Yet another Covid update

So . . . that is all for now folks . . . we are all out of travel stories.  We’ve been stuck in the U.S. since March, first in rural Wisconsin and then in Minneapolis.  And, in light of covid, we plan to stay in Minneapolis for the time being (at least until October….after that, who knows).  And, in light of covid, we aren’t doing much of interest in Minneapolis — we still haven’t even been to a restaurant believe it or not.

As far as places to be stuck, Minneapolis isn’t half bad.  Our apartment is reasonably comfortable and only two blocks from a Whole Foods (which, thankfully, enforces the mask rule).  We can get curbside pick-up of pretty much everything we need (except Charmin).  The city is full of walking paths and bike paths and parks, so we can take a walk nearly every day and still socially distance (although, we do tend to avoid walking on the weekends if the weather is nice as things get a bit too crowded then).

In fact, really the only downside we have found to Minneapolis is the price of Thai food.  It is outrageous.  Seriously, I’m talking highway robbery outrageous.  Thai food here is about double the price of Thai food in Chicago.  But, we have found an Asian grocery called Ha Tien for all those Asian flavors we have been craving (it isn’t as good as Super H Mart for those of you in Chicago, but it is pretty good nonetheless).  We even managed to get a green papaya and make papaya salad.  (Which is a good thing, because one of the local Thai restaurants that came recommended to us wants $17.95 for papaya salad.  No, that isn’t a typo.  Our favorite Thai restaurant in Chicago only charges $9 for the same dish and the papaya we bought at the grocery for under $4 was big enough to make at least eight servings.  I so don’t get it.)

That said, we sure have been disappointed in how the U.S. has handled the covid outbreak and are having serious second thoughts about our decision to flee Ecuador.  Our Federal Government is a disaster.  How we can still not have a coherent and consistent testing and tracing and quarantining policy nationwide is beyond us.  (Don’t even get me started on Trump’s refusal to wear a mask and his recent statements that we need to slow down testing and his insistence on having a big fireworks display over a holiday weekend without requiring masks or social distancing.)  Public health officials have put out confusing and conflicting information.  Don’t wear a mask.  Wear a mask.  Wipe your groceries down.  Don’t wipe your groceries down.  Wash your hands and don’t touch your face.  (If I just washed my hands, why can’t I touch my face? And, if I’m supposed to wash my hands every time I come inside, even though I don’t touch anything, then why don’t I have to wash my clothes and my sunglasses and take a shower too?)  While some (but certainly not all) of our state governments initially did an admirable job of trying to contain the virus, they pretty much all caved and opened up before the virus was truly in check and are now paying the price.  Nobody is even acknowledging that the U.S. has basically made the decision that the economy is more important than the lives of essential workers and vulnerable populations.  While there might be some merit to that argument (we aren’t saying it is the right decision, just that it is a conversation that could have been had in light of the number of Americans out of work and unable to pay rent and desperate for food at this point), it should at least be acknowledged that is what the country has decided to do.  God forbid we should even consider a universal basic income or rent and mortgage abatement or anything else along those lines.  The selfishness of so many Americans astounds us.  So many people refused to follow stay at home orders.  I’ve had friends (the Facebook kind, not the real kind) say they refused to wear masks or stay home because “they aren’t afraid.”  Security guards at stores have been shot and spit upon for asking customers to wear masks.  People refuse to take small steps to social distance (e.g., following the one way signs at groceries or walking in a single file when they meet other people or moving to one side when jogging past someone).  And, don’t even get me started on the people screaming “all lives matter” and “turn Facebook blue to support the police” because I am so not having that right now.

Enough of my rant.

Travel-wise, we don’t know what our future holds.  I obsessively check to see which countries are opening their borders to Americans.  Not surprisingly, plenty of countries aren’t allowing Americans in at the moment.  That said, I have my fingers crossed that come October we can get back out there.  Robert, oddly enough, is more cautious than me and keeps making noises that we are stuck in the U.S. until there is a vaccine.  He obsessively looks for furnished apartments in blue and purple cities that will be warm over the winter.  I really hope we aren’t stuck in the U.S. long-term . . . .  (In fact, we have tickets to Mexico at the end of October for a wedding, although we are both resigned to the fact that we probably won’t be able to use them.)

