Posted by: glenswatman | September 20, 2009

200909-1-England Ecuador


Keith & Sandra always go to the Kilnsey show so we
are happy to join them.  Again we get a
lovely drive through the Yorkshire countryside. 
At Kilnsey we opt for the free car park, don our wellingtons and head to
the show.   £7 admission gets you into
what seems to be a mixed agricultural, craft and local wares show.  The ground is incredibly muddy and we even
see quite a few wellies that have broken up when they got stuck in the
mud.  The motorcycle display is pretty
good and the fly fishing one is entertaining for a short time.  In the Farmers Market we enjoy sampling many
locally produced foods and find them reasonable prices.    Mid afternoon is the famous Crag run where
first juniors and then seniors run up Kilnsey Crag and back, the weather is appalling
for the junior run and we watch from undercover.  At the nearby Kilnsey trout far we stop for a
hot drink then catch the senior race as we are leaving.  Back home Sandra cooks a delicious spaghetti
bolognaise, puts a colour on my hair then leaves Steve & I to wallow in the



We reluctantly get up at 8am ready for moving on.  Call in to Prestwich to spend an hour with
David.  His trip to Tignes did not work
out too well but he is now getting plenty of work doing his silver service
waiting.  Arrive in Market Drayton in
time to catch Netty & Ian before they set off on their holiday to
Portugal.  We are going to stay at their
house so I get a quick briefing before they leave.  Call round to Mums as she has just got back
from holiday but has a chest infection. 
We settle in the lounge to chat but her pupil arrives and we have to
leave.  In the evening Bobby does a
brilliant job tidying up my laptop and updating some programmes.



It has been a wild and windy night but at least it isn’t raining so I
take a walk around town.  Having managed
to get all our South America stuff packed into 2 small carryon bags we do an
about turn and decide to change one of them for a larger bag and check them
in.  In the evening I cook a meal for us
plus Bobby, Kat and Nick.  There isn’t
really enough of anything for 5 so I end up adding onions to stretch the mash,
using hamburgers and also sausages and serving it all with Yorkshire pudding and
mushy peas – a kind of toad in the hole meets a pie floater! 



I drive round to Mums and try to help fix her freezer which has a
mystery fault of blowing the electric. 
Claire’s fridge/freezer has also packed in and when I phone the dealer
all is revealed.  Apparently a few years
ago when the cost of appliances was escalating they took a decision to replace
many metal parts with plastic.  This
reduced the price dramatically but also the life span to an average of 5-years.  At least now Mum knows it is not worth
spending much money to get hers repaired. 
After going shopping we settle into Stafford Court pub for lunch.  Mums friend told us they did a £2.99 3-course
meal and it is excellent. There are quite a few choices on the menu and I opt
to start with beer battered mushrooms with garlic mayonnaise and Mum has
Florida cocktail.  We both enjoy the
scampi with excellent home cooked chips and round it off with chocolate sponge
and custard.  Apparently they change the menu
every 2 weeks.  As Mum says, not worth
cooking yourself. 



In Newport we meet up with Paul & Elaine for lunch at
The Bridge.  They are busy having an
extension built over the garage to create a mini flat for Matthew.  I am still desperate to find a pair of
comfortable shoes for our trip and Elaine suggests a place at Telford Retail
Park.  Brantano have something that fits
the bill although shelving out £55 for a pair of shoes that don’t look great
hurts but at least my feet won’t!  The
lads are both out for the night so we have a leisurely soak in the bath and a
relaxing evening before our big adventure begins.  Have never back packed for 7-months so it
will be quite an experience for us both.



