A Fairytale in the Galapagos

From poison apple trees to an “Alice in Wonderland” mangrove forest, everywhere you turn is like stepping into a storybook. These islands make it into the pages of legendary books such as “Robinson Crusoe” but you would never guess that you would turn the corner to see a Galapagos Hawk eyeing you from the treetops like the Cheshire Cat or a Darwin finch hopping about as quick as the White Rabbit. The snow white beaches are certain to steal your heart, even if you have to be as small as a dwarf to crawl through the mangrove trees to reach them.

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Adventure in the Galapagos: Day 2

Words don’t do this place justice, least of all my words. So here’s another gallery of fascinating birds, mammals and aquatic creatures. www.expeditions.com

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Day One in the Galapagos

Despite being a little bit jetlagged, day one in the Galapagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions has been awesome. It’s not so bad goin’ solo and it’s fun making some new, colorful friends.

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Getting Ready for the Galapagos

Blue-footed Booby (Sula_nebouxii)
Blue-footed Booby (Sula_nebouxii)

I’m crossing one more destination off of my bucket list tomorrow — Ecuador‘s Galapagos Islands. It’s going to be tough to beat my last adventure in Veracruz, Mexico, where I made so many great friends, conquered my fear of bugs, heights, the jungle and the dark and defied death on a class-IV rapid, repelled down a 130-foot cliff and swam in several dodgy bodies of water.

Now, I hope to make friends with nature on my Lindblad Expeditions cruise onboard the National Geographic Endeavour. I am fully prepared to hone my photography skills and find a new part of myself on this new adventure. Get ready blue-footed boobies..I’m on my way.

www.expeditions.com

Making Black Bean Tamales

One of my favorite activities on my recent trip to Veracruz, Mexico, was learning to make and wrap black bean tamales. Our experience, orchestrated by tour operator Yambigapan, started at a local farm where we picked the banana leaves that would wrap our tamales for cooking.

We chose the leaves we wanted to wrap our tamales in. // (c) Janeen Christoff
We chose the leaves we wanted to wrap our tamales in. // (c) Janeen Christoff

After a light hike nearby, we headed to Yambigapan’s rural home-stay facility, located on a bluff over looking a small valley.

We hiked through an abandoned textile factory and along a river. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
We hiked through an abandoned textile factory and along a river. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

From the home, you can walk to the Laguna Encantada for boat rides or hike to a variety of destinations including the Volcan San Martin. Our group was their to experience local culinary traditions – specifically tamale-making.

Tamales are made in a traditional kitchen. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Tamales are made in a traditional kitchen. // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

We started by chopping chepil, a Mexican herb that is somewhat similar to coriander.

Chepil // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Chepil // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Then we kneeded the masa (tamale dough). You are gonna need a lot of muscle for this.

Kneeding the masa // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Kneeding the masa // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Then came the hard part, folding the tamales in the leaves. It’s actually not that hard. You just plop a blob of masa onto the leaf and then fold the tamale like an American flag.

Tamale folding demonstration // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
Tamale folding demonstration // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

Pop ‘em in the oven for a while, launch some globos (paper lanterns, which we also learned how to make), listen to some jarocho son music and voila, you have dinner.

The finished product: yummy black bean tamales // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff
The finished product: yummy black bean tamales // (c) 2013 Janeen Christoff

http://www.yambigapan.com