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GALAPAGOS!

November 26, 2009

Baby frigatebird (I think?)

I’ve wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands since before I can even remember. And the truth is, it is everything that people say it is. The animals really are quite tame and generally unafraid of people. You really can get so close to them that you could touch them (though it’s a big no-no). And even more so, they are still wild animals, and you can easily stumble upon them doing things like nesting, attracting mates, nursing babies, eating, etc. that you often don’t get to see during an afternoon at the zoo.

Sea lion hanging on the beach at Genovesa Island

Overall my experience in the Galapagos was really amazing (how could it not be?), though sadly some boat problems left the trip with a tinge of disappointment and tainted feeling to it. It’s hard to spend a lot of money and time on a once in a lifetime experience/dream trip and have something big and important go wrong. But I’ll get into that in a bit.

I’m going to talk about each day separately, in its own context, in an attempt to keep later situations from affecting my description of the first half of the trip which really was incredibly amazing and awesome.

As for the details, I was on the Floreana, a tourist or tourist superior (I’m pretty sure it’s not superior) class boat depending on who you ask. There were fourteen of us on the ship (two others joined us for the second half, but ended up only staying a day and then ditching it because of the problems and itinerary changes).

Floreana

Along for the trip with me were two Swedes, three Norwegians (two sisters and an older random guy who jumped on at the last minute), a British couple, an Aussie/Brit couple, three Americans from California, and a girl from Holland, who was my cabin-mate. We were all fairly young, in our 20s and 30s (except the one Norwegian guy), something that seemed to set our boat apart from pretty much every other boat we ran into!

And finally, we were on the Floreana’s 8 day/7 night “northern” itinerary, which was supposed to be like this:
Thursday – Baltra Airport/Santa Cruz Island – Twin Craters/Highlands
Friday – Genovesa Island – Darwin Bay/El Barranco
Saturday – Santiago Island – Sullivan Bay/Bartholomew Island
Sunday – Chinese Hat/Santa Cruz Island – Dragon Hill
Monday – Isabela Island – Breeding Center Arnaldo Tupiza/The Humedales/Tinterones
Tuesday – Fernandina Island – Espinosa Point/Isabela Island – Tagus Cove
Wednesday – Santiago Island – Egas Port/Rabida Island
Thursday – Black Turtle Cove/Baltra Airport

The highlight of the trip was supposed to be Fernandina and Isabela on Tuesday. This was basically the reason I chose this cruise, as I was told these islands are the best, worth missing out on the much-loved southern islands for, and that this was pretty much the only non-luxury cruise that visited them, a truly unique experience. So I was basically pumped up and most excited for this part of the cruise. Of course, this is the one day of the cruise that we missed and was changed to a crap alternative itinerary. But again, I’ll get into that in due time.

DAY 1

I shared a cab with another guy in my hostel going to the Galapagos and we arrived at the airport two hours early, as we were advised to. In less than ten minutes we were through all the security and stuck sitting in the small domestic airport, where there is only one little over-priced cafe to get food and drink and absolutely no other options, not even a small shop to buy a snack or drink.

Finally I boarded the plane, which departed around 9:50am. I was pleasantly surprised with the flight (TAME). The plan was huge, six seats across. I thought we would have to stop in Guayaquil and spend an hour waiting for more passengers to board, but we were lucky and our flight went directly to Balta airport. There our group slowly gathered together and boarded a bus to a port. There we got on a boat that took us to Puerto Ayora, where we sat and waited for quite a long while for another boat to finally take us to our boat.

Already spotting pelicans and sea lions right off the ferry!

Before we’d even gotten off the first boat in Pt. Ayora, we’d already spotted our first sea lion playing in the water next to the boat. Sitting and waiting for our next ride, I sat and watched the sea lion play in the water while a Galapagos pelican hung out below me, entertaining me with his funny habits. Already I could feel I was in the Galapagos!

