The Galápagos islands had been on our list for a long time but they were mostly just distant islands in a dream we felt. However as time and circumstances change sometimes dreams become a reality. So it was for us. For the past year one of our sons, Lee, had been living in Colombia to be near his Colombian girlfriend, Laura. They had been saying to us we should come over and visit and do a few other things in South America. So we had been thinking about it when they announced to us they were coming back to Australia. Laura had been accepted as an international student to study for her Masters of Business at Monash University in Melbourne. If we were still thinking of visiting them and other parts of South America at the same time we should do so quickly as they would be returning mid February. Hastily we started planning and things fell into place. Our first stop would be the Galápagos Islands. We booked a five day/four night cruise with Galápagos Travel Center in Quito with a day before and two days after in Puerto Ayora, the largest town on Santa Cruz island.
On January 9th we were taken to the airport by my brother Grant. Our flight took off about 20 minutes late at 20:50. The plane was a Boeing 787-9 in a 3-3-3 seat formation. After about an hour we received a small dinner. Gnocchi for me and veggies and rice for Karen. After that we tried for sleep. Karen slept pretty well and I managed about 5-6 hours in two or three bursts. I watched a spy action movie, Atomic Blonde next. We had a snack and some water before snoozing a bit again. Our next small meal came about an hour and a half before landing in Santiago on time just after 19:00, still on the 9th due to crossing the IDL! We moved quickly through security and made it to our next flight. The one hour changeover was tight but manageable. Our next flight was also on a Boeing 787-9 and it also left about 20 minutes late but made up time and arrived in Lima just after 22:00, Peruvian time. Our next flight to Quito was on a smaller Airbus 319 with a 3-3 seat layout. During the flight we were served a snack and a drink. Landed in Quito early at 2:08. However stood at the luggage carousel until it was empty to discover our luggage hadn’t arrived! After queueing for about 45 minutes to sort out this problem we were told to wait until we arrive in Galápagos to do it as our luggage may catch us up. By the time this was finished our arranged taxi driver was nowhere to be seen. So we agreed to pay US$10 to go to the nearby Quito Airport Suites hotel. Arrived safely. Our hostess, Luisa, wasn’t too happy (the driver hadn’t been either) but when we explained our problem she booked us in and showed us to our cheap, basic ensuite room. Had trouble getting to sleep, a bit gaspy and fidgety (probably due to Quito being at 2600m). Karen however was soon zzzing. Finally slept for about 3 hours.
We set our alarm to get up for 8:30 breakfast. Karen ate granola, yoghurt and juice. I had scrambled eggs, toasted cheese sandwich, juice and papaya which Karen didn’t like. As we were quite exhausted we went back to bed for a bit more sleep before showering and heading to the airport just after 11:15. The taxi was US $8 this time. Paid our US$20 each for our Galápagos Transit Card before checking in. We looked around the shops then sat and typed for a while as we waited for our 13:00 flight with LATAM. Hoped to sort out our luggage problem at Baltra Island airport. Our two hour flight was quite turbulent. Sadly didn’t have a chance to buy food or drink. On arrival looked for our luggage but no luck. We soon met our Galápagos Travel rep, Mardie. She was very helpful in conversing with the LATAM staff in Spanish trying to find out where our bags were. Still no luck but the LATAM staff took our luggage label details. Waited for the next airport bus to travel the kilometre across Baltra Island. At the south end met up with a water taxi to cross to Santa Cruz Island. Here we were met by our taxi driver. Two other travellers, Hernan and Rosario, also with lost luggage joined us. They were from Argentina. Hernan is a translator and bookseller so he was able to translate information the taxi driver was telling us as we drove south. At the start the terrain was very dry but as we crossed the middle of the island the vegetation in the hills was much greener.
Some farms even had giant tortoises grazing on their land.
On arrival in Puerto Ayora we were dropped at our hotel. Mardie made a few phone calls about our luggage to our travel advisor, Veronica. She said she would follow up with LATAM but suggested we buy a change of clothes in the short term, just in case. Our hotel recommended a large Supermercado (supermarket and department store upstairs) where we duly purchased spare clothes and toiletries. We walked back to our hotel and dropped them back to our room on the third floor, only stairs no lift! However it is a spacious room with a balcony to the sea. As daylight was fading we decided to do a quick explore of the town near the hotel. We walked down towards the port and along the pier. Lots of boats were moored just offshore.
As we walked down the pier we noticed sea lions lounging on the park benches!
On seeing humans they sprang into action and soon we were moving out of their way as they waddled past us and along the pier to a ramp where they entered the water. We also passed a LATAM office so planned to go there in the morning. Some young guys were playing volleyball, day trippers were returning and others like us just walked around making it a busy enough place. We came to the kiosk restaurant area and checked it out. Very quiet but looked a good possibility for dinner. Decided to go back to the hotel, where we showered and changed. We decided to return to Charles Binford Street to the kiosk restaurant area for dinner. After a walk up and down looking at the seafood displays and listening to the spruiking at each kiosk restaurant we ended up at Sol y Mar Pizza/ Restaurant. We sat in the middle area in front of the restaurant.
Karen ordered veggie rice and I ordered prawn rice. Ordered a Pilsner Beer and Coke to drink. Our meals arrived – good sized servings and nicely cooked. As we were eating lots of others, tourists and locals, came through, looking and chatting to us. After a while two Germans sat on the next door table and we had quite a good chat. Headed back to bed and crashed! Woke up about midnight. Nightclubs were noisy and it was quite warm. Finally slept a bit more but it was hard to adjust to the new time zone. Looking forward to our cruise.