Archive for April, 2013

Galapagos, Day 19: Pitch Dark

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Ecuador Trip: Day 19

Galapagos Cruise: Day 14

Our Galapagos cruise was technically 15 days long. However, the last day (Day 15) was also the day we flew back to Quito and then began a very long journey home (during which I barely slept a wink). So by Day 14 the knowledge that we were nearly at “The End” was bearing down on me and making me a little sad. But I was also determined to soak every ounce of enjoyment out of the trip that I could. Like I said in my last Galapagos post, I thought Floreana would be all about showing us Post Office Bay. But we had an extra treat. And while our guide explained our underground excursion the previous evening, Cindiana Jones didn’t really realize what she was getting into until she, well, got into it.

First, we visited Baroness Viewpoint on Floreana Island. We had a lovely walk and snapped photos of bird life. There is a legend about the first inhabitants of the islands that is full of intrigue, mystery and maybe even murder! According to our itinerary, we would learn about the legend at Baroness Viewpoint (thereby named because a baroness once lived there). However, our guide wasn’t into relating negative stories about the islands. For example, on Isabela Island during Week 1, according to our itinerary, we were supposed to visit the Wall of Tears, which is evidence of a wall built by prisoners back when Isabela Island was a penal colony. We wound up visiting another area of Isabela that was replete with beautiful mangroves, but we didn’t see what was left of the wall at all, which is too bad, because to me that would have been interesting. If the Wall of Tears or Baroness Viewpoint is on your itinerary, you are free to ask your guide about it. I didn’t ask our guide about either, because I was too busy enjoying nature. But I would have enjoyed visiting and learning about the Wall of Tears.

If you want to learn more about the Wall of Tears on Isabela or Baroness Viewpoint on Floreana, you can click the links I just provided.

After Baroness Viewpoint, we visited Post Office Bay, where 18th century whalers placed a wooden barrel as an unofficial mailbox. Since the Galapagos National Park started receiving visitors, people from all over the world have brought postcards to the Barrel Post Office to leave for future guests to find. The staff of The Cormorant provided us postcards for this purpose. Yes, it’s basically a touristy thing now, but it’s fun.

One of the Group of Four approaching the "post office" with our guide. Some people leave actual postcards and others scratch notes on pieces of wood or whatever else they can find. We left a note pretty much chickenscratched on a piece of wood for the Couple from Arizona (from Week 1) to find if they ever return to the Galapagos for the second week of the cruise. Although, by then, our chickenscratched piece of wood might be destroyed, we tried!

One of the Group of Four approaching the “post office” with our guide. Some people leave actual postcards and others scratch notes on pieces of wood or whatever else they can find. We left a note pretty much chicken-scratched on a piece of wood for the Couple from Arizona (from Week 1) to find if they ever return to the Galapagos for the second week of the cruise. Although, by then, our chicken-scratched piece of wood might be destroyed, we tried!

When you reach the barrel, your group goes through the postcards and notes that have been left by previous visitors. Some are only weeks old and others are years old. We divided the postcards between the members of our group, and if the address of one of the postcards was close to us, that person would take it and then have the responsibility of delivering or mailing the postcard to the recipient to which it was intended, upon their arrival home. We know this really works, because we left a postcard for my husband's cousin in Australia, and, months later, she announced on Facebook that it had arrived at her door. She was pretty surprised, and so were we. Meanwhile, my SIL took postcards addressed to people from British Columbia, and I'm guessing she mailed them once we returned home. I'll have to ask her about that.

When you reach the barrel, your group goes through the postcards and notes that have been left by previous visitors. Some are only weeks old and others are years old. We divided the postcards between the members of our group, and if the address of one of the postcards was close to us, that person would take it and then have the responsibility of delivering or mailing the postcard to the recipient to which it was intended, upon their arrival home. We know this really works, because we left a postcard for my husband’s cousin in Australia, and, months later, she announced on Facebook that it had arrived at her door. She was pretty surprised, and so were we. Meanwhile, my SIL took postcards addressed to people from British Columbia, and I’m guessing she mailed them once we returned home. I’ll have to ask her about that.

