Hello Galapagos – Baltra Island and Santa Cruz Island

This morning was a rush, both physically and emotionally. We slept a bit longer than we should have after watching the movie John Dies at the End.  Physically, it was a rush to have breakfast and run to the banks to find an ATM that was working. The other night, we went to multiple banks where their ATM machines refused to acknowledge the fact that I had inserted my card at all. At first it was insulting thinking mine was not substantial enough to stimulate the inner workings stimulating a reaction, but then as we watch, it happened to successive people after us. There was the same issue this morning with multiple machines side by side. People were trying a machine and then moving on to the next one. It was like Vegas, when a machine worked, you wanted to yell “I won! I won! I hit the jackpot.”

Once we returned to the hotel, there was the rush of excitement. We were heading to the Galapagos Islands today. The tour company called the hotel 3 times to change our pickup time, because the airline kept changing the flight time. We went from 7:40 am to 10 am in small increments. Still there was the rush of anticipation.

When we were shuttled off to the airport, we were met by someone hired through our travel company to do a meet and greet. She stuck with us until it was time to go through security. Her English was impeccable. There were many 2 forms that have to be filled out for the Galapagos; it is like entering into another country. One is a Customs form and the other is a registration form to make sure you have left the islands. 

Our flight was on AirGal on an A319 plane with a 3-3 configuration. It came from Quito, picked us up in Guayaquil and we fly to Baltra Island. As soon as you enter the airport they stamp your passport, which is neat, but they charge you $100 for the privilege. Seventy percent of the Galapagos are a national park and that is the entrance fee for any non-resident. Before leaving the airport, you have to have your luggage inspected for food or other items that may damage the environment. 

Omar, our naturalist guide was waiting for us and pointed out the others in our group. We were bussed to the dock where a small boat was waiting to take us to the boat we will sail on. At the dock, there is a long bench. On it was a sea lion spread out sleeping peacefully, totally ignoring us.

Our boat is a yacht, quite small, but roomy enough to fit all of us and the crew. All totaled there are 5 Finns (all friends), an Italian married couple from Rome, a single woman from Amsterdam, a couple from Switzerland, and a married couple from Denmark. Minutes after boarding, we were assigned our rooms. We lucked out to get a room, number 4, right on the deck with a door and window view to see what is passing by. Most of the others are downstairs, below the first deck. The room is smaller than our pantry at home. Two beds are bunked one over the other with only 3 feet between the bed and the wall where the door is. This must be why they have limits on luggage. If you bring anything too large, you will need a second room just open it. With our carry-on suitcases on the bed, we can open the lid fully, but it touches the ceiling of the next bed or the roof of the room.  

As soon as we were settled, lunch was served. Typical Ecuadorian and South American, the chicken was accompanied by both rice and potatoes, with white cabbage salad. You could go snow blind with all the white. Dessert was a white banana with 2 fat red grapes on either side; looking quite sexual, I don’t think it was meant to be from the looks of the cook.

Post lunch, it was post haste time. We assembled on the upper deck to get fitted for wetsuits. It is so funny for the Ecuadorians to have to outfit someone as tall as Ron and I, because they are so short for the most part. On this cruise, not only are Ron and I tall, but so are the Italian man and the Swiss guy. This truly sends the crew scattering looking for more tall suits to fit all of us. We were given diving masks with snorkels to check for size. They are rented, but the cost is nominal. The whole outfit is $40 for 8 days, less for those who are only on the ship for five days. 

Stopping at Santa Cruz Island, we climbed into the dinghy for our first nature walk and snorkel experience. Walking on the shore barefooted on the sand brought back memories from childhood, though I did not bring my camera not knowing what to expect. There are rocks that form natural breakers unlike the manmade ones of my hometown. This section of the beach was loaded with periwinkles, clam shells, and assorted gifts from the sea that would go so spectacular with my collection, but we were warned that nothing can be removed from the natural environment of the island; our baggage would be inspected yet again upon leaving .

Turtles come to shore in the evening to lay their eggs and the eggs usually hatch at night, giving the babies a chance at survival, yet only 1 in 10 makes it to the sea. A turtle will lay 80-90 eggs at a time, not a good rate of return on the investment. While walking, we did see a number of turtles in the water; some were mating, which was obvious and enviable that they could do it while swimming. Now that is talent.

The water lizards are quite common. They absorb salt water when they are diving for food, so once on land they snort it out through their nose. There was one long flamingo, but pelicans, frigates, herons, Galapagos ducks, and some type of finch that I cannot remember the type. All of this before doing some snorkeling to check out our masks for leakage. The water was warm enough that no one bothered with the wetsuit, but the waves started to get aggressively high, making the less initiated nervous. This was only a 30 minute test run, with waves, the water is too stirred up to see anything, but swirling sand. 

Back on the boat, it is relaxation and shower time, before a welcome cocktail and dinner. 

Later: The welcome cocktail was a sangria type wine with floating fruit; it was too sweet for me and one of the Finnish women also commented on it. The crew introduced themselves and then we did too. Dinner was chicken of sorts, rice, potatoes, sliced carrots, and a green salad, but for those of us who did not want chicken, there was stuffed pepper. It was good, but I am uncertain what it was stuffed with. Dessert was a pass as it was cake with fruit syrup and condensed milk. 

After dinner we had the safety drill, life vest examples, and then the agenda for tomorrow, breakfast at 6:30 am. There are sharks having their young, so they had the boat lights on so we could possibly see sharks, but all we were able to view were schools of small fish and some flying fish.

We will read for a short while and hit the hay, hopefully without hitting our head a million times during the night. 

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