Once I have cleaned up at Netty’s we head round to Mum’s.  She is very happy with the way we have
cleaned out the car and enjoys us taking her out to Wetherspoons for a Sunday
dinner.  They have a great deal, £5.99
for a roast and drink so Steve makes the most of it to enjoy a last draft
Guinness.  It almost seems the less you
pay for meals in England the better they are as the dinner is terrific and each
plate has its own gravy boat.  Probably
the best roast potatoes I have had in ages as well.  Return to Netty’s for a last coffee and to
change and put our bags in the car.  We
are still travelling very light with just a small bag each, the laptop plus a
rucksack with our coats in.  Mum drops us
at the bus stop and we begin our journey with the 2.10pm bus to Hanley,
£2.50.  After an hour’s wait we board the
National Express coach to Manchester airport, £6.  For some reason it is not the normal National
Express coach and has plusher seats with many in 4’s facing each other.  Not sure where the bus has come from but it
is packed and there are hardly any other white people on board.  Manchester airport is like a ghost town.  As Steve’s bag is about 3” too tall for cabin
baggage we decide to check mine in as well and fine absolutely no line up at
all.  Even at passport control there is
no queue and the boarding area is equally quiet.  Apparently it is a combination of it being an
evening flight and immediately after the main holiday season.  We board our KLM flight to Amsterdam at the
time when it should have left so consequently arrive in HOLLAND a little
late.  This doesn’t cause any problem as
it is also a quiet airport.  We were a
bit cheeky at check in and request a window and an aisle seat in a row of 3 in
the hope that no one would take the middle one and the gamble pays off.  It is a great help if Steve can spread his
legs out a bit further.  Take off around
11pm.  It is a nice DC10 – seems almost
new, with the usual movies on demand so we both enjoy Angels and Demons. 



After just over 7-hours we land at Bonaire airport in the DUTCH
ANTILES.  It is 3am, 29C and the heat and
humidity hit us as we walk off the plane to the tiny terminal.   A few people are leaving the plane here and
others will be joining the onward flight. 
We stop for just over 1-hour and I spend the time walking around.  The next leg takes us to Guayaquil in ECUADOR
where passengers for Quito are asked to stay on board.  Cleaners come on wearing face masks and ear
muffs and tidy round before the new passengers’ board.  Apparently this flight now goes to Quito then
back to Bonaire and Amsterdam, a bit of a circular tour.  This time I watch the movie “The Hangover”
which is very funny.  It is daylight as
we fly over the Andes and the scenery is spectacular with lots of snow capped
mountains.  We are due to arrive at
8.30am and descending into Quito it is hard to see where we are going to land
between the mountains ranges with the narrow plateau full of buildings.  The airport almost seems to be in the city
centre surrounded by houses.  Customs is
really easy as we don’t need a visa and the arrival forms we filled in are
discarded without a glance.  There is no
sign of our luggage on the carousel and when it gets to the stage that there is
none coming through we realise there is a problem.  Apparently our luggage has taken an
unscheduled stop-over in Amsterdam and will be arriving tomorrow!  It is so rare that we check in bags it is
hard to believe this has happened to us. Worse still Steve has chosen to travel
in his suit as he needs it for the cruise. 
 Apparently the bags will be on tomorrow’s
flight and until then we are given a comfort pack containing toiletries, a
white T-shirt and pair of socks.  Exiting
the terminal we are met by Couchsurfing host Juan.  He is from Columbia but now lives and works
for a British company in Quito.  His
English is excellent and he tells us a few things about the city as we make the
short journey to his apartment.  Traffic
is bad with everyone pushing their way through; apparently there just isn’t
anywhere to build more roads.  Juan has a
lovely modern apartment with fine views over the city.  His girlfriend Celia is there along with her
2 month old fluffy puppy.   Juan shows us
our separate bedroom and insists on lending Steve some casual trousers and a
jacket, we are so lucky to meet nice people. 
It is a gorgeous sunny morning so he suggests we make the most of it to
take the cable car up the mountains. 
Having only met him for about ½ hour it is a credit to the Couchsurfing
system that he goes off to work and leaves us in the flat with keys to let
ourselves out.  After a quick shower we
phone for a taxi.  It isn’t that far to
the cable car but takes a while in the traffic but at $5 (£3.50) we don’t
mind.  Currency in Ecuador is the US$ (around
$1.60 = £1) and they use American banknotes but have their own coins.  It costs $8 (£6) for foreigners to take the
return cable car journey.  The views
going up are superb but once we reach the top and climb higher it is
stunning.  We are now at over 4,000
metres and feeling the effects of the high altitude so have to take it
steady.  We bump into fellow Brits Sven
and Debbie who now live in Spain but are taking a year out to travel the
world.  They have been in Quito for a
week so when we get back down we hop on the same bus as them, $1 each, to get
back to the new part of the city.  Unfortunately
the main museum is closed on Mondays but the big arch in the park is really
nice and we manage to get some money from an ATM and a good feel for the
place.  It is early afternoon and we are
both whacked so catch the local tram back, 25c (15p).  I take a wrong turning walking up the hill to
Juan’s which is all we need when we are footsore but we ask directions and
arrive back around 3pm.  We both try to
sleep but flying plays havoc with my sinus’s so I leave Steve to it and begin
my diary.  It starts to get dark here
just after 6pm and is completely dark when Juan arrives home at 7pm.  I have trouble dragging Steve out of the pit
but if he sleeps too long now he won’t sleep through the night.  I am also weary so we send out for a pizza
($20, £15) and have a huge one delivered with half and half of different
toppings.  Juan shows us lots of photos
of places we hope to visit but also whets our appetite for his home country of
Columbia but as was decided in our original planning we just don’t have time to
do everything. 