After the post office visit, our guide took us to the underground cave that we were going to explore. He had told us about the visit in advance, and while every member of our group went to Floreana, not all went down into the cave, for good reason (like, say, if you have bad knees). Unless you had a headlamp or were constantly snapping pictures, it was very, very dark. It was pitch black! And the descent into the cave was extremely steep. Here’s Harry trying to get us to follow him down into the cave:

See that little hole to your left? That's where we climbed down. We left our daypacks up top, and I also left my camera. My husband took his Blackberry and he had a little flashlight. My brother-in-law had a headlamp. Myself and my sister-in-law had to rely on our husbands to help steer us down the "staircases."

See that little hole to your left? That’s where we climbed down. We left our daypacks up top, and I also left my camera. My husband took his Blackberry and he had a little flashlight. My brother-in-law had a headlamp. Myself and my sister-in-law had to rely on our husbands to help steer us down the “staircases.”

If that woman at the bottom of the stairs (there was more than one set) looks like she'd holding on for dear life, it's because she is. I had to go down the stairs backwards, because I more sure of my footing that way. We were basically all helping each other along with the flashlights and the flashes of those brave enough to take cameras underground when we knew we would eventually wind up waist deep in water.

If that woman at the bottom of the stairs (there was more than one set) looks like she’s holding on for dear life, it’s because she is. I had to go down the stairs backwards, because I was more sure of my footing that way. We were basically all helping each other along with the flashlights and the flashes of those brave enough to take cameras underground when we knew we would eventually wind up waist deep in water.

To get to the big lovely opening where our group could spread out and take pictures, we had to trundle through this big crack in the rocks. My husband took this picture, and he had the flashlight, remember. I was pretty much in the dark and relying on him telling me to keep coming and the person behind me encouraging me forward. The water wasn't the warmest, but as a Canadian it was entirely walkable. To Harry, our Ecuadorean guide, the water was very cold.

To get to the big lovely opening where our group could spread out and take pictures, we had to trundle through this big crack in the rocks. My husband took this picture, and he had the flashlight, remember. I was pretty much in the dark and relying on him telling me to keep coming and the person behind me encouraging me forward. The water wasn’t the warmest, but as a Canadian it was entirely walkable. To Harry, our Ecuadorean guide, the water was very cold.

This picture gives you an idea of how dark it is underground in the cave while you are standing waist-deep in water. Everyone turned off their flashlights for the picture.

This picture gives you an idea of how dark it is underground in the cave while you are standing waist-deep in water. Everyone turned off their flashlights for the picture.

At other times of the year, the water is even deeper. And when it’s deeper, I think it might be warmer, too. Harry insisted that the water during our visit was far too cold for him to swim to the very back of the cave. Would no one swim to the very back of the cave to see how far it extended? Only one person. My husband! He took a tiny little flashlight with him and swam until he reached the narrowing at the other end. I was a trifle concerned, because this is what it looks like when your husband is swimming away from you to the end of a cave where God knows how many trolls lurk:

If I looked worried, I was! Can you see that tiny pinpoint of light way back in the tunnel? That's my husband!

If I looked worried, I was! Can you see that tiny pinpoint of light way back in the tunnel? That’s my husband!

At this point, we had taken a bunch of group pictures and we were getting hungry! So the group made its way back to the surface. However, My Liege, Rembrandt and I loitered behind the group. We wanted to see what it felt like to totally be the only three people down there. We knew approximately where the others were ahead of us, but we left enough time and space so that we started singing (I think it was “Oh, Canada!”) as we were climbing out of the cave, and apparently none of the group ahead of us heard us! You know what this means, don’t you? If my husband had chosen that moment to clunk me over the head and then say I’d tripped, no one other than my brother-in-law would have heard him commit the dastardly dead. However, I can be charming when I want to, believe it or not, so I escaped from the cave unscathed.