We settled onto the Floreana (into our super tiny cabin!) and had lunch, then we were off on our first excursion. We first visited the Twin Craters, two craters that are really old, that’s basically what I got from it! It wasn’t exactly the most interesting or exciting start to our trip.

Giant tortoise

But then we visited a reserve with a bunch of tortoises, which was cool. There were a lot of giant tortoises just hanging around, laying in the pond or walking around. Getting so close to them, I realized what funny creatures they are.

They really are like dinosaurs, so prehistoric looking—their big, thick, wrinkly legs and dino-like feet, and the funny way they move—and they make this funny raspy-breathing/hiss kind of noise when they want you to go away, that’s very Jurassic Park-esque.

We finished the excursion off by visiting some underground lava caves. Mostly they just seemed like any other cave, but there were some cool parts. Then we sat at a bar/restaurant for a while, where no one really wanted to get anything, probably because we’d all just dropped so much cash on this trip. It was a bit of an uninspiring first day, but we were in the Galapagos, we knew better things were to come.

Even that night after dinner things picked up. Nature gave us a show right from the safety of our boat’s sundeck. Under the boat’s lights we could see tons of flying fish, sea lions, sharks (huge ones!), and pelicans, hunting or playing, flying/zipping around. It was a really incredible thing to watch.

DAY 2

Wildlife everywhere!

After breakfast we went for a dry landing on Genovesa/Tower Island, where we were the only boat (it is a much less-visited island). Immediately on the beach we saw tons of sea lions sleeping and relaxing. But overall Genovesa is definitely a bird island. Once we got walking into the island, we saw tons and tons of birds. Red-footed boobies, Nazca/masked boobies, great frigate birds, nocturnal herons, the list goes on and on. Though since I was a kid I always kind of had this weird thing for blue-footed boobies, which we didn’t see on Genovesa (I had these National Geographic pamphlets for different endangered animals, and for some reason I only remember the blue-footed booby one and that I was obsessed with it), I normally don’t really care that much about birds. But these were cool birds. Big ones that acted and looked interesting.

Red-footed boobies

The red-footed boobies made this crazy loud noise (see video). They almost sounded like elephants or something. Some of them were white, some were gray, but they were all beautiful, with bright red feet and lovely pink and blue multicolored beaks.

The Nazca boobies were just black and white, but they made this funny whistling noise (see video), that sounded almost like someone blowing into a cheap plastic whistle or trying to whistle with their fingers. (In fact, I often thought someone was trying to imitate the boobies, but I’d look around and realize that no, it was in fact the boobies themselves.)

Nazca boobies

There were also tons of baby chicks everywhere, all looking and sounding cute and funny. And of course there were also lots of nesting birds, from parents sitting on eggs to newly formed couples flying in with branches and building their nest together – all right in front of our eyes!

The scenery itself was also great – beautiful cliffs and water (especially when the sun came out). Then we went snorkeling right off the beach, which wasn’t bad. There were some interesting fish, and I also saw two small rays, buried in the sand.

Snorkeling from the beach with sea lions nearby

We returned to the boat for lunch (spotting sea turtles in the sea right out the dining room windows!) then went for some more snorkeling. We took the zodiac boats out to a deeper area, where we saw a lot more fish, and I also saw a gigantic ray (like the kind you see at the aquarium and think “Whoaaa!”). I didn’t realize at the time how special it was, but throughout the rest of the trip everyone was always talking about how they wanted to see a big manta ray, and I had already seen it on the very first day of snorkeling!

Baby bird

After that we went to another part of the island and climbed some steps (guarded by a sea lion!) to an area with a ton more birds. Colonies, it seemed, of great frigate birds, Nazca boobies, and red-footed boobies. When we were finished and sitting and waiting for the zodiacs to retrieve us, there was a local fishing boat nearby and we watched as tons of birds circled around, waiting for the fishermen to throw out some guts or fish.

