Finding Boobies

Today we went on a challenging hike first in the morning.

A true hike and not just a beach walk along a trail.

Our mission was to not only explore the beautiful scenery.

But to explore and seek out the famous boobies in Galapagos. Believe it or not, these rocky trails are better for flexible water shoes compared to stiff and thick hiking boots.

After some climbing to the higher elevations, we found our first red footed boobie.

and once we reached the plateau, we found a blue footed boobie.

Believe it or not, they are very different. The red footed are very independent and do not care for the young. The blue footed boobie create a circle that the young must stay within…and if they leave, they are no longer welcome and no longer cared for. The red have only 1egg and the blue always have 2.

Here is what they look like when they are less than 1 year old and cannot fly yet and stay with their parents. The male in the blue footed boobie is the only one that stays with the young.

This was a funny, but also sad, when two boobies had just came back with a fish and a frigate (bird) flew right in and took away their recent catch.

The local political blue boobie graffiti in Santa Cruz
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Exploring the Galapagos

The Galapagos is a collection of islands and the best way to visit and explore is by ship.

The waters are not rough, but in transit from island to island, the water can get a little choppy and motion sickness pills are recommended.

All stops are made via Zodiac transfer that can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes max. Here you see a snorkeling expert providing some tips to other passengers in advance of our expedition.

But the real highlights are the fauna and flora you can discover on some of the hikes. We were lucky one morning to come across a Galapagos hawk.

He was likely looking for one of these guys. They are careful to hide out when the hawks are around and most actively when it is sunny and hot out.

We did not see any sharks on our hikes along the coast, but you do see many swarms of local fish around the shore quite often.

This is a famous site on Sante Cruz where there is a 100 year old cactus and the local sea lions like to climb up on top its neighboring rocks and take naps on it. I have no idea on how they can climb up these rocks.

In July, the young sea lions are constantly nursing on their mothers. They are all quite noisy…just wait for the upcoming video additions!

The GoPro9 is a great underwater camera choice

In addition to hiking, you can also go snorkeling. The water is SO salty, you can literally float perfectly with just a 5-7mm shorty wet suit,

Our snorkeling expert found this one on a deep snorkeling expedition

and find cool friends like these very large sea turtles. I hope to add a video of the turtle swimming when we return to the mainland as the Internet is very limited here on the boat.

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The Galapagos

Day 1 of exploring the Galapagos

Our first day started with boarding a medium sized ship named La Pinta. I will do a ship review at the end of the trip.

The waters are very blue and quite clear.

We had to take Zodiacs to reach the ship with not only our carry on bags, but also large suitcases. Everything worked out fortunately.

Most of our planned days are a combination of dry and wet landings. Dry is you are close to one natural dock or rocks and wet landings are based on a beach landing where water shoes are best used.

In the first morning, we took a hike around one of the islands.

Two major sightings this day, one is the giant iguanas which are pretty impressive.

The second are all the sea lions. Just wait, there will be many more pictures and videos coming as I good better Internet connectivity which is very limited in the islands.

The third is the various bird species. This one was nesting and many were found covering their eggs. They are the swallow tailed gulls. Here is a good guide.

This married couple put on quite a scene as one was jumping up and down on the other. We told them to get a room!

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Welcome to the Galapagos

It is a restricted national park so you must go through quite a food steps to arrive. Park Rangers check every bag before you leave the airport and once again when you arrive.

There is no terminal with gates, but it is not a problem since the weather is very pleasant.

But it is a fun adventure if you have patience from the very start. The airport is small, but you have connections or a Priority Pass, they have a VIP lounge when you arrive.

The main surprise to me after landing was how (barren) and dry the island was, I guess it should be expected since July is the dry reason, but I incorrectly assumed that an exotic place like the Galapagos would be lush and green. Mistake noted.

What was the first unique creature sighted? The red crabs which are all over the rocks around the shore. They are very fast and they “jump” quite far from rock to rock. I do not have a good shot, but the crabs actually have blue on their bottom side which is unique (IMHO).

What is one additional surprise in Ecuador and Galapagos. A LOT of people where masks indoors and outdoors. Nobody complains. Everyone is comfortable and many just want to try and stay safe. It is not mandatory, but on airplane or airport, 95% of the people wear them!

Follow along here for the next day once we boarded the ship. and some of our findings! We found some boobies and also some turtles!

