Monday, July 11, 2016

Hiva Oa  &  Ua Pou
Saturday May 28 thru Wednesday June 8

We went back to Hiva Oa for just a few days to pick up supplies and try to get internet.  Saturday morning back into town to get veggies & bread.  Unable to get any on Friday afternoon since the stores here do not carry many if any veggies, you need to find a local selling them, usually out of a truck parked near the store.  Back to the boat Steve worked on our WiFi bullet antenna before the afternoon rain put a stop to that project.  Sunday & Monday Steve still trying to get our WiFi antenna working, with no luck.  I took advantage of the sunshine bringing laundry to shore to use the free water tap to wash a few clothes.

Tuesday we are underway by 7 to sail around to the north side of the island and anchor in Baie Hanaiapa.  Seas & wind were calm as we motored east along the south coast of the island, once we were around the point to the north side heading west we were able to sail with the genoa.  Winds still light 8-10 knots but the sail stayed full as we slowly made our way and were anchored by 1:15 with the bay to ourselves.  After lunch, a nice swim in the bay then a relaxing afternoon on the boat.  You can go to shore here, but no real easy place for us to land the dinghy, plus the dinghy was all secured for our trip to Ua Pou (pronounced Wapoo) the following day. 

Wednesday 6/1, we had the day to relax and snorkel.  Another boat came into the bay.  We left just after sunset at 5:30 heading North West.  We were able to sail in confused seas for the start of the trip, but after the 1 AM rain the winds died and we rolled up the sail and motored the remaining way arriving at Baie D' Hakahau, on Ua Pou by 8 AM. 

All the islands here in the Marquesas are beautiful, with jagged mountains and gentle valleys, a combination of lush green and rock they are all stunning as you approach by sea. 
The skyline approaching Ua Pou and the bay is even more spectacular, with its many mountain spires towering up into the clouds. 


Shortly after we anchored 2 boats left so we re-anchored trying to get a little more protection from the breakwater and maybe not be rocking as much from the swell coming into the bay.  A new dock is being built, so we had several options to tie up the dinghy to go ashore.  With the swells that come into these harbors getting in & out of the dinghy can be quite challenging.  We tied up to the stone dock and used a stern anchor to hold the dinghy off the wall.  A nice walk around the beautiful village, checking out the grocery stores and bakery.  Since this is the 3rd largest village in the Marquesas they are well stocked.  We met Gerald from the S/V Saudade and then went to meet Jerome who owns the Pukuee restaurant & pension (small hotel), he also does island tours and hikes.  We were set to do an island tour the following day and stopped by Gerald's boat to confirm him going also.  The watermaker was vapor locked, so after lunch Steve fixed that.  A fairly straightforward fix, basically just opening joints to bleed air out of the system, but very wet and messy with salt water all over the forward storage compartment, requiring the removal of a lot of “stuff” and mopping up the water.  The usual boat job – 1 hour of prep, 10 minutes of fix, and 2 hours of cleanup.

Friday we picked up Gerald, and met Jerome on the dock at 8 AM.  We used the new dock under construction for the dinghy this time, they have really nice ladders to climb up on, still using an anchor to keep the dinghy from going under the dock with the 4-5 foot tides here.  A short walk thru the construction zone to get to the street.  Jerome drives us around part of the island seeing some of the beautiful sites stopping at an overgrown archeological site in the formerly known Valley of the Kings where we fed the mosquitoes.  Also stopped at a Hohoi Bay beach where the unique flower rock is found.  This rock, known only to be found in this bay, and is used to make many artistic pieces by the locals which we have seen in many markets.  Back by noon for lunch and internet at Jerome's restaurant.  Back to the boats and another boat has left so we re-anchor again in a less rolly spot.   

Saturday we are up early and greeted with a clear view of the mountain spires looking golden with the dawns light on them, an awesome sight!  We pick up Gerald at 6:30 to meet Jerome at the dock again.  We are going across the Island to the village of Hakahetau, where Steve, Jerome, Gerald and another local guy are hiking up to the Poumaka peak, one of the spires.
I knew it was beyond my capabilities so I was dropped off in the village to meet up with them on their way down at the waterfall.  On my way up to the waterfall I met a young man, John, who spoke a little English along with his French & Spanish.  He joined me on the walk to practice his English.  Steve & the guys were supposed to meet me around noon, by 1 they had not shown up.  Having swam & eaten lunch I walked back to a different trail that Jerome said they would come down on and started to walk up.  I soon ran into them.  They were delayed due to the difficulty Steve had on the trail.  IT WAS EXTREME.  He had a little heat stroke and his legs were barely holding him up.  We all went back to the waterfall where the men went for a swim to cool off & have their lunch.  Jerome's wife was coming to pick Steve & I up as there was no way for him to hike back to town as originally planned.  Steve just waited to eat until we got back to the boat.  He soon felt a little better but his legs were still shaky.


Sunday a rest day on the boat, watching a huge group of kids jumping off the dock & climbing back up the ladder with a few sitting on/in the dinghies tied there.  Saturday when we got back to the dinghy there were just a few kids hanging around, and it was evident that they had been in ours but no harm was done.  Monday the construction crew blocked off the ladders, we're pretty sure it was due to all the kids playing there and not because of us few cruisers walking thru.  Once the construction is done I am sure it will be open for dinghies and the kids to play again, as it is easier than the stone wall to get in & out.  We took an easy walk around the village, Steve's legs feeling better but still feeling the workout from the day before, stopping at the stores to see what we could find. 

Tuesday an easy walk up the hill over the bay, to a cross & ceremony ground on top. This trail branches off to another trail leading down to Anahoa Bay with a beautiful sand beach. 


Wednesday June 8th our departure was delayed by heavy rain but we were under way by 9:30 to go 25 miles to the “main” island of the Marquesas Nuku Hiva.  We really enjoyed Ua Pou and hope to get back to stay again, but we have paperwork to complete for our long stay visas and some boat issues that need to be taken care of, and Nuku Hiva is the place to do all that here in the Marquesas.   

Link to  more pictures;  https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/6305924519592720737?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCLq0ourv3Z6TtgE&feat=directlink



  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Tahuata, Marquesas French Polynesia

Tahuata, Marquesas French Polynesia
Friday May 20 - Friday May 27 2016

Friday we are underway by 10:30 sailing out of the bay in Hiva Oa with main & genoa sails.  When we clear the point and turn west we have the wind directly behind us again, so we roll up the main and continue with just the genoa.  At least this time we have 15 knots of wind so the sail stays full and our speed is 6 – 6.5 knots, making for a lovely 2 hour sail to the neighboring island of Tahuata.  We are anchored in the BEAUTIFUL Hanamoenoa Bay on Tahuata by 12:30 and in the water a few minutes later.  After lunch more cleaning off the bottom of the boat, Steve using a weight belt to get down to the keel.  The fish were loving this and waiting for the scrapings. 

Saturday's boat project was to fix the knot meter.  It failed to work on our passage over so Steve wanted to have that resolved.  First testing and trying a few easy fixes, but no such luck, as it was determined a new wire would have to be run.  As with most boat projects / repairs getting access to the problem is ¾ the battle.  This one meant taking down half the headliner / ceiling in the main salon.   NOT an easy task as it involves a lot of hidden screws, tight spacing, light fixtures and hatch moldings.
Also had to empty and move a cabinet.  This turned out to be a two day project and the boat was finally put back together late Sunday afternoon with the knot meter working, just doing our part of living up to the saying of cruising is doing boat maintenance in exotic places.

Monday was a full day of just swimming, snorkeling and beach walking.  We still had not put the motor on the dinghy and it was not needed as we could just swim to the side of the bay and to the beach.  The Marquesas do not have a lot of coral reefs, the water around the islands is very steep up to the shore.  A lot of rocks for the fish to hang out in and we saw a good selection.  This bay is also known for having manta rays but none were there during our visit.

Tuesday morning Steve changed the oil in the generator and noticed the belt was loose.  It must have just happened as the generator has been working fine (knock wood).  The project we had done back in Guatemala several years ago has been working great, the piece put on to bypass the alternator and hold the belt had a bolt sheared off.  All the constant rocking motion of the boat wears things down.  Steve was able to replace it with just a small amount of difficulty.  Finished by 12:30 and pulled up anchor to check out another bay down the coast. 
The main village on Tahuata is Vaitahu in Baie Vaitahu but it is not the best bay to anchor in so we went a little further to Baie Hanatefau.   Anchored in sand but close to the rocky shore at the base of the mountain.  This bay actually has some coral and the snorkeling was pretty good.  On the way down Steve noticed the wind meter not working so that afternoon he fixed that connection that probably broke while the knot meter was being fixed.

