Published: May 21st 2012May 1st 2012
We woke up super early this morning with the hope of getting to the airport and finding seats on a flight to the Galapagos. At about 5am the cab picked us up from Hostal Mantesa and off to the airport we went. TAME and LAN were both open so we got pricing from them, but we had to wait a bit before AeroGal opened up (the normally cheapest option) only to learn their flight was full. So TAME it was for our trip to the Baltra Airport, the more popular of the two airports in the Galapagos (other on San Cristobal).
Having been at the airport super early we had to kill a few hours before the special Galapagos security screening could occur where they check your luggage for any fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, etc. At 7 we took care of the screening and then checked our backpacks with TAME. Going through security took about 10 seconds after which you had to walk through a big store to get to the terminal...interesting marketing strategy. And then it was time to wait again since our flight was not until 10 or so. While waiting we met an interesting older man, Rodger,
who told us many stories of his travels in his youth. He is now a professor on Long Island and was on his way to visit his wife who was the volunteer librarian at the Charles Darwin Research Center for a few months. We would run in to Rodger and his wife later on the trip, but never did find the library.
As we boarded the plane and it headed out on the runway my excitement was growing. I hadn´t slept the night before because I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. I had hoped I could catch a few zzz's on the hour and forty-five minute flight, but I was way too excited for that.
Touchdown in Baltra!!! We were here! Baltra is a very small island on the north side of Santa Cruz. It is pretty much solely dedicated to the airport. After working our way through the entrance process (read paying of $100 park entrance fee) and collecting our bags we jumped on a short, 5 minute bus ride then took a short, 5 minute ferry ride to the island of Santa Cruz.
Just in the first few minutes of the Galapagos I
was in awe. Baltra is a rather barren island but we could see all the volcanic rock that made up the island and I spotted the first wildlife, a small lizard soaking up the sun. As the bus rounded the corner to the ferry Sarah pointed out some huge birds gliding in the wind. At the ferry there were two pelicans resting on a shade roof. Looking into the reasonably clear water from the ferry we could see lots of small fish. As we waited for our bus to Puerto Aroyo on the other side, a pelican hung out on a boat ramp and a large sea lion swam up.
Wow. Just plain wow. The pelicans were really cool. I have seen many pelicans on both coasts in the States, but I have never seen pelicans so healthy and disease free. They are actually quite pretty.
As the bus made its way south to Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz, we kept our eyes peeled. We passed through two small villages on the way which was a bit surprising to me. While I knew people lived in the Galapagos I thought they all lived in the
three main towns. It turns out there are other villages and we passed through two of them on the road from the airport to Puerto Ayora.
Upon arriving in Puerto Ayora we set out on a mission to find a cruise, hoping we could get an incredible deal on Daphne or Floreana, both of which we knew had space for departures tomorrow and the following day. Since there is such a huge amount to write about I am going to try to keep our tour related logistics in a different post. Needless to say, finding a cruise today did not happen, and we continued to do a ton of cruise shopping over the next couple days.
We found a hostal for $25 and got settled. We were hoping to find one for $20, but it had already been a long day and we were pretty exhausted so our search was short.
With hostal in hand and knowing we were going to be in Puerto Ayora for atleast a few more days, we headed down to the docks. And again, WOW! There are two large piers that run out in to the cove where all the boats are
docked. One is used to load and unload passengers, the other for supplies. The large boats do not come in to the docks, just the smaller dinghys (small, often raft-like boats that the larger boats tow). The passenger pier sits 10-15 feet off the water and has little spurs that run down to smaller platforms right on the water (see photo). On one of those spur ramps lay two large sea lions snoozing away. From the dock we could see tons of crabs scavenging in the black volcanic rock. A large, black iguana was doing the same. Tons of fish were visible and a large bird with long skinny legs hunted in the shallows. We sat on a bench at the end of the dock and watched other birds fish. Later on the cargo dock we got to see a pelican fish from the railing with us just a few feet away. It was really cool watching him focus on the fish in the water below and then diving in to try and catch one.
And with that day one in the Galapagos concluded...every bit as amazing as I had dreamed...and we were barely scratching the surface.
There are more photos below