I have a really good night’s sleep getting in 6-hours nonstop,
a rare treat for me.  When I get up at
8am I creep to the bathroom to avoid disturbing Juan’s other guest who is
asleep on the couch in the lounge.  When
she wakes up we get to meet French Cecile and hear about her backpacking around
Ecuador and Peru.  She is also doing some
work here but has visited many places we want to go to and helps us cross a few
off the itinerary and add others.  Head out
for the day calling in at a small grocery store/café to pick up drinking yoghurt
and bananas for breakfast a steal at 75c (50p). 
Hop on the tram to play sardines all the way to the historic
district.  We are immediately impressed
by the narrow cobbled streets and houses with attractive balconies.  Plaza Grande is just lovely and with a short
wait we get on one of the free tours around the Palacio del Gobierno.  We go through security checks, have to wash
our hands with antiseptic lotion and don face masks.  Presumably this is to prevent the staff
working there picking up our germs.  The
tour guide gives out information in Spanish then comes over to us to give us a
condensed version in English which is really nice.  There are some fine halls with fancy wooden
ceilings, silk walls and nice furniture. 
Next we go down a side street to enter the main cathedral through the
museum, $1.50 (£1).  We are guided
through back rooms to the main cathedral which is very impressive, this leads
on to the museum halls with papal gowns and other stuff.  Make our way to Plaza San Francisco and then
into the nearby La Compania de Jesus. 
This church is famous as the interior is coated with 7 tons of gold, as
the guide book says “it borders on opulence gone mad”.  The streets we wander through are all crowded
and lined by small shops selling all manner of goods, seemingly quite
cheaply.  Pick up a freshly squeezed
grapefruit and orange juice, 65c (40p) and it is delicious.  I also can’t resist street sellers with
gateaux and pay 75c (50p) for a huge slice but it is a bit dry.  After looking at Plaza Santa Domingo and
wandering up the renovated La Ronda we are done.  Pick up a taxi to the airport negotiating the
fare down from $7 to $5 (£3.00).  We get
a refund on the taxi fare and are very happy to be reunited with our bags.  The padlocks are missing and someone has
obviously looked inside but we are told this is common when bags travel without
their owners.   The airport taxi service
quote us $12 to get back to Bellavista but outside we find one for $5 and
return to Juan’s arriving around 3pm. 
Juan says he is now on a diet and we should eat up certain foods from
his freezer so we enjoy a lasagne.  I am
struggling with an almost continuous headache (either altitude sickness or my
sinuses from the flight) so I take a nap whilst Steve watches TV.   When
Juan arrives home he takes us up on the roof to see the fires around the cable
car, glad we went yesterday.  Next I go
out shopping with Juan and Cynthia to Megamaxi supermarket.  It is within a modern mall and a huge store
with groceries and household goods.  Many
products are USA brands but more expensive than in the States. The choice of
fresh fruit is amazing and Juan tells me about many of the fruits I do not