Wednesday we put the motor on the dinghy and first went to visit the little village of Hapatoni located at the far end of the bay from where we were anchored.  Another friendly and beautiful Marquesan village with a very nice calm dock to tie the dinghy off at.  We then took the dinghy down to Baie Vaitahu to see the main town.  This dock was NOT easy to get out and tie the dinghy off at.  They have a lot of cement blocks near the dock, so maybe they will be rebuilding the dock.  Sure hope so as we witnessed the following day the supply ship can’t even get to the dock.  The ship lowers small barges to ferry all the goods in which could get troublesome in bad conditions.  A nice walk around the town, stopping at the store just as she is closing up.  Will take us a little while to get use to stores closing from noon until 2 or 2:30.  Back to the boat for lunch and a cool off swim and snorkel. 

Thursday we went back to the beautiful Baie Hanamoenoa.  The supply ship Aranui was in port at Vaitahu so we drove by to see how they unloaded.  This is a freighter ship as well as a passenger ship that comes to the Marguesas every 3 weeks from Tahiti.  Later we watched it go by on its way to Atuona in Hiva Oa glad we were not there for the boat re-anchoring as all the boats had to move for the Aranui to be able to get to the dock.  Steve's boat project for this day was to run an unused cable to our bigger set of 4 batteries.  Thinking that the smaller bank was getting charged too quickly and then the bigger bank not getting a full charge when we run the generator.  This cable will direct more of the charge to the bigger bank of batteries resulting in a better / longer charge overall.  

Friday we were underway by 6:15, to head back over to Hiva Oa, hoping to get a good spot in the inner harbor before too many boats moved back in.  We motored the whole way since the wind was on our nose, and got a good spot inside the breakwater.  We were surprised at how many boats were still outside the breakwater, but there had been big south swells over the last few days which can make the inner harbor even worse than outside as the waves break on the shore and the sides bouncing back rocking & rolling the boats.  Spent the rest of the morning trying to get internet.  We could connect one at a time via manaspot but we were now having trouble with our router and bullet antenna.  Working on getting that fixed.  Friday afternoon we went into town and got to the store just before 2 to learn this one re-opened at 2:30.  Instead of just sitting there waiting for 30 minutes we took a walk towards the old cemetery, not knowing exactly where or how far it was.  We had 2 signs at first to have us go in the right direction, then at the 1st fork with no sign we started to go the wrong way but a local drove by and figured where we were heading and directed us up the other road.  The next intersection had 3 choices and no sign and no one to ask so we walked back to the store after a nice hour walk.  Got a few supplies and a few veggies but we had missed the veggie truck, catching a ride back to the harbor and back to the boat. 

Link to pictures; https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/6290020357562646113?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCOjUx_vv9dizDg&feat=directlink





  
   
  
                  




Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia

Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia
Wednesday May 11 – Friday May 20, 2016

The main port for Hiva Oa is in Baie Taaoa (Traitor's Bay) which becomes two smaller bays, Baie Atuona in front of the main village but not a good anchorage and nowhere to land a dinghy and Baie Thauku where all the boats anchor.   This bay has a section inside the breakwater and one outside, being on the south side of the island it is open to the south swells and can be very rolly so most boats try to get into the small area in behind the breakwater.  Since this a port of entry it can get very crowded.  We first tried to anchor inside and thought we had found a spot, many of the boats in this area use 2 anchors, bow & stern to keep from swinging into each other.  We have 2 extra anchors neither of which is easy to deploy especially off the stern.  So we anchored among other boats with just bow anchors out.  Staying on the boat to see how we and the boats near us would swing. With the tide coming in & out and winds off the mountains boats were turning in all different directions at different times.  One boat next to us got way too close so we pulled up anchor to try another spot.  Tried one behind some boats with 2 anchors out and decided that was too close also so we went out on the other side of the breakwater and anchored there.  It was rolly but we have been anchored in a lot worse so it was not too bad, water is cleaner and more swing room.  By this time it was 3 in the afternoon so we just relaxed and stayed on the boat for the rest of the day. 

Thursday we launched the dinghy and mounted the outboard motor, fun to do in the rolly conditions.  They have several docks one big one for the supply ships and 3 small ones for dinghies.  The bigger dinghy dock north of the freighter dock has free non-potable water with connections to use for washing clothes and a cement shower stall.  The 2 smaller ones near the fuel station have a connection for potable water.  The fuel station is close to the freighter dock so in theory you would think you could pull up and get fuel BUT they do not have a long enough hose so all fuel has to be delivered via jerry cans.  They now have the ability to haul boats out via the boat ramp with a hydraulic trailer and a tractor. 
The town is 2.5 miles away from the anchorage, a nice 45 minute walk in the morning with a little cloud coverage but can get hot and walking back with supplies could be difficult.  Not a problem as the very friendly Marquesans are very willing to stop and give you a lift. 
We walked into town that morning to go to the ATM and finally get some local currency.  Went to the post office to get a sim card but were told it is only good for phone calls and not internet.  They do have another sim card for internet, but it is only available in Nuka Hiva or Tahiti.  The first grocery store across the street from the post office had a good selection and baguettes.  So we got a baguette to eat as we walked around town, don't understand what their secret is but the French make the best baguettes.  Checking out the other stores buying a few veggies before returning to the first grocery store just in time as our clocks were ½ hour off.  The Marquesas are UTC minus 9 ½ hours, the rest of French Polynesia is minus 10.  We thought we had read this but this was the first time that time mattered since all stores close from noon until 2.  Made our purchases and caught a ride back to the harbor.  After lunch Steve cleaned more of the boat bottom as I watched for sharks, since this harbor is supposed to have them, but none were seen.  The water is so murky I wouldn’t have seen one until it bit Steve, but I kept a lookout for dorsal fins cruising nearby anyway.

Friday morning at 8:30 we met Sandra, she helps with different yacht services, one of them being the check in process.  We along with several other boats are checking in, 9 of us pile into her jeep for the first group to be transported.  Steve got shotgun, 3 people in the middle seat and 5 of us in the back covered bed !  She takes us to the Gendarmerie (local police) to fill out all the paper work.  There are 2 options when checking in, you can either post a “bond” going to the bank and depositing money for a plane ticket to your home country or like us use a service with Tahiti Crew who Sandra works with.  For a fee they can waive the bond fee and get you duty free fuel and help with other paperwork (long stay visa).   The bond fee is refundable, but you get it back on your very last day in the country in local currency so that would be a lot of $$ to spend that same day.  After check in we went to check out the veggie truck.  Several days a truck(s) comes in with locally grown veggies.  So we were able to get some green onions, eggplant, peppers & tomatoes and a few other things that were not available in the store the day before.  Just 4 of us catch a ride back with Sandra, we go with her further up the hill from the harbor to where she has an internet spot.  There was a problem so we were unable to get an IP address so still no internet for us.  Walked back down to the harbor and we see the boat Jacaranda, they had written several articles for Seven Seas Sailing Association and we had benefited from the information on their blog.  We stopped by to say hello and thank them, and wound up on board talking for awhile, they have just reapplied for another year’s visa so are a wealth of information.  On Friday & Saturday nights a local food truck comes down to the dock and sets up picnic tables and serves food to cruisers and the many locals down on the dock fishing.  We joined Jacaranda and another boat for dinner.  Choices were limited, so we chose Chop Suey. It was pretty good, but not what we were expecting for our first meal out in FP.  

Saturday I dropped off laundry with Sandra and she had arranged an island tour for us and another couple.  We learned afterward that there is a cheaper laundry service and also island tour guides. There is a little shack by the big dinghy dock with notes posted for services available by others besides Sandra, but since this was already arranged we went with it.  The tour started at 9 with our guide Pifa, he was great, and having spent time in Hawaii he spoke very good English.  He was very personable and informative on the islands history.  There are several archaeological sites of Tikis on the island, and we visited 2 of them.  The first called Smiling Tiki, in the middle of the woods on someone’s private property that allows tourists to walk to.  The other sight called Iipona, is on the far northeast side of the island near the village of Puamau via a very narrow road that was paved in some sections and ruts and rocks in other sections so it was a slow drive with beautiful views all along the way.  The site has several Tikis and was where many rituals took place, it also has the largest Tiki in French Polynesia.  Marquesans have big families with many cousins, so our guide was always saying hi to a cousin that we passed.  The place we stopped for lunch was run by a cousin and his brother and another cousin along with their tours joined us for lunch.  Lunch was served family style, and consisted of both goat and beef stew, Possion Cru (fresh raw tuna marinated in lime and coconut milk with Bok Choy), Chinese noodles with vegetables, taro chips, fried plantains and coconut sweet.  After lunch, the cousins got out Hawaiian and Marquesan ukuleles and led the group through several songs. Then we went to a nearby beach for relaxation and more ukulele serenading.  A ride back across the island to the harbor arriving back at 4:30.  We noticed several boats had left so we pulled up anchor and re-anchored inside the breakwater, nice not to be rolling although it is still a little rolly even inside the breakwater.