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The Equator

Today, we headed a little north of Quito Ecuador to go visit a local Indigenous tribe/culture/history museum and actually check in at the Equator of the Earth!

Don’t go to the Middle of the Earth tourist trap: https://www.mitaddelmundo.gob.ec/es/

Check out the better authentic Intiñan Musuem which is low cost and better quality : https://www.life-in-ecuador.com/intinan-museum.html

They had some pretty cool exhibits, statues and history to share. Very similar to Peru (IMHO).

I did not take many pics of the various, huts, tools and totems, but this one caught my attention. It was an actual tomb with a remaining corpse that had been buried hundreds of years ago?

Here was the other shocker : the local tribe shrinks and wears shrunken heads as amulets. They even had real ones on display!

It was pretty cool to actually stand at the equator and be at the official center of the planet of the earth.

It was a pretty popular spot for many tourists to check out. Even some of the local hummingbirds stopped and checked it out!

In closing, we took a break for a late lunch at the Santana brewing company. A popular spot for both locals and tourists. I am not sure the beer scene is as strong as the Seattle area, but I must admit that Ecuadorian wine if just as good as its Chilean and Argentinian neighbors!

Guess what is next? We are headed to the Galapagos! Check out that adventure posting!

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Exploring Quito – Day 2

I do not know how, but we got very lucky in avoiding the dry season thunderstorms threatening the area this week.

We enjoyed exploring a little more of the history of Quito which has a very strong Spanish Catholic influence in its religious history. It almost felt like you were in Rome when visiting the inside of some of the Basicalas.

When exploring on vacation and find one of these wide open to explore… Tempted or not? 😉

Despite all the street walking, there are always public toilets. They may be a little cramped for some people though…

Similar to other countries in South America, the fruit here is amazing. So fresh and has such stronger flavors. It is almost tempting to buy a bag of apples or oranges for only $1

It is also a very important part of this countries economy and daily life.

Quito is smack in the middle of the Andes mountains and has a base elevation of 9,000 feet and many hiking trails and places to visit that are in excess of 14,000 feet.

This is where the Breitling Emergency Watch can be the best watch choice 😎

Great place for some hiking and checking out the Volcano Park.

The llamas are also quite popular due to the very cool weather and lack of fleece by some.

It was quite foggy, but you can see how large of a city Quito is when looking down from the Volcano Park.

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Exploring Quito

Day 1

Some people say that Quito is not a safe place to visit like many other large South American cities, but we found the city is full of many hidden gems, amazing food choices, different culture and wonderful people.

After our late arrival, we started exploring the city. We mainly started in the old historical part of Quito. Of course I went running for a short jog to explore like I always do around the world 😉

We decided to take a local cooking class today – specializing in chocolate.

Did you know that Ecuador is the true origin of cocoa and the oldest cultivation of it around the world?

We visited the famous REPUBLICA DEL CACAO shop and were blessed with a hands-on training class on all the techniques, rules and challenges in making great chocolate delicacies.

Sometimes, it is amazing on how fast kids can learn and become expert pasty chefs! I have to admit I learned a lot about chocolate and cocoa that I never learned before.

We strolled around the area and picked up a new suitcase from one of the dozen local shops in the area that sell almost everything. The shops are all quite reasonable in price, all within walking distance…but be prepared, they almost only take cash and not credit cards. The nice thing is the US dollar is the standard currency.

To end the day, we took a great recommendation and visited Casa Manuela. 5 star. Not crowded, very pleasant, great staff.

If you go before 7 PM, you have the best service and do not wait for anyone. The food is delicious, very generous portions and great local wines too!

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Welcome to Quito

There are not many flights to Ecuador, so it takes a full day (dawn to dusk) to get here from the West coast of the United States. It is the same as going to the Caribbean.

The airport is not crowded and customs, immigration, baggage claim only takes 30 minutes. The only downside for myself is my relatively new luggage zipper was completely ripped and the suitcase wide open when it came into baggage claim. Oh boy…someone wanted something to steal. The good thing is that nothing was lost or stolen despite it falling it apart!

It takes about 30 minutes to get from the airport to the main city. At night is best as there is very little traffic. especially in the old city. It may seem a little intimidating to westerners at night as most things are closed and not many lights at night.

We are staying at Casa Gangotena which is a classic beautiful historical hotel that used to be a mansion.

The rooms are very luxurious and comfortable…however for the modern person, there is only one plug in the bathroom to charge your phones and electronics!

