The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis travel product review: never lose your bag again with suitcase handle grips that are durable, colorful, and essential

Written By: herbrunbridge - Sep• 13•14

NeopreneGrips_We here at WoWasis are constantly vexed by three suitcase handle problems that drive us nutty, but not any longer. We’ve found an inexpensive and great solution. Before we tell you what it is, do any of these three problems sound familiar?

1) You’ve got a great shoulder bag with a web strap that keeps —annoyingly — slipping off your shoulder.

2) You’ve got a great bag with a leather, rubber, or plastic handle that’s shredding. The bag is too good to get rid of, but the handle has seen better days.

3) Your bag looks like every other one coming off the baggage carousel at the airport and you wish you could identify it faster.

We’ve found the solution for all of these problems in one terrific product. It’s the Red Color Comfort Neoprene Handle Wraps/Grip/Identifier for Travel Bag Luggage Suitcase. This durable velcro-grip handle attaches to everything. We tested it, and it’s a gem. To wit:

1) Our shoulder bag no longer slips off our shoulder.
2) We’ve already been able to save one great bag with a crappy handle because the neoprene handle wrap slips over it.
3) We now identify our bag immediately off the carousel. We don’t have to carefully inspect every bag that looks like ours, and other travelers don’t mistake ours either.

This great gizmo comes in packs of three and sells for under $10 USD, easily the best value of any travel gadget that we’ve seen in the past several years. Buy it now from the WoWasis eStore.

WoWasis spa review: magnificent hot springs in Copan, Honduras

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 22•14

LunaJaguarPoolsEntrance1bHere are WoWasis, we just love natural hot springs. We’ve blogged on great ones in California, Japan, and Taiwan. So now we’ll add Honduras to the list, because there’s a terrific one here, about as pretty, from a design and natural beauty perspective, as you’ll find anywhere. And you can visit it for about $22, directly from the town of Copan Ruinas. We’ve never found a better hot springs value anywhere, and after a hot morning of roaming through the Mayan pre-Columbian site of Copan, the Luna Jaguar Hot Springs is just the right place.

It takes about an hour to get there, up a rutty mountain dirt road ($22 include transportation from your hotel and a spa ticket). Along the way, you’ll pass coffee plantations and wonderful examples of rural life, including people, animals, and landscapes.

LunaJaguar18RabbitPools1cWhen you arrive, you change to your bathing suit (nobody’s nude here), grab a towel, and head over the pretty cable and wood bridge that spans a stream. Once you cross, you’re in another world. Mayan statuary is everywhere, the greenery is breathtaking, the pools are beautiful, designed from indigenous rock. If you wish, you can start with a mud bath or a sauna, the latter of which is an intelligently rigged floor-vented pavilion, built right over a scalding natural hot stream. Walk a little bit higher and you’ll come to our favorite place, the adjacent hot and cold pools. Dip in the hot pool and you’ll be under the gaze of Copan Mayan ruler ’18 Rabbit,’ whose stela from the archaeological zone has been wonderfully rendered. After a few minutes, would want to slip over the barrier to the cold pool. If the hot pool is too much for you, several cooler but still warm pools cascade below, waiting for you.

If you want, you can get a massage and you can eat here, too. All in all, this is one of the best hot springs we’ve ever experienced, and certainly was the least expensive. Thousands of people visit Copan every year for the Mayan ruins and sculptures and many of them make it up the hill to the Luna Jaguar spa. You should too, and it will be an experience you’ll always remember.

Luna Jaguar has a website, but we recommend just booking it through the ViaVia restaurant and bar, two blocks off the public square in the town of Copan Ruinas (everyone knows where it is, just ask).

LunaJaguar18Rabbit1cIf you decide to drive the road (we don’t recommend it, 4-wheel drive only) here are the prices:
Prices at the Luna Jaguar Hot Springs are 200 Lempiras ($10) from 9 am to 1 pm; 240 Lempiras ($!2) from 1 pm to 5 pm; 300 Lempiras ($15) from 5 pm – 9 pm. Meals are 150 Lempiras ($7.50)

WoWasis scuba review: The Top 4 dive spots in Roatan, Honduras

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 18•14
Courtesy Roatan Marine Park

Courtesy Roatan Marine Park

Today’s WoWasis guest blog was written by Michele “Mish” Akel, co-owner of Native Sons Dive Shop in Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras. She’s been diving there since 1996, but that’s not quite as long as her husband and co-owner Alvin Jackson has. His first dive there was 1973! Alvin is the President of the Roatan Marine Park and very dedicated to preserving Roatan’s fragile environment. These are his four favorite dive sites. For more information, contact Native Sons Dive Shop (see below).

