Galapagos Islands 2015 Vacation (INCA Tours)

Day 2

May 7, 2015

Our day in (almost) painful detail

5:15am Trying to wake up and finish packing.  The plan is to head down to the lobby with everything, eat breakfast, check out of room and then wait for our ride to the airport. 6:35am We found our way downstairs by 6am.  We went into the restaurant (which we later found out was the wrong place, since there is a café that opens about 4 and we had to wait for food to be brought out here) and had coffee and ate.  About 5 minutes early Gloria and the driver, pulled up.  We were on the road headed to the airport very shortly after. Note:  Two volcanoes visible from Quito are Cotopaxi (snow capped peak) and Cayambe (also snow capped).  Also another ride to the airport with Gloria explaining a lot about Quito and Ecuador. Note:  Gloria explained that the Bellavista Lodge near Mindo in Ecuador, in the Andes, is great for birding.  She suggests staying there a night or more to see hummingbirds and Cock-of-the-Rock. 7:30am Gloria guided us through the airport.  First we had to have our bags x-rayed looking for items prohibited to be brought to the Galapagos Islands.  Basically any agricultural or unprocessed food items are prohibited.  After the x-ray they tag the luggage as checked and then we check in, get our boarding pass, check our suitcases, then finally security.  Gloria walks us to security and says goodbye.  If all of INCA’s representatives are as helpful and nice as Gloria we will have a great trip. Barbara just checked and the gate we were directed to B2 (downstairs) appears to be the wrong gate.  We head back upstairs looking for gate A6.  After waiting near gate A6 Barbara checks again only to find out that the gate changed, again, and is back to B2. 8:45am We are on the plane.  Whew.  After playing revolving gates we hear the announcement for our flight for gate B2.  We are crammed (standing room only) onto buses and driven to where the plane is waiting on the tarmac. 9:03am Everybody that is getting on is on and seated.  The doors are closed and we are just waiting to start the taxi to the runway. 9:20am We are in the air heading from Quito to Guayaquil (from the mountains to the coast).  We had some beautiful views of the Andes around Quito. 10:00am We are on the ground in Guayaquil.  Many people are getting off the plane.  We don’t get off, just sit and wait.  Announcement said about 40 minute layover here. 10:40am The plane has been fueled, more people got on the plane.  I don’t think there is an empty seat.  We are pushing back from the terminal. Note:  Time change.  The Galapagos Islands are one hour earlier than the mainland and 11am (Guayaquil time) becomes 10am (Island time). 10:55am They just announced we are on our approach to Baltra Island in the Galapagos Islands. 11:25am We have just landed on Baltra Island.  As we flew in the views were pretty amazing.  I hope I got some good shots. 12:05pm We made it through arrival, found our suitcases, were met by INCA representative, Maria, and are on a bus heading for a ferry to Santa Cruz. 12:10pm We are on Baltra at a narrow channel between Baltra and Santa Cruz Islands.  Maria had arranged for a small private boat to ferry us across the channel. 12:20pm We are now on the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands.  I can’t believe I finally made it.  This has been my dream since I was about 13 years old and I first heard/read about evolution and Charles Darwin.  I wonder how long it will take before it really sinks in that I am here? 1:40pm We stop at “Los Gemelos” (The Twins) in the Santa Cruz highlands.  A pair of sink holes caused when lava that was holding up the ground drained away (a collapsed magma chamber) and the earth fell in on itself.  About 300 feet deep in the middle. All around us is Scalesia (related to Sunflowers) Tree, an endemic (found only here) species.  Ages ago the seeds of an ancient ancestor found their way to the islands, and with no competition from trees, they evolved to fill the niche that back home is taken by Maples, Pines, Oaks and other woody trees. 2:10pm We stopped for lunch.  The weather was kind enough to let us look at the sink holes and stay dry but now it is pouring.  I do mean pouring.  The restaurant is “The Narwhal” also in the highlands. 2:15pm While driving to the Galapagos Safari Camp we saw our first giant tortoise.  From the small size our guide said it could be a female.  Amazing, for us, it was just walking down the road.  We stopped and got out to take photos.  This is the animal Barbara most wanted to see. 2:30pm We are at our ‘hotel’.  It is the Galapagos Safari Camp.  We were greeted by Bernardo on the steps of the hotel main building.  Once in the lobby we were greeted by Sebastian who had fruit juice and wash cloths for us.  The camp is fashioned after the upscale camps used in Africa for safari base camps.  Each one is on a raised platform and is permanent.  No heat or A/C but there is power and a bathroom.  Just like home in a tent.  We are in Tent #5. Each unit has a balcony, with table and chairs, that overlooks a wonderful view all the way down to the ocean.  We hear a lot of birds.  I think we are watching a pair of Small Ground Finches eat grass seeds behind our tent.  There also appears to be Galapagos Mockingbirds in the area. 6:00pm We were told about a pavilion called the Viewpoint that faces west and is a good place to go to watch sunsets.  We waited but it is too overcast, so no sunset this night. I got a photo of a Yellow Warbler. 6:15pm We are back in our tent.  Too cloudy and we didn’t see a sunset. 7:10pm We are getting ready to walk up to the main lodge where they serve the meals at a large table.  We were told our dinner is set for about 7:30 so we want to be on time or a tad early. 8:25pm After dinner we took pictures of the front doors of the lodge and a big moth and an even huger spider. 8:50pm We just got back to our tent from a very delightful dinner.  When we arrived there already were two couples seated at the large table eating.  They are from Sydney Australia and they are: Julian and Jenny and Craig and Alison.  To our surprise we found out they are the other four people that will be on the on the Integrity with us for a week. The meal was delicious.  Some kind of mixed salad (shredded carrots, corn and other vegetables), the main course was a pork dish with onion, potatoes, apples with a ‘tree tomato’ sauce.  For dessert a banana cake. The tent is 74°F and pretty humid.  I don’t think anything is going to dry in here.  Our plan is to shower and cool down then get some sleep.
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