In a previous post I introduced you to our most wonderful Galapagos guide, Alfredo Maneses, who made sure that our experience would be unforgettable and his success was multifaceted.  His knowledge of the area was unparalleled and his attention to every logistical detail left little for us to do other than have one hell of a time.

Alfredo wore a pendant that we simply fell in love with – I don’t have a closeup – but here is a cropped shot:

Alfredo told us it was a family heirloom that he has always worn.  The colors were riveting – swirls of pinks, reds, oranges and browns.   It’s name is equally exotic:  Spondylous. It is  beautiful little bivalve found mainly in the warm waters of the Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador:

This shiny, red, spiny shellfish has quite a history as it is associated with symbolic powers since the Pre-Columbian era (pre -16th Century). It was an important part of many religious ceremonies of multiple cultures in Peru and Ecuador and in some cases also had monetary value as sort of ancient coin. It was also made into jewelry, although in some cultures only the most high priests could wear it.

Not so in the modern-day and the thought of a securing such a pretty bauble was enticing.  However, knowing that other underwater creatures such as coral are endangered – I wanted to check first to see the health of the spondylous.  It has been somewhat threatened by pollution and overfishing for its flesh, but those who carve the shells are not considered a threat, as there are very few artisans who care to undertake the difficulty of carving the spiky shell.

Okay.  At the last port of call, Santa Cruz Island and after my heady experience with the frigates at the fish market, we went to a shop recommended by Alfredo and found some beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces of spondylous jewelry:

This necklace also includes carved lava rock which closed the deal for me.

This was the choice of my friend Lenore:

While I packed up my necklace as we were heading the next morning to Baltra and then back to Guayaquil, Lenore had her pendant (it hadn’t yet been put on the omega chain you see above) in her purse that she took to our farewell dinner that night.

Our dinner was arranged at a waterfront table on the dock – here is my photo from that night as well as some internet pics showing the layout.

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We were seated at that last table. Of course people wanted to see Lenore’s pendant so she carefully unwrapped it –

And then watched it slide out of her hands onto the deck, through the slats between the boards and into the bay.

Lenore’s look of shock was palpable.  Looking through the slats – all we could see was the bay water, lava rocks and many electrical cables – not a great combination.


Alfredo aka Aquaman to the rescue:  Alfredo found a hatch in the deck and despite the obvious danger below jumped down into the depths.

After many tense minutes, not knowing whether Alfredo would be electrocuted, bitten by sharks, stung by rays or cut up on the lava rocks…he emerged with Lenore’s pendant, with only a tiny dent – and now it comes complete with a fantastical backstory.

This final WTDGAP is not a fond one – but I am sure many of you have experienced it.  Our group was quite small – only 10 travelers from all over the world.  I prefer small entourages – I enjoy really getting to know everyone, activities are  enhanced as everyone has ample time – and it is especially expedient when you have to take small hopper plane excursions.

The Galapagos pack consisted of a family of 5 adults, one couple, my friend Lenore and myself and one single lady. It was very cohesive for the most part and we all enjoyed each other’s company.  Alas, the one single lady came with a bit of unwanted baggage – a respiratory ailment.

I am sure you have all had the unfortunate timing of catching a cold, etc right before, or during a trip – frankly it sucks.  This woman’s ailment had started just before the trip and in her defense she made every effort to “isolate” herself so as not to spread her contamination – she did not join most of the daily activities with the exception of a few dinners.  However, the infection got worse and worse – so severe that Alfredo was constantly begging this woman to let him take her to the hospital. Finally she did agree and was able to get some medication to speed along her recovery.

Best laid plans of mice and men.  There were three small plane hoppers that we had to take on our Galapagos journey:  1) Guayaquil, Ecuador to San Cristobal 2)San Cristobal to Isabella and 3)Santa Cruz to Guayaquil.  The good news is that I had window seats on all three legs so could happily while away the time taking photos.  The bad news:  in the middle seat – each time – was Typhoid Mary.

I did my best, Purelled up a storm – taking photos allowed me to face the window as much as possible without being rude.  Alas, it was to no avail.  With the addition of those few meals where by unfortunate happenstance I sat next to this woman as well, there were enough evil microbes scurrying about – by the time I was on my flight home, my sinuses and ears were already causing me pain.

It took the typical 10 days to feel myself again – and my irk was not assuaged by the fact that upon speaking to my fellow travelers I learned that a good number of them also got sick.

Sigh – not a souvenir I ever want.



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