So I got to post about my amazing wedding but haven’t yet had a chance to talk about my epic HONEYMOON. It was awesome. So freaking awesome. Swimming with sea lions, giant sea turtles, penguins, and even the occasional shark and hiking up to the top of a volcano (at 16,00o feet) with snow flurries and ice all around…I mean, ah-MA-ZING.
Long before the wedding we were dreaming up the perfect honeymoon – where we’d go, what we’d do, what we wanted out of our trip – we threw out a ton of different ideas (places we’ll go someday, I hope!) – everywhere from Virgin Islands, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Vietnam, South Africa…to Ecuador and the Galapagos. We were having the hardest time deciding on where we’d go and almost decided on an island vacation just so we could stay in a hut on stilts in the middle of the ocean somewhere (something we’d seen in photos). But the more I thought about our two week island vacation, the more I started to worry that we wouldn’t have enough to do.
And while everyone warned me that I’d likely want to relax after the wedding and have a very low key honeymoon, I just couldn’t imagine us laying around on a beach every day. I wanted some beach time. I wanted nature. I wanted mountains too. I also craved exploration. Something new.
Ever since I was young and first learned about the Galapagos, I’ve wanted to go. In fact, when I was a teenager I looked up volunteer opportunities on the Galapagos and tried to figure out how to come up with $3K+ to fund my time there and then somehow also pay for a plane ticket. I couldn’t (or really, didn’t) make it work. With wedding and honeymoon on my mind one night, I dreamt of swimming with turtles and sharks and woke up with a start and said, we’re going to the Galapagos!
It was one of those kinds of decisions…fueled by a dream, a life long wish, and a foggy, early morning state of bliss. And I’m so glad the decision was made. It was a trip that I will never forget. Full of everything I wanted and more – sea lions playing with us like puppies, turtles a plenty, sharks, marine iguanas, hiking, rainforest, mountains and culture. So much culture. So much adventure.
We got married on a Saturday, brunched on Sunday morning with friends and family and then headed home to San Francisco to unload our wedding stuff and pack for our honeymoon. We departed the next morning (Monday) on the earliest flight possible – 6 am or something like that – it was an exhausting morning but I was too excited to care.
We flew from SFO to Ft. Lauderdale and then would make our way to Miami for the last leg of our flight from Miami to Quito, Ecuador (we were able to use our Virgin points to Ft. Lauderdale – major score). We were pretty confident that the transit between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami wouldn’t be a big issue – its a relatively short trip and we had a couple of hours – only our flight didn’t take off on time and we were a little worried that our commute would be tight.
We got to Ft. Lauderdale and immediately felt the thick air, oh Florida humidity. We made our way out to the train, got on the bus to the station and then found out the next train wouldn’t get us there until 20 minutes before our flight. CRAP. We got off the bus, hailed a cab and braved rush hour traffic to Miami. Thankfully, the sky opened up somewhere along the torturous commute (both of us barely speaking, watching the clock with anxiety) and found out our flight was delayed due to the rain. We made it to Miami in time to board our flight (relief!) and for the first time in my life, I flew first class. And even though it was the middle of the night and I had been up since about 4 am, I stayed awake to eat everything they served us…including the ice cream.
We arrived in Quito around 3am and went immediately to our cute little hotel. The next afternoon we explored the city and discovered a few beautiful and huge parks. After some exploring, eating and watching soccer with the locals, we made our way to Cotopaxi (the volcano I was talking about in the first paragraph). Before we decided on Cotopaxi, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But as we drove up (we hired a driver for about $60 for a two hour drive up the mountain), I realized we had made the right decision. It was breathtaking. Wild horses running around in the fields, lots of untouched and barely touched earth. Farmers. Gorgeous landscape. We had booked a room at the most amazing Hacienda (Hacienda Los Mortinos) and had the rest of the afternoon light to explore the grounds. There were llamas and alpacas, horses, dogs, and cows all happily roaming about. The view of Cotopaxi was incredible and I was excited for the next day when we’d hike up to the top.
We enjoyed the sunset and then an amazing dinner at the Hacienda. The next morning we went out for our hike to the top. It was surprisingly COLD once we got to the base and got even colder as we climbed. So cold in fact that it had started to snow. And while I was cold, I couldn’t complain. The snow made the experience that much more beautiful. My toes got so cold at one point that I started running up the steep volcano with Casey and others looking at me like I was nuts. The air was thin and the ground was loose. My lungs were burning but I have to admit, it was a pretty fun way to get to the top. Once up to the top (or at least the top we could do without ice picks), we took a bunch of amazing pictures that we will never get to see (our camera was stolen on our honeymoon…more on that later).
