With Photographic Evidence
                                                                                                                         April 2nd, 2006: Mancora, Peru

    Having never been the world´s greatest computer wiz, I have attempted, in my lacking wisdom, to forward some pics
    from our trip to the Galapagos Islands. Some of you might be able to see them, but most of you probably won´t. I
    apologize for being so completely useless with anything more sophisticated than a betamax, but alas, this is the world
    in which I live.

      It is Sunday afternoon, and we are currently sitting in an internet cafe in the surfing town of Mancora, Peru, waiting
    for the bus. It has been a pretty crazy couple of weeks, so I´ll try to fill you in.

      First of all, the Galapagos Islands was totally amazing, but it is almost useless to try to describe it, because you really
    have to be there to understand what it´s like. The animals are completely unafraid of humans, which means that you
    can walk right up to them. Some of the highlights are the blue footed booby (if the pictures work, I took a great one of
    Sandra showing her blue bikinied boobies to the blue footed boobies!) and their ridiculous mating dance, the sea lions
    which lay around on the beach all day and play with you in the water when you´re snorkelling, the sharks (small ones)
    which come in to water as shallow as about a foot deep, and the marine iguanas who will walk past you on the beach
    like you´re not even there. Amazing stuff. Every island is completely different from the others - some have mountains,
    some are totally flat and arid,
    some have amazing beaches, and one (Bartolome) was nothing but a slew of volcanoes and red ash, which made you
    totally feel like you were on Mars. Unbelievable. Anyway, like I said, it´s just one of those places you have to see for

      As for the boat, we were staying on this tiny little thing called ¨The Golondrina¨ that would get rocked around by the
    waves at night, and even though our St. Patty´s day wasn´t as adventurous as that of say, MY DAD, there were a few
    of us who ended up going a little green and feeding the fishes that first night. Also, that first afternoon on the boat, I
    ended up falling down the stairs, looking like a complete idiot, and gashing my foot in the process. I was still bleeding
    by the time I got into the water to go snorkeling, much to the delight of the sharks in the water. But we eventually got
    our sea legs, and ended up spending 5 days in tight but friendly quarters with the crew and a family from Washington
    DC, where the dad (who was a contestant on Jeopardy in the early 90´s) insisted on calling his 4 year old son
    ¨Sweetie¨ the entire time... I´m not sure what kind of ramifications this will end up having on his masculinity in the
    future, but I gotta tell you, it was a little wierd to witness first hand.

      After getting off the boat at the end of the tour, we spent 4 days in Puerto Ayora, the main town in the Islands,
    where we hiked to the most beautiful beach I´ve ever been to (the whitest sand and most crystal clear water), and
    rented mountain bikes so we could ride up hill the entire way in the 35 degree heat to something called ¨the lava tubes¨,
    which are giant underground caves that were formed by flowing lava however many years ago. The hostel we were
    staying at in town was pretty funny, because our room was pretty much the Galapagos version of a honeymoon suite,
    having been hand decorated by the owner´s son, complete with hand carved turtles and sea lions, a giant 3D mural map
    of the islands on the wall, and you really felt like you were one with nature in that place, because there was literally
    every conceivable insect running around on the floor and in the bed, and a gecko scurrying around on the wall in the
    bathroom just for good measure. There was also a little boy walking around outside of our room all day, wearing
    nothing but a diaper, who insisted on throwing leaves and sticks and Sandra and persistently calling her ¨Hooka¨... We
    weren´t exactly sure what that was supposed to mean in his language, but just accepted it as a term of endearment.

      After Galapagos, we flew into Guayaquil, walked around for the day (ending up in the kind of neighbourhood that
    made the South Bronx feel like Rosedale), before getting on the bus for Riobamba; a ride, as we swerved around
    landslides and brushed up against cliffsides, that got me to thinking that the job of an Ecuadorian bus driver would be
    the perfect fit for the Bomber once he retires from the fire Department. It´s part roller coaster, part transportation...
    kind of like driving to Knoxville. Sunday morning, we climbed on to the roof of a train and traveled for 8 hours down a
    cliffside called the Devil´s Nose. Definitely an experience, but after 8 hours of sitting on a roof through every
    conceivable form of weather, we were ready to climb off the roof... and climb onto another bus. I wish I could say
    that, after a long day of riding on the roof of a train, we were able to sit in a luxury coach complete with champagne
    and hors d´oeuvres and a TV showing the greatest upset in the history of college athletics (George Mason over
    UCONN), but what we ended up getting was the exact opposite of that, and by the time we got to Cuenca, after
    needing to take a leak for more than six hours, I pretty much wanted to kill myself.

      Cuenca is this great old Colonial town where they make the Panama hats, so I obviously decided to buy myself a hat,
    but not one in the stylish Panama variety, but instead, a Montreal Expos hat that had miraculously turned up in one of
    the Cuenca market. Probably the best $2 I´ve ever spent. Also, what might be even more amazing than the Expos lid
    was the fact that we came across a Kitchener Rangers hat in Riobamba. I have no idea how a brand new hat from an
    OHL team could have wound up in a store in a small town in the Ecuadorian Andes, but there it was. Amazing what
    you can find down here. By the way, the rip off sports hats and jerseys here are absolutely priceless. I can´t even tell
    you how many grandmothers I´ve seen walking around wearing pink NY Yankees hats. Too funny.

      After 4 days in Cuenca, we got on another bus, this time heading south to Peru. Now, Sandra was a little nervous to
    be crossing the border, but I assured her that, being the world-weary traveller that I was, there would be nothing to
    worry about. Again, I couldn´t have been more wrong. After getting our Ecuadorian Exit Stamp (before even having
    exited the country), the bus we were on and which was supposed to be taking us all the way into Peru, decided to
    drop us off in the middle of the town, telling us that we would have to cross the border on our own and catch bus on
    the other side, but giving no real reason for this inconvenience (or, more likely, giving a reason in Spanish which we
    were unable to understand). They didn´t exactly tell us that we would have to walk across the border, but details,
    details... So we grabbed our backpacks (did I mention it was dark out at this point?), and crossed over the drainage
    ditch which constituted the Ecuador-Peru border - the ¨river¨was honestly a sewer run-off that made Munn´s creek
    look like the mighty Mississippi - eventually stumbling into Peru, with nary an immigration office in sight, subsequently
    finding ourselves being bombarded by people offering to change our money for us and to take us to wherever it was
    we needed to go. We jumped in a cab which took us literally to the middle of nowhere, which was precisely where the
    immigration office was, where we got our entry stamp and proceeded to get completely ripped off by agreeing to a cab
    ride to the next town, the cabbie and the border patrol guy (in uniform) both being in on the scam, the two of them
    assuring us that there were no more buses running at that time of night... we passed 2 such buses on our way to
    town... bastards. Did I mention that we traded some American money for some fake Peruvian Sols at the border as
    well? Gotta love Peru. A learning experience. That´s what I keep telling myself.

      But we spent 3 days on the beach in Peru, drinking $2 pitchers of Cristal (beer), and hitting up some natural hot
    springs and mud baths, so things are looking better. From here, we´re off to the Amazon, which will include a 24 hour
    bus ride (sounds awful), and a 3 day cargo boat ride to get to the town of Iquitos, in the Amazon basin, which is the
    biggest town in the world that you can´t get to by road. Should be a treat.

      Like I said, hopefully these pictures work.

    Talk to everyone soon,
Travelling Man