2011 Galapagos

Arrival in the Galapagos

We flew from Quito to the coastal city of Guayaquil (largest city in Ecuador), then flew to Baltra, the airport in the Galapagos. Galapagos are 600 miles off shore. The airport was built by the US government right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 to protect the Panama Canal during the war. The Galapagos are all volcanic in origin. 97% of the land is under the National Park Service, the remaining 3% is privately owned including a few fishing villages, tourist spots, coffee and sugar cane farms, some Bed and Breakfast resorts, etc. The Ecuadorian government does not allow new immigrants to move permanently to the islands. I understood that to mean that you have to be born there to be a permanent resident.

From the airport on Baltra we boarded a bus to take us to the ferry which then took us to the island of Santa Cruz.

Charles Darwin Research Center

Following his lunch, Pete returned to the room and announced that we were going back to Santa Cruz island to tour the Charles Darwin Research Center. This was encouraging, to be back on solid land again. Back in the rubber dingy, back to land. =)))) Iguanas all over the place. This is their territory, rather aggressive in letting you know that they rule. Nasty in personality, and considering their large size, wicked claws and a bite that carries a multitude of bacteria, we were all very respectful. Occasionally they would come after us, we paid attention and moved aside.

We walked about a mile to get to the Charles Darwin Center. By this time my head had stopped swaying and I was feeling good again. Regarding the Research Center, they have a large volunteer staff….apparently they post on line as to which positions are available. They remove the tortoise eggs from the beaches and hatch them in incubators, marking each egg with as X as to which side is UP. If the temperature is slightly above normal the gender ratio is 90% female and 10% males. If temperatures are slightly cooler than normal it’s 90% male and 10% female. Only the first 5 years are the tortoises endangered by predators, after that they are only harmed by people. On the Galapagos, tortoises have the right of way…every place, under the law. We would see them wandering about on the private lands too.

When the tour was over we again boarded the rubber dingy with a motor and returned to the ship. What was I thinking? Back on the ship, we always left our shoes outside in a box on deck. no shoes allowed indoors because of all the sea lion poop that stinks pretty bad. Not saying we stepped in any but the crew of the ship wasn’t taking any chances….take off your shoes. Returned immediately to the cabin and turned green, greener, greenest….. told Pete I couldn’t stand it, I was so sick. He went to get Pepe, our guide. Pepe said that he’d make arrangements to take us to a hotel on land for the next 3 nights, while the rest of the people continued on with the ship experience. It probably took Pepe 2 hours to arrange for the rubber dingy and the hotel reservations, but to me each minute was an hour of agony. It was dark by the time we got our shoes back on, boarded the dingy and made our way back to Santa Cruz. The name of the hotel was Casa Natura. It was very nice. The best part was it didn’t sway and move.

Casa Natura & Santa Cruz Island

It was late when we arrived the hotel, so we took a shower and went to bed. The next day I slept too. On the second morning I was feeling refreshed, recovered from seasickness and ready to go out and explore.

Rejoined the Tour

On the third morning at the hotel our driver picked us up at 6:30 and drove us to the dock to meet up with our group. It fact the driver was early and we didn’t even get a cup of coffee!

Wild Boar, Distillery & Our Last Night on Galapagos

A boar was eating an old man’s corn and doing a fair amount of damage. For two days he went down to the corn patch with his son and three dogs, but the boar wasn’t there. On the third day the son was busy and couldn’t come, so the old guy just took the dogs and a machete. The boar was there and the dogs surrounded him. The guy first swung the machete at the back feet/legs and when the boar turned toward him, he hit between the eyes with a hard blow from the machete. But the machete stuck in the bone and he couldn’t get it out. So he ran to get his neighbor who had an automatic gun. Somewhere in the story the guy got gored on the hand and arm and showed us the scars. Then he showed us the size of this massive skull.

Following the distillery tour we pulled up to a private resort, the Altair Hotel. It was in the mountains and a bit cooler than the coast. Salty water in the shower, sink and toilet, we are drinking only bottled water. The man who owns the place is an American, I think married to an Ecuadorian. There are no room numbers, only room names. Ours was the Blue Footed Boobie room. No keys either and no phones. A wake up call means someone will knock on your door.