Tag Archive: Sister Time

Galapagos – Isabela

We popped over to Isabela Island for a 3 days in between our time in Santa Cruz.  I actually like Isabela more than Santa Cruz – although the actual land size of the island is the largest in the Galapagos, the population is the smallest of the inhabited islands.  The town we stayed in was really laid back and everything was within a few blocks from the beach.  Our hostel was right on the beach though and the views were great!  The name was Caleta Iguana and there were iguanas everywhere!


View from Caleta Iguana

Iguanas at hotel

The first day we took it easy and just rented bikes to ride along the ocean out to the Wall of Tears, a wall built by prisoners (super sad story, but beautiful views).  We saw some animals along the way.


Brandon meets Turtle

Sea Lions

TurtleWall of Tears

The next day we went snorkeling!  Jen, Brandon and I all agreed it was the coolest part of the trip.  The boat ride out was really bumpy!


We saw tons of animals while we were snorkeling including fish, sea horses, a giant turtle, penguins, several different kinds of rays and SHARKS!  The sharks liked to hide in caves so our guides had us hold our breath and then they would shove us underwater and into the cave with the sharks.  At first it was really freaky but after the 3rd or 4th time, we got used to it 🙂  The underwater shots are all a bit blurry, but you can still see the animals.

Giant Sea Turtle

Snorkeling with turtle


Golden Rays

School of Golden Rays

Shark cave

Erin with penguin

Sea horse


We also went to an area formed by lava tunnels that was home to a lot of blue footed boobies.  It was mating season so the males kept puffing up and dancing around the females.

Blue footed boobies

Mating dance


For our last day on the island, we went hiking to 2 volcanoes.  The first one has one of the largest craters in the world, but unfortunately was pretty foggy.  The second was really interesting as we hiked across lava flows and checked out the different rock from the different eruptions.  We hiked for almost 6 hours and the first and last 30 minutes were through mud several inches thick – good thing we rented giant boots!

Erin at volcano

Iguana at Volcano



View from the top



Galapagos – Santa Cruz

We are back on mainland Ecuador after an awesome week in the Galapagos with Jennifer!  With so many experiences and cool animals, I’m breaking our trip into 2 different posts – one for each island we stayed on.

We flew from Guayaquil to Baltra – a tiny island in the Galapagos with just the airport.


To get to Santa Cruz, the most populated island, we had to take a bus and a ferry and then another bus and a taxi to get to our hostel in the largest town, Puerto Ayora.  After checking in, we explored town and went to the Darwin Research Center and saw a ton of huge tortoises!  Besides the giant tortoises, the center was a bit of a let down – we didn’t see too many other cool animals except a land iguana.

Erin with turtles

Darwin Center Turtles

Land iguana

The cool part about the Santa Cruz (and Isabela, the other island we stayed on) was just walking down the street and seeing a bunch of iguanas on the dock, pelicans trying to steal fish or sea lions taking a nap.



Seal on Santa Cruz

Most of the meals we ate on Santa Cruz were consumed on what we called “cheap street”.  There was a street a few blocks off the main drag that had typical cheap almuerzos (lunch specials) and at night, the little restaurants pulled tables out into the street and the atmosphere was really fun!

Cheap Street

After we got back from spending a few days on Isabela (more on that in a day or two), we explored Santa Cruz a little more.  We visited Las Grietas, a really cool swimming hole in the middle of tall cliffs.  Both Jen and I climbed about half way up and jumped in – the second picture is Jen’s blurry cannonball!

Las Gritas

Jen's Cannonball

We also visited the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen – Tortuga Bay.  It was a bit of a hike to get to, but breathtaking.  There were tons of cool cactus trees around it and of course, more iguanas.  Brandon and I took a kayak out on the water to try to spot more wild life but only saw fish and a sea lion darting around.

Brandon and Iguanas

Tortuga Bay

B&E on beach

Brandon Kayaking

More Tortuga Bay

Food in Cuenca

Cuenca has a lot of typical dishes that we’ve been making sure that Jen tries this week.  Of course we went to one of the markets for fresh juice but we also had some roasted pork – complete with crispy skin.

