Author Archives: Lanie

Canyoneering with Lanie

This is a technique we learned called “stemming”.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we went canyoneering.  First they asked us if we had ever rappelled before. I had, once, but that didn’t really count because they were kind of lowering me down. I was 7.

This is a technique called “sliding”.

They said that we were going to practice. We went up 60 steps ( or 61, I can never get it right) and came to the highest point of the barn above the climbing wall.

Our guide’s name was Shelby. Shelby told us how to rappel. First you clip on a special harness that is also used for the zipline. Then your harness gets clipped onto a rope and the guide holds the other end of the rope so you’re secure. Then if you’re a righty you put your left hand on the loop on your harness and your right hand holds the rope behind your back. That hand controls how fast you rappel.

 

Parental addendum:

We Pavliks generally consider ourselves to be punctual and considerate guests.  However, upon arriving at the Zion Ponderosa Lodge, we found that they did not have a record of our canyoneering tour reservation, which we’d already booked and bought $600 worth of “recreation vouchers” to pay for.  Then they tried to charge us quite a bit more than that, since the deal we originally booked under was apparently no longer valid (and no one seemed to remember what it was).  Then they told us the minimum age was twelve, although in our earlier conversation they said our nine-year-old would be fine as long as she was an adventurous sort.  So we made a bit of a nuisance of ourselves, with the front desk and the recreation center and eventually the general manager.  Finally we got it all straightened out Tuesday night, and set our alarms to have breakfast right at 7:30 so as to be ready to leave for the tour at eight.

Walking through the door at 8 o’clock sharp, pleased with ourselves for getting everyone up and ready in time, we were met with consternation by the staff — who informed us that it was in fact 9 a.m.  Which meant that for the past two days we’d been in the wrong time zone — betrayed by all our various devices, which still indicated Pacific time.  Which also meant that we’d arrived at the lodge restaurant just before it closed (so that was why they seemed to be rushing us!).  And that we’d been hanging out in the hot tub after the 10 p.m. closing time (so that was why the guy told us he was shutting down the pool when (we thought) it was only 9:30!)  So it’s possible that the Pavliks are not the most popular people at the Zion Ponderosa.

Fortunately,we were the only people on our tour, and the kind people at the recreation center scrambled around to accommodate us.  Poor Shelby hadn’t even expected to be guiding that day.  Between that and the fact that she had to spend much of the tour listening to Nadia and Lanie bicker about who was going to go first, we felt compelled to empty our wallets for a very generous tip.

And it was all worth it — the tour was amazing.  So you should all come do it!  But maybe don’t mention we sent you.

Mitad del Mundo

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When we went to the Mitad del Mundo, there were two different museums:
The first one we went to, we had a tour group and our guide told us about different Indian tribes. We got to go into little huts like the ones they live in and talk about the tribes. All these tribes still live in Ecuador in the jungle. Later we saw a pen full of guinea pigs.
Then we went to the place where they measured by GPS to be the Equator. We got to stand on two different sides. One foot was in the Northern Hemisphere and one foot was in the Southern Hemisphere.
IMG_0637We did a bunch of cool science experiments. I balanced an egg on a nail. Our guide poured water in a sink on the equator and the leaves in the water didn’t turn in any direction, they just went straight down. We had to walk along the Equator with our eyes closed — it was hard to do because it felt like I was going to fall over. When Dad wasn’t standing on the line the guide had trouble pulling Dad’s arms down; when Dad was standing on the Equator, she could push his hands down really easily.
At the end anyone who brought their passport could get a special stamp, and Nadia and I got a certificate for balancing an egg on a nail.
IMG_0651The second museum was bigger. There was a monument that was a big ball on a pedestal and we got to climb up in the pedestal and look around. We saw a lot of old-fashioned cars. There were a lot of mountains all around us and some were covered with snow.
IMG_0655As we went back down, there were lots of exhibits on the levels. Some were about building the monument, some were about the Indian tribes and some were about science.
IMG_0662After the monument we went to the Plaza de Chocolate where there was a chocolate museum and we got to taste cacao beans right out of the pod and also samples of freshly-made chocolate.
Next we went to a planetarium show. The pictures were really cool, but you couldn’t understand much because all the words were in Spanish.
IMG_0665Before we left, we found a playground. Zoe, Nadia and I went on this big swing merry-go-round.

