Given the protests happening throughout Ecuador, we were not going to truly relax until we got onto our cruise ship. We asked the folks at Metropolitan Touring if they could arrange for us to fly into the Galápagos earlier than planned. They were able to switch our flights and find a hotel for us, and we were on our way. We were met at the Quito airport by a representative of Metropolitan Touring, who had our boarding passes and who walked us through check in and a biological screening of our baggage.
The flight from Quito to the Galapagos took around 3.5 hours, with a stop in Guayaquil. Those continuing on to the islands wait on the plane while more passengers embark.
We watched anxiously out the window of the plane, hoping to catch a glimpse of the storied islands. Our first views did not disappoint: turquoise blue water, puffy white clouds, beaches, and rugged coastlines. G. and I took photos with my phone as we approached the airport.
Baltra Island, home of the airport and nothing more, is a flat, volcanic place, with cacti and low shrubs dotting the landscape. And the airport is nothing more than a landing strip: with no taxiway, the plane has to turn around on the runway and taxi back to the terminal.
We walked off the plane, and were immediately greeted by a large, yellow land iguana.
Once we had our bags and had exited the airport, we were met by César, who would get us from the airport to Puerto Ayora, one of the few towns in the Galápagos. This was to be an adventure in itself, and although it wasn’t difficult, it was nice to have someone there to navigate for us.
First up was a 10 minute bus ride to the ferry. On the bus, we watched as frigate birds soared above us and land iguanas rested on the rocks. G. decided to name each iguana with a name rhyming with “Iggy”. We saw Siggy, Ziggy, Figgy, etc. and, eventually, Biggy Smalls, Miss Piggy, and Master Giggy. Then we took a ferry across the Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island. At the ferry terminal, we stepped over a resting sea lion, who did not care that she was in the way. Blue-footed boobies flew and dove for fish around us, as did pelicans and strange looking gulls. The ferry itself is a small boat with a flat top. Luggage travels up there and I wondered how often luggage slips into the channel.
After crossing the channel, César loaded our bags into his white pick up truck (the taxis of the islands) and drove us the 45 minutes across Santa Cruz to our hotel in Puerto Ayora. We drove from the volcanic, rocky northern shore, though the wet, drizzly highlands (so many giant tortoises!) and out to the sunny, tropical southern end of the island.
Wandering around town that afternoon revealed even more wildlife: marine iguanas warming themselves on the sidewalk, sea lions and pelicans begging for food at the fish market, night herons in the mangroves. All in the small town of Puerto Ayora, the tourism capital of the Galápagos.