Sunday May 15th, another boat had left so we re-anchored again!  Then since it was much calmer Steve tackled another boat repair.  He had noticed that on our radar pole support base one of two bolts preventing it from rotating upside down had sheared off and the pole was twisting back and forth with the rocking of the boat.  So he drilled two new holes and tapped them to add two new bolts to hold it in place.  Steve went back up the hill to do internet while I cleaned the inside of the boat.  We called Steve's son Sean to see if grand baby # 2 had arrived yet, but no.  I went up the hill in the afternoon to do internet, slow internet with a month’s worth of catching up to do. 

Monday Steve dropped me off early at the dock so I could do hand laundry, after a month we had a lot of that, so were glad to use the water at the dock.  Sandra was supposed to bring our other laundry (sheets & towels) back at 8:30 but by 9 she had not shown up so we went back to the boat and I called her on the VHF radio to learn it would be ready the following day.  Laundry hung out to dry, hoping for no afternoon showers.  VHF radio announcement saying that one of the supply ships will be in Tuesday morning so all boats in the way of the main dock will need to move.  That would be us and about 10 other boats.

There is a hotel / restaurant, Hanakee Pearl Lodge that will pick you up and return you to the dock and let you use their fast internet along with a choice of a lunch menu item for $35 each.  We called and made a reservation to be picked up at 11:30.  YES that is very pricey but it was worth it that one time to be able to catch up on emails and updates.  Steve was able to sign up for another service ManaSpot, that we will be able use on the boat.  He had tried the day before from the hill but was unable to connect.  I had a cheeseburger Steve had a steak, no time to use the pool as we were busy doing internet.  They were going to bring us back at 4 but when Steve went to shut down his computer he had 15 updates to install.  That took an hour but they were very nice and did not seem to mind us being there as they set up for the dinner. They also lent us an extension cord so we could keep our laptops charged.       

Tuesday we pulled up the anchor at 6:30 to go re-anchor outside the breakwater again.  Supply ship arrived at 9:30 and spent the day and into the night unloading.  The winds & sea swells were much lighter so it was not anywhere near as rolly as the first few days.  Good thing as we had to go pick up laundry.  Steve cleaned more of the hull.  Tried the ManaSpot internet to see how the service was and it was good so now we can sign up on line for additional time to be accessed when we are in an anchorage near a town.  Called Sean to hear the new grand baby Isabela was born J.

Wednesday 6 AM moved boat back inside the breakwater, 7 times in 1 week in the same harbor is a record for us!!  8:30 in to meet Sandra, to get our fuel duty free papers which she doesn’t have yet.  Then into town to provision since the supply ship was just in.  We were already impressed with the good selection they had, all we had heard was that very little would be available.  NOT TRUE, a very good selection is here !!   But the expensive part is very true.  Get a ride back to the boat and unloaded groceries.  Since we need to use jerry cans for fuel and we only have ONE, we stopped by another boat Blowing Bubbles that we had met and asked them if they had any we could borrow we hit the jackpot as they had 11 we could use.  Back to the dock at 3:30 to meet Sandra for our fuel papers, then over to the fuel station.  Tie off at the dock, unload all the cans carry them UP to the fuel station get them filled carrying them back to the dinghy, one at a time for me, 2 for Steve load them back in the dinghy.  Steve went to pay and they tell him the papers are wrong for duty free fuel.  Luckily Sandra had gone up the hill, by the fuel dock, where her internet place is so Steve walked up there and she came back to the gas station to get things okay-ed.  Have to get corrected papers the following day.  Back to the boat to unload cans onto the boat and siphon one at a time into the fuel tanks.  Done by 6, returning cans to Blowing Bubbles so they and another boat could do the drill the following day.       

Thursday just a few things to do before heading out, more internet on the boat still trying to catch up, but it can be very slow.  A little more hand laundry at the dock & boat put in order to go sailing.

Friday May 20th after Steve goes in to get a baguette, we get underway by 10:30 AM to travel about 10 miles to the neighboring island of Tahuata. 

Link to pictures; https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/6290015652348011601?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCILh4aXBqL6SDQ&feat=directlink


            





Monday, May 16, 2016

Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
Saturday May 7 thru Wednesday May 11, 2016

Our first land fall was at the island of Fatu Hiva / Fatuiva, as we approached from the east only high jagged steep mountains could be seen.  As we came around to the west side of the island the Baie Hanavave was in sight. [Bay of Virgins, actually originally named Bay des Verges (Bay of Penises) by the first Spanish explorers due the shape of a number of prominent rock formations.  But when the priests arrived, they changed that to Bay des Vierges (Bay of Virgins)].  The rock cliffs surrounded by green mountains and valleys is an impressive sight, looking just like it did to Captain Cook some 300 years ago.  We found a great spot to anchor in close in 24 feet of water by 9 AM, there were 7 other boats already anchored, one that had arrived just before us. 

I called my sister to let her now we had anchored safely.  Still tired from an uncomfortable last night at sea we went about cleaning the boat up a little.  Then launched the dinghy and mounted the outboard, it would not rotate well so Steve got the grease gun out and fixed that problem, glad that it started right up.  Fatu Hiva is not an official entry point to the Marquesas, but being a French territory they are not as strict with the rules.   We had talked to several boats that had stopped here first and had heard that this was not an uncommon practice.

We went to shore to walk on land, a great spot to do so after 28 days at sea being surrounded by blue, now we were surrounded by green.  Lush green mountain sides beautiful flowers and fruit trees.  There are only about 600 people living on this island in the 2 villages.  NO bank so no way for us to get any local $$. We really did not intend to buy anything just wanted to walk.  We were approached first by a man wanting to trade for fruits.  Bartering had not even crossed our minds, he wanted fishing lures or lines or cigarettes or rum none of which we had.  We explained we had just arrived and had no $$ and if we thought of something to trade with would come back.  Walking more into the village we met another man Poa also wanting to trade for fruits pamplemoss = giant grapefruit.  Again we explained our situation, he spoke a little English and had us go with him while he picked some lemons and pamplemoss than brought us back to his house gave us each a banana and we all shared a grapefruit.   Carving is a big thing in the Marquesas, so he showed us some of his work.  Besides wood pieces he also carved cow bone.  Steve asked him how he carved the small pieces and was told he used a dremel tool.  Steve said he had some small bits and would bring one to trade for the few pamplemoss and lemons we left with.  Back to the boat by 2 a nice swim and then a long nap.  Waking up around 6 for a light dinner with a cool breeze and an early night back to bed.

Sunday a partly cloudy day, with the cloud stuck on the high peaks of the mountains.   A few light short showers.  A quick run into the village to give Poa his dremel bit.   Back to the boat to work on the watermaker repair.  Once the extra fenders and dive & snorkel gear are moved out of the way Steve had access to the watermaker.  The problem was with the power to the booster pump.  The connectors were all heat sealed, but somehow water had gotten into the negative connector and corroded the wire.  After cleaning it up and replacing the connector, the pump ran and the watermaker worked for about 15 minutes, then kept restarting.  Vapor locked.  After half an hour of creative burping the water supply circuit, it restarted.  Only an all afternoon fix.  The actual fix took only about 15 minutes, but digging out the tools and putting them away added another 4 hours.  Just life on a boat. 

Monday morning we took a hike to the waterfall, there was a map posted by the school that I had taken a picture of and we printed it out.  Only a few roads available, we still missed one of the turnoffs from the dirt road to the trail but met up with some locals paving a new road and they told us where to find the trail.  We missed it because it was blocked off with some rocks piled up in front, on the way back a guy was there with a tractor moving them guess to help with the paving of the road.  We learned the following day they are building a Hydro Electric Dam so maybe the road has something to do with that as the other village on the island is in a different direction and already has a road to it.  The trail starts off nice, but soon gets narrow and steep and hard to follow.  Cruisers doing the hike previously have placed cairns along the way to guide you in the right direction and it was pretty easy to follow, I was very glad I had my trekking poles with me.  The water was cool and refreshing and we had a nice swim before heading back.  Back to the boat by 1, lunch then dropped the genoa sail so Steve could repair the sails sun cover that had started to come apart.  First using the heat gun to stop any further unraveling then hand stitching.  A good temporary repair until we can find a sail repair person with a sewing machine. 

Tuesday a cloudy day with light showers.  Steve finished up on the sail repair, changed the fuel filters and we defrosted the freezer, and started to clean the bottom of the boat.  You know you had a slow passage when you get slime & mildew at the water line plus we had these nasty looking tube worms attached on the transom and waterline. 