Day 19 was a very busy day! We had our last snorkeling excursion, however, I have no pictures because Rembrandt’s old underwater camera had busted by that point. We had a nice lunch and then continued to Cormorant Point, where a last surprise was in store for us. My husband wasn’t feeling well, so he stayed behind while I accompanied the group to the Point. When my parents visited the Galapagos at the turn of the century, they saw a lot of flamingoes in the lagoons on Cormorant Point. I don’t know why, maybe they were just shy, but we saw only one flamingo from very, very far away during our trek to a nice sandy beach that looked like this:

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We thought we were just going on a walk. It’s really too bad My Liege missed this part, because it was amazing. Our guide told us to wander into the water, but not to take big steps. To shuffle our feet along the ocean floor. What he didn’t tell us but left us to experience for ourselves was that every time the tide rushed in, like you can see above, it brought dozens of rays with it! When you’re standing there and the water comes in, you can’t see the rays, but when the water rolls out again, it’s incredible:

Honestly, these rays were just around my feet! That Harry, leaving a special surprise for the very end of our cruise. I could have stood there for an hour, I'm sure.

Honestly, these rays were just around my feet! That Harry, leaving a special surprise for the very end of our cruise. I could have stood there for an hour, I’m sure.

A close-up of a ray:

Totally amazing.

Totally amazing.

We made our way back to the boat and enjoyed a sociable evening. However, everyone trekked to bed by 9 p.m. For one thing, all that exploring is exhausting. For another, we knew we had a wake-up call for 5 a.m. the next morning, because we were all flying out of the airport on Baltra, which meant we needed to return to Santa Cruz first.

Awwwwwwwww, Galapagos, it is nearly time to say goodbye. Except, first we had to visit Lonesome George. Little did we know that the famous century-plus-old giant tortoise would pass away a couple of months after our cruise. So we were amongst the last Galapagos visitors to see him. I’m glad George waited for me, because seeing him was on my Bucket List. It didn’t occur to me to make the list more general (like Visit the Galapagos). Learn from me, people! Learn from me!

Galapagos, Day 18: Waved Albatross Heaven

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Ecuador Trip: Day 18

Galapagos Cruise: Day 13

Ah, thirteen, my favorite number. No wonder Day 13 of our Galapagos cruise was one of my favorite ever. We spent Day 13 at Española Island, otherwise known as Hood Island. Española is a photographer’s paradise. I think it was my favorite island during Week 2. Genovesa Island captured that title for Week 1, and both islands feature tons and tons of birds. But the cool thing about Española is that if you visit at the right time of year (April and May are excellent), you’ll see literally hundreds of these marine birds, because they come back to Española every year to mate. That’s one of the reasons I chose our Galapagos cruise for mid- to late-April. I did not want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Waved Albatross. We encountered the Waved Albatross in the afternoon. In the morning, we visited Gardner Bay, which is home to more sea lions than you can shake a stick at. We basically walked along the beach and took millions of pictures:

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They kind of look like gigantic baking sardines. But these sea lions are just basking in the sun enjoying being the center of attention. There was a lot of groaning and barking and sticking up their heads trying to outshine each other. Sea lions make a lot of noise!

Here's a little guy rolling around doing an imitation of a beagle.

Here’s a little guy rolling around doing an imitation of a beagle.

Moi! Trying to make sure my hat doesn't fly off. My BIL and SIL and I had walked down the beach to join Harry, our guide. We sat in the sand and just hung out. It was a gorgeous day.

Moi! Trying to make sure my hat doesn’t fly off. My BIL and SIL and I had walked down the beach to join Harry, our guide. We sat in the sand and just hung out. It was a gorgeous day.