Editor’s note: Mitad del Mundo means “half or middle of the Earth.” It’s one way to refer to the Equator. In the late 1700s, a geological survey team determinted the location of the Equator in the hills around Quito. In the late ’70s the Ecuadoran Government decided to turn the site into a tourist attraction, which is now known at Mitad del Mundo City. About an hour drive from downtown Quito, it is pretty extensive, with restaurants, hotels, a bullfighting ring, and different pavilions dedicated to the history and science of the original geological expedition, as well as the monument/science museum, planetarium, Plaza de Chocolate, and playgrounds that Lanie described.
IMG_0645In the intervening years since they started developing Mitad del Mundo City, GPS technology has determined that the actual Equator is located a few hundred meters north of the monument erected by the government. Hence, the two museums. The new museum is privately owned and surprisingly more rustic than the old museum, which enjoys a lot of funding from the government (new features, like a train connecting it with Quito, are apparently on the way).

Since just about all of the equator lies at or near sea level, the Mitad del Mundo is as unique experience as many of the ones we had on the Galapagos.  We were able to see a white-topped volcano that is the only snow-covered area in the world that lies along the equator.  

IMG_0654Also, we seemed to have arrived at Mitad del Mundo City during a Volkswagen convention.  There was a circle of old Beetles, Camper Vans, and others surrounding the main monument and a lot of general hoopla.  This is why Lanie said we could see a lot of old cars from the top. 

Sharks, beaches, & ice cream

IMG_8814P1020724Editor’s Note: our camera battery died in the middle of this tour, which was so frustrating since there were beautiful and fascinating things to see at every turn.  Thankfully, some kind fellow tourists, Chris and Christina, shared some of their photos with us.  With the state of wifi here, I’m sure emailing them was no small endeavor, and we really appreciate it.

When we went on the Tntorero Tour the water was really cold but the things we saw were very cool. It was a tour of the bay here in Puerto Villaril and they call it the Tintorero Tour because of all the sharks you see on it. (The word tintorero is a reference to color; the sharks in the bay have wite tips on their fins, or sometimes black tips  – Ed)

Snorkeling above the sharks

Snorkeling above the sharks

We saw sea lions, penguins, sting rays, eagle rays, and lots and lots of sharks. We swam through a narrow channel (a lava crack, according to the guide) and right below us in the channel were so many sharks. There were 50, probably, and most of them they were longer than my body. The channel was warm, but when we swam out I was very cold.

Tintoreras landscape

Tintoreras landscape

Then, on land we went on a hike to another channel full of sharks but we didn’t swim there. The island that we hiked on was totally made up of jagged lava rocks covered in white lichen. I thought it would be a good setting for a Star Wars movie. We saw baby sea lions playing and baby iguanas watching us from beside the path. Then we looped back to the boat and the boat took us past some rocks that had penguins on them. Then we saw some blue footed boobies and some more sea lions sitting on a platform in the middle of the bay.

Another shark tunnel, seen from above

Another shark tunnel, seen from above

I liked that we got to see lots of animals and that our tour guide was really nice. This tour was one of my favorites that we’ve done in Galapagos.

Before the tour we spent the morning and part of the afternoon at the beach right outside our hotel. There are lots of waves. It was really fun because Zoe and I tried to jump and dive over and under them. We also buried ourselves in the sand. This beach was fun because of the waves and the really, really soft sand. We didn’t even want to leave when it was time for the tour.IMG_0311

We didn’t even want to leave for ice cream for lunch. Nadia and I got chocolate ice cream bars and Zoe got mango. Mom got coconut. P1020720

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In the presence of giants

IMG_0122When we went to the tortoise reserve we saw a whole lot of tortoises. They were all really big. There were also a lot of guava trees and our guide told us that the tortoises eat the guava and they also eat grass.

The tortoises are free to leave or stay in the preserve. They will go in mud pools to cool off. They didn’t move much. They were really really big and they just pretty much sat there. We saw a few walking. We saw one of them trying to bite another one.

IMG_0137There was one really big tortoise and our guide told us he was 120 years old. We were supposed to stay seven feet away from the tortoises but they put their head in their shells if we got too close.

The giant tortoise species got to Galapagos by floating on rafts of driftwood and leaves. Sailors found them there. The sailors also brought goats and dropped them off on the islands. There was nothing on the islands to eat the goats (except the sailors), and after a while there were so many goats that they ate all the tortoises’ food. The sailors also brought rats, which eat the tortoises’s eggs.

IMG_0128Then people started a big program to kill the goats by shooting them. They also have programs to help protect the eggs. They keep the baby tortoises in special breeding places so the rats won’t eat them, and when they’re older they let them go.

