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Galapagos, Day 1

Written on: Sunday September 2nd, 2007

A journal entry from: Bolivia, Peru, and the Galapagos!

Once again, the size of the plane that we flew to the Galapagos on surprised me. It was a massive Boeing 727-200 operated by AeroGal. I had been expecting a propeller plane to transport us the 600 miles west of the coast of South America, but once again I realized that I was still on the tourist path and nothing was small here. All was fairly normal on the flight until just before we landed when the cabin crew opened all the overhead luggage compartments. Then we heard an announcment that they would be coming through to spray us with something that had been approved by the World Health Organization. I imagine that this was to kill any bugs we may be inadvertantly toting to the islands... After the citrus smelling spray had filled the cabin, they closed the compartments and we landed.

We landed at Baltra Island just north of the main island of Santa Cruz. The island had been leased by the US Airforce in the early 20th century to construct an airforce base to protect the Panama canal (and keep an eye on Japan). At some point, the US left and Ecuador now uses the landing strip to fly tourists in and out of the islands. After finding our tour guide Walter, we were escorted to a bus and then driven about 5 minutes to a port where we rode dinghies to our yacht, the Pelikano.

The Pelikano was clearly a bit old, but well maintained. The lower deck was for the crew. The first deck had four guestrooms (two people each) plus the dining room and kitchen. The top deck was home to the bar plus four more guestrooms. The guestrooms each have a bunk bed with drawers underneath for storing our belongings, a nightstand, a window looking out to the sea, and a bathroom (with a shower, sink, and flushing toilet! luxury!!). The rooms also have airconditioning (apparently).

Once on board, we met two other members of our group that had been on the boat since Wednesday. (GAP offers three different tours of the islands: 3 night, 4 night, and 7 night. The 3 night tour starts on Sunday, the 4 night starts on Wednesday, and the 7 night can start on either day.) One was a 22-year old English girl on a 9-month vacation around the world (somebody please explain to me how this can be affordable? These guided tours aren't cheap!!), and the other was a retired Australian accoutant man. After introductions, we were given our room assignments and allowed to settle in. Almost immdeiatley, however, there was conflict. It turns out that some of the people in our group had already been traveling together, some in Peru and others in Ecuador, and nobody seemed to want to room with the mid-50's California/Costa Rican woman. There was some door slamming and other similar female drama queen behaviors before somebody finally caved and roomed with her. I was silent through all of this, just hoping that it wasn't a sign for things to come over the next 8 days...

Next we cruised for 1-2 hours west along the island of Santa Cruz where we anchored and went ashore in the dinghies. Unfortunately, I didn't make a note of this beach, but I think it was Las Bachas. I had never seen anything like this before! White sand, black lava formations, turquoise water, and extraordinarily unusual vegetation. We took a short walk along the beach and spotted marine iguanas (iguanas that actually swim and dive for their food in the sea!) and numerous other wildlife lounging around. After the walk, we put on our snorkel gear and had a training swim along the shore. I was a bit reluctant to hop in the water (mostly because I was terrified that a shark was going to come up behind me and eat my leg) but I went ahead and gave it a try. Walter said this was not a very good place to snorkle, but I was impressed (maybe because I was a newbie) by the numerous different fish I saw. At this point, I was super jealous of all my fellow travelers with waterproof cameras who could document our swim. Oh well...

After the snorkel, we returned to the Pelikano for a snack and a shower. Then we were briefed on our schedule for tomorrow, shared an introductory cocktail with the crew (7 in total, which seemed like a good ratio for 16 guests), ate dinner, then off to bed to prepare for our 6:30am wake up call.

Some of the animals we saw today:

sally lightfoot crabs
yellow warbler
ghost crabs
frigate birds
marine iguanas
herons and egrets
loads of tropical fish