A ten day cruise to the Galápagos, when it comes down to it, is two nights in Quito, 2 half days travelling the approximately 1000 km from Quito to Baltra airport, and eight days exploring the “Enchanted Islands” – the Galápagos.
At our pre-departure briefing I was surprised to see fewer Aussies than anticipated – only 3 of us – with 1 Kiwi, 2 Canadians, 2 Philippinas now living in the USA, and 3 Americans, one of whom lives in Brazil. With ages ranging from mid – to late twenties to 91, it is certainly a different experience from Bunniks or Outback Spirit. I am among the more senior of the group.
My roommate is an American who grew up in Alabama, but now lives in Boston, having a break from her HR career. She seems pleasant and quiet, and we should get along OK.
I declined the offer of an outing to the local craft brewery with the young people, and found an Argentinian restaurant where a steak and red wine seemed like a perfect way to prepare for a 4.30 am departure for the airport.
The flight from Quito to Baltra with a stopover in Guayaquil took about three hoursi. From the cool Quito morning we emerged into equatorial heat on a barren island, the only obvious vegetation being spiky cacti. Our numbers had grown by 2 , with a couple of young Kiwis having joined us in Guayaquil. We were met by our guide, Jose, a Galapagano who worked with National Parks before he took up guiding thirteen years ago. More transport as we went by local bus to the ferry to Santa Cruz. On our first short, hot walk, we saw some sinkholes, various finches and mockingbirds, some interesting lichens ( easier to spot than the birds). Jose Is a master of bird calls, and he used various calls to attract the birds. Richard, the grandfather of the trip, is immensely knowledgeable, and asked many questions.
We had lunch at El Chato tortoise reserve, where we saw out first giant tortoises , including what Jose described as “happy tortoises“ – a large he tortoise on top of a smaller she tortoise, easily located by the distinctive grunting of the male, which Jose had already imitated. These large reptiles lumber along, or seek shade under trees. The tortoises of each island have a different shell, but they were a prolific source of meat, not only for the buccaneers, but also for Darwin and his colleagues in the Beagle. They threw the shells overboard, a mistake which Darwin regretted, as it was left to others to describe the unique species found on each island. Nonetheless the tortoises, along with the finches, helped Darwin develop his theory of evolution.
After visiting lava tunnels, and seeing some giant opuntia cacti with their beautiful yellow flowers – these are on every island – we drove to Puerto Ayora where, after a drink, a trip to the ATM and a spot of souvenir gathering, we finally boarded Y. Daphne, our home for the next week. Maybe it was because I was hot nad jaded, but Puerto Ayora seemed no different form any tourist port. Hose told us that he and his friends played soccer where there are now tourist shops and a marina.
By dinner, I was tired, and had no appetite, and just about made it through the evening briefing, to toddle upstairs and fall asleep to the gentle rocking of the boat.I will not bore you with details of the following day. Suffice it to say my gastrointestinal system let me down, and I spent the day in bed, leaving it to the others to see blue footed boobies and have the first snorkel.