Wednesday morning the winds were howling down the mountains into the bay.  Sunrise & sunsets are early here around 5:30.  We got underway by 6:30 and had double reefs in both sails, doing 8 knots in speed in 4 foot short interval seas, so a lot of spray coming over the boat.  Our 40 mile, 6 ½ hour trip to Hiva Oa was wet & wild & made us kind of glad we had a slow passage.  We called on the VHF radio to say we were arriving and were told that check in would be Friday morning and that it would be OK for us to go ashore in the meantime.   Time to explore another island, to be continued ….

Link to pictures;  https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/6285404281452273153?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCM745OGs1-iINg&feat=directlink


     

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pacific Passage

Pacific Passage
Sunday April 10  thru  Saturday May 7, 2016

We left the marina on Saturday after fueling up and went to anchor off the Salinas Yacht Club & marina just 4 miles west.  An hour before we left the dock one of our bow lines broke, and the boat swung into the dock, demolishing the stern sugar scoop bumper.  We were very glad to leave that marina, the worst we've ever seen.  Leaving gave us an easy departure the following morning and gave Steve time to dive on the boat to clean the prop.  He didn't want to do it in the foul oily marina water.  Being a Saturday the beach was packed with people, and water toys = jet skis and big floats being pulled behind small power boats as well as several sailing races from laser size to 50 ft. size boats going on.  Very entertaining. 

Our 28 day passage started at 8 AM on Sunday with us motor sailing south-southwest under overcast skies.  We wanted to get further south in hopes of picking up some favorable winds, so we opted to use the engine to help get us there.  By 8 PM we were able to turn the engine off and sail, sailing to the wind angle, heading more south than on course.  This would turn out to be our situation during most of our time at sea.  Happy to be sailing with just the sound of the wind & waves.

Our knot meter was not working so we would only have our GPS speed and not the speed thru the water for this trip.  Not a good thing to have happen, but it is not crucial to the boats performance, just a useful tool in setting the sails and keeping track of miles logged.  During the trip it would mysteriously start working from time to time but not reliably.  Something to fix at a future date.

On day 3 we went to run the watermaker and it would not pressure up, so we would not be able to make water during this our longest passage !  We carry 250 gallons so we had plenty to make the passage as long as we conserved, which we did and made landfall with 100 gallons still left.   Our watermaker is located in a forward storage area so it was not accessible during the passage to check on repairs underway.  Besides missing nice showers and doing sponge baths we missed washing the cockpit down the most.  The salt air & sea spray coats everything with a fine layer of salt so everything you touched in the cockpit would be sticky.  We did use old dish washing water to help wipe the cockpit down and that helped a little. 

For most of the 28 day passage we had very light winds, 10 knots, directly behind us, our worst point of sail. This also meant, mostly calm seas which was a good thing.  Our biggest challenge was to try to keep the sails full and not flapping NOT an easy task.  We tried wing on wing but just not enough wind to make it worthwhile.  Using our spinnaker pole to keep the 150 genoa sail out was our best option. This took several maneuvers to set up, adding another block to rerun the sheet line thru, running a lead line forward, and both of us up on deck to deploy the pole.  Great once it was done but if the light winds switched sides jibing was not easy, having to roll everything up and redeploy on the other side.  Not something we would want to do a night with a wind shift or wind increase so we would just sail this way during the day. 

There were of course a few exceptions to our calm conditions.  On day 5 the winds were up to 20 knots, great for downwind sailing.  We had rolled up the main and were just sailing with the genoa when the auto pilot went into standby mode.  Luckily we were both in the cockpit as the boat went off the wind and the sail and sheet line started flapping like crazy.  The sheet line got wrapped around the dorade and pulled it off.  I was able to get up on deck and grab it before it went overboard while Steve got the boat back on course.  Conditions over the next 2 days let Steve make the repair and put the dorade back on underway.

Our auto pilot worked beautifully during the passage, either sailing to wind, on track or just in auto.  There were however several times when for whatever reason it would switch off, going into standby mode.  This was something we were aware of and knew to keep a good watch for any change in boat / sail movement.  Once when Steve was asleep I went down to use the bathroom when I came out and looked out the companion way and saw the clouds circling it just took a second to realize it was the boat spinning.  Back into the cockpit quickly getting the boat back on course and the auto pilot reset.  This happened about 10 times, each time the auto pilot would reset and start working again with no problem.  A mystery ?

The first 3 weeks the sea swells were mostly from the south east, so they would hit us broadside or aft, we would ride up the front of the swell and slide down the backside making a sort of corkscrew motion for the boat.  Most days they were in the 4 to 6 foot range, with just 2 days with 8 to 10 foot swells with an occasional 12 footer.  Walking around the boat was “fun” always having to have a handhold and trying to stay balanced.  Our main berth is midships so with the rolling motion we used the aft cabin for sleeping.  The last week when we were becalmed & only 1-2 foot swells it was much easier moving around the boat but we sure were wishing for more wind.

We had very little rain during our trip.  There were many days where we could see the rain forward & aft and off to one or both sides but it was like we were in a bubble and none fell on us.  We were of course hoping for a nice gentle rain to rinse the boat off & maybe even collect some.  A few light short sprinkles hit us but not until day 14 did we get a good short rain to rinse the boat and wash our hair on deck.  Day 21 also brought a nice early morning rain cleaning the boat and washing our hair on deck again.  This was better than having to dodge squalls as many of the boats north of us had to do. 

Communication was difficult this trip, we had trouble sending, receiving and talking on the single side band radio (SSB). Propagation (in addition to the wind) was not working in our favor.  There were several nets to check in with for boats out at sea in the Pacific and specifically for “puddle jump” boats.  Puddle Jump being the phrase coined to refer to boats crossing from the Americas to the South Pacific.  Our connection the first few weeks was very light and scratchy.  The last 2 weeks talking and hearing got much better talking with boats at sea as well as ones already in French Polynesia.  Being unable to send & receive emails was due to a computer glitch that Steve figured out BUT it was & is still not working correctly.  We had our satellite phone so I would call my sister every few days with our update that all was well.  The first 3 days out we were in VHF radio range with 2 other boats that had left the marina on Sunday.  In the first week we saw 2 power boats on different occasions traveling in what appeared to be from the Galapagos to Peru?  And we talked to the only cargo ship we saw traveling from Lima to China on day 7, other than that nothing else was seen.   

On day 10, a day with higher winds and waves, I saw an opening in the bimini connector.  The threads holding the zipper in place had worn out and had caused the material to separate from the zipper.  At first we thought we could just lower that section and Steve could sew it while sitting in the cockpit.  That was very wishful thinking on our part, it was way to windy & rolly so we had to take the whole bimini down and Steve brought it down below to hand sew it back together.  Mission accomplished and bimini back up in place just after sunset.

As I stated earlier keeping the sails full and not flapping was our biggest challenge.  With the light winds it was hard to do, they would stay full for a while but then every 4th or 5th wave the boat would roll in such a way to knock the wind out of the sails.  Back winded the sails would collapse and then would slam back into position with a loud snapping & banging noise.  Causing us to cringe every time, but there was very little to do to stop it completely.  As it was we were sailing more with the wind direction than on course, but we could only do that so much if we ever wanted to reach our destination.  The sails took the abuse very well, the sail cover trim on the foot of the genoa sail not so well.  The threads were torn leaving the trim shredding a little each day.  The sail was fine but it was not something we liked seeing every day and not a crucial thing to have to fix underway.

Another problem that was caused by all the rolling motion was some wear spots on the dinghy cover.  Just enough movement & friction over time to put holes in the cover.  We noticed it in time and were able to put in place protective buffers before any damage to the dinghy.  Another future fixable project.

We don't fish, because I don't eat fish, and cleaning them on the boat is messy.  But we had plenty of free flying fish on the passage.  We'd see them flying all around us during the day, and at night, when they couldn't see the boat, some would run into it and get stranded on the deck, so every morning we'd have to pick up 4-10 on the deck and toss them overboard.  They're small, the size of sardines, but they would have made a tasty treat for a boat cat if we had one.

We had many beautiful sunrises and sunsets and moon rises as well as many gloomy ones.  Wonderful star gazing!!!  It is amazing how just a little moon can light up the sea.  The several days around the full moon we had very little cloud coverage so had full advantage of the moon light all night long.  Then there were nights with no light, just surrounded by black unable to see much beyond the boat.  Just us moving thru the wide open ocean. 
One day kind of morphed into the next.  Our watch schedule was that I would do the 8 PM to midnight, Steve would do the midnight to 4 AM then I would come back on watch at 4 or 5 AM and Steve would get a couple more hours of rest.  Then we would take turns sleeping / napping as needed during the day.  There were a lot of days when neither of us would need more sleep during the day and there were a few when I needed an extra 3-4 extra hours of sleep, especially after a night when I got very little sleep during the midnight to 4 AM time.  All in all it went rather smoothly with both of us getting plenty of sleep when it was needed.  To pass the time we read a lot on our Kindles, and played computer games. 

