---- Our day began with a free ride to the airport courtesy of the travel agency we used to book our cruise (CarpeDM - highly recommend!). After checking in we went to the waiting area with a Dutch couple and Swiss girl that also booked their cruise with CarpeDM but were going on a different boat than us. We'd each received a pin with the name of our boat, which we promptly pocketed because we were far too cool to wear them! We noticed that most of the other people in the waiting area had donned their pins (some people got stickers - they must've been going on economy boats... chumps) and immediately began surveying the crowd for our shipmates, praying that we wouldn't get stuck with anyone too old or unfit for the various activities/hikes. Or with a bunch of obnoxious kids. Or with a whole boatload of hoity-toity folks... we weren't being picky at all...
We arrived at the stiflingly hot airport on Baltra and were greeted by our Naturalist Guide, Tatiana, who ushered us to a gathering point where we finally got to see our shipmates. There was a complete mix of ages and groupings, including some couples, a trio of young aussie guys, and a small family. A short bus trip, ferry ride to Santa Cruz, and a panga ride from Puerto Ayora took us to the Odyssey, the luxury boat we would spend the next few days on. We were shocked by how big the room was. And the bathroom was enormous too! Definite luxury. The entire boat was fancy-schmancy.
Our next few days were spent taking day trips to Isla Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos Islands. We did several hikes and there were many opportunities to snorkel. I wasn't able to overcome my lifelong aversion to snorkelling but Chris really enjoyed swimming with all the fish, sharks, turtles, sea lions and other marine life. Most of the snorkelling excursions were done from the pangas but one was from a gorgeous sandy beach. I braved a quick dip before settling onto a piece of driftwood to watch the ghost grabs haggle over beachfront property. A little bird got curious enough to try landing on my hat but chickened out at the last minute.
|The terrain at our first landing site on Isabela - lava rocks with white lichen. It looked like we were on another planet!|
|Great Blue Heron hunting.|
|Booby, flightless cormorant (drying its wings), and sea lion. Relaxing in harmony on a small rocky island|
|View from the edge of the Sierra Negra crater.|
One hilarious moment on the boat occurred on the birthday of one of the passengers; Arthur (pronounce AH-ther), from Boston, turned 69. During the nightly briefing session the lights went out unexpectedly and then the boat crew burst in wearing ridiculous costumes made from tin foil and assorted medical/kitchen gear. They proceeded to act out a scene that had something to do with us crossing the equator and having to answer to King Neptune to pay for our passage. One of the couples on the boat was dragged into the play and forced to submit to an impromptu marriage ceremony. The lucky couple was then permitted to force another passenger to simulate the behavior of any Galapagos creature they wished. They chose Arthur and commanded that he act like a sea lion. His attempt was far more chicken-esque than sea lion... It was bizarre and hilarious. The best part was when we found out a few days later that the whole thing was Arthur's idea! We'd assumed it was a silly ritual of the boat crew. I can't believe Arthur convinced them to participate!
|At Darwin's Lake - it was SO hot!!|
|One of many piles of marine iguanas.|
|This sea lion was making eyes at me. Oh how I wanted to pet it!|
|Yellow sea turtle (yep, they all look orange, despite the name).|
We went for a stroll along the waterfront, which is a favorite napping spot for sealions. They are seriously everywhere. And they are stinky! There was a little park set up on the shoreline that becomes partly submerged during high tide. We watched as the local children played along with baby sea lions who thought the enclosed area was just perfect for their games too!
Distracted by the sea lions we accidently forgot Chris's kindle on a bench after taking a break from our stroll. When we realized it, we ran back and our kindle was still there! LUCKY. That definitely wouldn't have happened in Quito...
One of the couples from our cruise (actually, the same couple that got "married" on Arthur's birthday) was also in town for a few nights so we had dinner with them. They've been travelling for about 4 months and are doing sort of the opposite itinerary that we have planned. We got some good tips from them about places to visit and things to avoid. Really looking forward to Bolivia and Lake Titicaca after their reviews!!
|They are just so cute!|
GO TO THE GALAPAGOS!