Arrival in the Galápagos Islands
We moved to a hotel near the airport in preparation for our flight here on Friday afternoon (17 Nov). Some of the other guests there were delightful!
Our first sight of the islands turned out to be North Seymour where we subsequently sailed to. It is the island on the left, the one on the right is Valtra, where the airport is.
Arrival was not without its amusing moments. The baggage is manhandled onto a low platform. Passengers stand behind a line while it is ‘canine inspected’. This involves a large Alsatian walking over it sniffing it. However as the handler brought the dog into the hall and set it free it got its eyes on the hand luggage of a young man standing next to us. He had put his rucksack on the ground with his travel collar cushion on on top of it. The dog made a bee line for the cushion, grabbed it and started to play with it. The guard tried to retrieve the cushion, ended up chasing the dog and playing tug with the dog over it. The cushion started to disintegrate, hundreds of little polystyrene balls were scattered from it over the arrivals hall. The passengers roared with laughter, the young man whose cushion it was turned a delicate shade of red. The dog handler eventually won the game and returned the punctured cushion, now covered in dog slobber, to the young man. He held it very gingerly between thumb and forefinger and dropped it in a bin.
We sat next to him on the boat later and apologised for laughing. He said he too would have found it funny, except all he could think was that he would be arrested and searched because the dog had gone for his cushion and the airport police would think there was something dodgy in it.
When you get out of the airport here you get onto a very ancient bus and are taken to a little pier where you take get on a boat to cross the channel to Santa Cruz, the main island. Everyone has to put on a life jacket. This was a little concerning, but we felt comforted that our boat would be fine on the water. It was called ‘Jesus’.
On arrival at the port, everyone piled off the boat to find buses and taxis. The buses were for tour groups, the taxis were mainly booked. The public bus would be along in a minute we were told. We have taken a taxi from every other airport we have passed through, so why did we decide to wait for the public bus here? Taxis went, we and a few others remained. One of the local men who was standing around said the bus wouldn’t be coming today. Ours was the last flight of the day (indeed we had watched dog and handler climb in a van and depart, along with other officials we had seen at the airport). It was Friday we were told and the plane was only half full so the bus had decided not to come. It is a thirty five minute drive into town, nothing else for miles around, and no-one could get a signal on their mobiles.
Fortunately the local man could on his, so he phoned and ordered a taxi for us, but we had to wait for one coming from the town. The standard fare is 25 dollars, the taxis are all pick up trucks. Ours arrived, we paid our 25 dollars and climbed in. We were happy for four Danish lads to join us and had a jolly journey into Puerto Ayora with them, hearing about the six weeks they had just had in Colombia. The taxi driver then had the cheek to charge them 5 dollars each, even though we had already paid for the full cab. But we were all just glad not to be spending our first night out in the open! Even the loos were locked and the attendant had gone home early.
When we got to the hotel they were surprised to see us so late. ‘We thought you had changed your mind about coming,’ they said!
We set off into town for something to eat. It is a delightful place, everywhere very safe and walkable. Lots of nice restaurants and lovely to walk along the waterfront and out onto the pier bird and fish spotting.
After much deliberation about how long we would spend here, whether we would look for a cruise or be land based, stay on one island or more than one island, we were very pleased we took the decision to stay on Santa Cruz in Puerto Ayora, the main town. It has a nice villagey atmosphere, you keep bumping into people you have met and exchanging news and experiences which help you decide where you might visit next. It is touristy along the front, but pleasantly so, and people enjoy walking around in the evenings having a drink or a meal or looking at the shops. You can’t fail to feel that you are on holiday!