Friday, April 24, 2009

The Sign Says........

Here we are inside the terminal. It's pretty interesting when you consider that this is an INTERNATIONAL airport. What you are looking at is the main (only) building. There are no windows. (Meaning NO AIR CONDITIONING) , but surprisingly out of the sun means out of the heat, so it's not too bad in here. Hal had decided that the safest place for his passport was in his suitcase. These are the types of things you do when you don't carry a carry on or a purse. Upon hearing that you had to show your passport in order to pick up your suitcase, he began to worried a bit. But no worries, it seems that it is a common occurrence. And the passport folks took it all in stride. In fact, Hal wasn't even the only person on this flight that packed their passport.

Now that we have safely secured our place as last in line, that gives me time to wander all about this side of the passport stamping area and see all the sites this building has to offer.

Lizards... This place has LIZARDS.... hmmmmmmmmm

Most of the signs here have English translations on them. But not this one. I have no idea what it says. Perhaps Josh could translate.....

Touch Down!! Officially on a Galapagos Island

It's pretty anticlimactic. Here is the first view of the Galapagos. The airport is pretty nondescript. We were still hadn't put the "rubber to the pavement" so this shot was pretty quick and not to well aligned.

Hal in front of the airport, followed by a shot of the plane we arrived in.

Now here is the surprise. The place is a freaking desert. I am not sure exactly what I was thinking it would be. A bit more plush maybe. Not a rain forest, but I didn't expect cactus!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No Cootie-bugs Allowed

There are two reasons that outside planes land on the itty-bitty Island of Baltra. One is the U.S. military built a landing field on it during WWII because it was the flattest island and easiest to work with. That making the cheapest way to have an airport: just maintain and upgrade the one someone left you. The other reason is Baltra is pretty much isolated from the other islands. There are other islands that are even more isolated from the inhabited islands, but they are not close enough to them that it would be easy to get workers back and forth to the airport. And as we found out before we even landed, the goal of the protectors of the Galapagos is to keep exposure of any outside things from further contaminating the ecological balance of the islands. So Baltra acts as barrier island to the main populations.

It starts on the plane. As we approached the landing field the steward opened every overhead bin then walked the full length of the plane spraying the carry on baggage. I know they were spraying for unwelcome bug hitch-hikers, but some how I felt as though they thought we all had cooties.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Next time check a map!

OK, I admit this trip caught me off guard. I knew the Galapagos were somewhere out there in the Pacific. I didn't actually know where in the world it really was. By virtue of having to prepare for travel to Ecuador I came to know the islands were a state that country. Somehow I crossed something I read and had it in my mind that the islands were 90 miles off the coast of Ecuador, it wasn't until I realized that we had a FOUR HOUR flight that it was a darn site further than 90 miles. Actually the islands lay 600 miles off the South American coast.
So much for my geography knowledge.

The trip was totally uneventful. No bad weather, no high winds, no obnoxious kids or goats and chickens... just a regular flight .... until I saw where we were going to be landing. After hours of seeing nothing but water the plane banked to the right and I looked out the window to see one tiny oval of land with a strip in the middle of it. The realization that this plane was going to land on that "hic-up" of dry land made me uneasy. My immediate thought was ... it's missing something, such as a CONTINENT. I can tell you why the Galapagos tortoises are not in the Atlantic Ocean, because our constant hurricanes would have washed those non swimming turtles into the sea and that would have been the end of them. Those tiny specks of land this plane was now aiming for would not be any protection at all from huge waves.
Now I want you too keep in mind as you look at the above picture of the landing strip and then the satellite picture of the islands that the round island at the end of the point is NOT Baltra (the island with the landing strip) That is Santa Cruz. Baltra is the tiny point of that otherwise round land mass. At the time we turned, the only thing I could see was Baltra.

Also, keep in mind that this group of islands are
not the size of Hawaii. I just threw the blurry map below in so you can see the location of and compare the size of the Galapagos to the Hawaiian Islands.

Back at the airport

Seemed like we were just here... Oh wait we were here just 6 hours ago. The guide brought us here... showed us which line to stand in, which documents to have in our hands, where to set our suitcase... and when we were done... He bid us farewell.

To me that was confusing. Like ummmmm... "wait" what will we do when we land??" But we just wave goodbye and took our seats on the plane.

The GAP tour begins.

When we were just drifting off to sleep, Hal & I wondered just how we were supposed to find our connection to the GAP people that was our tour group. But we need not to worry not even a little tiny bit.

We went for breakfast at 7am and by 7:20 the tour people started to arrive, and by 8 am we were safely loaded up in our grey van and on the way to the airport.

These GAP guys were great, start to finish.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Our First Look

When the sun came up, I took a couple of pictures from my hotel room. I can attest to the fact, Dorthy, we were not in Kansas.

The view to the left (West I think)
The view to the right (East I think)Very crowded. Narrow streets. I am just now beginning to realize that even New Orleans after Katrina was not this foriegn.