The diving around Roatan is world class and thanks to the Roatan Marine Park the reef is still very healthy with plenty of reef life to please our visitors. We have turtles everywhere, eels, rays, lobster, groupers, parrot fish etc., and then all the wonderful macro critters. You will not be disappointed!

1) Texas – This is the best dive site on Roatan. It is at the end of the island where the currents keep the reef wonderfully healthy and you will see plenty of fish life; groupers, wrasse, angels, hogfish , huge barracuda. If you get out far enough you will also see the elusive Sargassum triggerfish that is not found anywhere else around Roatan. If you are keen on photography bring your wide angled lens for this dive.

2) Half Moon Bay Wall – Right out the front of Native Sons is one of the best walls off the island. There are 3 moorings here, Dixie’s, Half Moon Bay and Divemaster’s Choice. They are all great dives and go from 10ft to way deeper than we would ever take you. Down deep are lots of gorgonions, huge orange elephant ear sponges, and lots of interesting overhangs, under which the corals are remarkably beautiful. In the shallows, look out for flamingo tongues on the fans and lobsters and crabs in the crevasses.

Courtesy  Roatan Marine Park

Courtesy Roatan Marine Park

3) Hole in the Wall – If you want to go deep, this is the site. Swim down through a large tunnel that goes through the wall and you come out at 110ft. Another 20 ft is our maximum depth and you hang out over the deepest blue you will ever see. There is no sign of the bottom here and it’s a great moment to contemplate life, the universe and everything while enjoying a touch of nitrogen narcosis. Back up in the shallows, while decompressing, swim through the Swiss cheese, a network of caves, tunnels and canyons, all filled with natural light, glassy sweepers, and with any luck, a scorpion fish or two. There is also a great cave, filled with silver-sides in the summer, with a large entrance and quite often king crab hiding on the ledges.

4) The Aguilar Wreck – This 210 foot cargo ship sits on the sand at 110 feet. It was sunk intentionally by Anthony’s Key Resort in 1997, broken into 3 by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and further rearranged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It’s a great dive. As you go down you are met by huge friendly groupers and blue parrot fish. There is a resident eel and some wonderful coral has grown on the ship. Don’t forget to check out the garden eels covering the deep sand as far as you can see. This dive is usually done as a drift, starting at the wreck and then decompressing in the shallows and gradually making your way to Pillar Coral, to the west. For some reason, there is an area between these two sites where there are so many fish, Bermuda Chubb, black durgons, groupers, and schoolmasters, all hanging out at the top of the wall. What a great place to do a safety stop!

For more information, please contact Mish at:

NativeSonsOwners1aNative Sons Dive Shop
Half Moon Bay, West End
Roatan, Honduras
(504) 2445 4003
(504) 9670 6530
Facebook Page: Native Sons Dive


WoWasis product review: leak-proof in-flight travel bottles that (honestly) don’t leak

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 15•14

NalgeneBottles1bIf you’re like us here at WoWasis, you’ve become damned sick and tired of your checked or carry-on liquids leaking out of your small travel bottles, then having to wash a whole bunch of stuff to get it all clean again. The biggest villain in this crime story is the airplane. As pressure changes, liquids start oozing out of bottles, no matter how well you tighten them. The biggest problems we have are with shampoos and pre-electric shave lotion. Yes, we keep them in plastic bags, but especially as is the case with the pre-shave lotion, we end up losing most or all of it in one international flight. They don’t sell pre-shave liquid in most Asian countries (but they do sell electric razors — go figure). So after hundreds of flights, we were determined to try to identify bottles that were small enough to be eligible for baggage, yet didn’t leak.

And hallelujah, we just tested one brand (in two different bottle configurations) and found nary a leak after five flights. So we’re recommending Nalgene leak proof bottles. These bottles were originally made to store lab samples in conditions where spillage could have major consequences. One bright soul at Nalgene determined that these bottles would be great for travel, too. And they are. We like the Nalgene 4 ounce Flip Top bottle for our shampoo and the Nalgene 2 ounce Drop-Dispenser bottle for our alcohol-based pre-shave liquid. The latter has a tiny cap that seals the top of a dispenser spout and it’s a gem.

