Galapagos Days, part one

I’m posting this from Quito, Ecuador where we have a brief break before heading off to the rainforest. We are staying at a great hotel called he Ilatoa Lodge that is on the side of a dormant volcano in Tumbaco, about half an hour (depending on traffic) from Quito airport – it has an amazing view and is absolutely charming!  We are having a rest day between trips as we head out early tomorrow morning for the rainforest.

Here is part one of the tale of our Galapagos cruise.

We arrived on Sunday Jan 12, flying to San Cristobal Island from Quito via Gayaquil.

frigates in flightAs we were on approach to San Cristobal, the flight attendants announced that they were fumigating – then walked through the entire cabin spraying something into all of the overhead compartments. Weird! And there was no “opt-out.” That was a bit of a surprise, but just the start of what is clearly a big effort to keep the Galapagos pristine and un-impacted by all of us tourists.

At the airport we were gathered up by the Ecoventura folks and put on a bus that took us to the dock where we caught “pangs” (inflatable dinghies) that took us to the ship – the Letty (coincidentally the same boat CEO Jeff Bezos was on!).  Our bags were brought on board for us, and while we received an orientation by one of the naturalists they were taken to our cabins.

The Letty is a good-sized yacht. There are a total of ten passenger cabins. All have their own bathrooms. Some have twin beds and others have queen-sized beds. Our cabin is pretty much all bed with space to walk around it, one person at a time. I was surprised that it felt so small; chuck was surprised that it was as big as it was. But he has owned a sailboat and slept on that so has different standards, I guess. There are lots of hooks on the wall in the cabin though, which we have utilized to the max. The bathroom is small but serviceable and the shower has plenty of hot water. One tricky thing that is taking some real concentration to do: you don’t flush toilet paper down the toilet. It gets thrown in the trash. Only human waste gets flushed. I admit to having blown it a few times and guilty going “fishing”  – but for the most part I remembered.

My sister and brother-in-law and Chuck and I were all on what they call the “Dolphin” level, with slightly larger cabins and windows with views of the ocean. We spent very little time in the cabins, other than to sleep. Free time was spent by almost everybody either up top on the sun deck or in the communal “living room.” We gathered there at the end of each day to compare our digital photos and discuss the days. we traveled from island to island mostly at night, so for the most part didn’t have to navigate the stairs and hallways on a moving boat.

But back to our first day: after we were situated in our cabins and fed, we were assigned wetsuits, fins, masks and snorkels for the week. We then took the two pangas to shore and went snorkeling off the beach at Cerro Brujo. It was pretty crazy – in many ways it was just like going to any beach anywhere, with kids running around, people sunbathing, swimming and body surfing. Then you noticed the sea lions everywhere, fearlessly sunning themselves inches away from sunbathing humans. The snorkeling was pretty murky and it was a very rocky beach so our debut underwater photos were pretty poor.

When we got back and showered, we met the crew (there are 11 crewmembers, including our two naturalists Pepe and Gustavo for us 19 passengers!) and then had our first dinner on board. The food was amazingly good – we got to choose each day from two dinner choices, which always included fish and either beef, pork, or chicken. We definitely did not go hungry!

We spent the second day again on San Cristobal Island but on the other end, away from civilization, going for a hike (more like a cross between bouldering and rock climbing, really) and snorkeling in the morning at Pitt Point (Punta Pitt), then going swimming and kayaking in the afternoon. I managed to cut my foot on a rock jumping into the water – the coastline is quite rocky and they are lava rocks so you have to watch out for that sort of thing. It’s not bad – more of a deep scrape but it’s on the top of my foot. Doh! So now I will have my Galapagos scar.

The swimming in the afternoon was lovely – the water is not super warm, mostly in the low-mid seventies. Snorkeling requires a wetsuit unless you are hardier than most of us. We kayaked in a cove area – but the area is very proscribed so it was mostly back and forth kayaking along a rocky cliff area where we did see some iguanas and lots of crabs.

While on the cruise, we generally had at least three “experiences” each day – and most people on our boat opted in for all. The hiking wasn’t strenuous distance-wise for us, but the terrain is rocky and can be treacherous so you have to look where you step – because in addition to rock there may be lizards, iguanas or sea lions lying in the middle of the trail. And in the food chain of the Galapagos, tourist rank well below wildlife.

We were treated to a spectacular sunset cruise around Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido). The weather for the first two days was clear and quite warm – the sun here on the equator is really hot and you can get sunburned mighty fast. The naturalists really nagged us about sunscreen, and happily we all dodged any bad sunburn (Chuck and I got more sunburned touring Quito!). The sun is very hot when it is out, so they were wise to warn us.

To be continued… Photos of San Cristobal are here.


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