UP IN THE AIR
Baltra to Quito - Quito to Lima - LIMA TO CUzCO
We were up early in order grab a little breakfast, finish packing what we didn't set out at the door the night before and wait for our departure via Zodiac to Baltra Island airport. Our bags were transferred earlier in the morning but we needed to collect them and then check-in for our flight to Quito. (3 1/2hr. flight - includes a refueling stop in Guayaquil.) We were allowed to wait in the Royal Palm Vip Lounge which basically consisted of a partitioned area in the waiting lounge.
Upon arrival in Quito, we were met by a Celebrity Xpedition representative who assisted us in collecting our bags. We were all then taken to the International departure area for our flight to Lima, Peru.
Once we arrived in Lima we were met by another Celebrity Xpedition representative who helped us gather our bags again and escorted us to a bus for the trip to our hotel.
We were transferred via bus to the beautiful Country Club Hotel in Lima, Peru where dinner was waiting for us. Even though many of us thought we were too exhausted to enjoy the meal, it was delicious. Our group which was now down to about 12 people spent the evening chatting, drinking and eating. The rooms at this hotel were equally nice and I for one wouldn't hesitate to come back to this hotel at some point in the future.
It was an early morning wake-up call in order to grab a little something to eat for breakfast before going to the airport in Lima for our flight to Cuzco. It was a very organized process whereby the Celebrity representative/tour operator managed our bags and assisted our check-in for our 9:00am departure.
SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
puerto AYORA, DARWIN RESEARCH CENTER
It was another dry landing this morning at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. It is home of the Charles Darwin Foundation which was established to ensure the conversation of the Galapagos. In 1992, the waters surrounding the Galapagos were declared a marine reserve. It was a short bus ride up to the Charles Darwin Station where the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center is located.
Before you visit, a good thing to remember is that it is an operating research station which houses volunteers and researchers that are dedicated to preserving the ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands. Several in our group complained because it was not exactly beautiful or didn't have the perfect layout offering the typical touristy things. This place is not designed with the tourist in mind. If you are expecting Disneyland, you might want to skip this.
Otherwise, it is wonderful. You can view the Giant Tortoises and Iguana doing their thing. Just relax and enjoy!
PUERTO AYORA, DOWNTOWN FISH MARKET
Here are a few things that don't mix well: Sweltering outside temperatures, fish, flies, pelicans and humans. Nonetheless we made our way over to the famous Fish Market on the pier to watch as the sea lions anxiously waited to gobble down anything that happened to fall off the cutting board and squawking like crazy when they weren't happy. The pelicans were much more aggressive and would swoop in to try and carry something away but generally just got swatted by someone cutting fish. The flies got a swat or two but that really seemed like a lost cause. Then there was the oppressive heat along with the smell.
Several in our group just couldn't take the combination even for the most interesting photo opportunity. Green at the gills as it were. What a fiasco! ;-)
Scalesia planting in the highlands, santa cruz island
A bus picked us up in town and took us up and into the Highlands on Santa Cruz Island so that we could participate in a conservation project in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island by having each of us plant a Scalesia tree.
First a little background, Scalesia Trees (sometimes called Daisy Trees because they produce a small, white flower near the ends of the branches) are actually members of the dandelion or sunflower family. They are peculiar to the Galapagos and grow in all parts of the islands. The 'sunflower tree' forests of the larger and higher islands are among the most distinctive biological features of the archipelago. There are three tree species forming compact woodlands, most of which have straight trunks and dome-shaped or rounded canopies of foliage. The largest of the tree species, Scalesia pedunculata. grows in the highlands of San Cristobal. Santa Cruz.
A gentleman and his son met us at the trail head and helped us put on rubber boots, gave us our seedling and a spade along with a numbered tag. The ground was wet and slippery so we walked slowly one by one up the trail to slope where we would be planting. All in all, a worthwhile venture but not comfortable at all. One of our friends' boots was filled with ants so although he was good-natured he was bitten by the ants and was not happy by the end of the expedition.
But wait, there's more!
Michael and I travel mostly because we like learning and experiencing new things, seeing new places and learning about different cultures and food that only comes from getting out and about in the world.