Having bought in food we are able to have our normal breakfast.  Spend an hour or so planning our onward trip
before setting out to the nearby art museum. 
It is a short walk but all uphill to the “Museo fundacio Guayasamin”,
the museum of Ecuador’s most famous contemporary artist Oswaldo
Guayasamin.  $4, (£2.40) admission allows
you to view the 3 separate areas of his work and collections.  Each is in a separate area and when we enter
the first area of ancient pottery a girl comes over to give us a personal guide
in English and this makes it so much more interesting.  The second exhibition is Oswaldo’s collection
of religious art which he used as a base for many of his paintings.  Finally we get to see his works, a bit like
Picasso with others having a protest theme. 
Further up the hill we get a discount to the combined museum “Capilla
del Hombre” Chapel of Man a huge building that Oswaldo died before it was
finished.  It looks like a huge cube with
a small dome in the middle but once inside opens up to be two floors with a
central dome and open area making a great canvas for displays of his work.  We are very impressed especially by an area
with an original religious painting then his version of it.  Higher up the hill is the tree of life under
which his ashes are buried.  All much
more interesting than we expected. 
Return home a mid-day as the England match is going to be on TV.  Steve is delighted when they win 5-0.  Unfortunately when Juan returns early to
watch Columbia play they don’t fare as well. 
Juan gives us lots more info on travelling Ecuador and also truly
inspires us to go to Columbia in the future for at least 2 months.  In the evening I cook up the huge “Covina”
sea bass.  Cynthia joins us and it turns
out really well served with pommes noissettes and salad.  After dinner Juan and Cynthia teach us how to
play the card game 40 and we really enjoy it and reluctantly call it a day at



We are undecided whether to pre book our Galapagos cruise
or do it when we are there so catch a lift into Quito with Juan to check the
travel agents.  We first establish that
for the airlines low season starts on Tuesday, a saving of $56 (£34) each so
that decides our departure date.  As far
as the cruises go it seems that most travel agents own 1 or 2 boats and can
offer better discounts on these than the others they sell.  After about 3 hours we conclude that the
prices of around $1100 (£660) each for 7 nights is still not that cheap and considering
the sheer number we have been offered we should be able to get a better deal
once there.  Set off of Mitad del Mundo (The
middle of the world aka The Equator).  Pick
up a tram 25c (15p), and as well as playing sardines we also see the game of
chicken.  Too many people try to get on
so the doors won’t close but the tram sets off at a rapid speed with the men on
the outside clinging on and people shouting at the driver.  We are the next ones in so I hold on tight to
a bar in case the men on the outside start to fall and grab me.  Luckily we all arrive safely but we have
learnt not to hover near the doors.  During
our 1 block walk to the next tram we pass a stall selling lots of food.  For $1 (60p) you get a big bowl full of as
many of the items you want.  Steve has a
bit of everything and we share it between us and still struggle to get through
it all.  Nice and tasty and new stuff to
try.  A tram, a bus 15c (10p) and about
1-hour later we arrive at Mitad Del Mundo. 
 There are two Equator areas.  12- Years ago using GPS the military proved
the original to be about 300 years out.   We start at the old area, $2 (£1.40) where we
walk past lots of restaurants, one with guinea pig on a spit, and souvenir
shops to reach a central 30m high square tower topped by a brass globe.  Each side shows a different direction and
from the north and south ends a line runs out showing the Equator.  Signs enable you to stand on this line to
take photos with part of you in the Northern Hemisphere and part in the South
and this also means a change from spring to autumn.   Next we go to the new area about 300 yards
up the road known as Museo Inti-Nan, $3 (£1.80).  An English speaking guide first takes us
through replica houses of the local people and explains how they live.  In another area we see genuine shrunken heads
and learn all about the process.  After
“admiring” the rainforest preserved anacondas and spiders we get to the Equator
experiments.  The traditional one with
water going down the plughole straight on the Equator and anti and clockwise
either side is amazing as she only moves the sink about 6 feet.  We also learn that it is easier to walk a
line with your eyes closed on the Equator and to balance an egg on a nail – how
handy is that?   To round it off we get
our passports stamped at the Equator. 
Reckon if we had to pick between the two this is the best museum but
both were worth a visit at the price.  Arrive
back around 5pm.  Juan has gone back to
Columbia to visit family overnight but has left us with the key which is really
a sign of how trusting Couchsurfers are. 



