Well, I’m back from summer camp. Er, I mean the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador. A lifelong dream and bucket list adventure has come and gone. My head is full of amazing sites and experiences that are hard to explain if you haven’t done them yourself. I’ll try and give a brief synopsis of my trip and hopefully inspire you to want to go as well. It’s a trip of a lifetime and one that I wish everyone could experience.
We started our adventure in Quito, Ecuador. Quito is the highest capital city in the world and its well-preserved old town is one of the largest, least-altered, and best-preserved historic centers in the world. In fact, UNESCO named it as one of the first World Heritage Sites along with Krakow, Poland. The old town is bustling with people and lots of dogs. It boasts some of the most beautiful churches that I have ever seen. There was one church that we went to that is completely covered with gold! It was quite impressive. Their version of the “White House” is also in the city center and if you can imagine, they are in the middle of their elections (they actually vote today for their new president). Lot’s of people are out campaigning and protesting. I think that I even shook the hand of Ecuador’s current president. Ha. From what I understand he is a pretty corrupt guy and I’m sure will be “elected” again if you know what I mean!
No trip to Quito is complete without a trip to the “Middle of the World” or standing on the equator. There is a great cultural center and museum for everyone to enjoy. I was quite fascinated by standing on the equator and taking part of all kinds of experiments that they have you participate in. It’s not only fun but educational as well. I want to round out this year by heading down to the Four Corners (CO, NM, AZ, UT) to stand on that and then well, Winslow, AZ. I think it would be fun to hang on the corner too! LOL! This will be my year to stand in important places! Ha!
I could write for hours about my experience in the Galapagos Islands. So, I’ll just write about things that were completely unexpected and not what I imagined. First off, you just don’t go to the Galapagos to stay in a hotel and relax. This is a “doing” vacation, thus my comment that I just got back from summer camp. You stay on a boat and your guides bring you to the islands via a zodiac boat. You can’t just “go” on an island. You have to have a guide take you around and only “x” amount of people are allowed on any particular island at any one time. It’s kinda strange being in a place where you know that you are only one of the few who is there at that time. It’s pretty surreal but it’s what they have to do in order to keep the islands in such pristine condition.
Our days were pack jammed with activities. Out the door by 7:30 for a hike (before it got too hot, yikes it was hot), back to the boat for a zodiac tour of the coastline, lunch, snorkeling, sea kayaking, a visit to a beautiful beach, and maybe another hike. Our days were filled with so many fun activities and our guides did an amazing job at getting us to locations just when they knew certain animals would be there! I was quite impressed that we would turn a corner on the zodiac and one of the guides would say, this rock will have the “Galapagos Flightless Cormorant” perching or this rock will have a “Galapagos Hawk” spying on a “Nazca Booby” and her babies. It was pretty cool how familiar they are and how it was a priority for them to make sure that we saw everything.
Speaking of seeing things. We saw everything that we were supposed to see while in the Galapagos. Blue-footed bobbies, Nazca boobies, flamingos, cormorants, sea lions, sharks, sea turtles, tortoises, dolphins, penguins, marine iguanas, fur seals, oystercatchers, manta rays, Sally lightfoot crabs just to name a few! The list is endless! I will say that the craziest thing that we saw was the shark-feeding frenzy. One night, the flying fish were jumping out of the water and hitting the side of the boat, and knocking themselves out. There wasn’t just one shark having an easy dinner. It was more like 200-300 hundred sharks feeding. Mind you, these weren’t any small sharks, they were 8-10 foot Galapagos sharks jumping out of the water and splashing around! I had never seen anything like this before and why would I? One of the coolest things that I have ever witnessed, I’m just glad I was on a boat looking down!
I can’t talk about my trip without talking about the food. We lucked out in this department. Fresh fish and seafood at every meal. I thought I had died and gone to heaven with the plethora of fish. Meals in Ecuador are very starchy. They eat a lot of potatoes, rice, plantains, and popcorn (strange a big bowl of popcorn is on every table). They also eat tons of fresh fruit and sorbet. I certainly had my fill of guavas and passion fruit! They also eat a lot of soup (thus my post). Whether it be a big bowl of Locro de Papa (Ecuadorian Potato Cheese Soup) or a ceviche. Every meal begins with soup. I particularly fell in love with the Locro de Papa and ate it a few times! It’s a rich and decadent creamy soup that is served with fresh condiments and avocados. The avocados were an unexpected surprise and something that you have to add! While they use different varieties of potatoes and cheese that we can’t get here, the chefs that I spoke with gave me ideas for a substitution and low and behold, my version came out almost identical to what we ate in Ecuador! What I do miss and something that we can’t make here was their hot sauce (salsa). It is made with this tree tomato and doesn’t exist in North America. Bummer because it was the best salsa that I ever ate. Try this soup though. It’s really tasty and super easy to make. It may be your new favorite too!
Make sure that you scroll through all my pictures! There are some good ones! Thanks for reading my really long post.
Locro de Papa (Ecuadorian Potato Cheese Soup)
- Olive oil
- 1 cup onions diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic chopped
- 2 pounds russet potatoes peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
- 2 inch slice of achote paste*
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup queso fresco crumbled
- 1 cup half and half
- For garnishes
- chopped cilantro
- chopped avocado
- chopped green onions
- crumbled queso fresco
- popped corn lightly salted
- Heat up 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, achote paste, cumin, salt and pepper and saute until the vegetables become soft, about 5 minuets. Add the potatoes and stir until the potatoes are coated with the spices.
- Add the chicken broth and cook covered for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Remove 1/2 of the potatoes and set aside.
- With an immersion blender or a regular blender (in small batches), blend the soup until smooth.
- Add the remaining potatoes back to the soup along with the cheese crumbles and half and half and stir well. Season to taste.
- Serve the soup with the traditional garnishes. It's especially great with avocado and cilantro.
Some of the food that we ate while in the Galapagos Islands
Some of my favorite pictures that I took while in the Galapagos!
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