DAY 3

Docking by Santiago Island, there were a few more boats around. First we visited Sullivan Bay, where we walked on a ton of black lava flows, which was pretty awesome. There were a ton of different kind of formations/flows, so it was cool to see all the different patterns. We saw a lot of crabs and some herons, and even a couple penguins swimming around in the bay!

Crab by the beach

Then we went snorkeling. We saw a shark! Like a proper, Jaws-theme-inducing kind of shark. It was really cool, but then it turned and started heading back in our direction, and I got a bit freaked out and hurried away. I had finally taken my camera with me for this snorkel (I had been a bit paranoid about trying out my supposedly watertight camera bag-thing I’d bought in Quito, but decided that I bought it so I needed to try it) but it must have turned off without my realizing it and when I thought I’d been taking pictures of the shark, I ended up with none. I did see lots of fish and starfish, though.

Sea lion swimming by!

After lunch we went snorkeling again, seeing a lot more fish and starfish. I also had a sea lion swim by me, which I did manage to snap a quick picture of!

Then we walked up to the mirador at the top of Bartolome, looking out over the infamous Pinnacle Rock and some overall great views of the surrounding area.

On the way up we could see tons (and I mean TONS) of manta rays in the distance in the ocean, jumping up out of the water, flipping all around, apparently trying to get parasites off their backs. It was a really incredible sight! Then coming back through the bay we saw more penguins and sea lions.

Pinnacle Rock at sunset

By day three I was definitely starting to feel like, “This is the life.” Our typical day was just like this one: breakfast at 7, excursion to an island for a small walk at 8, then some snorkeling off the beach, back to the boat to relax (nap, reading, tanning, whatever), lunch at noon, more relaxing, off for some snorkeling at 2, sometimes back to the boat for a little bit, then another excursion/walk, then back to relax, dinner at 7, then more relaxing, maybe watching the animals in the lights around the boat, then bedtime. What a life!

DAY 4

Cuddly sea lions

This was definitely one of the best days of the trip. We first went for a walk on the small island Chinese Hat. We saw so many sea lions, and tons of baby pups. They were so unbelievably cute! They reminded me a bit of my own pups at home (mostly Morgan). They were playing all around us, and we were sitting so close to them we could have easily touched them.

Cute sea lion pup

One was hiding under a bush, but kept making noises and coming out toward us, then waddling back under the bush (see video). One girl had an SLR with a big lens on it and he came right up and stuck his nose in it, checking it out! The others were playing around with each other, and one was running in out of the water after his mom, trying to keep up with her. It was so adorable. And they make these funny sounds, that sound almost like they’re trying to throw up, while the adults make this sound that sounds almost like burping. It’s really funny, all the crazy noises sea lions make! (See video)

Iguana

We also saw tons and tons of marine iguanas everywhere. Our guide, Victor, told us that if we were lucky we might get to see some of the marine iguanas feeding under water when we went snorkeling later. Supposedly it’s a kind of rare thing to get to see, but it was a possibility.

Well, we definitely got to see it! I’d say we saw at least five marine iguanas feeding underwater when we went snorkeling at Chinese Hat later. There were tons!

I got some decent pictures of it as well, although unfortunately while trying to fuss with my camera in the stupid underwater bag I have, I a) accidentally zoomed a ton for a while and so got some totally useless pictures and b) accidentally changed the picture size to small, which is like 640 x whatever and I didn’t realize this until the end of the next day, so a ton of my beloved photos are only that small and can’t be enlarged and look nice at all – very, very sad indeed!

Iguana feeding underwater

While snorkeling we also some some rays, some nice fish, and another shark! Again it was a big one, and unfortunately I did take a pic of it, but when I was looking through my pictures on my camera later I accidentally deleted it – grr!

Later we walked on Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz. There we saw more marine iguanas, as well as some land iguanas (which are huge and yellow), but they were harder to see because they were all hiding in the shade under bushes to keep cool (the sun was blazing and it was ridiculously hot…this is the equator after all!)

