A Travellerspoint blog

Hello Galapagos- One week in Santa Cruz

When Tom and I were planning our two weeks in the Galapagos we sat down and discussed what we would like to see. We knew it was out of our price range to do a boat cruise. To help us plan the trip we used the "Lonely Planet" and I went on-line to research what activities we could do for free or at a low cost on the different Islands. I was able to compile quite a bit of information. Once we decided what Islands we would like to spend our time on,Tom researched for accommodations that were not too far from the hub of activity on each of the islands we decided to spend a total of 8 days on Santa Cruz and 7 days on Isla Isabela.

The Galapagos is comprised of 13 major islands but only 5 of the Islands are inhibited. Although the islands may look close to each other, they aren't. For example, to get to Isla Fernandina it is 8 hours away by boat and that island is not inhibited.That is why people do the boat cruises.

When you fly to the Galapagos, you have to sign a declaration stating that you agree to have your luggage inspected when leaving the islands. This is done for a couple of reasons; you don't take any shells, coral, wildlife etc out of the island and you don't bring in products that will threaten the ecosystem i.e. fruit. Now you might think who would try to take wildlife/marine life out. Well, when we were leaving Isla Isabella we were told about someone trying to sneak out a baby marine iguana!

The flight was booked quite a while ago through Tame airlines and the flight to the Galapagos was 2 hours long. The price of our return flight was $600.00 each Cdn. Our flight to the Galapagos was delayed by 2 hours which gave me lots of time to browse the shops. The end result being that Edgar gained a new friend. There are only 2 major airports in the Galapagos. One on Isla Baltra, which is a short boat ride to Santa Cruz and the second airport is on Isla San Cristobel.

As we were landing at the nearby Isla Baltra airport the landscape looked like a desert barren with cacti strewn about. As we were landing on the runway, our welcoming party consisted of a fair-sized iguana. Now where else in the world would you see something like that? It was definitely a first for me!

When we landed at Baltra we had to pay a $100 U.S p/p park fee. We also had our passports stamped Parks Nationale Galapagos Island. Our luggage was checked at security. Next, we had to take a bus to the boat launch area. It was a short ride. From there we did a short boat ride to the mainland - Santa Cruz. As we sat in the boat waiting for other passengers we saw Sally lightfoot crabs, and we heard fishes jumping out of the water. Others saw the fish, I wasn't quick enough to see them. I was so excited! Santa Cruz's main town is Puerto Ayora which has a population of 12,000.

We then had the choice of paying $2.00 per person for a bus ride to Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz. The ride was between 1.5 to 2 hours long. We opted for the taxi at a cost of $17.00 The ride was an hour long.

We had booked 7 nights at Hostel al Mar. The room was $50.00 U.S a night. We had a fan in the room, but the room was still hot. We had a TV which we never watched but had free coffee and water (we drank tons of water). When we arrived our host sat down with us and gave us a map and explained some of the sights and the location of some restaurants. We were really tired, so I don't think we really absorbed all the information he was giving us. After we unpacked, we walk down the main strip and grabbed a couple of beers. I suggested to Tom that before we bought anymore beer we should find out the cost. GULP....a beer was $6.00. That was triple what we were paying in Quito. Needless to say, we only ordered 2 beers.

Next on our agenda was to go check out the pier, which was the main hub of activity as people were always coming and going between islands. We had heard that at night when the pier was lit, if you were patient, you could see sharks, Rays and turtles. We decided to do that after we ate. from the pier we walked down another street and by chance came across the fish market. Fishermen brought their catch inland to an area where they had tables and taps available where the fish were filleted. Of course this attracted all kinds of birds such as herons, pelicans and marine life, seals and sea lions. There were also marine iguanas who were just lazing about and getting warm by lying on the concrete or the black lava rocks which were seen everywhere you went.

We wondering where to go to eat and as luck would have it, the street around the corner from us had the road filled with table and chairs and at least 16 restaurants selling food (mostly seafood). Each serving was $10.00 and with a beer ($2 cheaper than the restaurant we had been to earlier during the day). We ate here several times and the average cost was between $26.00 - $28.00. Soft drinks were not cheap.One reason why things were more expensive was because products had to be shipped/flown from the mainland.