Following our walk along the beach, we returned to the Cormorant for a light lunch. Then we had one of the most amazing snorkeling adventures that occurred during our entire two weeks. By now we were used to seeing amazing fish and swimming after sea turtles, and also frolicking with sea lions. However, snorkeling at Española was a delight, because there was this cool cave where the young sea lions hung out. Harry called them his “kids” and his “pets,” depending on his mood. He was amazing playing with the sea lions and allowing us to interact with them without touching them or getting in their way. It was almost like the little sea lions thought we were just really big fishes, or maybe a weird variety of sea lion. There was a cave that Harry took us to, and the tide would flush you in and out of the cave if you just let go of your fear and allowed the ocean to carry you. My BIL and my DH took good care of me in the cave, because I was a little afraid of bonking my head against the interior rock walls on the in-flush. Then I heard Harry shout, “Don’t be afraid. Let the water carry you.” And once I did that, wow, what fun. I just hung there in the water, letting the tide flow me in and out of the cave with the others, and it was such an incredible joy to find myself and others in our group floating in and out with the sea lions, watching them below the water while they watched us right back. It’s really an experience that is hard to describe. But I could have spent two hours floating back and forth in that cave. Alas, there were other guides with other groups who wanted their turns, the greedy sorts. Eventually, we gave up the cave to the next group, finished our snorkeling for the day, then returned to the Cormorant to make our way to Suarez Point, also on Española Island.

Suarez Point is a nesting ground for the Waved Albatross, but you can also find several varieties of bird life there, including the Nazca Boobies and the Blue-Footed Boobies. For an island abundant with life, it feels incredibly peaceful. We really enjoyed just soaking in the sights and sounds of nature, and, once again, it felt like our guide had introduced us to something really special—which he had! I could return to Española Island again and again and not feel bored, I’m sure. Let me show you…

All those little white blobs are varieties of Boobies and other marine birds. The sea washes in and out. It's noisy and serene at the same time. The young birds learn to fly here. Pity the bird who breaks a wing, because it's survival of the fittest in the Galapagos. Very Darwinian....

All those little white blobs are varieties of Boobies and other marine birds. The sea washes in and out. It’s noisy and serene at the same time. The young birds learn to fly here. Pity the bird who breaks a wing, because it’s survival of the fittest in the Galapagos. Very Darwinian….

As well as the marine birds, we saw dozens of the red "Christmas" iguanas (Iguana wish you a merry Christmas...)

As well as the marine birds, we saw dozens of the red “Christmas” iguanas (Iguana wish you a merry Christmas…)

Here’s a close-up:

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One of the super cool things about Suarez Point is the famous blow-hole. As the tide swept in, water would shoot out of the hole, like a great rock whale:

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You know I gotta show you some Blue-Footed Boobies! They were plentiful on Suarez Point.

Typically, he's trying to get her attention and she's ignoring him. I'm pretty sure the female Bobbies are the originators of "playing hard to get."

Typically, he’s trying to get her attention and she’s ignoring him. I’m pretty sure the female Boobies are the originators of “playing hard to get.”

Now for the Waved Albatrosses! There were literally fields of these nesting guys and gals:

A lot of them were sitting on eggs. Wouldn't it be cool if I actually had a picture of one of them showing us an egg?

A lot of them were sitting on eggs. Wouldn’t it be cool if I actually had a picture of one of them showing us an egg?

They would waddle around in the fields, and it was so funny, almost like they were trying to sneak up on each other. When they weren’t waddling, they were flying:

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Here’s a “couple” discussing what they’re going to name their children. Their beaks made a clacking sound as the conversation progressed:

Isn't that cute? Now which do you think is the male and which the female? Is the female the one doing all the yacking? Of is she the one sitting there thinking, "That blow hard. There he goes again. I do NOT want to name our baby Hermatroid!"

Isn’t that cute? Now which do you think is the male and which the female? Is the female the one doing all the yacking? Or is she the one sitting there thinking, “That blow hard. There he goes again. I do NOT want to name our baby Hermatroid!”