Since the seas and winds were mostly moderate, cooking below was challenging, but doable.  The menu was driven by what fresh food was about to expire, and we ate well, arriving with almost no fresh food left but cabbage.

The last week the winds and waves died down even more, winds from the east behind us at 5 knots or less the seas only 1 foot swells.  Even keeping the sail full with the pole was difficult.  We started to run the engine a few hours a day, usually during the early morning hours when there was no wind at all that helped get us back on course and make up for having to sail off course with the wind.  It was painfully slow, since the winds had been pushing us south we had decided to head for the island of Fatu Hiva instead of Hiva Oa our original destination.  Days 25 & 26 we were getting so close but with no wind still a long time to go so used the engine even more.  We had plenty of fuel to get there, but knowing no diesel would be available at Fatu Hiva we wanted to still conserve.  Day 27 at 1:30 I sighted land !!!!  So very exciting, when Steve came up from his nap I was able to say Land Ho.   So with our current light wind and slow speed it would put us close to the island at daybreak.  BUT the wind gods were still against us & at midnight the winds picked up and NOW we were going too fast.  We would now be arriving close to the island at dark.  Being new territory, even though the charts all showed plenty of deep water we wanted to be able to see our approach.  We rolled up the genoa as small as we could, still going too fast so we had to bear off course causing it to be a very bumpy 4 hours for me to try to sleep.  In the dawning light we were able to get back on course and let out the sail and of course with the sun rise the winds died down again.  It was still a lovely morning to come around to the west side of the island and anchor in Hanavave Bay by 9 AM.

Link to a few pictures;  https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/6285075763823552385?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCJWNm-n644XdnQE&feat=directlink


Friday, March 25, 2016


Lima, Peru
Tuesday March 8 thru Friday March 18, 2016

We had originally planned to take a month seeing Peru and maybe even see some other countries in South America. BUT by the time we got to Ecuador the third week in January, then getting an appointment with the French Embassy so fast, doing the 3 week road trip came first. By the time we returned to the boat it was the third week in February. Taking care of cleaning the boat & laundry and a few boat projects and it was almost March. Last minute plane fares were high with difficult times or with long layovers and we were running into Easter week. Easter week is a very busy time in Peru, as hotels were booked up at double + prices. BAD planning on my part. Steve was not real thrilled with the idea of leaving the boat at this marina for a month either so we moved to plan B.

My cousin Margaret, a Maryknoll Sister, has been living and serving the poor communities of Lima for 38 years. She has seen a lot in those years, many which were turbulent. Her main focus has been human dignity, helping the families with abuse, neglect, violence, as well as education and community programs. She and her fellow sisters are a huge positive influence in the area they serve. Which is worlds away from the tourist area where we stayed. Since we were “close” in a neighboring country I did not want to miss the opportunity to at least visit her if not the “main” attractions of Peru of Machu Picchu & Cusco.

Plan B turned out to be to take a < 30 hour BUS ride from Guayaquil Ecuador to Lima Peru. Very comfortable seats like 1st class airline seats BUT NOT RECOMMENDED. This would be a great way to travel around South America on short trips, but it was a long trip with just a few short stops to be able to get out stretch and walk. We saved a lot of $$ and survived is the best summation.

Leaving the boat 9:30 Tuesday morning for a 2 hour bus ride to Guayaquil, time for lunch before our 2 PM bus departure. Bordering crossing 6:30 – 7 PM only immigration, “dinner” served 8 PM. While the seats in the bus were very comfy, the food was NOT even close to what coach seat airline food used to be! About 10:30 just as I was falling asleep we stop at customs. Why they were so far apart we do not know, maybe to give us another break in case we needed to use the restroom as the toilets on the bus were only to be used for #1, #2 needed to be done at one of the stops and if you needed to go between stops you were supposed to ask for a special stop!! I think the food they served was to stop you up.
When I woke at 7:30 AM Wednesday I thought I would have scenery to see. Peru's coastline is DESERT, miles & miles, hours & hours of sand hills. Amazing but not very scenic. One of the movies playing along the way was The Martian, it could have (should have) been filmed along Peru's coastline by just adding a red filter to the camera it would look just like Mars in that movie. It was dark as we reached the city and made our way to the bus terminal by 7 PM Wednesday. Taxi to IFE Boutique Hotel in Miraflores by 8, then walked a few blocks for a great Peruvian dinner at Tanta. Before going to dinner I wanted to use the phone to check in with my cousin, when I asked the clerk how to dial from the room phone she gave me a cell phone to use for that call AND for our entire visit! Made communicating with my cousin that week much easier.

The city of Lima is a little unsettling, having 10 million (a 1/3 of all of Peru) people living there, ½ in poverty, the traffic alone was overwhelming. It is located in a desert, with miles & miles of sand hills surrounding it, with most of the poor living in shanty towns on those hills. Yes we have seen poverty in all the countries we have visited, but the numbers & bleakness of the Lima landscape intensified it. It does have some very nice areas as well and the history is riveting making it an interesting place to visit. Regretfully we did not get to see the other regions of the country that we have heard and read so many wonderful things about.

Thursday morning my cousin picked us up in her 1992 manual shift VW bug (no A/C), drove from our lovely Miraflores section on Lima’s SW side to her pueblo / town / neighborhood to the east of town. Even though it was not that far distance wise, an hour by car in traffic, it is worlds away as far as living conditions. Her area NOW is more established many family homes, many paved streets, some blocks even have gated access. It is surrounded by many “New Towns” OR what they refer to as invasions. A big group of people come in and at first settle on the land (sand hills) with bamboo huts and then soon build brick one room dwellings & expand from there. At first no water or electricity, after time they get water trucks and electricity and then even city water but this takes years. She has been helping these people try to keep their dignity and help with all the problems these conditions bring out for 38 years ! This was not the tourist version of Lima. A lot of moto cars AKA tuk-tuks in this area also so driving even more crazy. Everyone turning left from the right lane or right from left lane, passing on either side. Horns beeping ALL the time, just crazy scary. We then went to pick up another sister and went to lunch back towards central Lima at Bodega Chantilli. Back out to her area to visit her work place, then back towards town to pick up pizza’s for dinner with her Peruvian family. A lovely meeting and dinner with Margaret acting as interpreter. So nice to see that she has been surrounded with this big loving family. Margaret then drove us back to town, as she was staying at the Maryknoll city center house where we got a taxi back to the hotel to save her the added trip after a long hot day.

Friday 3/11, Margaret picked us up again along with another sister, Annalyn, to go out to the archaeological site of the Museo Pachacamac. Once there Margaret settled in to wait at the cafe while we went out to see the site. Built PRE Inca but later taken over by the Incas, it is an amazing sight that is still mostly buried beneath the sand. The area first settled in 200 AD, is believed to be a religious site, most of the temples made of mud-brick were built between 800 – 1400 the Incas taking over in 1470, and archaeologists first began exploring in the 1890s. Even though many of the sites had been previously looted they have an incredible museum with pieces they have recovered. Today they are still working the site but have to be very careful not to have the walls collapse. We had a guide from the museum with us to help explain things as we drove up closer to the different sites before getting out and walking. The new (3 months) rebuilt museum is very informative. The site is near the Lurin river and the town of Lurin where we went for a great Peruvian lunch of chicharron, which in Peru is a method of cooking, NOT the deep fried pork skins that are called chicharron in other Spanish speaking countries. Huge meals, afterward Margaret remembered that it is a good place to share a meal, plenty of leftovers for Margaret & Annalyn to bring back to the center house for dinner. Back at the hotel for showers and rest before going out later for a dessert.

Saturday, Margaret picked us up again along with Annalyn to drop the 3 of us off downtown to see the historic center of Lima. Seeing its churches, cathedral, plazas, and the downtown architecture & sights. Peru is known for its food and we had no problem with Ana's help finding another great lunch spot. Steve didn’t know some of the dishes on the all Spanish menu, so he asked Annalyn to translate. She is vegetarian, and didn’t know the names either, so she asked the waiter, blushing when he told her it was “cow’s testicles”. There was also cow stomach (tripe) and cow tongue. Steve had the tongue. Sightseeing a little more as we walk to catch the bus back to the center house so Anna could go to a meeting. Margaret and Rosemary then took us to the Larcomar mall on the Miraflores cliffs for ice cream and a pisco sour as we watched the sunset over the ocean.

Sunday, Steve & I are on our own to walk around the Miraflores area. We had not seen much of the neighborhood except at night, it is a very easy place to walk around and enjoy. The Malecon a 10 minute walk from our hotel is 6 miles of a beautiful walkway & bike trail with lovely parks along the way on the cliff overlooking the pacific ocean, & where the Larcomar “mall” is located. We enjoy walking all day, after spending time traveling in a VW bug for 3 days. A late lunch by Kennedy park. Signed up for the 7 PM turibus, an open top tour bus, to go to Parque de la Reserva & see the water fountains and light show. 13 water fountains some of which you can play in, if you want to get wet, and one where they do a light show 3 x during the evening. The tour bus then drives to & thru downtown to see the the plazas & buildings all lit up. Glad we did it on a Sunday night when traffic was light by Lima standards.

