Galapagos Islands: Day 5

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March 12th 2011
Published: April 21st 2011
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Day 5. March 12, 2011: to the Galapagos Islands and our boat

Quito Departure
We got up early to head to the airport for our 8:30 am flight to Baltra in the Galapagos. We already had our $10 visitor cards, so we had to go around and get our luggage scanned and get a tag that would allow us to check it to the Galapagos. We were on TAME Flight 191. It made a stop in Guayaquil, and due to the tsunami the previous evening, there were lots of people caught in transit, so we waited almost two hours to get the plane full, then headed out to Baltra.

Baltra, Galapagos Islands Arrival
We landed at the airport to find that it was all outdoors and somewhat open to the elements. The exception being some low walls and the covered roof. We have two words that we want you to remember as a theme for the duration of our trip: HOT and STEAMY.

We paid our $100 in U.S cash to enter (really hope this is going to conservation). We were met by a guide from the Galapagos Voyager, the boat that we had booked for the 7 night / 8 day trip. We raced for our bags after waiting like a big herd with the rest of our fellow passengers for the luggage cart to come in and be manually unloaded (no fancy behind the scenes conveyor here). Then we met 10 of our traveling companions, 4 couples from Britain and 2 Irish girls. We loaded onto the ferry and the guide gave trustworthy Steve a $20 to pay for the group. The fare was only $.50 per person and we were off across the channel to the island of Santa Cruz. Si, he did return the change but the guide didn't find any humour when Steve remarked that the Brits thought that he should buy the beer.

The luggage was put on top of the ferry. Our guide went back to the airport to get the 2 Germans, and the Norwegian didn’t show up until late that night. We had to wait a while, so we all started talking and then watched a gas truck on a barge rock back and forth to get the barge off the boat ramp. The barge shifted precariously to one side, but eventually it was free. We stopped in at the Primicias Ranch, to see some free range giant tortoises. It had been raining, so we all put on wellies and stomped around in the water. We saw 6-8 of the tortoises, and then Anne wiggled inside an empty giant tortoise shell.

Puerto Ayora
Then off to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, to get on the boat. In the port, we saw pelicans, crabs, sea lions, a marine iguana, and a heron. The pelicans had fish in their mouth pouches and they were all extended out and stinky! There were also people cleaning up from the tsunami. They were washing away the mud and cleaning out some of the shops that were right on the water’s edge. The wave reached almost 6 feet, and there was still debris. There were lots of boats in the harbor, and we took the pangas out to ours.

Galapagos Voyager aka Gran Poseidon and a bunch of other names on the life rings
We met in the dining/living room, met part of the crew, and then got our cabin assignments. Ours was cabin #2 (aka the engine room). More on our cabin experience later... but for now- our cabin was on the main deck. The lower deck that we never visited included the kitchen, (real) engine room, and the crew quarters. The upper deck had more cabins, the bridge and the captains quarters and a small covered sun deck. There was also an open top sundeck equipped with a clothes line. We think that we were the only boat with one because we never saw laundry on any other boat! Sometimes our boat looked a little trashy but Anne loved the functionality. We had some time to unpack, then we met our guide, Williams, and he said we could go to the Darwin Research Station because Lonesome George had returned from his evacuation for the tsunami.

Darwin Research Center or bust
We got in the pangas and headed to town. After a longish walk, we were turned away as it was closed. There was some damage to some of the buildings from the tsunami, including a restaurant nearby. We took our time walking back down through the town, then back to the boat and to sleep.

South Plaza Island
We motored to South Plaza island over night while we slept. The first night was a bit unpleasant for Anne. There was a fairly strong diesel smell in our cabin, and Anne’s throat started hurting from breathing it. In fact, Anne asked Steve if it was possible that we’d not wake up because of the fumes. It was also very loud since we were practically IN the engine room with the engines. Steve thought it was all very silly and was soon fast asleep... even snoring over the engine noises. Anne didn’t sleep much at all due to a combination of loud Steve and loud engine noises. Luckily either the fumes went away after the first night or we just got used to the smell. The engine sounds also seemed less and less noisy as time went by, almost soothing like white noise by the end of the week. The anchor being deployed at new stops was also extremely loud. But more on the anchor later. It was a great first day in the Galapagos and each day just got better and better.


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