We have a taxi booked at 11am to take us to Jaime’s
place.  He is our next host and lives
about 1-hour north of the city centre.  We
had agreed the $5 taxi fare when we booked it and are glad we did so as the
driver gets lost and goes a roundabout way to get there.  Jaime’s wife Amalfi welcomes us but speaks no
English.  Now that we have decided to
book our cruise on the Galapagos we need to have cash to pay as most tours
won’t accept cards for last minute boarding. Each day we must draw the maximum
on our card so toddle off to the nearby bank.   Neither of the 2 banks machines will accept
my card but that is not surprising as they show the MasterCard symbols then just
the word visa without the symbol.  Having
been warned that some South American countries only use MasterCard we have one
on standby but not to hand.  Walking back
we pass a nice looking hairdressers and I pop in and get my hair cut for $3
(£2).  It must look good because as we
leave Steve says “actually it looks OK”, a big compliment considering he
doesn’t like my hair short!  Amalfi has
cooked us some corn on the cob and mini jacket potatoes for lunch served with
cheese and followed by melon and yoghurt. 
We learn they have 3 children, an eldest son the same age as Claire
living in Sydney and another son and daughter in Ecuador.  Jaime’s arrives home and quickly changes so
that his friend can drive us all to the bus station.  Our 2.30pm Esmeraldas coach arrives and we
are soon on board with comfy seats that recline a long way and lots of leg
room.  The 7-hour journey costs $8
(£4.80) following the rough guideline that coach travels costs about $1 an hour
depending on the quality of the bus.  Within
minutes we are served a drink of Coke and packet of crackers.  Next a DVD is put on in English so we settle
down to watch “The Fighter”.  Just getting
into it when the host comes through and changes it to Spanish.  The front cab area of the bus is completely
closed off with glass partition and doors and the glass covered by a curtain on
the driver’s side.  The driver, second
driver and host all sit in the cab whilst we sit behind unable to ascertain why
we brake and swerve so often – is this a deliberate ploy to stop all the
passengers screaming out?  We chat a
little to Jaime, who speaks more English than I do Spanish, but he is soon
ready for a sleep after working.  The
scenery is spectacular as we make our way through mountain rainforest down
towards the coast.  After a couple of
hours we stop at a service station where the drivers have a meal and passengers
use facilities.  They are selling locally
produced “provolone” cheese and Jaime says it is very good.  Another couple of hours later and we make a
second stop where there is an ATM I can use. 
Once it has gone dark the driver turns the interior lights out so most
passengers go to sleep.  Passing through
the villages is fascinating as you can see into the lighted homes.  I notice that most villages have an area with
pool tables frequented by young lads. 
Arriving in the big city of Esmeraldas many passengers alight.   I get up to stretch my legs and notice lots
of water under our seat coming through from behind us.  This would not be too bad if our bag wasn’t
on the floor.  Inside the bag I have
packed the computer with coats either side to protect it further but this has
not helped with the water seeping upwards. 
We quickly unpack everything, wipe the damp side of the laptop and sit
with everything drying on our knees.  Unbeknown
to us Jaime has asked the driver to drop us before the end destination of
Aticames so we suddenly have a mad scramble to gather our things and get off
when the coach stops.  I have a carrier
bag with me so pile in as much as I can. 
Fortunately we have left much of our stuff at Juan’s and only have 2
small bags with us.  We begin walking
down a dirt road and minutes later the “beach bus” pulls up.  20c (12p) takes you anywhere on the circuit
and Jaime has us dropped off by their apartment.  Along with 6 other couples they bought it in
2002 and each take turns to have a week from Wednesday to Wednesday enabling
them to come down for weekends as well as full week holidays.  Amalfi leads us through the gardens with 2
lovely swimming pools then over to their block where we must climb to the 5th
floor.  The apartment is spacious with 3
en-suite bathrooms, open plan lounge dining and kitchen and small patio.  We take off the dust covers and make up the
beds before sitting out.  Amalfi cooks
cheese toasties using the provolone and this goes down very well with a
beer.  It is a humid warm evening and
Jamie tells us we are just 1 block back from the beach.  They have mosquitoes here but considerate
ones that only come out between 6pm and 7pm. 
Amalfi and Jaime have done quite a lot of travelling; coincidently they
stayed with the same hosts as us in San Antonio a month before we arrived.  Tomorrow Jaime will give us lots of tips for
our onward journey, another bonus of Couchsurfing as generally we are all
travelling on similar budgets.  Around
11pm we head for bed.



