After chucking our bags, mine small, Carolyn's huge – into the 'princess suite’ and realizing that the two bags combined took up 100 % of the floor space, we were beckoned to our first of many briefings. It was these briefings that I had read about on Galapagos blogs and forums that scared me about signing up for 8 days. Seems like there was going to be a lot of planned events, lots of rules and not much debate or free time. Not the greatest ‘fit’ for me. Seems like the really serious folks loved the jam packed schedule and the less serious hated it. Hmmmm….. After our first briefing about rules and expectations and the jokes from our experienced passengers it seemed like it was going to be just fine.
Our fellow sailors were not the Bachelor squad I had hoped for but they were also not the complaining whining group we had just left at the plane. They looked most agreeable and the boat, although not luxurious, looked comfortable and homey in a well loved/worn way. The pictures from the brochure definitely had been taken in her glory days but she still presented a warm charm nonetheless.
The town we arrived to, Santa Cruz, had sea lions everywhere – every surface, every boat had at least one seal/sea lion hanging on, sleeping or playing and the water was a spectacular Caribbean turquoise. Stunning.
After a great three course lunch, we headed off for the first excursion – a bus ride from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island up into the Highlands to a private park where wild enormous tortoises roam freely. They probably have a real Latin name but big tortoises are what they are. We put on rubber boots and headed out into the wet fields with our trusty guide Enrique, in search of a sighting.
Enrique is a 21 year old kid from the Galapagos Islands, has been guiding on different boats for a few years and is knowledgeable, really mature beyond his years and has an amazing rare skill of being able to read both situations and personalities. I give this kid credit – he can control a group, and a diverse group we were.
The gigantic tortoises were just cruising through the fields – they are huge – some of them were over 150 years old, 250 kgs and they look like dinosaurs – and really bizarre to see them in the wild. There were some shells from dead ones and they were so big one of the girls – Sammy – was able to crawl into it
. Back to the boat after a brief stop in town to buy Rum and Wine and Chips to go with the Rum and Wine we had bought in Quito (just in case). Dinner and then we crashed – we had been up since 5 am so we were really bushed. We had done Quito to Guayaquil to Balta, then bus to the ferry than ferry to Santa Cruz Island and then bus to Santa Cruz town. For those of you wondering how long to come for - remember it takes a full half day of travelling to reach these little islands 500 miles off the shore of Ecuador. Just getting off the plane, the feel and the look was different - we knew we were in for a treat. Day 1 Galapagos – all good.