With every good situation, though, there’s bound to be a drawback. And it’s Nalgene’s website. While they sell as plethora of leakproof bottles, they don’t feature these tiny TSA-ready bottles that are essential for traveling with liquids in your carry-on luggage, so you’ll have to find them at a retailer. We found ours at a chain outfit called The Container Store. We’d imagine that there are many others. We’ve attached a photo of our bottles so you can get a sense of what they look like. This is a superior flight travel product, too bad the folks at Nalgene don’t understand the market well enough to put these on their website. Next time, after you’ve just unpacked your luggage and found the usual monster leaks, you’ll wish that you had invested in a leak-proof TSA-enabled bottle for liquids. The Nalgene bottles are the real deal.

Top 4 Scuba Diving Spots in Vietnam

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 07•14
Glossodoris nudibranch (courtesy Rainbow Divers)

Glossodoris nudibranch (courtesy Rainbow Divers)

Today’s guest blog was written by WoWasis correspondent Jeremy Stein, who’s been running Rainbow Divers in Vietnam for 17 years. Vietnam is a great place to dive and to get certified, with clear, warm waters and lots to see. Here are his choices for the best 4 dive spots in Vietnam. For more details, contact Jeremy directly at the email and contact address below.

Nha Trang Diving

Nha Trang is the traditional home of diving in Vietnam. Since it was discovered by international travellers in the late 80’s the 17km of pristine beach and views has enchanted tourists. Easily accessible by flight from HCMC or Ha Noi and Da Nang. There are also many Train and Bus options.  The Marine park has a world class variety of Soft and Hard corals and some truly stunning macro life.
• Peak Season: March – October. Low Season: November – February.
• BEST FEATURE: “Far Islands”

Whale Island Diving

This East coast treasure is nestled 2 hours North of Nha Trang. Peaceful, rustic bungalows and Ocean view restaurant and bar. No roads, no motorbikes. Exclusive diving with a myriad of unidentified Nudibranch and amazing Macro Life. Great opportunities for quality beach dives and night dives.

• Peak Season: March – October. Low Season: November – February.
•  BEST FEATURE: Rare nudibranch…VERY rare Nudibranch.

Lion Fish (courtesy Rainbow Divers)

Lion Fish (courtesy Rainbow Divers)

Phu Quoc Diving

Off the far South West coast of Vietnam. A Vietnamese Island in the Gulf of Thailand, off the Cambodian border. This small, underdeveloped Island hosts a buffet of beachside resorts. Easily accessible from HCM by flight. The South Island is considered one of Vietnams best dive sites. One of the few places around the coastline where you can see bamboo sharks and as always a wide array of macro life.

• Best season: November – March. Low Season: May – September.
• BEST FEATURE: The South Island.

Con Dao Diving

The mysterious archipelago of Con Dao. When you fly in by plane (40 minutes direct from HCMC) its much like the opening sequence of Jurassic Park 3. By ferry, akin to the revelation of skull Island in King Kong. That’s Con Dao, magical and exclusive. With a truly amazing diversity in dive sites, for the beginner and hardened pro. Dugongs, turtles and the best chance you have of seeing Pelagics in Vietnamese waters.  There are a host of beach front resorts from simple to Six Senses. Come here with a clear mind and a love of nature. There is little in terms of entertainment, but this is compensated by the amazing scenery and nature.

• Best Season: May – July. Low Season: January – March.
• Best feature: Simply Stunning.

JeremySteinFor more information on diving these areas, contact Jeremy directly:

Rainbow Divers Vietnam
24 hour contact: (+84) 0913-408-146



WoWasis Galapagos book review: The essential ‘Wildlife of the Galápagos’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 03•14

WildlifeGalapagosBookHere at WoWasis, we recommend two nature guidebooks for travelers to the Galapagos. We’ve already reviewed Pierre Constant’s Marine Life of the Galapagos: The Diver’s Guide to Fishes, Whales, Dolphins, and Marine Invertebrates, which is the essential marine life guide. For land animals, plants and flowers, you won’t find a better one than Wildlife of the Galapagos (2000, ISBN 978-0-691-10295-5), written by Julian Fitter, Daniel Fitter, and David Hosking.

At 4 ½ x 7 ½ inches, it’s easy to carry when hiking and its plasticized cover is rugged enough to survive well through constant use. The book contains more than 400 color photographs and covers more than 200 commonly seen species, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants. At 256 pages, it includes essays on history, climate, and geology, and make for a very good preliminary read before reaching the islands. Like many books on the Galapagos, it’s not readily available when you reach the islands, so you’ll want to buy it before you go.

