Anxiety-ridden, pacing my kitchen for hours in the middle of the night, and incessantly checking my email and texts described the hours before we left for Ecuador. Finally, 4 hours prior to the plane taking off the ground, we received our COVID test results (negative, thankfully). Oddly enough, we got the results back from the THIRD, and last, test we submitted to. Second test came back second, and first test came back last. Sweet Jesus, are you lab people trying to give us all heart attacks prior to traveling?? That’s just mean.
Sleep deprived and cranky, Hubs and I departed for Dulles Airport. Never fear! The stress didn’t end there! We missed the metro by seconds, and the next train was over twenty minutes away… we may not get through check-in and security in time. Seriously, world? Okay, time to wrangle an Uber for $50. Yay… Heads up, Copa Airlines, while a stand up company with some solid pilots, is slower than a snail when it comes to checking passengers in and checking luggage. Plan accordingly. However, the gate check dude didn’t charge us for the luggage! Finally, a win.
After a long and trying day, we landed in Quito, Ecuador at about 1930 that evening. Delirious, we found the first cabbie that flagged us down – Hint: Don’t do that regardless of how badly you want to arrive at your hotel and collapse into the bed. Fucker charged us double what he should have. Oh well… sleeping pad acquired and suspended consciousness achieved. After consuming a dinner of a protein bar and Belvita blueberry crackers, I know I’m going to be hangry in the morning. My appetite was not satisfied in the morning either… our included “breakfast” was basically a sack lunch from the ’40s – a banana, a juice box, and a sandwich with a single slice of some unknown meat on it. Insert angry/annoyed emoji face.
Now it’s on to the Galapagos Islands.
Not 12 hours later, we returned to Quito Airport, now armed with a two negative COVID tests, supplemented with full vaccination records, and a health certification thingy required by the Ecuadorian government. The Galapagos require a negative test within 72 hours as well, if anyone is considering traveling there. I board the plane, excited to get some sort of snack delivered by the flight attendants. I probably looked like an excited kid on Christmas awaiting presents every time an attendant strolled down the aisle. The hangriness flared when I was informed Avianca had suspended any, and all, food/drink service. NOOOOO!!! But we do have a layover, I’ll just grab something at Guayaquil’s airport. Avianca foiled my plans again… we weren’t permitted to get off the plane since this plane was the one ferrying us to the islands. Dammit! I may have to eat husband’s left arm. He’ll be fine, his dominant one is his right.
The airport on San Cristobal is essentially a cul-de-sac. It consists of a single runaway in and out with a turn around at the end. No taxiing here! Upon arrival, we met up with our group of misfits. Tours always result in a clash of personalities, and this was no exception. Hubs and I were the youngest by a long shot and did not see eye-to-eye with every member of the group. Please, allow me to explain…
Kim, the quirky Brit now residing in Toronto, but also indefinitely renting a house in Otavalo, Ecuador after she fell in love with the country.
Colette, the slightly uptight Arizonan living in Scotsdale that enjoyed her evening wine.
Sudha, the geriatric Indian living in Melbourne, Florida who had some trouble comprehending western customs.
Chris, the recently retired doctor attempting to tolerate his obnoxiously irritating wife throughout the entire trip (we predict divorce in the future).
Felicia, the obnoxiously irritating wife that would really benefit from a word vomit filter and some improved social skills.
Genesis, our Galapagos-born guide for the tour that was the only person younger than us in attendance.
San Cristobal was the middle of the road with regards to population, with 6,000 people calling the place home. Including our guide for the tour, Genesis. I don’t think they count sea lions because then the population would likely quadruple. We checked into our family-owned hotel a couple of blocks from the pier, and our spacious room that we would later share with a lizard.
I succeeded in not eating my own arm before Genesis told us we were walking down the street to the pier for lunch, complete with noisy, smelly, grunting sea lions everywhere. Note to anyone visiting San Cristobal: Don’t eat at the pier restaurants. They are an enormous rip-off. Hubs and I lost $60 US on our lobster lunch. And my locally-caught crustacean hardly had any meat on it at all. On the bright side, I had finally consumed an actual meal for the first time in days.
Next pit stop was to gather up snorkeling gear from a local shop, to include wetsuits since the water is a chilly 73ish degrees Fahrenheit in December. All of us, with the exception of Kim because she’s a badass, elected to rent the snug-fitting attire in order to stay warm.
After donning our suits, we slipped into Muelle Tijeretas, a cove on the western side of the island. It’s quite crowded, even in the early evening an hour before the sun sets, so be prepared to wait in line in order to get in the water. We were rewarded with sea turtles, as well as a sea lion bullying its way up onto the rocks that humans use to enter the cove. Rude creature. Unfortunately, my camera decided to exhaust the battery halfway through the snorkeling adventure, so only a few haphazard photos exist of the excursion.
Genesis informed us the next day was a free day, and told us about a 45 minute hike to Playa Baquerizo, where we could lunch and snorkel. Sounds like a solid plan, but the hike seemed a bit on the short side. Between Genesis’ input and Colette’s Google mapping, we settled on a longer jaunt through town, up to a trailhead for Playa Ochoa, a more secluded beach north of Baquerizo, and then some ‘easy’ rock scrambling (according to Genesis) back to Playa Baquerizo. That calamity of a hike deserves its own post after this one. Let’s just say it resulted in multiple injuries, and almost ended with us stranded at night in the Galapagos wilderness.
A few notes about Ecuador and the Galapagos…
Get used to dry hair, as conditioner is not a commonly provided thing in hotels. Or just be smart, and bring your own. I was not.
Restaurants on the Galapagos do not keep all drink or food options on hand at all times. If an ingredient is missing from their stash, they simply sprint to the nearest market. Hubs and I watched a nimble waiter dash away after I ordered vino rojo (aka. red wine), with him returning a few minutes later with a corked bottle of wine.
Bring cash. Ecuador converted to the US dollar some years ago, and credit cards on the islands are heavily taxed – add 12% to each purchase if you use one. ATMs are easy to find.
Sea lions are everywhere. Literally. And they are smelly, noisy, and vulgar. Be prepared for your ears to be assaulted by a cacophony of sounds, from belches to flatulence to grunts to regurgitation noises to clown horns. Avoid their feces smeared throughout the streets.
Guayaquil has the murder rate of Chicago, and parts of Quito are not the safest to walk at night. Theft is common, with the thieves operating in pairs to relieve their prey of belongings.
Quito is steep, ranking as the second highest capital city in the world at 9350 feet/2850 meters – La Paz holds the record for elevation. I may have forgotten about this when I did my workouts, confused as to why I was far more out of breath than is typical.
Use Uber in Quito – it comes in cheaper than cabs if you have access to WiFi in order to call one. Also, cabbies lie, and Uber can be set up in advance.
Adios, San Cristobal… it is time to boat to Santa Cruz.