In the meantime, things around here will be pretty quiet unless we screw up our courage (or our stupidity) and start doing things around the Midwest (a town in Wisconsin full of garden gnomes is calling my name).  If you want to be notified when we post something new, take a look at the right hand side of the page and enter your email where it says “Follow Blog via Email.”   (Pretty sure you have to be on the full website, not a mobile site, to see this.)  Until then, stay safe and stay healthy.  And, wear your stupid mask when you can’t (or won’t) social distance — it won’t kill you (seriously, it won’t), but not wearing it just might kill someone else.

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Final thoughts on Ecuador*

Oh Ecuador, we barely got to know you.  Although we had planned to spend a full two months in Ecuador, our trip got cut short due to covid.  But, that doesn’t mean we don’t have thoughts.  Because we always have thoughts.  About just about everything.  So, here goes.

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A penguin on our Los Tuneles day trip.

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360 Tour of San Cristobal*

Upon arrival in San Cristobal, we went from shop to shop looking for some sort of snorkeling tour we could do the next day.  After talking to numerous places, it became clear that the 360 Tour was our best option because it involved the most snorkeling, even though our prior research had suggested it was a tour we might want to skip.

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A bird hanging out on our boat engine.  Pretty sure it was hoping to get some lunch (it did not).

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Things to do on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos*

After five lovely days on Isabela Island, it was time to head to San Cristobal Island.  We couldn’t take the teeny tiny plane, as we had too much luggage.  So, it was back to the ferry for us.  And, because when we planned our trip there were no ferries between Isabela and San Cristobal, that meant we had to first go back to Santa Cruz and then go to San Cristobal.  (There might be a direct ferry when the Galapagos Islands reopen.  We saw some ads for one on Isabela.  But, after covid, who knows.)

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Sea lions on San Cristobal.

There was no way I was taking two ferries in one day, so we spent a night in San Cristobal.  And, it is a good thing we did as both ferries were pretty bumpy and I think I would have been puking my guts out if I tried to do them in the same day.  Dramamine can only do just so much….

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There were hundreds of sea lions on the beach.

Arriving on San Cristobal, the first thing we noticed (well, after getting our temperature checked for the first time due to the covid outbreak) were the sea lions.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of them, around town.  Watching the sea lions became one of our favorite ways to pass the time.  During the day, you can find them lounging on rocks soaking up the sun.  I have no idea how lying on volcanic rock can be comfortable, but apparently – at least to sea lions – it is.  In the late afternoon, the sea lions tend to congregate on a beach just west of the main pier.  The young ones love to play in the waves.  We saw them “surfing” waves.  We saw them somersaulting end over end as the waves carried them to shore.  And, we saw them rolling back and forth in the waves.  It was so much fun to watch. And, boy, do they remind me of dogs!

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Mama and baby.

Other than the sea lions, we weren’t so impressed with San Cristobal (although Kicker Rock is amazing — more on that in the next post).  We spent some time on Playa Mann.  It is a small little beach.  There wasn’t much in the way of amenities (oh, how I miss my lounge chairs) and there wasn’t much to see in the water, but there were some playful sea lions worth watching.  You know what is the funniest thing about them?  They have totally learned that humans won’t touch them.  If a sea lion wants your spot on the beach, well, you better give it to them.  They will barrel right up to wherever they want and expect you to get out of their way.  And, they like to play with humans.  We saw one man taking a photo of a big sea lion.  While the man was completely entranced by the big sea lion, a smaller lion sneaked up behind the man and stuck its nose into the back of the guy’s knee.  You could practically see the sea lion laugh as the guy jumped in fear.  (We laughed too.)

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Playa Mann on San Cristobal.