The First Night (morning)

The hotel was not the Ritz, but the ????? was pretty darn good. The beds were very comfortable, and sadly the picture doesn't show how roomy the room actually was. That door on the left was an ironing board and a pretty roomy closet. Not that we needed it as we were going to be in that room less than 5 hours. The bathroom had a full sized tub, a shower tall enough for hal to stand straight up under, and just for grins and giggles.. a bidet. I was too tired that night and too rushed in the morning to play with the things..... Ya knows, we har in the mid-west don't have none of them fancy backside warshers.....

And best of all..... the beds were comfortable.

Too Scared to Remember the Camera

The next leg of our adventure will not have any pictures so you will have to just take my word for it.

After getting out passports stamped, we gathered out luggage and made our way to the street. Before we even left the building a man asked us if we needed a taxi, so we followed him. He took us past the whole line of clearly marked taxis to what appeared to be his car/minivan and began to load our bags in the back. Hal asked the price of the trip to the hotel our reservations were made and he told us $20. (Ecuador's monitary system is US dollars) We would have probably just said OK except for the gentleman that was seated next to Hal on the flight had told him that the trip to the hotel should be around $5. We said no... He said yes... I said lets go get a different cab... Hal said $10 and the driver said OK. So in the cab we went.

Hal trying out his barely learned Spanish told him what hotel. The guy took off. Hal uncertain that he had made himself clear was desperately searching a map trying to figure out if we were going in the right direction.

I on the other hand was staring at the empty dark streets in horror as we ran red light after red light. I mean we just SAILED through the streets never even slowing down. I asked Hal, does red mean stop here? He ignored me as he searched his map.

The suddenly we were there... Or at least the driver said we were there. Where there was appeared to be a dark street, with the driver telling us to walk around the corner to what looked like a darker alley. By now we were pretty sure we were about to be mugged. I think the driver realized that neither of us wanted to go around the corner so he sorta walked a few steps and pointed. Swinging wide and looking the direction he was pointing there was indeed a lit doorway, and we headed that way. I cannot stress the relief felt when a hotel doorman stepped out to help us with the luggage. All was well.

By the way, red does mean stop. However, not necessarily at night.

Late night at Customs

We arrived in Quito several hours later than planned, but a silent landing void of alarms of impending doom was nice.

As you can see from the line, we were near the end (again) and everyone was tired.

The airport and customs was quite small. The late night shift was on duty, and though they knew the plane was coming they didn't seem to have anyone on duty for the first little bit. After about 20 or 30 minutes the line started moving and we got through very quickly. I got a stamp on my passport. YAY...

The poor thing was about to die of old age still a virgin. But a somewhat humorless official in Quito cure that with his trusty stamp.


It was an uneventful flight. I was somewhat amazed when I realize that we were flying right over Cuba. I had assumed that there was some sort of air space restriction. But nope, we flew right over the middle. I suspect you can't fly over Guantanamo, but apparently Havana doesn't matter.

We also flew over Panama, but I was on the side of the plane that didn't see anything. It was dark so all I could have seen was city lights, but they would have been an interesting change from the complete darkness of the ocean.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Suitcase Security

This is a picture of my suitcase being loaded safely onto the plane. I don't know why it brings me security seeing it loaded but it does. At least half the time I am on the wrong side of the plane and cannot see the luggage being loaded and don't panic, yet seeing my baggage actually being placed on the same plane as me, is nice, ESPECIALLY when I have had a plane change or two.

Of course my security was short lived as we didn't stay on this plane 20 minutes when we were informed by the Captain that we would have to switch planes before leaving Atlanta. It seems that Delta has 5 similar plane to chose from, two of which don't have an altitude alarm bypass. The one we were sitting on was one of those that you couldn't bypass a warning alarm.

Now one has to ponder why we would want to bypass such a safety device, but that easily explained. You see we would be landing in Quito, Ecuador and it is WAY THE HECK up in the mountains. These alarms don't seem to take into account that there are cities that make our mile high city of Denver seem as it is on the flat land, but Quito is one of those places. So if we stayed on the first plane we boarded, when we went to lower our landing gear in preparation to land our plane would have sounded all sorts of alarms trying to warn the pilots of some horrible mistake as the alarm would not believe that anyone would really want to land nearly 9,200 feet in the air. It wasn't a safety issue. The plane could do it just fine. But the alarm would just make the pilots crazy, so switch planes we did.

There is no picture for the next plane or my luggage getting safely stowed as it was dark and I was a bit huffy, as it seemed like a really dumb mistake to have made on the part of Delta.
But we 'sailed' off into the dark, heading for distant shore an hour late on a non eventful flight shortly after the change was completed.

FINALLY .. Boarding that plane.

This is Hal getting on the plane. As you can see, I am already seated. He tends to dally around and let people get between us, and this is a theme that will replay the whole trip.
I don't like to wait to the last minute to board the plane. Not because I have any illusion that I will find a more comfortable seat, but rather, I want to keep my carry on bag as close to me as possible. Those that come in last sometime have their bags stowed on the far end of the plane from their seats. In theory I just don't like it, it practice it can be a real pain. Especially if your bag ends up behind you a few rows or more. You can't not get off the plane until everyone behind you is off, and you can walk back to fetch the dumb thing.
No thank you. I will stand in line, get on ASAP, and keep my bag near me. Hal doesn't care so much. And on this trip, that scenario didn't happen to him. So he still lives in naive bliss.