Then we were back at the boat for dinner. Our guide has been filming parts of our trip, so he showed us the first half of the DVD he’d made after dinner (which we could, of course, buy for $30 – like I haven’t spent enough on this trip!). But it was waaayyy too long, especially considering it was only half of our trip so far, and I was falling asleep by the first half of it (cheesy music and too much repetitive, pointless footage!) We were also joined earlier in the afternoon by a Finnish couple, who were supposed to be on the cruise for the next four days. (The Scandinavians had officially taken over!)

DAY 5

This was where things started to go bad. We were told the boat would be navigating from one until six in the morning to get to the southeastern port of Puerto Villamil on Isabela. At around four in the morning I woke up and realized we weren’t moving. I though it was weird, but fell back asleep. The next morning my roommate and I discussed it, as she’d heard loud noises on the boat, possibly by the engine she thought.

At breakfast we were all talking about it, “Didn’t it seem like the ride was a lot shorter last night than it should have been?” And rumors were flying. After breakfast they told us the news: some water had gotten in the main engine, and they weren’t sure how long it would take to fix. (It later turned out to be that basically a huge part of the engine was broken.)

So we had to pack everything we’d need for the day and take a speed boat for about two hours to get to Isabela. There they made us pay a $5 tax (which was supposed to be included in our trip cost) and we hopped on a bus. We stopped at a lagoon where there were three flamingos. While it was interesting to see them feeding up close, they kind of trawl their beaks through the water making this funny noise, it got old pretty quickly and we stayed there for what seemed like forever just watching them eat. Maybe it was because I saw so many flamingos back in in Bolivia, but I just didn’t really care that much.

Tortoises eating

Then we went to a giant tortoise breeding center. It was pretty interesting. The giant tortoises were in different areas according to age and sub-species. First we watched a bunch of younger ones (I think around 5-7 year-olds) crawl all over each other in a rush to eat when they dropped food in their enclosure. It was funny.

It was amazing to see how they grow over the years. We were able to see little baby ones, which are so small it’s incredible to think that they grow so big. But then you see how they’re still so small until their teens, and even how they’re still not so big in their 20s and 30s. They don’t even start mating until they’re 35-40 years old! Then the really huge ones are those that are 70-80 and older. They can live up to around 150 years!

Flat shelled tortoise

We also got to see the little-known subspecies that only appears at one volcano on Isabela, the flat-shelled tortoise. It literally looks like someone stepped on the shell and pushed it in. Each volcano on Isabela has a different subspecies, so it was interesting to see them all in one place and how they differ.

Then we walked down to the beach, which was practically deserted and quite pretty. (This part of Isabela is the only part that is inhabited.) We saw some huge marine iguanas hanging out all over the beach.

Then we went into town, where we were to have lunch. It was a really tiny town, with maybe four restaurants, a store or two, a travel agency, and that’s about it. The first thing we all did in the short free time we had before lunch was go to the store and buy sodas! I thought that was funny. After days on the boat without any soda (you can buy it but it’s really expensive), it was amazing how much I was craving a Pepsi or Coke! And apparently everyone else felt exactly the same. Although I, being the clever and thrifty person that I am, didn’t have to pay any kind of outrageous price for mine. The secret is to buy Pepsi here, the caps always have something on them, and every time I’ve gotten one it has been a free drink (except this time where I got 10 puntos – for what, I don’t know!) and so I’ve never had to pay for a Pepsi since!

Tinterones Trail

After lunch we took the boat out to another place where we walked along Tinterones Trail. Basically it’s a rocky trail along this little channel of water where sharks all hang out. There were just tons of these white-tipped reef sharks swimming around or laying at the bottom hanging out. I liked the sign nearby, which said basically, “No swimming, this is a rest place for sharks.” Haha!

Iguanas on the trail

Also the trail was totally overtaken by iguanas. It was always one big, somewhat colorful (green, sometimes with some pinkish-red) one, I guess the male, and a ton of smaller black ones. And they were all always spitting!