Lunch at the MarketPlate of PorkPork

Most restaurants in Cuenca have a multi-course lunch special for between $2 and $4.  We splurged and took her to a $3.50 place.  Most specials start with some popcorn or mote (cooked corn kernels, similar to hominy) and a soup.  Our soup was chicken vegetable.

First Course

The main course is almost always rice, protein, vegetables (usually corn or some kind of potato) and a piece of fried plantain.  Our main was chicken fingers with rice and a salad of corn and beans.  The chicken was awesome!  A typical condiment served with meals here is a spicy sauce called aji.  You also always get a glass of fresh juice.  Some places will give a small dessert at the end – this restaurant had small dishes of apples stewed with cinnamon.


Brandon and I also tried our hand at cooking a few traditional dishes for Jen.  My food photography skills are not stellar – but I promise these all tasted good!  We made chifles (Brandon’s specialty) which are just plantain chips served with a salsa that I think I’ve made a dozen times now – it’s so easy!  1 red onion, 1 green or red pepper, 1 hot pepper, cilantro, juice of 1 lime, a little salt and a little oil – and that’s it!  You’ll see it along side all of our Ecuadorian experiments.


We also made a few egg dishes.  This one is called tigrillo. It is boiled and mashed plantain cooked with scrambled eggs and cheese.


And this is my favorite – mote pillo.  I made this mote pillo by just sauteing green onions and mote and then adding in a few eggs and cheese.  Of course with salsa on top!

Mote Pillo

And a visit to Cuenca wouldn’t be complete without at least one stop at one of the many heladerias (ice cream shops).  There’s a shop called Mixx that had my favorite flavor combo – chocolate ice cream with chocolate cake in it with a scoop of Bailey’s ice cream on top!


Parks, Museums and Jennifer!

My little sister Jennifer arrived on Tuesday to hang out with us for two weeks!  Besides bringing us a few requested items (peanut butter, peanut butter M&M’s, new fitbit for Brandon) she surprised us with some Garrett’s Chicago Mix popcorn!  It didn’t last long.


We’ve been showing her around Cuenca and taking her to some of the museums and parks in the area.  There are a ton of museums in Cuenca and almost all of them are free.  My favorites are the Museum of Modern Art and Banco Central.  Banco Central is the largest museum and has a bunch of stuff in it including art, the history of the different cultures in Ecuador, and money in Ecuador.

Museo de Arte Moderno

Banco Central

Behind Banco Central is an Incan ruin called Pumapungo.  It’s pretty big and besides the ruins, has a lot of different plants and animals.

Pumapungo from the top

Me in Pumapungo

Brandon in Pumapungo

But I would be lying if I didn’t say that my favorite part of Pumapungo is the Belgium Waffle stand hidden in the trees.


We also went and checked out some more Incan ruins a few hours outside of Cuenca called Ingapirca.

B&E with J at Ingapirca

Sun Temple at Ingapirca

We hiked to a hill behind the ruins to see what we deemed the Original Mt Rushmore.  Can you see the “Inca Face”?

Inca Face

Half Marathon Weekend in Madison

We headed up to Madison for Memorial Day weekend to hang out with my sisters and brother-in-law and to complete my 6th half marathon!  Saturday we went downtown to visit the capitol square for the farmers market.  And obviously carb loaded with Stella’s hot and spicy cheese bread.

IMG_0484 IMG_0479


We picked up our race packets, poked around the capitol, stopped by the zoo and then headed over to the University of Wisconsin campus for some beers on the terrace at the union (More carb loading. Duh.)



Sunday was race day!  I have to brag a bit because I KILLED IT!  I beat my previous PR by almost 10 minutes and finished solidly before the 2 hour mark at 1:50:53.  This was the 3rd half that I’ve gotten to run with both Jen and Steph and our friend Hannah came up with a good tag for us – Chases Run Races!


Brandon (with Adam and friends David and Hannah) got up early to cheer us on!


The rest of the day was relaxing with brunch (and a visit to the National Mustard Museum while we waited for a table), napping, and helping my bro-in-law Adam celebrate his birthday!  We did a brewery tour at Ale Asylum and then headed back to Steph and Adam’s for more beer, pizza, cake and movies.  HBD Adam!