Monday, October 8, 2012

Galapagos Islands exciting adventure with Sue

The time for our trip to the Galapagos Islands finally arrived and we headed for the Guayaquil Airport on Sept. 14th!

 In 2009 I enrolled on face book and after a couple of months I noticed a friend request from Sue. It had been 33 years since I heard from her! She had ended her 34 year marriage and had two daughters. I was getting ready to go to California to prepare for my move to Ecuador so I drove up to Iowa to see Sue for a couple of days. Once I got settled in California She flew out for a ten day visit.

When she told me she wanted to come for a visit in Ecuador and wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands I started planning the trip and booked her airfare. Sue had just three days in Cuenca to rest up for our trip! This blog is dedicated to her, I had a great time during her visit and I am looking forward to seeing her in the future.

First day of our trip:

Our morning started out early with Ana and Roxy picking us up at 5:00 am to drive us to the Guayaquil Airport, a 3 1/2 hour drive over the Cajas  Mountains. We all crowded into Roxy's small Datsun and watched the sunrise on our way.

We arrived an hour early and paid our $10 to register with the Galapagos Immigration office at the Airport. It is very difficult for anyone to move to the Galapagos Islands and they keep close track of everyone who goes there.

After breakfast we said goodbye to Ana and Roxy and boarded our flight to Baltra Island, a small Island that was once a US Air force base during World War two.

The flight was one hour and fifty minutes on LAN Airlines with an hour time change. Upon our decent they sprayed all our over head luggage with insecticide.

We landed on the old runway and proceeded to the open air terminal where Sue showed her Passport and paid $100 for entrance to the Darwin Research Centers. Because I am a resident of Ecuador I showed my Cedula and I only had to pay $10!

 Other than adding a new roof a couple times since the 1940's the terminal is pretty much the same.

This is what the new terminal will look like when it is finished.

The new Airport under construction in the background.

We met a guy from Philadelphia at the Airport who was Ecuadorian, but also a US Citizen and an Engineer working on the new Airport. He was heading to Puerto Ayora along with a friend so we all decided to share a taxi for $5 each for the 45 minute drive rather than crowding onto another bus for $2.50 each.

After we retrieved our luggage we had to deposit it into the luggage compartment of a bus for the 15 minute ride to the ferry which took us to  Santa Cruz Island for $1. People were crowding on the bus and we were not able to get on the same bus as our luggage.

After the 5 am drive from Cuenca to the Guayaquil Airport, the 2 hr flight, and crowding onto a bus I felt like I was in Africa except there were no people riding on top of the bus.

Our bus arriving at the ferry terminal.

Arriving to Santa Cruz Island, population 25,000. We grabbed our luggage and headed for a taxi. I was very happy that we did not have to crowd onto another bus.

Sue with our new friends by the taxi, all taxi's on Santa Cruz are four door trucks and they will take you anywhere in Puerto Ayora for $1.

When we arrived in Puerto Ayora our new friend took us to his favorite cafe where we had lunch. Susan had the shrimp cheviche which became her daily favorite for lunch for the rest of the trip.

Being we did not pay $850 each for a four night stay at a hostel which included breakfast and a couple of tours we had to look for a Hotel.

 We started with the manager of the cafe taking us a few blocks up from the bay to a new hostel complete with two rooms and a kitchen for $120 per night! We decided we really did not need a kitchen and did not want to pay so much. We also found a great Hotel on the bay in the center of town for $300 per night and another one close to the bay for $125 per night. 

We decided to go check out a couple of places the Immigration Officer recommended when we arrived. We stopped at the Hotel Tortuga, they showed us a couple of rooms for $60 per night but accepted $50 per night for four nights. The room was actually two rooms with three beds in each room and two air conditioners. It was not hot this time of year but being from the cool climate of Cuenca I did use the air while I was in the room. It was an older Hotel with a small pool but the price was right and included breakfast.

Sue and I in front of the Hotel, they also offered complete tours and had many groups from Quito.

The view of our hotel from our room

After we got settled and Sue wrote on face book to her two daughters to let them know she arrive okay and to find out what problems Lauren was having watching over her 48 apartments while she was gone. Sue runs daily from 10 am to 10 pm dealing with problems at her apartments, collecting the rent, repairing apartments and many court appearances suing former tenants! She needed this three week vacation for R&R and was excited everyday at the new things we discovered. We had lots of laughs and fun everyday.

We had dinner with our new Doctor friends from Quito. They shared a 6 pound lobster for $40 and Sue had a 3 pounder for $20 and I had fresh tuna. After dinner we walked around the town looking through different shops. Puerto Ayrora is a very clean town with many shops and restaurants. Everyday there was fresh seafood for sale and we were there during lobster season!