Then we went and watched tons (and I mean TONS!) of blue-footed boobies flying together, then dive-bombing (sometimes all at once) into the water to catch fish. I knew there was a reason I liked them so much, they totally lived up to their awesomeness! It was really an amazing sight to see. And before someone told me that they were blue-footed boobies, I couldn’t have believed it. So many birds flying like that, I though they’d be some boring little ugly bird. Not the totally-cool-already boobies!

Tons of blue-footed boobies flying together

I got some cool video of it which you can see here. Seriously, you couldn’t believe how many of them there were, all together in this giant swarm. Nor the way they dive, straight beak-first fast as you can imagine, into the water. You’d think they’d all be running into each other, but they don’t!

There were also a bunch of penguins swimming around, though to my dismay they swam right up to the other boat with half our group on it, but not to ours! Boo!

We also did some snorkeling in the afternoon, but it was terrible. The water was murky and algae and crap floating, terrible visibility. There was all this really high sea grass everywhere, that no matter where I swam I couldn’t seem to avoid. I started to feel claustrophobic and panicky and had to get out of the water, but it’s not like I missed much with such terrible visibility.

Then it was back on the speedboat for a long, cold ride back to our boat – sitting in the water near Baltra, the airport we’d flown into the first day! Lame, lame, lame.

After dinner (which, annoyingly, was fish and chips just like we’d just had for lunch), we were informed that the engine was not fixed and that the next day’s trip, the highlight of the cruise and what most of us were there for, was going to be changed. The alternate itinerary? North Seymour Island.

There were varying degrees of anger/disappointment/etc. I think what made me even more annoyed was how maybe half the passengers didn’t care much because in reality they didn’t know anything about the Galapagos and didn’t know the difference. Plus North Seymour is a blah island you could easily do as a daytrip on your own (if you for some reason wanted to). In fact, the Finnish couple, who’d joined this cruise solely to go to Fernandina and Isabela, had already been there and said it was pretty boring. They ended up leaving the boat the next day and getting a 50% refund.

I was also mad because I was basically bought this cruise because of this part of the itinerary as well, and the fact that they were replacing it with some crap daytrip made it even more frustrating. They also told us basically the only thing we could do about it would be to go back to the agency we’d bought the trip from (back in Quito for me) and see if they would offer any kind of compensation. This angered me even more, because even if I did get money back, I would be back in Quito so it’s not like I could use the money to do some more sightseeing or daytrips in the Galapagos.

Even now, with the trip over and still being absolutely amazing and seeing just about everything I could have wanted to see (wildlife-wise), I’m still somewhat upset and a bit bitter about this. It is people’s once-in-a-lifetime trip that we’re dealing with. And all they would talk about is what this was costing the company for repairs, etc., and so little concern with what it meant to us. But I digress.

DAY 6

The Replacement Day. It only merited less than a page in my journal and well less than half the amount of photos of every other day. Definitely no spotting orca, dolphins, and whales or seeing hundreds of penguins, swimming with them as they darted around us in the water, or getting to see newly evolving species – all things we might have seen if we’d had the original itinerary.

Magnificent frigatebird puffing out his chest to attract a female

Instead we visited North Seymour Island. There was basically only one cool thing we saw there: the magnificent frigatebird. This was cool because the males have this red pouch they puff out when they’re trying to attract a mate. We got to see a few of them with the red out, including one which had his chest puffed and was waving around his wings really showing off. And one female finally did fly toward him, but he rejected her and she flew off!

Land iguana eating some cactus

We also got to get a better view of some land iguanas, and got to see some nesting blue-footed boobies and some frigate birds nesting, where we could actually see the tiny ugly chicks in the nest underneath the parents.

Then we went snorkeling. This was probably the most redeeming part of the day because we had some sea lions come swim around us, which was pretty awesome. One of them was quite a little poser, making all kinds of funny poses and flinging his body in all kind of contortions in the water. They were very friendly and playful, happy to swim with us.