It is located in San Francisco plaza which is part of the old city with many cathedrals and museums. They also have the waves of pigeons like the main square in Venice.

It is the old city area with numerous quaint shops and cafe’s everywhere.

It felt very comfortable exploring, but like many large tourist destinations, there are various vendors trying to sell you trinkets.

There are tourist police everywhere which makes you feel safe. Here you can see them questioning someone who is trying to perform a music show with the local pigeons and is having a hard time getting them to provide tips for his performance.

The backside of the hotel has some great scenery if you look up into the hills.

The real hidden gem is the Terrace at the top of the hotel where you can enjoy the small plates of local cuisine.

For the continuing adventure, check out the next posting on Exploring Quito, Quito Day 2 and The Equator.

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Amazing Race in Israel

This week, I was able to participate in a teamwork exercise with other global CISO and cybersecurity leaders in a simulated Amazing Race exercise in Israel.

It kicked off with some private briefings and breakfast at a very special event venue called Alba (which had some great food) .

Tsion Canyon

So, what was the goal of the exercise? After some many long days of meetings and briefings, it was a nice weekend break for a few hours and opportunity to get to know some of your industry peers. You also get to see some famous sites and locations that you may never get the chance to explore on a business trip.

The downside is that you may only get to see these sites for a minute or two…just barely enough time to take 1 to 2 pictures maximum. For example, after visiting the Ben Gurion tomb and taking a look at the overall national park, we did a quick peek at the nearby Ben Gurion university.

Another example was the famous

Then there was the Monastery of the Trappist Monks. We could not go in, but were able to grab a quick picture and check out the grounds.

There is a “totem” memorial in the courtyard to commemorate three people – Bernard Clairvaux, the spiritual founder of the Trappist order, Rashi – the Jewish Biblical commentator, and Salah al Din (Saladin) who spared the lives of the Crusaders when he could have killed them. 

and of course you may get to try out a new wine as well in the amazing vineyards of Israel. We stopped by the Mony winery which was quite popular with locals and tourists to sit and have a picnic with great views under cover.

We needed more points, so off we went to check out something that was not aware of in Israel…a zoo in a museum!

It was the biblical museum of Natural History.

I must admit, this is the first time I have ever held a giant anaconda snake in my life. Very fun and great museum! But I do have to admit that eating locusts for an extra 100 points was not as bad as I was thinking it would be. We were assured they were kosher though!

It was not at the end of this competitive race and team building exercises, but it was the night before when we go to enjoy a show with Lior Suchard.

I could not resist sharing as part of this posting. I must admit, he was one of the best and most amazing “mentalists” I have ever seen. Magic tricks are amazing sometimes…

and to end the week and the Team8 CISO Summit, they had some celebrity guest speakers along with a performance from the famous and very popular Red Band. What a treat!

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Tips to Surviving the Travel Zoo

I am sure everyone has been seeing the travel chaos in the news (media) lately. I thought I would share some first hand experiences as well.

It was like all the animals waiting in line to climb in/enter the Ark. I always arrive a few hours early to the airport, but…this time it was a blessing (no pun intended). I am not sure how anyone could get to the gate in 1 hour.

Tip #1: Arrive early and plan for long lines.

If you did NOT check in online and need to see agent, the line to see an agent was 4 hours. If you checked in online and has performed a self-tagged bag drop with SkyPriority, the line was only hour.

Tip #2: Check in online and do not wait to see an agent at the airport.

Tip #3: Take carry-on only. But many people travelling for vacation or internationally will need to check bags. If you do need to check-in a bag, use the self-tag kiosks to print your tag and then go to the shorter drop-off lines.

The airline (Delta) club was not too bad, but it was loud. There were a LOT of families and crowds that had encountered cancelled and delayed flights which created a lot of chaos and people look for a place to stay.

The Tough Decision

Now, here the hard part of the story. Just 15 minutes before my flight was supposed to start boarding…it was delayed by 2.5 hours due to a “safety check” on some of the seats on the plane. They needed to fly up parts from Los Angeles and that was going to take a few hours. Uggghhh,,,back to the lounge.

But the greater challenge for me was the fact that I was making a connection in Europe. Even if the plane had a tail wind and flew almost 700 knots, I would land after the connecting flight is supposed to depart. So I called the Delta Diamond hotline and connected with someone in 5 minutes. Nice!

