get a little sad and introspective when things come to an end since traveling is filled with beautiful moments but it's always wonderful to think about the new adventures yet to come...

We'll be arriving back home to Vancouver soon. Yuko will be there but I'll only be in town from Sept 3-20th and would love to see everyone!! I'll be heading to the Philippines and will continue my travels in Asia. I'm secretly hoping that there'll be a "Welcome back/Tell our stories once/Show our pictures/I'm leaving again for a long time" Party. I'll keep everyone - the number everyone can reach me is at my parents' (604) 519 1873 or their cell at (778) 836 7096 which I will probably have on me! See you all soon!

Who knew iguanas could have the most interesting expression!?

Those are white tipped sharks taking an afternoon nap.

Mr turtle just popped up beside our dinghy :)

Tortoises make me feel young, light and wrinkle free ;)


How adorable is this sea lion?

The famed Boobies. Notice the little boobie?

Ya, this pose was fun.