We took the speedboat back to the Floreana for lunch, then got back on the speedboat and went out to Las Bachas beach on Santa Cruz. All we did really was walk along the beach. It was a nice white sand beach, and the sand was really soft in a couple parts, but it wasn’t incredibly interesting.

Swimming with sea lions

I did have one of those “Yes, I’m in the Galapagos” moments (usually there’s at least one every day – the day before it had been floating past an abandoned boat with sea lions sleeping inside and a pelican chilling on the edge, with penguins swimming around below), while watching sea turtles swimming out in the water around us (waiting for night so they could come in and lay eggs), with blue-footed boobies just chilling on the rocks by the shore, and penguins swimming in the water as well. Just another day in the Galapagos. A less interesting one, at that!

Then we just hung out on the beach. Some people went snorkeling, but I was a bit cold and tired, and there was nothing to see really anyways. But again, the sand was nice and soft and powdery, and you can’t really complain about that.

DAY 7

This was another pretty good day, as I tried to put the previous day’s disappointment behind me. First we went to Puerto Egas on Santiago. (Really we barely left the central island area, which is what really pisses me off about taking an 8 day cruise and then ending up basically doing 7 days of easy day trips I could have done on my own for cheaper!) We did a dry landing onto a black sand beach where there were some sea lions.

Walking along the beach and into the island we saw pods of dolphins swimming out in the water. We also saw a lot of sea turtles bobbing around. On the rocky shores we saw some fur sea lions (aka fur seals) hanging out sleeping. (They’re nocturnal and hunt at night.) Some of them were sleeping in these lower caves in the rocks – there were tons of these holes/caves that would fill up all the way with water as the waves came in, then completely drain really low. Back and forth, up and down, again and again. Some people in our group were totally mesmerized by this for some reason!

Swimming with sea turtles

Then we went snorkeling! This was a real highlight. The whole trip I had been really bent on seeing a sea turtle. I have seen one once before – in the warm crystal clear waters of Pulau Perhentian in Malaysia, after years of wishing to see one, I finally was able to see one there on my last day before I left the island – but I was keen to see one again, and especially now that I had my camera with me! (And have since had a third spotting at Ningaloo Reef in Australia!)

Well, that dream came true times a thousand! There were TONS of sea turtles feeding out in the water off the beach. We were all super excited when we spotted the first two, feeding by a rock not far from the beach. But the more we snorkeled, the more we saw, the more it became, “Oh, just another sea turtle.” There were so many! I couldn’t even keep count. (See video)

Getting up close to a sea turtle

Everywhere I turned there were more and more. It was a bit different than my Malaysia experience – the waters not as clear, the colors of the turtle and surroundings not as bright and tropical feeling – but it was still probably more awesome because of the huge numbers, and the fact that they were so close, sometimes I had to quickly swim away because they were directly under me and almost running into me as they made their way up to the surface for some air!

We also had a bit of a scary experience. I heard a loud splash not far from me and looked to see what it was. I saw a sea lion had come into the water. Excited, I started to swim toward it. Then I saw that it looked really, really big. Then I heard our guide yell to us all to get out of the area! It was a bull male, and they can get a bit aggressive. It’s a good idea not to try to swim near them!

Sea lion pup on Rabida

After some lunch and relaxing, we went to Isla Rabida. There was a nice red beach, again littered with sea lions (made for some nice pictures!). There was right away a really loud young pup, making all kinds of noise. He kept waddling up to us and sniffing around curiously at our stuff. So cute!

We walked along the beach and saw tons more sea lions all the way along, including a pup Victor told us had probably only been born the day before! We saw a big pregnant sea lion as well.

Cuddling sea lions

Then we walked to a lagoon and then up to a nice viewpoint, then back down to do some more snorkeling. I didn’t take my camera this time, which was too bad because there were some really cool fish I hadn’t seen anywhere else before. There were also some sea lions swimming around us, and I spotted a marine iguana up on the land coming down toward the water, and I got to watch him jump in, swim around, and then begin feeding. It would have made for some really great pictures.

