Isla Baltra, Ecuador
Here is the last leg of the journey through Ecuador, once again written from the comfort of the airport. The Galapagos Islands are wildly different from each other in every way (I guess Charles Darwin already figured that out but humor me). If you fly through Isla Baltra like I did, you’ll probably end up paying close to what I did ($135) to get to your hostel in Puerto Ayora (and even more if you’re staying on another island). I never did research beforehand (as I tend to do) so I didn’t know about the $100 foreigner tax, the $20 it took to tell them I wasn’t bringing anything with me, the $5 for a bus to a port, the $1 to cross the port, and the $5 for the other bus to Puerto Ayora. Also the $4 it took to take out this much cash from the ATM. But once in Puerto Ayora, you may actually be rewarded for not doing research beforehand.
When you get to the touristy town of Puerto Ayora, you’re met immediately by shops, restaurants, and everyone trying to get you to do a last minute tour. Good thing they didn’t expect me to book something beforehand! I talked to a gentleman across the street from my hostel and negotiated tours of Isla Pinzón and Isla Isabela for chances to see flamingos, giant tortoises, sharks, octopuses, penguins, crabs, blue-footed boobies, huge seals, and very colorful fish. You really can’t believe the biodiversity of this incredible archipelago. They warn you that you may not see every animal, but I’m a lucky guy so I took my chances and got to see all of them. The funny part was that there was only a single penguin and a single flamingo (the Polish group nearby joked that the tour agencies chained the birds to their spots so tourists could see one).
On the tour of Isla Pinzón, it was just me and a group of Ecuadorians (one of whom spoke English but everyone had the patience to repeat themselves in Spanish to talk to me). We snorkeled and swam with sharks, seals, turtles, and fish and they taught me some important phrases in Spanish. One such phrase was the play on words “el amor de mi visa” (love of my visa [not life: “vida”]) since the American passport is so sought-after. We had so much fun!
Later on, I went to a cafe and talked with the owner and her friend for a while. They told me to come back later to say hi. They helped me with my nerves of getting back to the airport (there’s so many steps, if one goes wrong will I have to walk?) and I got to share all of the crazy animals that I saw on my tours. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for people who have the patience to listen to my Spanish or French and still try to talk to me.
One last thing before I leave, but the Galapagos Islands are known to divers as being a particularly amazing place to dive. I never did any diving, but my Polish friends informed me that as far as their pictures and videos went, it was one of their least favorite places to dive. They’d been to Cozumel, Thailand, across the Caribbean, Australia, and Europe and loved each destination more than the Galapagos. Regardless, it’s a magical place where the tortoises easily live 150 years and can extend their necks like giraffes, so definitely still a place to visit!
Now I’m heading back through Guayaquil, Quito, and Atlanta to get back to Maryland to begin my journey in the National Guard. With all of the layovers, I’ll be traveling for 30 hours. The adventure continues!
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