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November 17, 2003

Line of Hope

DAY 28: In Spanish, the verb esperar translates into two things in English: "to hope" and "to wait." This is especially noteworthy when you are waiting on the "Linéa de Espera" for a standby seat to open up for the Galapagos Islands at Guayaquil airport. You wait on line and hope to get a flight.

Chris, Navid and I got to the airport without a ticket in hand by eight in the morning, in hopes to get on a 9:15 flight. We thought that since it was the low season it would be fairly empty, but when we got around the corner, we saw a line of about twenty people. We bought tickets anyway and waited on the stand-by line. An agent called over, "Uno mas." ("One more.")

Chris' time in Ecuador was limited, so Navid and I let him take it. We'd try to get the only other flight of the day at 11:15.

"I will wait for you at the airport," Chris said as he rushed over to the security gate.

"Just go ahead. Who knows what will happen to us!" I yelled back.

Ah, the life of a standby airline passenger.

Fortunately, Navid and I managed to snag the first two open seats on the next flight. During the two hour flight to a time zone one hour behind, I attempted to read a Spanish newspaper (with a little comprehension) as Navid tried to figure out the velocity of the plane with his neat little GPS device.

THE MAIN AIRPORT OF THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS lies on Isla Baltra, a small island with desert-like conditions, just long enough to hold a runway so planes do go plummeting into the Pacific. From there, we got our bags and got on line for the shuttle bus to the ferry. It was there that we met Andre, a South African from Johannesburg who lived in Sydney. He was a happy guy -- always smiling -- who had just flown from Quito to the Galapagos without any definite plans either. He had just finished a big contract job in Columbia and was ready for a little two-month period of R&R.

We took a short ferry ride through turquoise waters to the main island of Isla Santa Cruz, where in a blink of an eye, the environment went from desert to tropical. Lush green plants appeared out of the island mist as we rode on another bus for about 40 minutes to the main town of Puerto Ayora.

Despite the Galapagos being such a tourist draw and "must do" on most travelers' and divers' lists, the town wasn't a commercialized "tour town" like I thought it'd be. I expected to see tour operator after tour operator after nightclub after bar, but it still retained a small village feel with townspeople and fishermen just trying to make a living.


Being a Sunday during the low season, most of the stores and restaurants were closed up, but we managed to check out the boat tour deals at the one place in town that was actually open. However, we didn't commit to anything since we wanted to check out the Monday competition. Afterwards, we went shopping for a hostel and settled on Estrella del Mar, near the harbor (picture above). Navid wanted a private room for himself, so I split a spacious double with Andre for just $12.50 each.

In just three minutes of wandering down the town for a place to eat, Navid spotted Chris at a small restaurant, who was just finishing up an arroz con camarones (rice with shrimp) and a beer. Puerto Ayora is a very small town, and with only about 20-30 tourists in town, we were bound to run into him. We joined him for some more beers and arroz con pulpo (rice with octopus).

THE INTERNET IS AMAZING; not only can it provide hours upon hours of unsolicited porn, but it can provide hours of it in remote areas -- including in the middle of the Pacific. Not only was I able to find an internet cafe in 30 seconds, I found one that let me hook up my camera. With everything else closed, I spent the rest of a lazy afternoon catching up on my blog duties while the others let the soft wooshes of ocean waves put them to sleep.

Afterwards, I walked through the deserted tourist area and into the busier downtown area where townspeople were just out and about, running errands or sitting on a stoop. Life here is slow and relaxed like a tropical-sounding Sade song.

There wasn't much to do at night, so I plopped myself on a barstool at a local bar and hung out with the bartender and his friends. For the rest of the night -- out of all the things to do in the Galapagos Islands -- I watched Cradle 2 The Grave with them on DVD as a slight drizzle came from above, like water out of a spray bottle set on "MIST."

If you enjoy this daily travel blog, please post a comment! Give me suggestions, send me on missions, let me know how things are going back home in the USA. Knowing that I have an audience will only force me to make this blog more entertaining as the days go by. Don´t forget to bookmark it and let a friend know!