New stamp added to my passport

New stamp added to my passport


First stamp in my new 10 year passport

First stamp in my new 10 year passport


View from our bus ride to the boat launch

View from our bus ride to the boat launch


Seafood everywhere

Seafood everywhere


Where we stayed for 7 days

Where we stayed for 7 days


Stonefish

Stonefish


Sally Light-foot crab (the red one)

Sally Light-foot crab (the red one)


Edgar's News friend

Edgar's News friend


Sally lightfoot crab

Sally lightfoot crab

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

THE PIER IN PUERTO AYORA

Puerto Ayora is name after an Ecuadorian president. The town of Puerto Ayora has a population of approximately 12,000 people. A few buildings down from us was the hospital which I heard was opened in 2006. (Wikipedia) There are a few ATM machines here and we did use them once as we knew we would not have that option on Isla Isabella. The main avenue in town is called Avenida Charles Darwin and leads to.....guess....the Charles Darwin Research Centre. Tom and I went there 3x. We learned so much about the island and the conservation efforts. The pier in Puerto Ayora was a hub of activity with people coming and going. Some people were going from island to island on day trips and others were embarking on a variety of cruises. We met one couple who were going on an 8 day cruise with a total of 16 people. They did not get top end, accommodations, but they were only a step down from the top end (sort of like business class on an airplane...I guess). The cost of their cruise was $1,800.00 U.S. per person. Although some of the islands have the same type of animals, there are islands that have different wildlife that could only be seen on one or two particular islands. For example, the red-footed boobie is found on another island on the Galapagos, so if Tom and I really wanted to see the red-footed boobie, depending on the distance of that island, it could be a full day just to get to the island...so maybe in that case an overnight cruise might be the best option. None of the tours we did in the two Islands cost us more than $45.00 and actually that was a snorkelling and hiking adventure I went on. Most of the tours were $35.00 U.S.

Every night that we were in Puerto Ayora our routine was as follows: eat dinner, go to the pier and then go and get our $1.00 ice cream cone. You never knew what you would discover at the pier in the evening. Sometimes we saw sea lions chilling out on the benches or sleeping in some of the small boats that were docked at the pier. We usually saw pelicans sitting on some the fencing, we saw quite a few sharks, the shadow of a marine tortoise, eels, and coloured fish that we did not know the names of. Nearby the pier there was also a park and in the evening kids were usually skate boarding. Throughout the two islands we visited there was always a children's playground. There was a huge play area for the children on the mainland in Guayaquil. Pictures of that park will be shown later on

Night Time View

Night Time View


YIKES....A SHARK

YIKES....A SHARK


PLAYTIME FOR THE KIDS

PLAYTIME FOR THE KIDS


EXCUSE ME.....This bench IS NOT FOR THE TOURISTS

EXCUSE ME.....This bench IS NOT FOR THE TOURISTS


YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT THE NIGHT WILL HOLD

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT THE NIGHT WILL HOLD


.. ON MY WAY TO THE FISH MARKET GUESS WHAT I SAW?

.. ON MY WAY TO THE FISH MARKET GUESS WHAT I SAW?

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

ESTIMATED COSTS IN PUERTO LOPEZ

Here's an idea of how much our one week in Puerto Lopez cost us in U.S. dollars.

A week's stay in Hosteria Mandela including 2 (huge) breakfasts each day, most of our dinners and a couple of beers a day (approx.)$800.00

Laundry (1 week's worth) $ 8.00 Isla de la Plata Tour $70.00 Other meals $75.00 T-shirts $25.00 Taxi to and from Hosteria $10.00 Bus ride to Guayaquil $14.00 Massage $25.00

TOTAL (estimated) $1,027.00 U.S.

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Exiting Puerto Lopez and onto Guayaquil

Tom and I stayed in Puerto Lopez until January 5th and caught the bus to go to Guayaquil. We were only staying at Hostel Suites Madrid in Guayaquil overnight because it was a short distance away from the airport which we would be needing the following day to get to the Galapagos.

