04.07 – 05.07.10 – Quito-Guayaquil-Baltra: The Galapagos islands: Santa Cruz, Isla de Espanola

Hardly slept as I was worried that I might miss the Aerogal flight to the Galapagos islands. Was awake for the Quito-Guayaquil leg and caught spectacular sights of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano and another volcano that I couldn’t identify. If ever you take the plane in Ecuador, be sure to get a window seat for a view of the “avenues of volcanos” that spans north-south of this small but compact country.

Thereafter, I slept soundly on the flight and missed MP boarding the plane at Guayaquil. It also felt a bit weird that there are so many caucasians (mostly Americans) concentrated in one spot in Ecuador, as I have been enjoying my trip so far without being crowded by hordes of tourists. Snippets of conversation overheard while at Quito airport:
“I’m trying not to use the toilet until I get to the hotel.”

And on the plane, when being served muffins:
“I guess this is safe to eat.”

For the record, the toilet at the Quito domestic terminal was fine, and at the very least, has paper. And the only negative thing about the muffin was that it’s too dry.

Landed in Baltra airport and my bag of green apples were subjected to some friendly scrutiny. I’m still not exactly sure what kind of “frutas” is banned on the islands.

MP and I were both rather tired out for different reasons. I wasn’t feeling the excitement even though coming to the Galapagos had been a dream of mine for some years, partly because I didn’t sleep well the night before.

We were picked up by the guide at Baltra airport (probably wasn’t too difficult to spot two Asian girls in the crowd), and were driven to the Canal Itabaca, where there is a short crossing by boat to Santa Cruz island: the airport is on Baltra simply because it is flat enough to build one, even though there’s hardly any human inhabitants on Baltra. From the northern end of Santa Cruz, we were driven another 40 minutes to the southern end, Puerto Ayora. Along the way, dry vegetation was apparent because of the season, although clouds of mist shroud the forests of higher ground.

The pristine clear waters at Canal Itabaca were completely different from the hazy vague impression that I gathered from a movie watched long ago of a dusty arid land where giant tortoises crawl.

Puerto Ayora is the place where most cruise ships depart. There were another 2 tourists from UK and that was it! Just us 4 passengers on the twin-hull catamaran (Although later on, we were told that there would be more passengers joining us on Wednesday.) We were ferried on a dinghy (or panga in Spanish) to the catamaran, where our bags were unloaded and where we had lunch.

After lunch, we were brought to the Darwin Research Station to look at, amongst other things, tortoises (both big and small) as well as land iguanas. Part of the station’s efforts go to preserve the precious endangered species, both animals and plants.

Overnight, the catamaran cruised on choppy waters to Isla de Espanola and the whole of next day was spent there at two points: whatever tired feelings I had the day before completely vanished as we took in the rugged natural beauty and its inhabitants. There’s too much to write about this island to cram into this blog: dropping at the doorsteps of courting and nesting blue-footed boobies, masked boobies colonies, hawk feeding on a poor iguana, tonnes of other birds and sun-bathing with sea lions and frigates on white sand that is finer than flour. This is to be one of my favourite islands of the Galapagos.

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