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The Galapagos Islands, Trip Report 4

Guyaquil brass buddyI’m back on mainland Ecuador—Guyaquil. This is the biggest city in Ecuador. It fronts a murky river and has built a wonderful waterfront public area. I walked along the Malecon to a steep hilly little Italianesque neighborhood–444 steps up—they’re numbered–and then down to find my goat stew and beer for dinner. Galapagos guide David told me to check it out when I asked for tips for Guyaquil. He is from this town. But first, the Galapagos.

I sailed on the Eden for 8 days in the Galapagos. For those of you who care about such things, it is a boat in the Tourist Superior class. We started out with 12 tourists departing from San Cristobal and took on 2 couples a few days later. The first day is a little bit of a cheat, since we stayed in the harbor at San Cristobal and went ashore after dinner—me already hungry for a spot of wifi from the Grand Hotel Chatham.

The next day we headed off to Santa Cruz island. Ciara (pronounced as in Kiera Knightly–believe it or not we had two by this name aboard) my roomie, picks up a box of mango juice to cut the local booze I sneaked aboard. It wasn’t necessarily a drink quite to anyone’s liking, but it did feel a little bit wicked and that was good.

CiaraMy shipmates are a good group and that’s important. Of the original 12, I had met Patrick, an Englishman, the day before we left as I was on my way to snorkel on San Cristobal. It was nice to have one person I knew, I guess. He was matched up with a guy and I was matched up as roommate with Ciara, a lovely young woman from Ireland. The rest were all couples, mostly Europeans, with one couple from Virginia. The two couples who were added commonly travel together. Eden cruise4
Food was quite good. Sometimes we started with Ecuadorean soup. Often we had tuna for dinner (it’s thick in these waters) lots of fresh veggies and lots of fruit.

Each day usually featured a land excursion and a water adventure. It was best when that water trip was snorkeling. Day two we had a good snorkel adventure with lots of lovely fish (school of fish that looked like huge gray dinner plates with yellow trim.) We also saw a few turtles and a ray on that snorkel. It was brutally hot and humid but I figured out a sun and heat protective system: wetting down a very thin nylon long-sleeved shirt and greasing my legs with 50 sunscreen. We are right at the equator, after all.(We’re mostly south of it, but one night sailing around the northern side of Isabela Island, we crossed the equator twice.)

penguins 4 prtIt’s Thursday on the zodiac for a non-landing/non swimming excursion when we finally see Penguins. LOTS of PENGUINS. I think these are Humboldts. Adorable. Fantastic really. They don’t seem like they’re wearing formal clothes. Instead they look like they’re well camouflaged with the rocks they hang out on (the white of their bellies matching the huge piles of bird shit on their rocks.) Sea lions are ubiquitous and adorable. Many pups. We also saw orange rays in the water (elusive. No photos) marine turtles, flightless cormorants, lots of pelicans, and blue-footed boobies.Booby dance2MF in shell

Tortoise portraitOur land outings include several walks to calderas, since these are volcanic islands. There are also beach walks on volcanic rocks looking at wildlife. The last three days are Isabela and Fernandina—the choicest spots on the trip. These days are packed with two land outings and two snorkel opps each day. We had one shut out snorkel—water too murky. But other trips were full of fish and either turtles or rays–sometimes both. And every now and again a little penguin swims by. They are really speedy in the water. It’s hard to get a good look at them. But I trust they are completely adorable.

The water was perfect in temperature and clarity except for that murky day. On Rabida island we had deep red sand. Before that, black sand on Fernandina. Sea lions everywhere. It was quite a surprise, on our last day, to stumble across the other specie of sea lion that hangs out here. They were sleep swimming and looking quite strange in a green rocky pool—Galapagos fur seals (which are really sea lions. Go figure.)

I liked to end each night (if it wasn’t raining) lying on the top deck, feeling the boat under me and the sky opening above. It was thick with stars. Actually I began most days there too, with my improvised yoga mat. The skies were amazing. I did notice a little rocking to the ground today, as I moved through the airport and up the Guyaquil hills, whenever I felt a slight incline.goodbye GI sunset wfeet

People got a little sentimental about the trip and our departures as we ended the cruise. They were good folks to share the experience with and I couldn’t have asked for a better roomie.

I’ll be here in Guyaquil for much of tomorrow and fly to Lima in the early evening. I’ll have to do an overnight there but will be in Cusco Peru by Tuesday morning.