The biggest tortoise we saw was so big it would be hard to jump over one. I enjoyed seeing the tortoises and how they acted and moved. I like to watch them eat. They were funny. They chewed very slowly.

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Editor’s note:  The trip to the tortoise preserve was part of our tour of the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz.  We also got to walk through a lava tunnel and visited “Los Gemeni,” which are two giant holes in the ground where lava tubes collapsed many years ago.

We also dined in the Kiosk section of town.  After 6 pm, they block off traffic and put tables in the street.  There were lots of people out tonight dining and watching the Copa America final.

Time for tubing

While my sisters went SCUBA diving my friend Ganya and I went tubing.

We went to the tubing place. The woman said we could do it at 11 o’clock.   My friend and I swam in the pool till it was time to go.

When it was 10:45 we hopped on our bikes and rode over. A man took us down to the dock and we boarded our boat. Soon we were out to sea.

boarding

Getting into the tubes was the most difficult part.

The man fit me in the smallest tube. He let Mom out first, then me, then Dad, then Ganya. The man told us to go slow. We slowly floated out behind the boat.

It was amazing. The water was so blue, and we were so close to the water we could see it all around us.

drinksup

This is the first round of two from the surfboard.

Slowly the boat pulled us. It was fun. The captain set out a surfboard with drinks on it. The purple cups were filled with orange juice. The yellow ones were filled with alcohol. (Ed. note: Not completely full of alcohol! The adults got rum mixed with fruit juice.)

We sipped our drinks and closed our eyes. It was peaceful and fun.

Para-sailing!

Me and my sisters decided to go para-sailing.  We asked the man what it cost ourselves. The man said it cost $50 per person, and you had to be three or older.  So we decided to go.

They harnessed us up.  Then they told us the rules: Stay straight; hold on; don’t fall off.

As we took off, it was like flying. Seeing the wake of the water of the boat, I felt as light as a feather.  We went for a long time.  I was not scared.

It was worth it.

 

All harnessed up

All harnessed up

There's the boat in the background, ready to go.

There’s the boat in the background, ready to go.

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There they are — that little speck over the land bridge between the Cathedral Point and the rest of the national park.

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Coming in for a landing

Coming in for a landing

 

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That $50 per person includes a jetski trip back to shore!

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Ready for the next adenture

To the (animal) rescue!

As if touching a sloth weren’t enough, on the very next day we got to visit an animal rescue center.  The Web page said we would get to volunteer there, helping to feed the rescued animals.  What kinds of animals would we get to touch there?

Well, we got to see many more than we could touch, but many of the animals at the ASIS Project were conditioned to human contact. Although they were wild animals, a lot of these guys came to the Project from private homes where people thought it was a good idea to have wild animals as pets.  Of course, this is not a good idea, and it’s against the law.  When police are called to one of these homes (usually by angry neighbors), they confiscate the animals and bring them to a place like the ASIS Project.  The people who try to keep the wild animals as pets have to pay a steep fine.

We were able to pet Perla.  Our guide said some Costa Ricans saw Americans on tv with potbellied pigs as pets and thought peccaries could be kept, too.

We were able to pet Perla. Our guide said some Costa Ricans saw Americans on tv with potbellied pigs as pets and thought peccaries could be kept, too. Bad call.

Alternately, the person who brought home a baby peccary or spider monkey comes to realize after a time that a teenage peccary or spider monkey is not the best thing to have in a human home.  These people tend to call the police themselves and say something like, “Hey, I found this teenage spider monkey in my living room.”  These animals wind up at ASIS as well.  

Although the goal of the center is to nurse animals back to health and return them to nature. most animals raised with humans cannot be released into the wild.  They would seek human contact, and really freak people.  Also, they would not be able to socialize with other wild animals of their species.  Both of these situations would put the animals at great risk in the wild.  

This spider monkey's former owner taught it to hold hands.

This spider monkey’s former owner taught it to hold hands.

For that reason we were able to help feed most of the animals, and some of the ones that were destined to spend the rest of their days in the rescue center we were able to touch.

Here’s Lanie’s account:

We went to ASIS. It was really fun.  First, we saw a pig named Perla. Perla was nice and we got to pet her.  Her hair felt like plastic.

Then we saw another pig named Pancho.  He was wild.  We could not touch him.

We also saw a raccoon.  She loved water.

It's only a boa constrictor.

It’s only a little boa constrictor.

Then we saw some spider monkeys.  Next, I got to hold the snake!