Monday 3/14, Margaret picks us up to take us to the Larco Museum, a great museum with incredible pieces of pre-Columbian art. They had a wheel chair we could use to allow Margaret to enjoy the museum again as we took our time seeing the different pieces and reading about the history of Peru. A lovely lunch there at the museum before returning to our hotel. After the hot days and late big lunches it is a pleasure just walking around at night when it has cooled off. Finding a light dinner or just a dessert.

Tuesday Margaret takes us to lunch down on the waterfront at Rustica. We don't usually do buffets but this was a great one to do, with a lot of different choices and a good way to learn more about Peruvian food. Steve & I walked down to the marina, but it was another gated private marina (like the one in Salinas Ecuador) and they did not want anything to do with non-members. A lot of the coast line that we saw had a rocky shore, down by the marina they had a nice sand beach but the water along the coast is not Caribbean blue, more like Galveston brown still a lot of swimmers and surfers.

Wednesday we walked back to the malecon this time renting bikes to go a little further north & south along the waterfront. Either on the walkway or the street they have a special bike path, it really is an awesome park, with work out machines along the way, tennis courts, terrain parks & special dog parks where they can go unleashed. After 3 hours on the bikes we were ready to walk again. Spent the afternoon walking around some more. At 7 we took a taxi over to my cousins city center house then out to eat with her and Rosemary at a Chinese restaurant, Chinese with a Peruvian touch, with a very nice Canadian owner. Taxi back to the center house to visit a little more. So grateful for my cousin and her friends taking the time to spend with us showing us Lima. They are amazing ladies doing what they do, sharing their stories gave us a great apprehension of the good they do, so glad we got to spend this time with them.

Thursday 3/17 morning we get a taxi to the bus terminal and are checked in by 7:45 for our 9 AM departure that is delayed until 9:30. We survive the 27 ½ hours then switch to another bus for 2 more hours arriving back on Ocean Star by 4 PM Friday afternoon. Glad to be home learning we are too old to be sitting on a bus for 30+- hours.

Link to pictures;  https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/LimaPeru03?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMDh7tOH0JbrHQ&feat=directlink


Friday, March 4, 2016

Ecuador Road Trip


Ecuador Road Trip

Tuesday 26 January – Wednesday 17 February, 2016

 

Getting the luggage off the boat with this crazy dock situation was our first task.  Next a taxi ride to the bus terminal in Santa Elena, next town over, finding where to buy tickets for a bus to Guayaquil then finding the bus to Guayaquil.  We are on our way just after 10 AM (very nice A/C buses).  2 ½ hour bus ride to Guayaquil, taxi ride to car rental, paperwork filled out, driving away in the car by 1:15 to come back almost to where we started.  Hard to believe no rental cars available closer to the marina, but that’s life in a foreign country.

 

Five miles from the marina in the town called Ballenita is a beautiful Hotel / restaurant / museum called Farallon Dillon.  We arrived there around 4 PM, showed to our beautiful sea-view room built into the rock cliff the hotel sits on.  Great views of the coast line and loved hearing the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks and shore without worrying about the boat.  The owner was a former captain in the navy and collected many eclectic items along his travels.  The place is full of nautical items new & old that we enjoyed looking at. 

 

Wednesday 1/27 on our way by 9:30 to head north up the coast on Ruta del Sol now renamed Ruta del Spondyls (thorny oyster). 

A little side note; we were using an app called Maps.Me, great app to use OFF line.  It always takes you via the shortest distance, even if that way is NOT the best road thus taking you twice as long since you have to drive so slowly.  It made for some VERY interesting travel on some very unbelievable roads. “I can't believe this is a road” was stated many times.  But it served us very well over our 22 days and 1360 miles.

The coastal road takes you thru / by many coastal towns and we stopped at two of the more popular ones (Montanita & Puerto Lopez) to stretch our legs and have lunch.  This route also has several scenic overlooks where you can pull off the road and enjoy the views.  A national park also, so our 175 mile / 4 ½ hour trip took us 8 ½ hours, including the police check point stop.  Arriving in Bahia de Caraquez at 6 PM, we did not have a hotel reservation as we were not sure of our arrival date.  Fellow cruisers Victoria and David on S/V Eva Marie had been in the area for a few months and had recently joined partnership with a local business expanding & relocating.  So they were getting ready for their grand re-opening of H sports Bar & Cafe (they do the cafe part).  We found the new location and visited with them for a while, enjoying a great margarita, then went and checked into the Buenavista Hotel and then went out for dinner. 

 

Thursday we enjoyed walking along the waterfront and up to the lookout point of a cross on a hill with great views of the area.  Had lunch at Puerto Amistad, a restaurant built out over the water as well as the official yacht agent / “marina” (no docks just moorings).  Many boats traveling to Ecuador come here, up the river, and stay on moorings.  We wanted to see it, and met Trip the expat owner who is also an ex cruiser and a wealth of information on boats and Ecuador.  He runs a great operation servicing the boats that come there, since we wanted to do land travel we felt better about leaving our boat in a marina.  Enjoy seeing the town, stop by H Bar & Cafe and visit with Victoria & David again.  Dinner that night at El Muelle Uno, great local food at low local prices right on the waterfront by the ferry dock. 

 

Friday 1/29, said goodbye to Victoria & David after having one of her wonderful cinnamon buns and were on our way by 10 AM.  Crossing over the Rio Chone via the 5 year old longest bridge in Ecuador.

The landscape along our coastal trip so far had been very dry, but we noticed a difference as soon as we crossed the river where everything started getting much greener.  Traveling up the coast 2 hours crossing back over the equator, before turning east for another 3 ½ ours that would take us up into the mountains and into the cloud forest of Mindo. Beautiful scenery along mostly good roads but the 2 lane road up thru the mountains had some rough spots, luckily the really bad part did not last too long.  Coming to Mindo was a last minute decision, so once in town by 3:30, we connected to the internet and found a hotel, and once booked finding the actual hotel was a little harder.  We learned during this trip that Booking.com  map / directions can be way off !!!!  Driving up & down the “roads” looking for places would make for a good comedy skit.  In our cozy little room by 5 at Cabanas Armonia y Jardin de Orquides, relax a little before walking to town for dinner at El Quetzal. 

 

Saturday we enjoy breakfast in the hotels garden surrounded by hummingbirds feeding at the feeders. 

Another reason the hotel was hard to find it's a mini jungle of plants and trees, hard to see the hotel from the road.  A sunny day as we start off to go up to the zip line.  Fun time with great views looking over the town / valley.  Next stop the waterfalls, there are several, after hiking down to the first one then you hike up to the others.  We just almost made it to the first one when the skies opened up pouring rain. Glad there was a covered area, no seats but at least we were out of the rain not getting more wet.  Several people came in after us soaking wet.  After about 30 minutes rain slowed a little, I had rain gear so suited up and we made our way back.  The path was muddy coming down and we wanted to go before it got worse by too many feet walking back over it.  Glad we did when we got back to the top, there was a huge group waiting to go down.  That path would have turned dangerous with landslides.  Back to town by 1 for lunch before heading out to Quito.  Driving up out of the valley over the mountains then down into Quito.  Checked into Hotel Real Audiencia in the old historic section of Quito by 5 PM.  Driving a car in downtown Quito is NOT recommended, once we finally found the hotels parking garage the car stayed there until we left.  Not that we needed it, as most of the sites we wanted to see were within walking distance of our hotel.  Hot showers, Steve's clothes were still damp from being caught in the rain, and relax in the room.  Later walked a couple of blocks down to the pedestrian street known as La Ronda enjoying the Saturday night activities on the street before finding a place for dinner.

 

Sunday 1/31, after breakfast we were scheduled with the hotel to go on a van tour with another couple.  At 8:30 we met in the hotel lobby and Fernando our guide had us in the van & on our way to the cable car Teleferiqo.  Located on a hill on the active volcano Pichincha, just west of downtown takes you from 9,680 feet up to 13,280 for views of the city.  We had a partly cloudy day so the views were not spectacular but still pretty great.  As an added bonus when we came down from the cable car, at a meeting hall, they were having a dog show that we got to go in and watch for a little while.  Next stop north of town to the Mitad Del Mundo and Museo De Sito Intinan.  The first being where in 1736 the French Scientists measured & determined the shape of the earth and the location of the equator.  They were off by about 600 feet, where the 2nd tourist attraction is located.  Even that one is off a little depending on the grade of GPS you are looking at and the time of year.  Both were fun to visit.  Ecuadorian lunch down in town by Parque La Carolina at Mi Cocina.  After lunch we went to the to the former home now a museum of Ecuador’s most famous artist – Museo Guayasamin.  He was also a collector of Pre-Columbian art that the home is full of, he is buried in the garden under the “tree of life” on the grounds.  Next to his home is the Capilla del Hombre / Chapel of man.  It was completed after he died in 1996, and filled with his paintings dedicated to the struggles endured by the indigenous people of the Americas.  This was the highlight of the day.  Back to the hotel at 5:30, showers & relax before going out to dinner.  Sunday the streets driving all day and at night walking were very quiet compared to Saturday.

