The date of arrival: 04/04/04!
Getting to Galapagos from Quito takes almost as much time as getting from New York to Quito. The number of connections is ridiculous, first a stop in Guayaquil, then unusually long wait to get the luggage (we should have packed light!), another wait to board a bus that drives only 1/2 mile or so to the boat landing, the boat takes passengers 100m across the channel that separates island Baltra from the island Santa Cruz, then another bus that takes us to Puerta Ayora on the other side of the island - pretty much the only sizable human settlement on Galapagos.
The hotel recommended by the tour book was fully booked, and since I wasn't very happy dragging our suitcases under the midday equatorial sun (shouldn't we had packed light?) we stopped at the nearest available hotel Lobo del Mar, just around the corner. With hot water, a pool and roof terrace, it seems to be the best hotel in town and we got our room for the whooping $22 (including the ¨continental¨ breakfast for 2). This is what I like most about traveling in cheap countries - there are no high penalty for being spontaneous and not making any advance reservations. We dropped our bags, changed in tropical clothes and went out to explore the town.
Calling Puerto Ayora a town is a bit of an overstatement, because it primarily consists of one street. The street however is very long, runs along the ocean and every second house there is a small architectural marvel. Lot's of designer's thought was put into building these galleries and souvenir shops. Even more imagination was put into writing the price tags on the items they sell. Those that we saw yesterday in Otavalo for $3 (asking price!), here are marked at $40! If we knew that these trinkets are so valuable on this island, we would have definitely brought some. As a matter of fact the prices on most manufactured goods on this island are even higher than on Hawaii! But on the brighter side, the hotels and restaurants are still relatively cheap, and sun, ocean and good weather come for free. One other establishment on this island that needs to be mentioned is the "Russian Aromatherapy Center" that advertises a ¨double discount¨ for current and former residents of Odessa. It was tempting to take advantage of this offer, but I figured that therapeutic aromas might not be of a pleasant kind. Especially if they are meant to cure homesickness... So I limited myself to leaving a friendly scented note at their door.
After that we proceeded to Darwin Research Center, on the other end of the Street, where we could socialize with 150 year old reptiles - the only residents of the island which were out of their shells during the midday sun. The tortoises look and move as slow as their venerable age suggests, and therefore socializing wasn't too much fun.
I'm considering setting my watch here to Japanese time, so instead of being awake from 8am to midnight, I'll be up b/n 8pm and midday - this is when most of the Puerto Ayora activities happen.
However on the account of the Catholic Palm Sunday, most of the businesses remained closed even after dark, and finding a place to eat turned out to be a challenge. In the beginning we snubbed the lonely Italian cafe with a handful of Russian clients, and finally ended up back in our hotel, walking into the on-premise restaurant. The place was almost empty, but the waiter refused to seat us, because ¨the dinner is by reservation only¨. As we turned back to leave, Zara got a lucky thought: "Ask him if we can make the reservation for Right Now"
I asked and then watched the waiter´s face going through a number of emotional transitions, apparently reflecting the internal mental struggle. Finally he said that he needs to ask at the kitchen, and after a brief council he came back and half-whispered that we can have 3 course dinner for $5 per person. Didn't I say that I like traveling in cheap countries where making reservations is not necessary?
- Did you happen to talk to the owners of the "Russian Aromatherapy" place? I'm curious to know how on earth they got there. Lost their tour group and got stranded? I also wonder if their natural therapy involves the mud from "liman". :0)posted by Serge Shamis on 04/16/04 8:06 PM
- I just can't believe you don't bargain! not even for fun! ;(posted by lenny on 04/16/04 11:48PMWe had very tight schedule and when facing the choice whom to visit, the 150 y.o. reptiles or Russian Aromatherapy owners. I preferred the reptiles.posted by MM on 04/18/04 8:13 PM