However, it turns out due to the entire world travelling and everyone swarming the airports, all possible routes and connecting flights to Tel Aviv from Europe…were completely full for 2 days. I could fly to Paris or Amsterdam and put myself on standby, but I could be stuck in airport limbo for days. and where would my luggage end of? (hold that thought for a moment)

I made the decision to back out of the flight and work on finding an alternate flight/route/option. Easy enough, right? Well, it took an hour to reach a gate agent (since everyone is looking for help with their delays and lost connections). I notified that I was cancelling and would not be taking the flight (Delta canceled and refunded the flight for me). She then entered the details in the system to have my bag removed from the plane and returned to me. Great!

Waiting for the Luggage

Then came the next pain point. Waiting for my luggage. I went to the baggage claim office, and that took 45 minutes because there were so many people with lost luggage. Simple answer: they said it will come back to the main carousal by the office after the plane left. OK – the plane had not left. I caught one of the agents and asked, how long does it normally take? “Patience…just be patient. Everyone is challenged”. I waited another hour. I found some other passengers that also had left the flight and were waited for their bags. Two hours have gone by…

Time to be creative. The next time the “oversized luggage” door opened when they deliver golf clubs, strollers, etc. Hijack the worker and ask for help. They were nice. They asked for the gate and flight. They said they will go look. Another 30 minutes pass.

The door opens again. Hijack the worker again. This is when I used technology to help the situation. I had actually purchased and insert a “bag tracker” in my suitcase that uses GPS, cell service, wireless, bluetooth, etc. It is not perfect and not very precise, but it does work. It showed that it had been moved from the gate area and appears to have been put on a luggage cart and moved. I had an estimated spot. I showed the luggage worker…and then ah hah, they had an idea.

10 minutes later, the bag arrived!

Tip #4: Have a bag tracker. Even CNN recommended the use of AirTags to help with this problem. I am experimenting with Tracki.

Attempt #2

Learning from all the above circumstances, I planned a different route, airline, no checked bags.

Tip #5: Use CLEAR and/or TSA pre-check. Despite all the lines, you are usually through the security lines in 5-10 minutes max.

Result? In less than 40 minutes after leaving the house, I was through security and in the lounge.

Yep, this is not the Delta lounge, it is United. It does not look modern or updated, but it is actually decent. The staff was pleasant, the snacks decent and I have to admit, it did not feel crowded.

The United Domestic Experience

I must admit, despite all the naysayers, the United flight was very efficient, good service and departed on time. What a relief! When you board, you get a small snack pack and it met the needs immediately. Hint: short flights to San Francisco do not have meals.

But they will serve a glass of wine and offer it from a full sized bottle and use real glasses!

The downside is the seat power does not have enough voltage or amps to charge a phone. It just barely reduces the draw. Win some, lose some!

Tip #6: Have a battery charger for your phone. and don’t pack these in your checked luggage. The airlines do not like that any more.

The real treat is the Polaris lounge in San Francisco international terminal. They have tons of space, dozens of gender neutral bathrooms and even full service dining! I only had a short connection, so I really only had a chance to do some quick work.

Tip #7: Make sure to get a snack. Despite the flights appearing to be on time, there will be delays and that means the meal you were counting on will be much later than you anticipated

When boarding the new 787 to Israel, they used their new check-in procedure where you must look into a camera and it compares your picture to your uploaded passport. At first it went very slow and then people eventually caught on.

About half the passengers claimed they needed to pre-board, so even after the boarding began, you had to wait another 30 minutes in line to get the opportunity to get on the plane.

The United International Service

The seats and comforts were awesome.

The food was delicious, but…the service was not that friendly. It was so rushed. The flight attendants would run up and ask what you wanted to drink. They did not even bring the cart by. If you say red wine, they will run away, come back and splash the wine into a glass and leave. When they bring the food, they ask if you would like more wine, they would again quickly splash the wine into the glass and I would have to spend 5 minutes finding napkins to clean up the spilled wine so it did not get on my clothes. I did not want any more wine because I was afraid of getting stained with it!

I have to admit the Delta service in business class is much more careful and customer focused. It may not be as fast and the food not as good, but the experience is superior.

Final tip: Don’t stress. Sometimes the views can be incredible.

Summary: the Star Alliance routes appear to be much more reliable than other choices when headed to distant locations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. But it does not mean the service is better on board the flight.

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