Tom and I noticed that after January 2nd, Puerto Lopez was much quieter. We used our last couple of days relaxing and trying to find the store that sold the blue-fitted booby t-shirts that we had seen in one of the stores after our trip to Isla de la Plata. Well, it wasn't that easy. One day we walked the whole strip going from store to store. One of the problems was (besides the fact that we should have bought them when we first saw them) is that some of the stores were closed and when they close the stores here they roll down a metal door so you can't see inside the store and the name of the stores aren't usually displayed. So, after going up and down the strip one day, I had an idea the following day. This is what we did, we brought the camera with us and went to one of the stores that was open and looked through the t-shirts and couldn't find any blue-footed bobbie t-shirts. So, I showed the guy a picture of a blue-foot bobbie from the camera and he pointed us to the store next to him, and he told the lady what we were looking for. Well guess what? She had the t-shirts and they also had Puerto Lopez written on them. She didn't have the right size for me so I just took the size large she had.

While walking up and down the main street of Puerto Lopez we passed a pizza place a couple of times and we were wondering if the pizza was good as we had a craving for pizza. We took a look on TripAdvisor and the feedback was good. We decided we needed to try this place out and we were weren't disappointed! The pizza at Pizzeria Forno del Porto was thin-crusted and wood-fired. We liked the fact that the restaurant was small and quaint and the service was excellent.

We also did an excursion to Los Frailes Beach which was only a 10-15 minute taxi ride away. We had asked that the taxi driver pick us up at 3:00 p.m. and the return cost by taxi was $10.00. Las Frailes beach is located in Machalilla National Park. Because it is part of the national park, you are required to provide your passport number, age and nationality. There is no admittance charge to get into the park. You can rent a beach umbrella for $4.00, which I recommend because there is no shade. Some say Los Frailes beach is the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. The waves aren't big and it is a shallow beach which is good for younger children. There is a washroom and change room. Some souvenirs are sold as well as ice-cream but there is no food. While I sunbathed Tom did some walking as there is a look-out tower and some beautiful seascapes. (http://ecuadorbeaches.org/beaches/manabi-beaches/los-frailes-beach/)

Although we were sad that this leg of our journey was ending, we also knew that we had done all that we had wanted to do in Puerto Lopez and we were also one step closer to the Galapagos!

The bus ride to Guayaquil was a VIP bus .....really don't know what was VIP about it though. The bus was old and it made lots of stops picking up people (mostly students) and dropping people off. Tom called it the "milk run". Also, every so often, or more to the point on a regular basis vendors came on the bus to sell snacks and coconut milk AND it wasn't just one vendor, there were 2 or 3 at the same time going up and down the narrow walkway of the bus. In spite of all the stops I was happy that the ride was not bumpy and the worn out seats were comfortable and more importantly we arrived in Guayaquil in 4 hours rather than 4.5 hours. The bus terminal was huge and modern...it was as big as an airport. You name it KFC, McDonald,s they were there ...and the food court was full. We found the location where we could get a taxi to our accommodations at Hostel Suites Madrid and it only cost $5.00 for the taxi. By the way, the cost for the bus from Puerto Lopez to Guayaquil was $5.25 each.

......and more importantly in less than 24 hours we would be in the Galapagos!!

