Sailing on the Samba

The Samba

The Samba

I was working in the library one Tuesday afternoon in July when Matt came to see me with a funny look on his face. The owner of the Samba, a 14-passenger, 78-foot sailboat, had just invited us on an 8-day cruise. The ship was sailing that night. Matt couldn’t go because he was hosting a group of US teachers who were training his teachers, but he urged me to accept the invitation. I waffled – did I want to go alone, would I get seasick on a small boat? – and quickly realized that I was being foolish. It was a wonderful opportunity, I had my own cabin if I did puke the whole time and Matt would get to have our small apartment to himself for a change. We got home from school around 4:30 and by 6 I was packed and waiting on the dock to be taken to the Samba.

What an amazing trip! The crew, my fellow passengers and ship were fantastic. Last year Matt and I were guests on the National Geographic Endeavor, and I didn’t think that experience could be topped. (I blogged about it here: Cruising the Galapagos.) This trip followed essentially the same itinerary and was equally fun and exciting.

There are pros and cons to being on a bigger ship versus a smaller ship. I honestly don’t know which trip I preferred, but on a smaller ship you get to do this:

On the other hand, a smaller boat is rockier and our first night was rough. On a late night trip to the bathroom – all of three steps away from my bed – the ship pitched just as I got through the doorway and I fell sideways, somehow ending up like a beetle on its back in the shower stall. I laid there, stunned, crunched up in the 18 inch square stall and not really awake, trying to figure out if I could actually get up without help. It became clear why our guide, Franklin, had advised us to wear pajamas to bed!

We were up early every morning because our days were chock-full of activities: hiking, snorkeling, kayaking/paddle boarding. The activities were offset by delicious meals and tasty snacks; no dieting on this trip! During downtimes we played cards, Catchphrase and relaxed in the common areas. Franklin taught everyone to play the Ecuadorian card game Cuarenta and the Martin family taught us a group card game. I never felt unwelcome or uncomfortable traveling alone and couldn’t have asked for nicer people. Franklin was an entertaining guide and made getting up early worth our while. He made the mistake of drawing a cute picture on our second schedule and we then insisted he do it every time.

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On a trip this active, it is hard to pick the highlights, but swimming with the penguins was one. These tubby torpedoes are unbelievably fast when hunting their dinner.

While most of what we saw and did was not new to me, my excitement was as genuine as my new friends’ excitement. I never tire of watching the birds, iguanas and other animals. While we were busy every day, we were never rushed and could enjoy countless moments in a genuine manner.

Best of the Birds:

My favorites, the iguanas:

Bored with Us!

Under the Sea:

Octopus’s Garden

Unexpected Highlight –  Wild Dolphin Show! *

Frolicking Dolphins

Dolphins Racing the Boat

Two nights the dolphins treated us to the most fantastic show. I have never seen anything like it, and this spectacle reinforced all I knew about dolphins – their beauty, athleticism, playfulness and intelligence. The captain sailed in large, lazy circles so we could enjoy the show and it felt like the dolphins were performing for us, as though they wanted the attention and to light up our lives. When they first started racing the boat, I asked the crew why and the response was “they are playing with us.” They were. I also loved that the crew was all on deck (well, apart from the ones steering our course) to watch the show and their wonder was genuine too.


This is How Happy the Dolphin Show Made Me

This is How Happy the Dolphin Show Made Me

Sailing on the Samba – one of the best gifts I have ever been given!

* Don’t go to a dolphin show. Seriously, don’t. Living here has made me struggle with zoos and aquariums, but I understand that good ones are important to conservation efforts. Dolphin shows are not.

To the Beach (Vacation Part V)

We left the dunes of Huacachina and hit the beach, specifically, Paracas, which is where Limeños (folks from Lima) go for a beach vacation.  We were at the beach but still in a desert, which just seemed off – water on one side and then endless sand on the other.  We stayed at Villa Kite, a beachside B&B owned by Jorge, who was an excellent host, spoke perfect English, and is the guy who brought kitesurfing to Peru.  Villa Kite provided us great views and daily walks as it was about 2 miles from the main drag in Paracas.

The walk was great – we went past beautiful multimillion dollar homes, saw tons of birds and enjoyed the ocean.  But then, as if to remind us that we are not in the US, was the stench.  We noticed it the first night when we stopped to have a drink at the swanky Paracas Hotel.  Despite the gorgeous surroundings, we gagged on the putrid odor.  We later asked Jorge and he confirmed that the town has grown too quickly and the sewer infrastructure isn’t up to par.  Wow, in the US you would not have multimillion dollar homes or $350 a night hotel rooms in an area that smells so vile.  Thankfully, Villa Kite was far enough from town and set back from the beach so that only once did we get a whiff of the sewage. The other downside of the beach was the stingrays and jellyfish.  The stingrays are always present, but a jellyfish bloom had occurred about 2 weeks prior to our visit so the ocean was teeming with them and when the tide went out hundreds would wash up on the beach and die.  No swimming for us on this beach vacation!

Paracas is what I imagine Door County, WI, was about 30 years ago.  The boardwalk is small and dotted with tsotchke stands and mediocre restaurants.  It was quaint in a rustic, Peruvian way and 5 days was enough time to sightsee and relax.

Matt set off in Jorge’s kayak one morning.  He had such a great time (once he got over the fear of tipping over into the jellyfish) that a couple of days later we rented kayaks.  How incredible!  We paddled across the bay and along the shoreline of the Paracas reserve.  The colors were just amazing – bright blue water, even brighter blue sky and glowing yellow sand.  The highlight was the flamboyance of flamingos that we saw.  (As an aside, isn’t the word “flamboyance” just perfect to describe a group of these flashy birds? Kudos to whoever came up with that one.)  There were probably 50 Chilean Flamingos, including gray babies.  Their pink plumage was so vibrant, much more than that of flamingos at the Milwaukee County Zoo.  We saw many other birds, and kept our eyes open for dolphins, but we didn’t spot any. (No dry bags = no pictures 😦  )

Next : Ballesta Islands, Paracas National Preserve and the Incan Ruins of Tomba Colorado