We are in the Galápagos Islands. It's true. This place has been on my bucket list since long before I had a bucket list. It is one of the world's last true wildernesses, with many species of birds and animals found only here, and until now a remote and mysterious place. I have to keep pinching myself that we are actually here.
We had an early start this morning and were at the airport by 7. Somehow the flight was overbooked, and it looked like Chris, Jess and Keith were going to have to come on a later flight. We band of intrepid travellers headed off leaderless (and me husbandless) onto our plane, hoping we would be able to remember the detailed instructions Frank gave us about getting through Galapagos airport inspections. Fortunately at the last minute they found seats for all of us, thought it wasn't until they saw us on board that Keith realised it was the same flight. Apart from that little hiccup, the trip was very smooth and comfortable. After 2 hours flying time we landed, and then ran the gauntlet of customs, National Park registration fees, inspection for quarantine, finding our bags, finding our guide and finally finding our bus. I'm glad someone knew what we were doing because I certainly didn't!
We had a short bus ride, then a 10 minute ferry across to the the main island (Santa Cruz). The ferry had a flat top and the luggage was piled on top. Lucky there were no strong winds! We saw lots of Frigate birds at the ferry wharf, and some seals sunning themselves on a buoy. Just when I thought we were nearly there we had a 42km bus ride to Puerto Ayora, the town where we are staying. The drive was interesting as it travelled though dry open country, lush forests, small villages, farms and orchards. We were also treated to our first sighting of a giant tortoise, just lying by the side of the road.
Our hotel is lovely and we have a great room, with a balcony and a wonderful view of the harbour. There's a large common room where we can congregate, and free wi-fi. It is close to the main shopping and restaurant area, so we walk everywhere. The only drawback is 4 flights of stairs to our rooms.
After lunch at the little cafe next door (seriously good pizzas and ice-cream) we had some time to unpack and relax, and Chris gave us a 30 minute summary of his one day photography course. Then it was long lenses on the camera, and heading out the door to the Charles Darwin research and animal breeding centre to see baby tortoises and other animals. Our local guide Veronica is lovely and very knowledgeable – it's great to have a walking encyclopaedia showing us around! We hadn't gone more than a block or two when we spotted a marine iguana, brown pelicans, a rare lava gull and an endemic heron, which of course we had to photograph. By the time we got to the baby tortoises they were asleep, but we saw lots of birds, other tortoises, land iguanas, and a colourful lava lizard. We stayed there until it was just too dark for photos, with fairly full memory cards. This is going to be a good week!
After some pre-dinner drinks on the balcony we headed out to dinner at a restaurant Chris has booked. It was clearly aimed at tourists but the atmosphere was lovely and the food really good.
It was a GREAT first day – and we are still pinching ourselves!