Yummy Pizza

Yummy Pizza


Pizza and Beer

Pizza and Beer


Yummy Pizza

Yummy Pizza


Pizza Forno del Puerto

Pizza Forno del Puerto


Las Frailes  Beach

Las Frailes Beach


Tom's walk at Los Frailes Beach

Tom's walk at Los Frailes Beach


Seascapes at Los Frailes Beach

Seascapes at Los Frailes Beach


Tom's walk and seascapes picture

Tom's walk and seascapes picture


Tom's walk a varied landscape included cacti

Tom's walk a varied landscape included cacti


Los Frailes beach walk

Los Frailes beach walk


Tom's walk at Los Frailes beach while I swam

Tom's walk at Los Frailes beach while I swam


Tom's walk at Los Frailes  Beach, Puero Lopez

Tom's walk at Los Frailes Beach, Puero Lopez


Los Frailes Beach, Puerto Lopez

Los Frailes Beach, Puerto Lopez


Tom's Los Frailes beach walk

Tom's Los Frailes beach walk


Beach walk at Los Frailes, Puerto Lopez

Beach walk at Los Frailes, Puerto Lopez


A varied landscape at Los Frailes Beach,

A varied landscape at Los Frailes Beach,


Waterscape Scenery at Los Frailes Beach

Waterscape Scenery at Los Frailes Beach


Beach walk at Los Frailes Beach

Beach walk at Los Frailes Beach


Tom's walk at Los Frailes, Puerto Lopez

Tom's walk at Los Frailes, Puerto Lopez


Scenery at Los Frailes Beach

Scenery at Los Frailes Beach


A variety of landscapes

A variety of landscapes

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Odds and ends: Observations

As I sit down and write this, we are a couple hours away from leaving Puerto Lopez to catch the bus to Guayaquil. We do not know how long the bus ride will be; 4, 6, hours? Our accommodations have already been booked. We chose this place because it is close to the airport ....only about 10 minutes way. Tomorrow, January 6th, we leave at 10:30 a.m to fly to the Galapagos. After that we will need to take a bus ride, a boat ride and finally a taxi to our accommodations....needless to say the next couple of days will be long and tiring.

Here are some observations and first-hand experiences Tom and I have had in Ecuador:

1. Learn basic Spanish, we should have, but we didn't and there was no excuse for me at least not to have learned basic Spanish because I had 10 months to learn it. I had assumed, especially in Quito that English would be spoken, but not so, perhaps it is more spoken in the "newer" section of Quito where there is more bars/restaurants.

2. All the sinks only have 1 faucet -we don't know why, and I would have never noticed it if Tom hadn't.

3. Food portions are HUGE. Where possible share food, or order less. For example the full continental breakfast here in Puerto Lopez was eggs (honestly there had to have been 3 eggs in my scrambled eggs as it filled up my whole plate), juice, coffee, fruit cup, and at least 3 slices of various types of bread. It was delicious however, we could not eat the whole breakfast and instead ordered muesli with yogurt and fruit the remaining time we stayed at the hosteria.

4. We just found this out, if you book a hotel and you also decide to purchase the meal plan, (usually booked through an agency such as Hostel World, Booking.com etc.) you will be charged the full amount for that breakfast regardless if you eat it or not, or eat something less expensive. Example, we ordered a full continental breakfast where we stayed in Puerto Lopez (see description in point number 3) but we could not eat it all because it was too big. We thought because we ate other breakfast options that were smaller and less expensive, we would be charged the lesser price I.e. $5.00 p/p versus $8.00 p/p, but we were charged the $8.00 each even the one time we ate breakfast elsewhere. In the future we will not opt into the breakfast plans.

5. Carry a copy of your passport or write down your passport number as you may need it to purchase certain items. We should have remembered this, but didn't. For example, the cell phone we had to buy because the one we have used in Asia, Indonesia, and Central America didn't work in Ecuador; so we bought a cheapie- $35.00. The sales person required our passport number Luckily, he offered as a Citizen of Ecuador, to use his name as a reference. This happened again when we went to purchase our bus ticket to Puerto Lopez. Luckily the cab driver came into the bus terminal with us, and because we did not have the required passport information, he came to our rescue and provided his name etc. If he had not come in the terminal with us, we would have had to taxi it back to get our passports and then go back to the bus terminal. The bus terminal was 30 minutes away.

6. Transportation is cheap. We used cabs for short distances and buses for long hauls. A 30 minute drive by taxi to the bus station was $10.00. Local transportation..buses were 25 cents. We liked the convenience of taxi, and are not the type of people who like to be in crowded buses..we like our space. Our 8 hour express transportation to Puerto Lopez (8 hours) was $14.00 p/p. The bus was new, had reclining seats,and our luggage was tagged and stored in the storage bin below the body of the bus. We liked the fact that your luggage was tagged and controlled by a designated staff person because we had heard stories about luggage being stolen.

7. Bring small bills with you, even 20's are hard to get change for. Last night we went to have a couple of beers. They were unable to make change from a $20, so we ordered another beer; I know, what an awful state of affairs! Then they were able to make the change.

Single faucet sinks

Single faucet sinks


Big portions

Big portions


Rhonda's seafood casserole

Rhonda's seafood casserole

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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