DreamAd-Wowasia_4The book is also a key to planning your trip well before you go. Our favorite part of the book is the 23 pages of island maps denoting hiking trails with keys to where you’ll encounter specific animals and plants. We’ve written a previous post on how to simplify a Galapagos visit, must reading, because at first the plethora of options seems so daunting (and expensive).  We now wish that we’d read this book before our visit. If we had we would have been better aware of the spectacular geological views to be had on Isla Bartolomé, which is otherwise a bit too easy to miss. The authors are keen on photography and the book is to a very large extent geared to people desiring to come away with memorable photographs.

If you’re contemplating or planning a trip to these remarkable islands, you’ll want to buy this book first in order to determine your own visiting priorities. Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore.

WoWasis Galapagos book review: ‘Floreana: a Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 30•14

FloreanaWittmerLike author Johanna Angermeyer, writer Margret Wittmer spent decades learning the intricacies and challenges of learning to live in the Galapagos islands. Unlike Angermeyer, though, Wittmer’s infrastructure was non-existent to the point that she and her small family had to create everything from scratch. As detailed in Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos (2013, ISBN 978-1-55921-399-8) her life was caught up in a series of triumphs and tragedies that for a time involved World War II. She and her family survived to create a sustainable tourism culture on the remote island of Floreana, the history of which also involved a well-known disappearance and possible murder. Margret, her husband Heinz, and stepson Harry left their home in Cologne, Germany and arrived in Floreana in August of 1932. They were loaded with numerous supplies:

We had made arrangements to sell the flat, and had invested all our savings in equipment and supplies, notably a good set of tools both for agriculture and household use and plenty of food stores. We took two hundredweights each of rice and beans, one hundredweight of flour, twenty-five pounds each of coffee and Quaker oats, five pounds of cocoa, plus three bottles of brandy, washing soap, matches, oil, tinned milk, and potatoes and onions for planting, a bale of yellow material for extra clothing needs, and a typewriter, in case any of our experiences should be worth putting down on paper. While we were in Chatham [island], we bought many more seeds and plants: sugarcane, yucca (a sort of tapioca), banana shoots, coffee beans, otois and camotes (two sorts of sweet potato), pineapple, pumpkins, mangos, papaws, avocados, and a cock and two hens.

The Wittmers began their life in Floreana by living in a cave. Among their first acquaintances were Dr. Friedrich Ritter and his girlfriend Dore Strauch, naturists and alleged vegetarians who’d had their teeth removed and replaced with stainless steel dentures before arriving on the island. Eventually a woman who called herself “Baroness” Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bousquet of Vienna arrived with two lovers, an attendant, and grandiose plans to set up a resort. The Ritters and the Baroness did not get along, and eventually, in March of 1934, the Baroness and her colleagues disappeared, allegedly having siled away by boat, bound for Tahiti. They were never heard from again, and Wittmer suspected Ritter may have had a hand in the disappearance. The mystery has never been solved.

DreamAd-Wowasia_4Later that year, Ritter died too, of food poisoning. Recounting his death, Wittmer noted that Ritter seemed to want to have nothing to do with Dore while on his deathbed. Another unsolved mystery.

Margret and Heinz Wittmer had two additional children, born on Floreana. They worked hard, prospered, and hosted thousands of visitors, eventually founding an inn which still exists on the island. Son Harry disappeared after a boat accident one year, Heinz died in 1963, and Margret completed this book in 1982. She passed away in 2000, at the age of 96 and son Rolf in 2012. Daughter Inge continues to run the lodge

While many dream of having a Robinson Crusoe-like existence, the Wittmers lived it, and Margret’s story brings a heavy dose of reality to the fantasy. At one time or another, they were at odds with the American, Ecuadorian, and German governments, then made up. Neighbors could be both a trial and a lifeline. Wild animals, particularly bulls, were a terror one moment and food the next.

John Woram has compiled a wonderful bibliography of books, journals, and manuscripts written on the subject of the Galapagos. A great start is Margret Wittmer’s Floreana, a true adventure tale that reads like a novel. Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore.

WoWasis Galapagos book review: The best Marine Life guidebook on the Galápagos that we’ve seen

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 28•14

ConstantGalapagosIf you’re like us here at WoWasis, you’ll go scuba diving or snorkeling in the Galapágos Islands, then come back to your hotel wondering what you saw.  Then you’ll go looking in several of the tourist shops looking for a good marine life guidebook. But you won’t find one. Instead, you’ll find plastic fish charts with limited numbers of examples and an expensive guide to Galapagos fish that will ignore invertebrates. That’s too bad, because colorful invertebrates constitute a lot of what you see below the surface (if you’re looking for Galapagos land life books, see our book review of Wild Life of the Galápagos).

