Friday, February 23, 2018

Day 7 – The Curious Sea Lion Pup

(Day 7 afternoon. San Cristobal, GALAPAGOS!) Alas our last full day! And it’s the afternoon already on San Cristobal. :(

When people are less relevant, you really see how animals act. There's nothing to fear from humans, so as example...

Here's a frame from a GoPro video just before a young, curious sea lion poked my video cam, physically that is, while I sat in a tide pool last week.

image (1)
Taking a Close Look at my GoPro
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

All the animals, be it iguanas, boobies, sea turtles, tortoises or dolphins, simply "got on with their business," walking thru our legs if needed to carry on.

I found it enthralling, thought provoking and deeply inspiring, yet often was wistful to be in the middle of a tiny slice of what "Mother Earth" was like at one time, but won't be again for a long time, [ and what remains is potentially passing away too ] due to us.

If you can, visit these nooks and crannies of our planet. You will be happy you did.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Day 3 – Motoring with the Dolphins

(Day 3, in the evening. Isabela, Galapagos!) We were out on one of the Zodiac boats - -smallish inflatable craft with outboard motors - - looking at marine birds off the cliffs of Isabela Island.

Then, the boat's seasoned Ecuadorian skipper, Washington, was notified of a pod of dolphins moving gleefully further out in the ocean.

He gunned the engine, headed our vessel out into the ocean and took up chase... landing us in the middle of perhaps 40 magical creatures.
A Magical, Whimsical Troupe, Cruising the Seas
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

Those 10 minutes seemed to stretch for a mesmerizing eternity.

They surged out of the water in pairs, trios, singles. I wished for eyes on the back of my head as the playful scene was everywhere I looked, and did not.

They were on our left, then our right. Back on our left. In front, then behind. To miss on microsecond of it in any direction was a crime.

A Precious One Minute, On Just One Side
Salvador Cazar, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger video)

To be clear, it was their choice, not ours. As if we had been included in their merry band, just cruising the oceans, like a bunch of bikers hauling ass and laughing the whole way.

As fast as it began, it ended and we headed back to the ship. A dream could not have been more remarkable...

Day 3 – Mmmm, the Sun Makes Me So Sleepy…

(Day 3, afternoon. Fernandina, Galapagos! ) Fernandina Island, a lava covered sanctuary for thousands of marine iguanas is yet another remarkable place to visit.

The iguanas are EVERYWHERE.

You truly need to look down constantly as you walk, as it is very easy to step on one of these tranquil creatures - - again an example that the denizens of the Galapagos view humans as irrelevant, so no need to run away when two legged sapiens come around.

Sleepy Iguana
Homer Simpson’s Hero, “I'll Get Up... Later”
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

For better or worse, I think the iguanas also view us as smart enough to notice them and walk around them. So they just don’t move off our paths. (The sea lions don’t either.) Actually, the iguanas would kindly correct me: it’s THEIR paths, that we are using, no?

And the combination of ambient sun above, the dark lava rock below, gentle creature in the middle (with a flexible afternoon schedule), and the occasional shower to regulate the heat? That’s what you call a sleep sandwich.

Who wouldn’t get all woozy, spread out, and get some shut eye.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

The First of Most Things is Awesome

(Day 1, Las Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz, Galapagos! ) The start of anything, the very beginning, usually earns more anticipation and enjoyment than it may deserve.

I think that was the case today.

Why? Because it was our first ACTUAL excursion to an island. Now in truth, all we did was head to a very nice beach, take a short walk around and wade around in the refreshing water.

Landing on Las Bachas Beach
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

Starting with Safety and the Basics of Life on a Ship

(Day 1, Baltra Island) The crew was impressive in so many ways. The first and foremost - its attention to safety and sharing basic info. Gosh they had so much to impart on us and all of it was done in a congenial, paced manner.

Perhaps the biggest datapoint was when Juan Carlos, the Expedition Leader, said with a twinkle in his eyes, "My friends, please know that we are one big family on the Endeavor, so we do not lock our rooms."

Come again?

Learning About the Ship’s Traditions and Rules
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

Turtle Tracks = Turtle Babies

(Day 1, Las Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz) On taking a short hike, we saw the distinctive tracks of a female adult turtle. Large scallops of sand, in a long sequential pattern.

The naturalists were careful that we did not follow these tracks closely.

