I browsed bookstores for travel guidebooks and bought guides from Moon Handbooks for Ecuador and Chile. The Ecuador book had a major section on the Galápagos Archipelago; the Chile book had a major section for Easter Island and a smaller section for the Juan Fernández Archipelago. I also bought a separate nature guide for the Galápagos. I list all the books later in the list of Internet Links, with links to Amazon.com.
Since I would be traveling in Spanish-speaking countries, I decided to learn some Spanish before the trip started. I bought a program for my PC that included CD-ROM's that could play audio snippets of words and phrases. You could connect a headset to jacks on the PC, then use the earphones and microphone in the headset to interact with the program. After listening to a phrase, you repeat the phrase into the microphone while recording your voice on the PC, then play back the segment to listen to your pronunciation. I also got a separate book with another set of lessons without audio CD's. Marcie emailed me that they had a good Spanish-English dictionary on their boat, so I didn't need to bring one.
During the planning of any trip, I like to make lists of details, since I'm a big believer in the organizing power and efficiency of lists. I used my PC to make a big to-do list of trip preparations, with another list of last-minute details. I also made a big list of things to bring on the trip.
I knew I was going on a major adventure and would be gone for many weeks, so naturally I wanted to bring all kinds of stuff with me. On the other hand, lugging it all to Ecuador would be a nuisance, plus the airlines have baggage limits. I needed to come up with a list of things that were necessary and sufficient but not excessive. If you want to see what I brought with me, take a look at this page: What I Brought With Me
The baggage limits differ for domestic and international flights. On the American flight from Baltimore to Miami, you could have two checked bags up to 50 lbs each. But on the LanChile flight from Miami to Ecuador, the checked bags could be up to 70 lbs. You can't carry any hazardous materials in checked baggage, which for regular tourists is usually not a problem. However, in my case, I would be bringing a bunch of supplies and gear for the boat, so I checked lists on the internet to make sure I could bring the items.
As usual, packing was an ordeal. There was such a huge pile of stuff to bring, and it looked like it would never fit in my luggage. After the first attempt at packing, there was the expected moment of panic when the luggage was full but there was still a big pile of stuff remaining. You wind up using every trick in the book and violating the laws of physics by compressing matter to impossible densities, but eventually, nearly everything fit (although the duffel bags were ready to explode). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to fit some clothes, audio CD's, and books, so they got left behind.
Email is such a great information-age tool, nowadays available everywhere in the world. Marcie and David and I communicated often using this convenient medium. We worked out travel plans and all the other details. One of the details was the "John, please bring us" list. Being in Ecuador, there are plenty of things they either can't get or are excessively dear. In our very ambitious and aggressive business-oriented society here in the States, we get used to the cornucopia of products and materials that are widely available at reasonable prices. But elsewhere in the world, "it ain't necessarily so!".
They asked me to bring a bunch of things for their boat, and I spent a while locating sources and comparing prices (on the internet, of course). Some things I mail-ordered, some I picked up locally, and they all went on to the "bring" pile: outboard motor parts, paintbrushes, computer software, brass pipe fittings, metal polish, epoxy resin, canned meat, hole plugs, inflatable dinghy patch material, coaxial cable and connectors, propane hose, etc.
In one email, Marcie and David mentioned that when they returned to Ecuador after a visit to the States, they brought back four 70-lb duffel bags filled with parts and gear for their boat. They didn't have any trouble clearing the items through Ecuadorian customs, since their boat qualified as a "yacht in-transit". All the gear that they brought into the country would be installed on their boat, and when they sailed away, all the gear would leave the country with their boat. Therefore, they were not officially importing the goods into the country so they didn't have to pay any import duties. They did have to labor like mules lugging the heavy duffels, though.
I thought it was pretty neat the way the entire trip was initiated, organized, and closely planned, all over the internet. All of this choreography took place very efficiently via cyberspace, despite being thousands of miles apart and in practically two different worlds. Perhaps in the distant future, people will not only plan trips online, they might even take the trips themselves via virtual reality in cyberspace.
Just in case you were curious, here's a listing of the email message dance that went on between our two camps, from the first hint of crewing to the final pre-departure exchange. To tell the truth, the emails themselves are rather mundane, but it demonstrates how easily a major adventure can come to pass. All you have to do is communicate!
|1||From M&D||09/23/03||The first feeler arrives about crewing|
|2||To M&D||10/09/03||A positive response to the feeler|
|3||From M&D||10/10/03||The positive response is accepted|
|4||From M&D||01/30/04||More details arrive, still interested?|
|5||To M&D||02/06/04||Details and interest confirmed|
|6||From M&D||02/07/04||Lots more details arrive (by the way, could you please bring us...)|
|7||To M&D||02/07/04||Details confirmed (sure, tell me what you need...)|
|8||From M&D||02/15/04||John, please bring us...|
|9||To M&D||02/17/04||Flight reservation details, "please bring us" status|
|10||From M&D||02/19/04||Flight reservation fine, "please bring us" update, more trip info|
|11||From M&D||02/27/04||More things to bring, provisioning questions, official "crew letter" for immigration|
|12||To M&D||02/27/04||Roger, wilco|
|13||To M&D||03/01/04||Provisioning answers, some questions|
|14||From M&D||03/02/04||Just one more thing to bring...|
|15||From M&D||03/02/04||One more thing to bring, "yacht in-transit" letter for customs|
|16||To M&D||03/02/04||Update on requested items|
|17||From M&D||03/04/04||Provisioning information, answers to questions|
|18||To M&D||03/04/04||Status update|
|19||From M&D||03/05/04||Parts information|
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