Pierre Constant’s Marine Life of the Galapagos: The Diver’s Guide to Fishes, Whales, Dolphins, and Marine Invertebrates (2007, ISBN 10: 962-217-767-0)  is just what you’d need. And we’d recommend that you buy it before your trip and take it with you, as it’s not all that easy to find when you arrive. In this book, there are 288 color photographs, 27 maps and illustrations, and 30 pages of biological and geological data that explain why the currents move they do, how water temperature contributes to the marine life, you name it.

Nidorellia armata, photo courtesy Pierre Constant

Nidorellia armata, photo courtesy Pierre Constant

Each photograph is keyed to a short paragraph describing the marine animal, and the index is keyed to English, French, and Spanish common names. Then there’s a scientific name index as well. The guide is small enough to fit into your bag, so you could easily take it aboard your boat, although it’s so pretty that you won’t want to get sea water on it.

What got us moving away from books that solely focus on fish was the fact that one of the most beautiful things we saw underwater was a starfish, iridescent yellow with black spines. It wasn’t in the fish book because it’s not a fish. We found it in Constant’s book, and it’s called a Chocolate chip star, or Nidorellia armata. But we wish we’d known what it was then, or at least been able to take the guidebook back to the hotel and look at the pictures over a beer. Constant also provides great vignettes about marine life that’s deadly or poisonous. Even though you’re not to touch anything down there anyway, aren’t you now glad that you didn’t?

DreamAd-Wowasia_1-1Constant’s a veteran diver and underwater photographer, runs a dive operation on Isabela, and he’s a good writer. He puts the book is easy-to-understand classifications too, so you don’t have to be a marine biologist to understand everything. It will be too late when you get to Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, as they don’t sell it there (or maybe they do, but it sells out quickly). Our recommendation? Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore before you go.

WoWasis book review: ‘Killing Pablo Escobar: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 24•14

indexIt’s been more two decades since Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror over the nation of Colombia ended, but travelers still encounter vestiges of the carnage. In Bogotá’s Museo Histórico Policia, for example, a whole section is dedicated to the hunt for and death of Escobar. You’ll see a roof tile stained with his blood, his solid gold glasses frames, and his gold and silver Harley-Davidson. As documented in Mark Bowden’s Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw (2001, ISBN 0-87113-783-6), Escobar was a master media manipulator, civic Robin Hood, cagey political animal, and public terrorist, all rolled into one.

The book contains many fascinating elements, including his success in having government officials, police, and military all on his payroll. Threats to the families of these individuals guaranteed their loyalty and he carried out vengeance ruthlessly when he was not obeyed. The beginning of his undoing came when he sponsored the in-air explosion of an Avianca commercial flight, killing all 110 people on board, but not the intended victim, political candidate César Gaviria, who had purchased a ticket, but had not taken the flight. The job of hunting down Escobar finally fell to Colonel Hugo Martinez.

Eventually, a surrender was worked out and Escobar was exiled to his own comfortable prison, full of every imaginable creature comfort and an ongoing parade of guests. When the government started to build an additional perimeter fence, Escobar escaped. It wasn’t difficult, as he had corrupted virtually the entire guard force. Escobar’s strategy for pots-incarceration survival was a study in brinkmanship, and included setting off bombs in public places as well as assassinations of political leaders and media personnel. His undoing began with a secret vigilante force, “Los Pepes,” who destroyed his assets, kidnapped and murdered his associates and lawyers, and threatened immediate family members, outdoing him at his own game.

While careful not to draw conclusions without hard evidence, Bowden’s opinion is that Los Pepes couldn’t have done their handiwork without the knowledge of Martinez’s team, and in fact, probably included them. While this brought forth much hand-wringing on the part of both U.S. and Colombian officials, it was tacitly allowed to continue. Martinez force was incorruptible, and had learned to its dismay that every move that was conveyed to the police or military was immediately telegraphed to Escobar.

Eventually, Excobar tried to negotiate another surrender, with the stipulation that his wife and children be allowed to leave the country. But Martinez and his colleagues and associates, which by now included Colombia’s most powerful political and justice authorities, weren’t going to allow that to happen. Arriving in Germany, his family was turned back on the tarmac and returned to Colombia.