As it so happens, I do have a photo of a nesting Waved Albatross showing us an egg. My husband took this picture with his Blackberry. He was very patient, waiting until the bird figured, hey, it was just him and this weirdo in a Panama Hat, so why not show him who’s got the goods?

See the egg? Isn't that amazing?

See the egg? Isn’t that amazing?

By this point in our travels, with only two days remaining in our cruise, I thought there was nothing else Harry could show us new under the sun. We were on our way to Floreana Island, where you can find the famous Post Office Bay. I thought the Barrel Post Office was all Floreana would show us. Boy, was I wrong. In the Galapagos, it’s one surprise and one amazing discovery or experience after another.

Don’t you want to book a cruise now?

Head Over Heels Large Print Sale!

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Woot! HEAD OVER HEELS is coming out in large print! I’ve accepted an offer from Ulverscroft in England for large print softcover world rights in the English language. So if you’re a German publisher and you want to buy large print German rights, no problem, those and other languages remain available.

Not that I think publishers are peeking at my website, but you never know. That’s how I sold BORROWING ALEX to Greece and HEAD OVER HEELS to Japan, after all. Those publishers came looking.

In the case of Ulverscroft, I queried like normal. So I went looking for them, and I was surprised to hear after only four months, which is very short in trad publishing land. 🙂

I am excited that HEAD OVER HEELS will be my first book out in large print, so people with vision problems who still prefer paper books can read and enjoy it.

The book will be published in the next 18 months and placed in libraries in England and also some in North America, plus in other institutions for visually challenged readers.

Go, HOH!

Galapagos, Day 17: Swimming with Sharks

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

All right, they were hammerhead sharks. Nothing to worry about!

Ecuador Trip: Day 17

Galapagos Cruise: Day 12

Finally, my right eye isn’t feeling so dry from my touch-up laser eye surgery in mid-January that I can return to my Galapagos travel posts before, you know, an entire year passes since the trip.

Repeat after me: Cindy is not a procrastinator; her eyes just suck.

I last left our Galapagos holiday with a ditty about Pitt Point and Witch Hill. On the morning of Day 12 of our cruise, we had the opportunity to visit the Breeding Center “Galapaguera” Cerro Colorado on San Cristobal Island. This was a good visit, but also a bit of a sad one, because four members of our party were leaving and four new victims were coming on board. While we were always happy to have new victims, we had come to quite enjoy the company of the four that left and we look forward to possibly seeing the couple who went by the fake names of “Dick and Jane” sometime again in our lives (“Dick” and “Jane”, if you’re reading this, don’t you think it’s time you revealed your real identities?).

San Cristobal was easily the most populated harbor we visited. When we were on the back side of Isabela Island during Week 1, an entire day would pass without us seeing another boat. Not so with San Cristobal. Here’s a view looking back at the harbor after we had disembarked for our visit to see the Giant Tortoises:

Gala_May2_SanCristobal

If you look in the middle of the picture up above, waaaaaaaaay at the back, sitting on the horizon, I believe that’s our catamaran, The Cormorant. Or maybe it’s someone else’s catamaran, but I think it was ours. By the way, while we were docked in the harbor, apparently Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited the Galapagos and got engaged. Please don’t rely on me for this late-breaking news. I’m sure it was reported elsewhere in the universe. They haven’t invited me to the wedding, though, which I think is rather gauche, considering I was practically at their sides when the engagement occurred. But whatever.

Now, being the clever photographer that I am, I turned around and captured a shot of San Cristobal itself. Isn’t it lovely?

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At a later point during our cruise, we learned that our guide, Harry Jimenez, along with his wife, owns and runs a boutique hotel on San Cristobal called the Eco-Lodge. So if you’re looking to stay on San Cristobal during an island-hopping excursion, rather than being on a cruise for 1 or 2 weeks, check out Harry’s hotel and the great reviews it’s getting on Trip Advisor. He also runs 1-, 2- and 3-day trips/excursions with his boat, the Blue Attraction, from the hotel. Harry’s always up to something and always expanding his business. You can check out what he’s offering for excursions right now and bookmark his site for future use. I would totally recommend Harry as a guide. And he didn’t pay me to say that. No, “Dick and Jane” did. (Okay, I did it for free. I’m nice like that).