It is very light in the room but the comfy bed and
intermittent sleep mean I don’t wake properly until 7.30am.  I hear movement in the apartment so get up to
shower but when I go into the lounge no one is around but there are some keys
on the table.  Now that I hear noises
from neighbouring apartments I am not sure whether Jaime & Amalfi have got
up and gone out and left the keys for us or are still in bed and left the keys
so we could go out!  No matter, Steve is
still in bed anyway so I sit on the balcony looking out to the ocean typing up
my diary.  Yes the computer survived the mishap
but lesson learnt and in the future I will put the computer padded sleeve into
a plastic bag for further protection.  It
is a warm but cloudy day and the swimming pool that Amalfi says is very cold
can’t be so bad as children are already in it. 
Well I was right and I was wrong, Jaime has been out to buy our return
tickets whilst Amalfi was still in bed. 
We enjoy a breakfast of fresh apple in yoghurt and cheese sandwiches on
the balcony.  Next we set out to walk
along the beach backed by numerous apartment blocks.  These are almost all owned by people from
Quito and used for holidays, few people live here and there are not many
conventional hotels.  Many new apartment
blocks are being built unfortunately blocking the views of those behind as the
new ones are even up to 15 stories high. 
On our return walk we settle down to sunbathe.  It is still cloudy but I soon feel the burn,
being on the Equator the sun is much stronger. 
The water is very warm and nice for swimming.  Walking back we take lunch at a street café
near the apartment.  You get soup, a main
course and drink for $4 (£2.80) and it is nice and tasty.  In the afternoon Jaime and Amalfi return to
the beach whilst Steve & I hang out by the pool before taking a
siesta.  There is no water in the
apartment and everyone must be in the same boat as we see people showering down
by the pool.  In the evening we go for a
meal at the nearby hotel as a premature celebration of our 34th
wedding anniversary – it is already the 13th in England.  Back at the apartment Jaime surprises us by
bringing out 4 buns with match candles on top.



There is still no water in the apartment and Amalfi was
going to cook eggs for breakfast so Jaime has arranged for us to go up to
Patty’s street café where she will cook breakfast using their eggs.  The local breakfast delicacy is mashed platanos
(a kind of vegetable version of the banana) which is rolled into a ball, stuff
with grated cheese then deep fried. 
Served with scrambled egg it is pretty tasty, $1.50 (90p).  We return to the beach for the morning and
enjoy a last swim in the warm sea. 
Claire is doing her Windermere swim today but unfortunately we have
neither Internet access nor phone reception to keep track.  After a last swim in the pool we return to
pack and clean up the apartment.  This
morning Jaime noticed that Patty had 4 fresh red snapper and he has ordered
them for our lunch.  We get fish soup
followed by snapper, rice, platanos and a bit of salad plus a drink for $3.50
(£2.20).     As we have our bags with us
we just need to hop on the bus to Aticames to connect with our 3.40pm coach
back to Quito.  This time we get a very
new coach with air conditioning and an on board toilet.  The downside of the air conditioning is that
is takes longer to clear the air first when a baby’s nappy has to be changed
then later when someone is sick!  This
time we have chance to admire the lowland scenery on route.  There are lots of petroleum pipes, many towns
with locals washing in the rivers and chances just to observe local life.  With only 1 stop the coach arrives back at
9.15pm then it is a short taxi ride to Jaime’s. 
He is planning to visit his son in Australia next year and delighted
that I can help him out with some websites, especially the one with relocation
motorhomes at $1 day.  It is around 11pm
when we settle into our comfy en-suite bedroom having said good-bye to Jaime as
he will have gone to work when we get up tomorrow.