 

Monday 2/1, we have an 8:30 appointment at the French Embassy to apply for our long stay visa in French Polynesia.  Have a taxi scheduled to pick us up at 7:30, arrive there by 8, early so go wait at the nearby McDonald’s.  Back to embassy we meet with Maria and she reviews our paper work and ask us a few questions, all is in order, we are fingerprinted, pay the fee and are done by 9.  Taxi back to the hotel, change of clothes as it had warmed up and can be more casual walking the streets.

 

We spend the rest of the day walking around “Old Town” Quito (AKA Quito Colonial or Centro Historico), seeing the beautiful churches, plazas, & architecture of the buildings.  We see why it is on the UNESCO world heritage site.  We luck out and see a ceremony going on in La Plaza de la Independencia.  We find out it is the changing of the guards at the presidential palace that takes place every Monday between 10:30 – 11:30 AM.  Very cool to see, the current president has chosen not to live there but comes in daily and he was up on the balcony during the ceremony.  More walking around seeing the sights, up to the Basilica where we climb up one of the steeples and then one of the towers giving us great views of the city.  Stop at a local place for the set menu meal of the day & have a good full lunch for $3.25 each.  More sightseeing then a break for a beer & diet coke. I check email and see a message from the French Embassy that there was a problem with our paperwork and I need to go back.  It is 3:30 so I try to call them, no luck getting thru, send them a message to say we are on our way back.  Maria had entered the wrong amount on my receipt so it had to be redone, scanning my fingerprints with the correct receipt.  Back to the hotel around 5 to relax and clean up before going out to dinner. 

 

Tuesday we signed up for a free walking tour, we normally try to do these when we first arrive but we had other plans.  Even though we knew we would be covering some of the same ground we did the day before it was still worth it to hear some of the history behind the buildings from our guide. We had checked out of the hotel and had our bags in the car ready to go after the tour which started at 10:30.

By 1:30 we were getting in the car for our drive north to Lago San Pablo.    

 

Our drive north takes us thru some dry barren lands before turning green & lush, as we make our way over and around the mountains. Patchwork valleys with volcanoes in the background make for some beautiful scenery along the way.  Arriving in the town of San Pablo and the town of Araque where our hotel is supposed to be.  Can't find it luckily the phone works and we are able to call.  Reto the owner answers and says he will come meet us to show us the way.  Good thing as it is no where near where booking.com had it.  Up a dirt “road” with huge rocks and potholes to avoid, we were glad to make it up there with our little rental car.  Not what we were expecting but great views of the lake and surrounding towns, with the volcano Imbabura behind us.  Suitcases in our room, we ask about getting something to eat since it is almost 5 PM and we had not eaten since breakfast.  There was supposed to be a restaurant on site but there is not.  Back down to town via a better road to see if we can find a place to eat.  Not a lot of choices but we find a little place and both have a piece of chicken & FF Steve a beer for $5.  Our room, is nice enough, bathroom and shower are part of same building but only outside access.  Not a real problem until 3 AM when it is really cold outside so shoes and clothes are needed to go to the bathroom. 

 

Wednesday 2/3 after breakfast is served at the sitting area outside our room we venture out to go to Peguche waterfall located in a forested park next to an indigenous village.  The people of this area still dress and work in their traditional ways and are known for their artisan wares.  Next stop up to the Condor Park, once again our car traveling over some punishing roads.  Slow day for the park, only 3 other people there besides us.  Nice grounds with some great views, but only one Condor, a lot of other hawks and owls and even 2 bald eagles.  Back down to the “town” we had driven past, and read about a lake front hotel that had a restaurant, so we stopped there on our way back.  A little too early for dinner so we had some hot tea & enjoyed the grounds while waiting for dinner time.  I talked to the reception desk to ask if they had any room rate specials, she told me on Friday the rooms would be ½ price for kick off to carnival $135 down to $67, I book us a room.  A nice dinner before heading back up to our hotel.  Dark 8:30 instead of driving all the way to the 1 good road, we passed one that looked decent, they all lead UP which is where we had to go so we took it.   Not the best decision has it soon deteriorated into huge ruts with loose big rocks all around.  At one point we briefly slid backwards on the loose gravel, but we made it and arrived safely back in our room.

 

Thursday we go to Lake Cuicocha, an active crater lake near another volcano, Cotacachi.  A great hiking path along the ridge of the crater gave us some spectacular views of the lake, volcanoes and pasture lands around.  The beauty surrounding you on that trail was amazing.  2 PM time for some lunch but the tour boat was getting ready to go out so we did that first.  Taking us around the lake looking up at cliffs and the 2 small islands in the middle.  A stop to show us the gas bubbles in the lake, unfortunately the guide only spoke Spanish so his information was lost on us, still enjoyed the views.  Afterward lunch where Steve has his first guinea pig.  On our way back we stop at the town of Otavalo, known for its market in the main square  It is after 5 PM so things are winding down but glad we get to see it, less people to say no gracias to as we did not need to buy anything just like looking.  Stop in to the grocery store getting a few drinks and snacks for the room as we did not want to go back out for dinner later after the late lunch.

 

Friday after breakfast and settling our bill with Hosteria Samay Toa, we go check into Cabanas del Lago.  It was an overcast day and we wanted a break from driving on bad roads, so after they let us into our lovely room early we just hung out enjoying the room and the hotel grounds having lunch & dinner there. 

 

Saturday 2/6 we check out at 11:30 & are on our way back to Quito, this time staying at La Coupole Hotel in “New Town”.  A great find at a bargain price on booking.com, and this time they even had the correct location, we are in our lovely room by 2.  We are making another stop in Quito to meet up with a longtime friend of Steve's, Andrew, who is in Ecuador working.  Years ago he & Steve both worked for Exxon, Andy is now a consultant and we had been in touch knowing our time in Ecuador would overlap.  His work put him up in Esmeraldas so meeting in Quito that weekend was the plan.

 

Andy and his friend Bryant were just down the street finishing up lunch so they came down to our hotel to meet us.  Bryant, from Quito but has lived in the US, showed us around the area.  A very lively section of the city with many restaurants bars and hotels.  Stopping at the Republica Del Cacao for afternoon coffee and hot chocolate, while visiting with Andrew and Bryant learning about Quito & Ecuador.  Ecuador has 3 different regions specializing in 3 different varieties of chocolate, thanks to Bryant gifting us with some we got to enjoy them during the rest of our travels.  Back to our hotel, Andrew to the Hilton a few blocks away and Bryant home to clean up and change for dinner.  Dinner out at Cats, then down the street for some live music.  After talking so much during dinner we arrived just as the band was playing their last song, they did come out for an encore so we got to hear 2 songs.  Taxi back to the hotel sometime after 1 AM.

 

Sunday a holiday weekend the streets were even more quiet than the week before.  Seems like most people left the city for the long weekend, which we witnessed on our way back into town the day before - the traffic going north was bumper to bumper for miles & miles.  On a 2 lane road not much you can do, just glad we were going in the opposite direction.  Great breakfast at the hotel then walked the few blocks to the Hilton to meet Andrew.  A little stroll across the street to Parque El Ejido, where vendors set up selling their wares.  Bryant meets up with us and we go to Old Town, to see a couple of museums we had missed.  Even Bryant is surprised how empty the streets are, but not everyone left town as we come across a small carnival parade.  To Casa Del Alabato Museo, the building itself is a colonial house with a beautiful courtyard in the center.  The rooms are set up with different themes describing the Pre-Columbian artifacts, which most are in amazing shape.  Added bonus is the signs are in English & Spanish as well as the English audio recording describing the meaning of the different themes.  A great museum.  Time for a little coffee / tea break and a snack as Bryant answers many questions about his country.   A stop at the Museo De La Ciudad, an old colonial building which was once Hospital San Juan de Dios from 1565 to 1974 !  They had some interesting displays of old medical instruments.   Back to the hotel to clean up & change for dinner with an old friend, great to catch up with Andrew, and a new friend, great having Bryant show us around.