The next day we went horseback riding around the valley and it was stunning. Only, our horses were supposed to follow the rules and mine was supposed to follow Casey’s who was supposed to follow the guide. And they were moving slow and I wanted to trot and my horse and I kept getting in trouble for doing so. Casey’s horse would literally turn around and block our path and snort at us. Rule following guy on a rule following horse. Pretty appropriate, I suppose.
After our horseback riding adventure we decided to head back to Quito and make our way to the base of the rainforest – in Mindo – this may have been our worst decision of the honeymoon. The owner of the Hacienda drove us down to the bus station in Quito and we debated hiring a driver or just hopping on the bus. Since we hadn’t yet taken a local bus, we decided to do it. What difference would it make, really to drive in a car or a bus there? We were about to find out…it would make a big difference. Somewhere on the bus, thieves stole our camera, tablet and headphones. Thankfully, they didn’t get money or passports. But the camera….what a loss! Mindo was beautiful but our mood was a bit somber due to the loss of the camera and other things. We hiked to the waterfalls, took the scary ass cable car called the Tarabita that looks like janky wooden box on even jankier cables in the sky and soars like 500 feet above the rainforest floor. I was scared but I did it to the waterfall hike and back…and didn’t wet my pants, thank you very much.
After we returned from our hike, we cleaned ourselves up and made our way back for a night in Quito at a fancy hotel where we would be picked up for the Galapagos the next morning. And yes, we hired a driver. And yes, it was worth the $60 bucks not to get robbed on the stupid bus. This ride was also funny. Our driver stopped in the middle of the highway – and it could have seemed sketchy had he not been a friend of the owner of the Dragonfly Inn (who was AWESOME) and where we stayed while in Mindo (awesome place to stay if you go!). He told us he couldn’t actually drive in the city of Quito on that day because his car was not the right number. Apparently to limit driving into the city, the government made it so that each car would get a number and could only drive on certain days. We met the driver’s uncle somewhere along the highway and transferred our things and ourselves into his car.
We spent the night in Quito relaxing and getting ready for 7 days on a boat.
The next morning we were picked up by our Galapagos boat company and shuttled to the airport like a bunch of VIPs. They took us through security and we rolled in style all the way to our boat on the Galapagos. As we were landing, I saw GIANT iguanas on the runway and got even more excited for what was waiting for us.
Once on our boat, we made our way up to our rooms. And they were gorgeous. I have never been on a cruise or slept on a boat before so I didn’t know what to expect….but it looked just like a hotel room, only it rocked a little (sometimes a lot).
The next 7 days were amazing. We went from island to island and learned a ton about all of the creatures and plants that inhabit the islands. We were onboard the boat with about 16 other guests. We were the youngest adult people on the boat, second youngest were a couple of 16 year old girls. While a slightly older crowd, we had a great boat. Everyone was very nice and we found ourselves in more than a few fun card games at night.
My highlights of the Galapagos:
- Swimming with sea lions. DUH. But really, when I say we swam with sea lions. I mean we really swam with sea lions. Like right next to them, over them, sometimes they somersaulted around us. And we even watched them play with sticks like puppies. Sea lion heaven.
- Swimming with sharks and shark sightings: I was so excited about the sharks. Excited and also terrified. Each and every designated shark snorkel, I made Casey hold my hand while we swam. The funny thing is, we were the closest to a shark one day when we weren’t expecting to see a shark. He swam right by us and I was totally and completely calm and at peace watching him. On our very last day, a shark swam right by our little inflatable taking us from the boat to the shore…that was cool. The only disappointing thing was we had hoped to see Hammerheads….but they didn’t come out to play with us. Wahhh. Next time.. 😉
- Penguins! The penguins are so cute…and so amazing. They swim like little bullets in the water. SO FAST. And otherwise spend their time perched on the rocks squawking at each other.
- Blue Footed Boobies: Who doesn’t love a good boobie?
Now, I’ll bore you with some photos.
After the Galapagos, we spent a few days in Quito. We went to the President’s house, a local market (tried fresh juices), wandered around museums and churches galore, ate everything we possibly could and of course stopped by and did some yoga on El Mitad Del Mundo (Middle of the World) – yes, it’s a bit of a tourist trap but you have to go if you’re already there….and then we had to head back home…to real life.
More photos to bore you with… 😉
Stay Sweaty friends!