After dinner we had a kind of strange ceremony. They had certificates for us declaring that we’d crossed the Equator (a couple times) on our cruise. The weird part was that in order to receive our certificate, we had to say our favorite animal from the Galapagos, which would be our new name, and then we had to act like the animal in the middle of the dining cabin! I chose the blue-footed booby, so I had to fake dive and waddle in front of everyone. Other people were sharks, frigatebirds, sea lions, spotted eagle rays, iguanas, etc. Very random.

Rabida

Then it was time to start thinking about things like tips and packing. None of us could believe that the week was already over. It really flew by!

DAY 8

The last day. Hard to believe! We had an earlier breakfast at 6:30, and then boarded the zodiacs. We went out to a place called Black Turtle Cove. It was lots of calm water in mangroves; it reminded me a lot of the flooded forest I visited in Cambodia.

Once we were into the main area we killed the engines and paddled around. There were tons and tons of sea turtles in the water everywhere, attracted by the calm water. Again, it was unbelievable how many there were, everywhere we turned. The cove was really peaceful and silent, with only the sounds of the insects and birds buzzing around us, along with the occasional quiet slap of water and sound of the turtles breathing as they came up for air.

After spending some time floating around the cove, we headed back out to the open water. Fitting in with our luck, the other zodiac’s engine had died and wouldn’t restart! I take this as a sign as it was someone on that boat that had brought the bad engine luck, so we narrowed down who to blame! Haha. So we had to tow that zodiac behind us until we got to the boat.

Back on the boat we had very little time left to do last minute packing and take a last glimpse around the boat. The week really felt so short, I felt like I’d barely even spent time on the boat (of course, the two days spent mostly on speedboats might have had something to do with it). I definitely could have spent a few more days living that dream-life of a cruise on the Galapagos!

Next thing we knew we were hopping onto another boat and arriving at the mainland, where a bus was waiting to take us to the airport. I had been deep in conversation with Evelina, the Swedish girl, as we were switching boats, and didn’t realize until we were getting off the ferry onto the mainland that I had forgotten my shoes in the crates on the boat, where we’d had to dump them after each excursion. I’d been so used to walking around barefoot, I hadn’t even noticed!

So I had to wait at the pier for them to bring my shoes, and unfortunately this meant I didn’t get to say goodbye to the Swedes, who I had most enjoyed spending time with on the cruise. I had been hoping to get a group photo of our whole crew, but sadly we arrived at the airport and scattered and it never got to happen. Oh well.

We had about three hours to wait around at the airport. Luckily it was all outside, so we could at least walk around and peruse the touristy souvenir stalls in the small area outside the waiting room. And of course there was still only one food place in the airport, with more options than in Quito but even more expensive. But we couldn’t resist getting some soda and chocolate!

After some delays we finally boarded the plane, and that’s where I sit now, writing this.

Once in Quito I will be go, go, go. In just a few hours I will have to visit an agency to book a jungle tour starting the next day, buy my bus tickets for the night bus tonight, go to the agency where I bought my cruise and see if I can get anything back, and get online to send e-mails, get in touch with people, and let them know I’ll be gone again without any contact.

Then I’ve been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner thrown by the friend of a friend of my cabin-mate from the cruise, so I’ll be celebrating our holiday after all! (I hadn’t even realized it was today!)

Then tonight I will be off on an eight hour bus ride to Lago Agrio, then a boat ride into the jungle to a lodge in the Cuyabeno Reserve, where I will spend the next five days! Busy busy. But then I’m sure there will be another big update, then I’ll be down to the wire on the last days of my big trip, with a couple short trips to visit the cloudforest in Mindo and the Otavalo markets, then I’ll be ready to come home. Crazy!

Cute sea lion pups

See my videos from the Galapagos:

Blue Footed Boobies by the thousands
Sea Lions
More Sea Lions
Sea Turtles
Red Footed Booby
Nazca Boobies

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