 

Monday 2/8, since carnival celebrations were still going on in parts of the country & hotels were booked, we delayed going to Baños, and stopped at Hacienda La Cienega.  It was close to Cotopaxi National Park that we wanted to go by.   Our visit to the park was disappointing as cloud cover blocked the 19,347 foot high Cotopaxi volcano that last erupted in August 2015 – yes just a few months ago.  Some of the roads in the park were still closed due to that eruption.  We did get to walk around a lake, not very pretty but a nice walk and some good views of the dormant rock face of Volcano Ruminawi.  On to the “hotel” a 17th century hacienda, with a huge courtyard garden & even its own chapel.  Our room, actually a suite was quite luxurious.  The following day was even more overcast & cloudy so no reason to go back to the park, we just walked around the area of the hotel.  A film crew showed up and set up to do some scenes for a movie.  Pretty fun watching but they had to do a lot of work for a little action, they were there late into the night. 

 

Wednesday 2/10, 8 AM departure another cloudy day, on & off rain as we descend into the valley and the town of Baños traveling thru the clouds.  By 10:30 we are in our room at Hostal Posada del Arte, great little hotel.  Baños is known for its outdoor activities, hiking, biking, rafting, etc. the temperature is warm but we still had drizzling rain.  We walk around town & visit the town waterfall just a few blocks away.  Walk some more to find a nice lunch spot, Casa Hood, before returning to the hotel where I go next door for a massage while Steve reads by the fireplace in the hotel lobby.  Later out for dinner the restaurant we were looking was closed, so walked around some more finding another, lots of choices in town. 

 

Thursday the weather is a little better so we take the car to travel the Ruta de las Cascadas.  Under sunny skies and dry roads renting a bike to travel this route would have been the choice.  Leaving the town passing the dam we come to the first waterfall, and see there is a cable car and a zip line to cross over the gorge to the other side.  Still lightly raining so after a few pictures think we will just take the cable car over, but the rain stops so we go for the zip line.  You have 3 options of how you want to cross, regular = sitting upright, upside down ??, or as we chose superman style.  They have a great set up for this putting your legs in another harness behind you.  Very fun & great view of the waterfall from above.  Rain started up again so instead of walking up a muddy path to zip line back we took the cable car back.  Traveling up the road we were shocked at how many zip lines they had going over the gorge.  A lot of stops along the way to pull over & view the beautiful scenery.  Arriving at Rio Verde and El Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron).  Hiking down into the Gorge you come to the entrance where you then hike up Grieta al Cielo (Crevice to Heaven) a path CUT into the rocks going up behind the waterfall, it was awesome .  With all the rain the waterfall was in great form an impressive sight !!

 

Friday more rain, we were able to get out and walk around town some more but conditions were not favorable for outdoor activities.  I had another massage, apparently a popular occupation in Baños as there were a lot of them to choose from all very inexpensive, $20 -$30 for 60 – 90 minutes !   For dinner we went to the Taberna Armenia restaurant that was closed the night before and had a wonderful meal.                 

 

Saturday 2/13 we left by 7 AM so the hotel had made a to-go bag breakfast for us.  We were taking a longer scenic route to get to our next destination.  We were hoping the rain and clouds would clear as we drove up out of the valley, and it did some, but then the clouds hung around as we made our way up and around the mountains.  When we could see it looked beautiful, but it got a little tense as visibility was really low and cars still were passing on blind curves.  Suddenly it started to clear, and we could see Chimborazo Volcano off in the distance.  It was an awesome sight with its snow capped peak.  Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador (20,564 Ft.) and lies within the Chimborazo Fauna Reserve Park.  The terrain is very dry and barren making the volcano stand out even more.  At the park entrance we have our bag breakfast, we are at 13,590 feet, then we drove (you can walk) up along a switchback road to 15,180 feet where the trails begin, going up to 18,000 ft, about 1,000 ft higher than Everest base camp.  This is high, very high.  If we were in an airplane, the oxygen masks would have dropped at 10,000 ft.  We have a little over half the oxygen we’d have at sea level.  We were feeling the effects of the altitude and by this time some clouds were forming so the top was not as visible, plus we were on a time limit as we had a train to catch at 2 PM.   Wish we could have spent a little more time there but it was so worth stopping there, another definite do not miss stop in Ecuador.   

 

We leave the park and continue to the town of Alausi where we will take a short train ride known as Nariz del Diablo (Devil's nose) train ride.  Back in the early 1900's the track was built to connect the city port of Guayaquil to the high roads leading to the capitol city of Quito.  The train descends on a very narrow track cut out of the mountains edge.  The turns are so tight that the train bypasses the turn then stops switch is moved and goes down backwards on the next track to the next turn where again it passes the turn switch is thrown and proceeds down the next section of track.  The train stops at a little village where they sell art work and have a very interesting museum about the people of the area and the building of the track. The track is still in use for other train travel.  Back on board back the way we came to the town of Alausi.  I had tried to contact one of the hotels in town to make a reservation but never heard back from them.  So we walked down Main Street to see what was available, several choices none any better than the other from what we could see.  Checked into Hotel San Pedro, and they had a gated drive to put the car (which later was jammed pack).  Got the room just in time as the town started to fill up with a lot of people coming in to take the train on Sunday (Valentine’s day).  Found a place for dinner then returned to our room that overlooked the main street for a noisy night of people and car alarm sounds.

 

Sunday 2/14 is market day in Alausi, so we walk around town a little seeing the sights before leaving at 9:30 to head to Cuenca.  Again more beautiful scenery as we drive up and around the mountains, they need more spots to pull over for lookout points along the roads in Ecuador.  Unlike the locals that feel safe and comfortable just stopping on the road wherever, we were not so inclined.  Arriving in Cuenca by 1 the street in front of our hotel is all torn up under construction.  Not that we would have been able to park out front as most of the streets are too narrow.  Most are also only one way, we find a place to park a few blocks away and walk back to the hotel.  We know it is too early to check in, first time actually had to wait, just want to know where to bring the car to unload the luggage.  The staff at Hotel Presidente were very helpful, the desk clerk called for help and soon another employee came and walked with us to bring the car around to the hidden drive behind the hotel.  Unloaded the luggage to hold at the front desk as the lot behind the hotel is only a temporary space and the car would be moved.  Walked around town finding a place for lunch, returning to the hotel by 3 to check into our room.  Just during the few hours from when we arrived till after lunch, we could see the traffic thinning out and being Sunday most of the shops were closed.  By the time we went out to dinner it was very quiet, several of the restaurants we went to were closed but we found a very nice place called Chalupa and had a great Valentines dinner.  The city looks beautiful at night with all the lights shining on the churches and old buildings. 

 

Monday we got on one of the city tour buses, taking about 2 hours to go around pointing out some of the city sites.  It stops for about 30 minutes at Mirador de Turi which gives great views of the city.  Afterward we walk to Pumapungo, one of the sights pointed out on the bus, the remains of the Inca city of Tumipamba.   A small complex but interesting with beautiful gardens and a bird display showing how they were part of the Inca lives.  Finding a place for lunch just before they closed at 3, interestingly enough run by expats from Wisconsin, former Peace Corps volunteers.  Walking back by the central park and the cathedral I see people on top, so we go in and ask, and yes you can climb up a brick spiral stairway to the rooftop for views over the city.  A delicious huge Pizza for dinner at Fabianos for dinner.   

 

Tuesday we have them bring the car around so we can drive an hour to El Cajas National Park.  NO volcano here but miles & miles of rugged terrain & some 200 lakes.  Loved seeing all the different terrains during our travels and loved being outdoors in cool / cold weather for a change.  We hiked around Laguna Toreadora the path got very muddy in spots, usually a way around on a llama path that was hard to tell from the people path.  Light rain during part of the hike and winds increased depending on which side of the lake we were on, another great day in another great park.  All the parks had an entrance gate to check in with, but all were free to go into.  They all had several fairly well marked trails to choose from short to a few hours to a couple of days.  We had left over pizza from the night before, so even though warm soup from the restaurant at the park sounded good we went with our cold pizza.  Back to the hotel warm showers before going out to dinner at Tiesto's that had been closed the 2 nights prior when we tried to go.  This is a restaurant that specializes in fixed price multi-course meals for two or more, and is one of the top rated in Cuenca.  We went al la carte, which got a frown, but then splurged on a bottle of wine that won back a smile.  The food and service were excellent.

 

Wednesday we are on our way back to Guayaquil to get a bus back to Santa Elena to get a taxi back to La Libertad and Puerto Lucia Marina and Ocean Star.  Turning the rental car in at the airport was a little tricky as no signs for Budget & no building.  Finally got them on the phone and managed to communicate that we wanted to turn the car in but could not find them.  Turns out you have to park in the airport parking lot, go inside to their desk where they come back out to the parking lot to check the car back in.  At the bus terminal after asking we found the right window to buy a ticket, then found the right gate for our bus to take us home.  Glad for a wonderful opportunity to see a part of the beautiful country of Ecuador, great to see a few old friends and great to meet some new ones.