Posted by Erik on November 17, 2003 05:31 PM
TrackBack | Category: Ecuador

yea! finally the first one to post...

I could've sworn the above pic was on your other posts.. or maybe I'm psychic ; )

the water looks amazing

ok.. just talked to you on IM.. guess i'm not psychic =(

Posted by: Jenn on November 17, 2003 07:22 PM

thanks for the pics eric.. i was channeling my special place after a long and exhausting day and those pictures really helped..

hey, since you seem to be frequenting a lot of bars and such out there, here's a spanish toast, i dunno if you've learned it yet.. it's not grammatically correct spanish, cuz u kno, who speaks correct spanish when they're drunk:

"pa' arriba, pa' abajo, pa'l centro, pa'l entro"

.. you're supposed to do the gestures that come with it (above, below, center, enter).. looks kinda like the sign of the cross..

Posted by: cristina on November 17, 2003 10:01 PM

tranquil pacific waters or best buy on black friday? i'd take tranquil pacific waters....but since, i can't....looks like best buy on black friday...need anything?

Posted by: markyt on November 17, 2003 10:15 PM

The Islands look amazing! I'm glad you were able to upload the pics!

I haven't checked out your book yet. But I'm heading to Chapters tomorrow for some more Asia research so I'll be sure to look for it there.

Posted by: Td0t on November 17, 2003 11:52 PM

Pretty phat photos...I thought it would be high season in that area though, since it's summer!? I remember first hearing about the Galapagos while watching Lenord Nimoy's tv series "In Search Of," in the late you hear any eerie sounds in the distance, or anyone giving the Live Long and Prosper sign? :-)

Posted by: Moman on November 18, 2003 12:08 AM

wow! That looks beautiful! Can you include a shot of downtown Puerto Ayora with some locals? Wow. wow. wow. Jealousy takes over yet again (last bout of jealousy arrived with your last post).

I never seem to catch you lately on IM so here's some updates over here. Nothing but wind and rain for the next few days here in Jersey Shitty. Going to see the play "Wicked" tomorrow night. LOTR extended edition is out tomorrow. You can compare scenic notes at trip's end in NZ. Hope to be there with ya! The 10d is amazing. Catch ya later!

Posted by: oogy on November 18, 2003 02:50 AM

Did they make you take off your shoes before you got on the plane?

Keep those drunken IM's coming!

Posted by: matto on November 18, 2003 01:39 PM

You wanted to know where I'm of to? Well tomorrow or Thursday (depends a bit if my buddy could make todays flight to Lima) were going south towards Ica - Nazca - Arequipa. Then probably fly to Cuzco, do touristy Incatrail stuff there for a couple of days, then hopefully by train (inside, not on the roof) south again to Puno. After that Bolivia, at least if the riots there don't flare up again. Otherwise it'll be Chile and I'll go to Bolivia on the return leg in March, before going back to Ecuador.
Take care,

Posted by: Pepe on November 18, 2003 01:44 PM

wow-weeee... check out that water! nice pics. did you go snorkling or scuba diving?

please package up that warm weather & fedex it over to jersey. it's cold, rainy & windy here.

(i'm jealous)

Posted by: elaine on November 18, 2003 10:10 PM

Wow - even the galapagos has ye olde interweb. Hey-since there's only 20-30 tourists there, for your next mission - lets see more interaction with the locals!
You were drunk on IM? I didn't notice…

Posted by: dunlavey on November 18, 2003 10:58 PM

MOMAN: no trekkies here...just big german tour groups, but most of them get on their boats as soon as they get off the plane and never see this town! this place is pretty deserted...i think its the lowest of the low season...

MATTO: will do...

DUNLAVEY: more conversations with locals coming...i've actually had more than mentioned in the previous blogs, it just a bitch remembering all the proper Spanish to rewrite it...

MARKYT: black friday already? i dont even know what day it is anymore when i wake up...hahaha

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