Sunday, March 11, 2007

Galapagos Day 1 - Puerto Ayora

We are now in the Galapagos, arriving this morning by flight from Guayaquil. For the next two weeks, we’ll be enjoying the wildlife and hot tropical sun.

We purchased plane tickets just one day before, for the standard, but steep price of almost $400 roundtrip. The plane was modern, large and comfortable and to my surprise, was mostly filled with locals.

Upon arrival, we waited in the sweltering air while we waited for our luggage, then crowded onto free buses to the docks. We moved through a rough, scrubby landscape dotted with cactuses, until we reached the bright blue waters that the boats plied across. The distance wasn’t very far. A bridge would have done it. But instead we had to disembark, and put our luggage on top of a small boat that ferried us across the channel. There, we transferred again to another bus that took us on the almost hour-long ride to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galapagos.

Much of the landscape we moved through was green, but bare. Occasionally, we’d pass a house or two, a little café, a sign advertising the entrance to the $400/night Royal Palm hotel. But we didn’t come to any real civilization until we reached Puerto Ayora, a bayfront town of 11,000, packed with souvenir shops, hotels, and houses.

We didn’t book a cruise ahead of time and we hoped to get on one right away, but that didn’t work out. So we spent some time finding out the options for last-minute cruises, then explored the hotel options. We settled on the Estrella del Mar, a mid-level place with a gorgeous view of the sea crashing against the black volcanic rocks. Small red crabs clamber along the stones and the lights from the boats parked out in the bay sparkle in the nighttime black sky.

The heat is intense, enough so that I expect we’ll start dividing our activities into early morning and late afternoon, with time for a nap in between.

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