Celso declared, "My friends, just over there is where I can assure you there are new eggs laid. They are lying just under the sand. That is why if you will help me, let's put some branches around that spot so that others know to avoid it. We need to help the babies every way we can."

Night Time Trek by a Mommy
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

Finally, We Are on the Boat!

(Day 1, Baltra Island, Galapagos! ) Finally, we are here! ! ! I am about to split in two with the excitement and anticipation of being "on the boat" at last.

By no means do I have complaints: the travel has been so smooth, the length and legs are simply part of any +5,000 mile journey.

Yet again, the Lindblad folks were precise and clear. Leave check-in luggage outside the hotel door by 6:15 am. Breakfast at 6:45. Buses leave at 7:45. Boarding passes handed out at the airport. Then, relax on the 700 mile Avianca flight to Baltra Island, with a piping hot ham and cheese sandwich that puts American's 4 hour flight to shame (are you surprised?).

Early Morning Start, to the Airport
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

Lindblad = Smooth Operations

(Day 1, Guayaquil Airport) It is Saturday morning, Feb 17. We are waiting to board our flight at José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

So far, all is very, very well. Credit goes to the Lindblad Expeditions ground staff.

They certainly are highly coordinated and communicate details well.

Getting Us Oriented on the Bus Ride to the Hotel
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Guayaquil, Ecuador

(Day 0, Guayaquil) Leaving Veena and family was made easier due to the anticipation of what lay ahead: a nonstop to Ecuador.

We are one step closer.

The American Airlines flight was fine from an aeronautical sense. The amenities left something to be desired: specifically the supposed in-flight dinner. Remember this is an international flight and yet, it was a cold sandwich, which I hoped was made in the last 24 hours. It's less that I mind as much as I don't know if these once great businesses have lost sight of how diluted their experiences have become.



Heading to GYE
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2018 (Click for larger image)

Galapagos Lucky Strike Extra: Seeing Family

(Day 0, Miami)

My Mom's from a family of 7 kids. Dad, a whopping 14. Most of the siblings are now in the US. The upshot? Many of my destinations have the high probability of not just a friend in town, but perhaps a cousin, aunt or uncle. As the eldest grandchild on both sides, I  straddle two generations of two families. What great luck, no?

Visiting family also answers my penchant to “maximize experiences,” as I have a good history with my extended family. That's a blessing I don't appreciate enough.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Galapagos! It is finally here!

(Day -1, Seattle)

"Galapagos!" It is a name that has been on my mind, and the top of my list of places to visit for over 10 years.

"Galapagos" was a recurring word that cropped up on many occasions in the 10 months of cancer treatment I underwent in 2016 and 2017, usually in the middle of a long infusion session of chemo.

"Oh no!" I blurted out during my third round, realizing that I had not arranged anything concrete.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Happy Holidays 2017!

Hi Folks,

I do hope this note finds you happy, healthy and ahead of your own gameplan.


Paul, 15, Sidd, 14 and me with my eyebrows again
Abraham Pachikara, Copyright 2017 (Click for larger image)

As some of you know, my dad passed away this past January 1. Hence, my Mom has been on the millennia-old journey of a spouse surviving a vibrant marriage, and now traveling without her longtime partner. When Dad was in his last months, she was resilient, focused and tough as nails. I think she is tougher now, although her gently delivered words will never betray this fact. Certainly, on many moments she is deeply wistful. Yet I watch in awe. As always, I thoroughly enjoy my time with her (a constant since I was a toddler), and one of 2017's pinnacles was when she joined Paul, Sidd and myself for a week in Rome and Florence. For this deeply passionate art lover, visits to the Uffizi and Vatican Museums only energized her while we were left exhausted. Mom's spunky 78 year old persona shone like a 19 year old art history major for that week. More broadly, in 2017 she's embraced the online world: not just such aspects as banking and utilities, but also presenting her art work via Saatchi Art such as this collection of landscapes. Her nimbleness and tenacity are deeply noticed by the boys.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Deforestation: My 2nd Quarterly Check-In

Dear Folks,

It's been a while since I sent an update - my bad.

Sometimes in life, winning bears great meaning.

Examples include: as an ex-con seeing your probation officer, a clean record has great implications; as a substance abuser checking in with your counselor, “no needle marks” prove the battle is being won; or as an alcoholic at your AA meeting, a dry patch is a hard earned chapter of clarity. In my case, it's as a cancer alum meeting with my oncology team. To not have a win means you will not be revisiting a rocky journey that could bring you asunder.