The final hunt for Escobar is detailed in wonderful cloak-and-dagger details. In a final coup de grâce, the kill team shaved off the ends of his moustache alà Hitler. The book remains a must for readers wishing a historical perspective on Colombia and the drug wars, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the most intriguing criminals of the twentieth century. But this book now at the WoWasis eStore.

WoWasis Galapagos book review: Johanna Angermeyer’s ‘My Father’s Island’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 20•14

AngermeyerFathersIslandWhen we here at WoWasis toured the Galápagos Islands recently, we were frankly surprised at the relative modernity of the town or Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz. The island is replete with electricity, air conditioning, internet, and flush toilets (like the rest of Ecuador, though, used toilet paper is placed in a basket and not flushed). The name Angermeyer figures prominently in this town, derived from four brothers of that name who arrived here from Germany in 1935. Johanna Angermeyer, author of My Father’s Island: A Galápagos Quest (1989, ISBN 0-670-82732-0) is the daughter of one of them, Johannes Angermeyer.

The book is a fascinating tale of the author growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she was born, Riverside, California, Quito, Ecuador, and the Galápagos. She spent considerable time in all three places. It’s also her personal quest to build a family history, and thank goodness she includes a family tree to assist the reader in fathoming its complexity. From a familial perspective, the tale she weaves involves five brothers who set off on a quest to flee the Nazi regime in the mid-1930s. The remote Galápagos Islands was their goal, and four of them reached it and took up residence on Isla Santa Cruz, building everything from scratch and living a life that Angermeyer describes as being right out of Robinson Crusoe. Johanna, whose biological father Johannes had died years earlier, finally made it to the island for her first visit when she was thirteen years old. She fell in love with it, spent summers there while she attended school in Quito, and eventually moved there permanently in 1971. Far from the creature comforts so easily found there today, the author lived a hard-scrabble existence, as recounted in this passage describing one of her pre-residence visits:

In the tropics, without refrigeration, the safest place for meat or fish was in your belly… Each household normally knew through the ‘bajucco’ (a tenacious vine) just when another hunter or fisherman was going out. In between times the children net-fished on the beach, then distributed mullet from house to house. When no one went out, we ate rice and avocado, when available, or tinned tuna, or bread if one had an oven. When someone got hungry, they took half the day off and took a gun into the bush. Sighting of goats were reported. Sometimes big bucks followed the house-goats home and were shot before breakfast from a bedroom window.

(One) afternoon [sister] Mary said my hair smelled like a stagnant goldfish bowl and it was decided we should take our laundry and dirty bodies over to Pelican Bay for washing. Borrowing the most uncapsizeable and therefore heaviest of Gus’s skiffs, we took turns rowing tight circles and zigzags across the bay, my sister, as usual, telling us what to do. But it was Mother who remembered how to wash clothes, scooping up brackish water with a bent rusty can from the same crack in the lava she had used all those years ago, lathering the clothes with blue lye soap, rinsing them in a bucket and hanging them over bushes to dry. It was back-aching work. The lye burned our eyes if we brushed the perspiration from our face with our hands. The soap did not rinse out thoroughly and our perverse dying-bushes brushed the clean clothes into the red dust every time a breeze told them to. Shampoo was so expensive that we washed our hair the islanders’ way; squashing ripe avocados on each other’s heads, sprinkling soap flakes over this and creating a pale guacamole lather. The oil was so rich that, once rinsed, our hair shone and our skin felt as soft as if we’d used the costliest soap.

One of the book’s great personal celebrations is described when a new privy is built.

DreamAd-Wowasia_4In addition to being a fascinating story of a settler family in a beautiful, remote, and often unforgiving environment, the book has tremendous value for today’s visitor. Driving on the road from the Isla Baltra ferry and walking through Puerto Ayora, it’s difficult to imagine how challenging it was for the early settlers, and Angermeyer’s book brings it all into focus, bringing the reader into her personal world as well as that of her uncles, who were profiled in magazines and adventure television shows of the era.

Angermeyer does leave out a few important details of her own life, including her marriage and the fact that they’d lost their infant daughter. Part of her recovery over the tragedy was in recording interviews on tape with many of the early settlers. Those interviews contributed to this book, which was published in 1989. After living in the Galápagos for twenty years, she and her husband moved to England, becoming involved in conservation and animal welfare.

Although the book is twenty-five years old now, it has lost none of its luster. Especially for the visitor coming to Isla Santa Cruz for the first time, it’s an eye-opener and worth bringing along for the trip. For readers who have never been there, it serves as a temptation to travel there. And it will bring back memories for those that have, and who may very well have a new perspective on what they’ve seen and what they’ve missed.