Main Street Puerto Ayrora

Fishing boats on the bay

Darwin Research Center:

The next day after a great nights sleep we headed out to see the giant turtles!
The Darwin Research Center houses many turtles, some from 80 years old to new born. The turtles are waiting to be transported to Pinta Island, the home of Big George who just died at 100 years old. They had to remove all the wild goats from Pinta and are now waiting for natural foliage to grow back so the turtles will have food to eat in their new home.

Entrance to Darwin Research Center

It was great being able to see these Hugh turtles in person.

After seeing all the turtles we headed downtown for lunch:

Downtown Puerto Ayrora

Stained glass window inside the Church.

Sue sewing on a lap quilt for her sister.

Isla Isabela:

After lunch we stopped by a diving shop to ask about boat trips and they suggested we go to Isla Isabela the next morning. It was a two hour boat ride and included a bus tour, lunch and a boat ride in the bay to a small volcanic Island. It was $80 each, so we signed up for the tour.

 Sue on board heading for Isla Isabella

At Puerto Villamil, a small Village of 500 people we were met by our tour bus.

Sue with our tour guide Fernando, He was a very interesting guy. He is Ecuadorian but had lived in Japan and Russia and spoke 4 languages. And of all places in the world he chooses to live on Isla Isabella, which is the largest Island in the Galapagos Islands complete with a live volcano.

Next stop was the Centro de Crianza Armaldo Tupiza (Turtle breeding center)

Newly hatched turtles are kept separate from the larger turtles and fed special food until their shells are hard and they are big enough to be but with the others.

Lunch on the Playa was soup and fish, followed by a boat trip to La Tintoreras Isla and a swim with sea turtles.

We saw penguinssea lions and blue foot boobies on the shoreline.

On the trail around Isla Tintoreras

Sharks sleep at the bottom of the Lagoon

There were thousands of black marine Iguana's, they feed on underwater sea plants and spit out salt which the rocks were covered with. They were very hard to see against the black lava rocks.

We made friends with a couple from Quito with a baby. He just could not stop looking at Sue and of course she kept him laughing.

On our 2 hour return trip to Puerto Ayrora.

The next day we were invited by our new Doctor friends to share a taxi to the Highlands to see the turtles in the wild! We met them at their hotel and headed up to the highlands, a 30 minute drive.

El Chato giant turtle reserve

Our Doctor friends demonstrating the size of the turtles. Many of the turtles we saw here were over 80 years old.

Lonesome George just passed away at 100 years old, but there is still Super Diego who is 130 years old. He was recently returned from the San Diego Zoo which has been his home since the 1930's. Diego is an Espanola Tortoise who has over 1700 children. Most of which have been returned to Espanola Island.

The next day we shared a tour bus with our Doctor friends back to the airport on Baltra Island and said goodbye to the Galapagos Islands. Probably a place I would not have visited if not for Sue!

We got a free lift in this tour bus to the airport that would pick up a new group of tourists.

The ferry ride back to Balta Island

We said goodbye to our new friends and boarded the airplane for the 2 hour flight back to the Guayaquil airport. Our 5 day and 4 night stay on Galapagos was a real treat and I would love to return someday to visit the other islands.

If we had have taken a package tour it would have cost: $2650 just for the airfare and hotel. Our cost: $1040 for the airfare $650 - hotel $200 - boat trip $160 and taxi's $30!

Here is the best deal to be found now from CATSA:

Next blog will be our drive up the coast from Guayaquil

Until then everyone have a great day and miss ya already Sue! 


  1. Okay Gary...I'm jealous now for sure! Kudos on a great trip!

  2. Looks like you had a FABULOUS time Gary!! I'm sending your account to my brother and his wife, who are coming to Cuenca for Christmas/New Years, and want to do the Galapagos while they're in Ecuador. GRACIAS Chico!!

  3. i've been waiting for your blog and it was worth the wait. me too super jealous!! i would love to see the two of you and spend time laughing recalling the old days of leadville. jealous leadvillelisa

    1. Well Lisa get down here for a visit sometime!

  4. Gary thanks for sharing your wonderful trip. I can't wait to get everything together so I can move there. Hoping for the end of 2013. Keep sharing I love it and thanks for all the wonderful information you send.

  5. so smarty pants , I read it loved it now want to share too. have to figure that out. love and miss u suecq

  6. excellent travelog Bro

  7. Hey i am so glad that i read your post, its mind blowing!!
    Philadelphia Airport Taxi Service

    1. Glad you are enjoying it! The book is out now on Kindle
      Why Ecuador for me

  8. It's true.... one of the most wonderfull trip that have we done, thaks a lot Sue and Gary, we hope to see you soon.
    Greats, Mauricio and Veronica

    1. It was great meeting you too! Keep in touch, if you are ever in Cuenca let me know!


  9. Thanks for sharing, Gary. Sure sounds like a wonderful vacation. Can't wait until we do it.
    Bob and Diane

  10. Thanks for great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you.