To give you an idea of the size of the Giant Tortoises at the Breeding Center on San Cristobal, here is one beside an anonymous gentleman who paid me to put his picture on the Internet. I won’t say how he paid me, because that’s just rude. (Okay, he bought me some tequila). (Beer won’t work in these cases):

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Remember, you’re not supposed to touch the animals in the Galapagos. And if they try to touch you (as in they start to chase you, and believe me these guys can motor when they want to), then you’re supposed to get away, but don’t run too fast, instead do a sort of slo-mo rapid gait, because you don’t want to alarm them. In other words, pretend you’re a cartoon character with your legs whipping beneath you but you’re not really going that far, and you’ll be fine.

After our visit and after saying goodbye to “Dick and Jane,” we headed back to the Cormorant. We passed some sea lions along the way. This fellow below I’m pretty sure is one of those animatronic thingies they use at Disneyland. Because, while I thought this photo (featuring My Liege) was fun and unique, I have since discovered dozens of similar photos on the web. So either this sea lion wasn’t real (and was not harmed during the taking of this photo), or he comes from a very large family and they take turns lounging on the bench:

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En route (via the pangas) back to The Cormorant, we encountered several of this fellow’s relatives, waiting their turn to swim in and sun on the bench. But in the meantime…

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Our afternoon consisted of a fantastic snorkeling day at Kicker Rock. The water wasn’t super clear, but we did see Rays and Hammerhead sharks and several Tortuga (sea turtles), which I adore. Here is a view of Kicker Rock where we didn’t snorkel (just to give you perspective):

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The Cormorant took us alllllll around Kicker Rock, and I got several beautiful shots. See the the pointy bit sticking up on the right? There’s a passage between that sticky-up rock and the rest of the island, and we snorkeled around the entire sticky-up rock. Here’s a photo from later in the evening that shows the splitting of the island. The pointy rock is now on the left:

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Look at that happy guy! Because he’s married to me!

Kicker Rock is much taller than it appears in this photo. The picture at this Wikipedia link offers a better persective, but doesn’t feature My Liege.

By the way, if you visit that Wikipedia page and the one about San Cristobal Island, you’ll discover that San Cristobal is the easternmost island in the Galapagos, also goes by the name Chatham, and is one of the oldest islands, geologically speaking, in the Galapagos. There’s an airport on San Cristobal, which is how “Dick and Jane” managed to escape before we found out they were really Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 in disguise, and which is how our new victims, who joined us for the afternoon of snorkeling, came to be on-board.

Next stop: Espanola Island, which is truly a marvel, with all the lovely Waved Albatrosses that we were incredibly lucky to see. Because, you see, they only return to Espanola once a year, and we just happened to be there (read that as I was incredibly brilliant to ensure we were there) when they did.

Cover Wars, Fictional Boyfriends, and More!

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Thanks to the powers of Twitter, I found out today that HEAD OVER HEELS is in a cover war over on Book Whore’s blog. It’s the Battle of the Blue-Eyed Girl covers, and the other cover seems to be winning. The girl on that cover is stunningly beautiful. But I still love my cover because it really captures Magee, my heroine.

Pop over and vote, just for fun. No, you don’t have to vote for my book. Would I be that gauche?

Then a fan of WHERE SHE BELONGS let me know that Adam from that story is on her Book Boyfriends I Wish Were Real list on Goodreads. Adam is very happy with his number two position, although, being Adam, he’d prefer number one. Go check out Roberta’s list.

By the way, tomorrow’s the last day of the Fool for Love sale on HEAD OVER HEELS. For direct links to the book for Kindle, NOOK, Kobo, and Apple, please see my last post or just click the e-reader of your choice. I am nothing if not accommodating.