We saw lots of birds.  We also saw coatis and white-faced monkeys.

The beautiful ocelot was set to get a bigger cage soon.  It could not be returned to the wild.

The beautiful ocelot was set to get a bigger cage soon. It could not be returned to the wild.

Then we saw an ocelot.

After a coffee break we got to feed the animals.  First we had to cut up papaya, mango, banana, corn, cucumbers, carrots, and cabbage.  There was also bird seed.

The animals ate the fruit and the corn first, and only ate the vegetables when the other stuff was gone.  The parrots liked the sunflower seeds best.

 

Getting food ready for the  animals.

Getting food ready for the animals

 

Feeding the Blue Macaw

Feeding the Blue Macaw

Lanie reviews our animal tour

IMG_7559Editor’s note: Our host in La Fortuna, who was a great source of information on the area, highly recommended a tour with Giovanni.  He said that Giovanni had an almost magical ability to spot animals, and that no one had ever failed to rave about his tour.  So we signed up, even though it meant leaving at 5:30 am!  We thought the price tag was a little steep (that pesky “per person” thing again), but when we saw what Giovanni was doing — preserving his own little section of the rainforest from development, reforesting it, and developing a path that will be handicap-accessible and tailored to the blind, we actually ended up making an additional contribution.  And, we certainly got our money’s worth.  When our morning tour had ended, Giovanni saw how much the girls loved the sloths.  So he told us he’d meet us again in the afternoon and take us to a place where we could see babies up close and touch some iguanas.  He led us on a drive about half an hour away and delivered on both promises!  Giovanni told us he thought Lanie should be a tour guide, since she loves animals so much.  And now, on to Lanie’s review:

Introduction
Mom booked a tour.  It was from a guy who made paths in his own reserve.  In the big reserves, the animals avoid the paths because of all the people.  We woke up early to see the animals.  Here they are!

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Toucans
We saw about 5 toucans.  They were so colorful!  Our guide called them froot loops.  We saw two different kinds together.

Blue jeans frog

Blue jeans frog

Blue jeans frog (Strawberry poison dart frog)
They are venomous.  The are small with blue legs and a red middle; that is why it is called the blue jeans frog.

Red-eyed tree frog
They are small.  They are green.  They look like Monty.  (Monty is a stuffed animal that Lanie bought at the women’s craft cooperative store in Monteverde.)

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Sloth
We saw 6 sloths in the morning.  They were really fuzzy.  Later we even saw a baby!  We saw a three-toed sloth and two-toed sloths.

Basilisk lizard

Basilisk lizard

Basilisk lizard (“Jesus Christ lizard”)
We saw a big green lizard.  It is a basilisk lizard.  They can walk on water.  The one we saw was in a tree.

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Sloth again
In the secret part of our tour we pet a baby sloth.  Our guide looked in all sorts of small trees, then he found the sloth.  It felt like a stuffed animal.  It was so fuzzy!  It moved and we left.

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On the ferry to Ometepe

Thankfully, this was not our boat.

Thankfully, this was not our boat.

The ferry ride was very long.  Luckily we took the one that was one hour instead of four hours.  All the other people in my family felt sea sick.  I did not. It was fun sitting there with the boat rocking on the waves.

Lanie enjoys a mango before we embark.

Lanie enjoys a mango before we embark.

The man who was collecting money for the ferry solved the problem of feeling sea sick! He took out some hard candies and gave them to us.  They were delicious. They helped my whole family.  They were little cherry candies with gum inside!

The rest of the ride I was happy.  I sang songs to keep myself occupied.  I watched Lake Nicaragua and saw we were getting closer to Ometepe Island.  It was awesome to see.

As the ferry rounds the island, the waves calm down and the view of Volcan Concepcion gets even better.

As the ferry rounds the island, the waves calm down and the view of Volcan Concepcion gets even better.

Lanie’s take on Nicaraguan Food

Excerpt from Lanie’s journal:  Day 2, the restaurant with a pool

Fun fact: This is actually Lanie's third journal entry.  She currently leads the family in journaling.

Fun fact: This is actually Lanie’s third journal entry. She currently leads the family in journaling.

On the first night we went to a restaurant with a pool in it. We got a big family plate to share. It had crunchy plantains, steak tips, sausage, cheese with plantain tostones, buffalo wings *, and bacon quesadilla.

I got lemonade.  After dinner we swam in the pool.**  It was very fun.

* It was actually barbecued pork — Ed.
** Lanie and several others swam before dinner as well — Ed.