I left the phone on through the night and am delighted to
receive a text to say Claire completed her swim and enjoyed it but was a little
disappointed in her time, compared to what I could do it in I am very
impressed.  Amalfi cooks us a traditional
Columbian dish for breakfast, pastry with cheese in the middle flattened out
and fried.  Jaime’s has arranged for his
driver from work to pick us up and take us back to Juan’s.  We cannot stay at Jaime’s tonight as his
nephew stays with them through the week but we have had a most enjoyable
weekend and really enjoyed their hospitality. 
Back at Juan’s we drop off our bags then walk back to the big shopping
centre to buy sunscreen and goggles for our Galapagos trip.  In the afternoon I colour my hair as my new
haircut shows too much mousy and grey hair for my liking.  Juan arrives home followed shortly by Cynthia
so we get stuck into playing 40 and then teach them golf.



Up at 6am to take a taxi to the airport.  At the Tame offices they try to charge us a
higher price than when we made the reservation. 
Fortunately we have all the references and get the new low season fare
of $359 (£220) each return.  Next we pay
$10 (£6) pp, think it is Galapagos landing fee. 
Passing through security you have to pause to have your photo taken, so
glad I coloured my hair yesterday!  Our
9.30am departure is delayed so using the Wi-Fi at the airport I try negotiate a
last minute deal with Galapagos Voyager but must check back when we arrive.   Leaving
at 10am we cover the 600 miles due west out to sea to arrive in the GALAPAGOS
ISLANDS at 12 o’clock local time.  First
we pay $100 (£60) pp National Park fee then proceed through customs.  There are numerous buses waiting to take you
on a free ride to the canal which separates the airport island of Baltra from
the inhabited island of Santa Cruz. 
We’ve already been approached by a hotel guide and agreed to pay him $3
(£1,80) to take us to Puerto Ayora instead of paying 80c (50p) for the ferry
then $1.80 (£1.10) for the local bus.  We
can immediately see the likeness with the volcanic island of Fuerteventura but
the landscape changes in the highlands where we get drizzle.  Arriving in the town the bus guide insists on
escorting us to the tour offices, we are not keen on this as he will no doubt
be trying to get a commission.  We tell
him we will go alone and try to pay him the $6 but he then asks for $16, the
cost of a taxi.  Needless to say he gets
$6.  There is no message on the Internet
and at the agencies we make little progress, there are very few boats leaving
today and the price is still well over $1000 (£600) pp even in the lower class
boats.  Freddy accosts us leaving a tour
office, insists on taking us to a hotel to tell us about a Gap Adventure boat
leaving tomorrow for 8 days and he can do 1 night in the hotel + cruise for
$1100 (£660).  I have a feeling he is
lying about the cabins and that they are bunk beds not doubles so insist on
going to the Internet to check it out.  It
is bunk beds (albeit with a ¾ bottom bunk) but at the same time we get a
message from Galapagos Voyager to say they have agreed the deal we offered but
must get to San Cristobel for the departure. We have missed the 2pm regular
ferry at $30pp and can only get there by chartering a speedboat at $700 so
that’s not an option.  We negotiate
further with the Voyager agents and agree that they will pick us up at the
Canal tomorrow morning at 6.30am.  A
panga (small boat) will be waiting with a person wearing a “Galapagos Voyager” life
vest.  We are still paying the higher
price but have not got a luxury cruise so are very happy.  Of course now we must stay overnight in
Puerto Ayora and in the backstreets secure a nice apartment for $35 (£21).  Off loading our bags we set out to explore
and find ourselves in a very attractive tourist town with many artisan
shops.  The waterfront is lovely and we
catch the show when the fishing boats arrive back.  2 seals, pelicans and a few other birds
gather round for scraps and it is very entertaining.  Amongst the birds are a couple of blue footed
boobies so we are off to a good start. 
Making use of the kitchen in the apartment we brew up some cup a soup to
go with our fresh bread, seems like a good idea to eat light in view of the
cruise ahead. 


$35 (£21)


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