We also spent some time on Playa Carola.  Again, no amenities and also no shade.  We had read the snorkeling was good at Playa Carola.  And, perhaps it is.  There were tons of fish in the water (one even nibbled on me), and Robert saw two turtles.  But, when we went, visibility was bad, the waves were bad, the currents were bad, the water was insanely shallow, and I got thrown up against the rocks more than once.  So, perhaps this snorkel spot is for stronger swimmers than I.  Or, perhaps we went when the tide was wrong.  We will probably never know….

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This sea lion was tuckered out.

San Cristobal was probably our least favorite of the islands we visited in the Galapagos.  I’m not sure why, as many people love it.  Part of it is because most of the food was bad (although we did find one place with consistently good food — we don’t remember the name but if you walk from town to the naval base, it is basically right where you turn right — and one good bar with football on the tv (Midori).   Part of is because the wifi was the worst we experienced on the islands (and that is saying something).  And, part of it no doubt is because covid was just becoming a thing when we arrived.   Almost all of our conversations with other travelers revolved around covid and its impacts.   Over and over, we talked about whether we needed to try to get off the islands sooner than planned, about which countries were still open, about where to go, about which flights had been cancelled, etc., etc.  So…not our favorite island.

* In light of the Covid-19 situation, we are no longer traveling.  This post reflects pre-pandemic travel.  We are sheltering in place and hope you are doing the same.  Stay safe.

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Day trip to Tintoreras*

One of the day trips pretty much every tour company on Isabela offers is a half-day trip to Tintoreras, a small island nearly within swimming distance of the main pier.  We booked with Pahohoe and paid $50/person (again, we probably overpaid, but it was still cheaper than booking in advance).  I’m pretty sure Pahoehoe pawned us off on some other tour company, as there were only five of us on the tour and the gear was dropped off by a different company.

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A pelican hanging out on Tintoreras.

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Day trip to Los Tuneles*

If you are visiting Isabela Island, one of the “must do’s” is a day trip to Los Tuneles, a collection of small islands formed ages ago when one of the many volcanoes on Isabela erupted.  As a result of the eruption, lava ran down into the ocean.  The outside of the lava eventually cooled and hardened, while the inside remained hot and continued running into the ocean, resulting in lava tunnels.  Eventually, the tunnels collapsed and formed some small islands.  The water surrounding the small islands is filled with fish and turtles and the islands are home to blue footed boobies.

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A boobie on Los Tuneles.  Its feet aren’t so blue, but I can’t remember if that is because it was a juvenile or if that is because it hadn’t been eating enough.

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Things to do on Isabela Island, Galapagos*

After 5 lovely days on Santa Cruz Island, it was time to pack up and head to Isabela.  We were really looking forward to Isabela, as we had read that it was the most beautiful island and the least touristy island.

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A bird on Isabela Island.  I think it might be a lava heron.

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Diving North Seymour, Galapagos*

What?  Two blogs in one week?  During the great pandemic lock-down when absolutely nothing is going on?  What is she thinking?  Well, I will tell you.  Neither Sunday’s post nor today’s post had much to say.  So, we decided to do two in one week.  Anyway, here goes.

While we were visiting Santa Cruz, Robert dove off of North Seymour.  He really enjoyed it and thinks it would be good for beginners.  Once again, we’ve already established that he is a much better diver than he is a writer, so we will leave you with just a few photos of his dives at North Seymour.

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A sturgeon off of North Seymour.

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Diving Gordon Rocks, Galapagos*

Robert loves to dive.  It is one his favorite things in the entire world.  But, he doesn’t love to write so….enjoy a few photos of his dive trip to Gordon Rocks.

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A hammerhead and some fish at Gordon Rocks.

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Day trip to North Seymour Island, Galapagos*

While visiting Santa Cruz, we knew we wanted to take a day trip or two.  North Seymour had not been on our list of possible day trips (I can’t for the life of me remember why we had discarded the idea of going there), but when it ended up making the most sense to go there (you know, schedules and cost and availability), away we went.  And, you know what?  It was so worth it!

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Hungry frigate babies waiting for lunch on North Seymour Island.

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