Puerto Villamil: A Charming Beach Town
A Charming Beach Town
Getting to the Galapagos
We woke up early to take the shuttle to the airport to catch our 9am flight to the Baltra Island of the Galapagos (GPS). In the lobby of the hotel we met an American couple from Nashville who were also headed to Isabella Island. We felt good making friends and having two more people in the same boat as us (figuratively and soon to be literally). Once inside the airport we paid our $20 fees to get the Immigration card required to enter the Islands. We flew to the Galapagos on Tame airlines, with a short layover in Guayaquil first (the largest city in Ecuador). The islands are roughly 900 miles from mainland Ecuador.
Upon landing on Baltra Island we first saw the strange volcanic landscape, more barren than I expected. The island of Baltra is a small one, used solely for the Galapagos Airport. We exited the plane via a stairway, walking onto the tarmac. Inside the airport we paid the $100 entrance fee to the Island and presented our Immigration cards. We then waited for our bags to be inspected by several dogs before taking a shuttle bus to the channel which separates Baltra from Santa Cruz Island. We took the ferry across the channel to a parking lot where many pickup truck taxis awaited the ferry.
All four of us loaded up into one of the pickup trucks and headed down the long road towards the main town of Puerto Ayora, about a 45 minute drive. Once in town, the truck dropped us off at the port where we purchased round-trip tickets to the Island of Isabela. It was a 2.5 hour trip on a speedboat for $60 a person. We took a small boat over to the speedboat which fit about 20 people. This exciting part of the trip quickly turned into a nightmare for me.
A Rough Speedboat Ride to Puerto Villamil
We sat in the interior of the boat, towards the front. The sea was very choppy and we bounced on the seats, begging the onset of a terrible bout of seasickness. The dramamine that our new friends had shared with us wasn’t enough to quell the waves of nausea. We sat across from an Ecuadorian couple that was particularly amused by my face changing to a shade of green as I held back vomit for 2.5 hours. When we finally arrived at the Island of Isabela I was more than ready to get off the boat.
We dizzily climbed into port, paid another entrance tax, and took a taxi through town to our next hotel – The Iguana Crossing. When we entered the hotel we were quickly helped with our bags and sat down at the front desk to be greeted by the owner. He explained to us some things about the hotel (no toilet paper in the toilet) and welcomed us. I crawled my way up the stairs and we plopped down in our room. Seemingly resting for the first time today. Anna quickly made her way out onto our wraparound balcony to admire the beautiful view of the ocean and lagoon next to the hotel. The shower here was an interesting experience. Just as with the Itamandi EcoLodge, they were serious about saving water.
Their showers all had a push-button system that afforded 6 seconds of water at a time. Showering consisted of a rhythmic dance-like variation of a typical shower filled with furious bouts of lathering and jabbing at the water button. I took some time to try and regain my composure before we headed down to have dinner in the hotel. We then settled in for the evening.
Giant Tortoise Sanctuary and Marine Iguanas
The next morning we woke up to an amazing sunrise with complimentary breakfast waiting for us downstairs. I was sure that this breakfast would rid myself of the lingering feeling of seasickness that was still holding on. After breakfast we went outside to walk a loop near the hotel that had a road which lead to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Facility and a boardwalk that circled back to the hotel. There were many Tortoises there and it was great to learn about how successful they have been with breeding them in an effort to bolster the population. We learned that there have been several volcanic eruptions on the island that have wiped out large numbers of tortoises. This team worked to save them in these cases and bring them here to safety.
After the sanctuary we walked back on a path that turned into the boardwalk which lead to our hotel. The boardwalk was over the lagoon which contained many interesting plants. We saw lots of beautiful birds along the way, including a small flock of flamingos. Closer to the hotel, the boardwalk was filled with many sea iguanas. There was one dominant iguana that looked to be about 30 pounds. He stood in the center of the boardwalk as if to guard the entrance. Nearly everywhere on the islands they made it a strict point to not touch, feed, or otherwise interfere with the wildlife. From what we saw everyone did a pretty good job of following these guidelines. However, many people were drawn to photograph the big iguana at close proximity. It was obvious that he was used to this behavior as he didn’t seem to be much bothered by it.
Snorkeling Concha de Perla
We stayed here for a bit to take pictures of the iguanas as they soaked up as much sun as they could get. Shortly after we left the hotel, walking along the main sand-road that led into the small town. The Island of Isabela was the largest in the Galapagos, yet it has a small amount of inhabitants. We found a shop close by that rented bikes and snorkeling equipment. We got fitted for fins and masks, hopped on our bikes and headed towards the port that we entered the Island on to snorkel in a small bay. After getting to the port we locked up our bikes and walked along a small path through the mangroves towards the bay.
This path was occupied by many napping sea lions that didn’t seem interested by our presence in the slightest. The snorkeling was very good here at Concha de Perla with calm waters and a lot of interesting fish and plants to see. After snorkeling we went back into town to eat at a small restaurant. We stopped by a pharmacy to stock up on Dramamine before swimming in the waves of the ocean. That night we ate at the hotel again before having a beer from a small hut on the beach to watch the sunset.
Heading Back to Santa Cruz
Our checkout of Iguana Crossing was at 10am but the boat didn’t leave for Santa Cruz until 2:30. The hotel was nice enough to let us leave our bags there while we explored town a bit more waiting for the boat. We relaxed, had lunch, and then returned to port. I was dreading this trip back and really didn’t want to get sick again. Before the trip I read an article on avoiding seasickness. This time I will at least be armed with several tips. I took my anti nausea medicine ahead of time and made it a point to sit near the motor in the back of the boat.
This area of the boat had the least amount of up and down motion. This was also a good spot for me to be able to keep my eyes glued on the horizon, which was supposed to help. I’m happy to say that the return trip was much easier to deal with.
When we climbed off of the boat in Puerto Ayora, we began searching for Kleeber. Kleeber was our driver who was supposed to take us to our AirBnB on the outskirts of town. We had read a lot about Kleeber in the place’s reviews so we were excited to meet him. Kleeber was there with a sign that had Anna’s name on it. We quickly realized that Kleeber didn’t know 3 words of English. This was another language barrier challenge for us. He asked if we wanted to go to the supermarket or just to the house. We reasoned that we just wanted to get to the house now and would return for food later. We didn’t realize that the house was about 35 minutes outside of town. It was pitch black by the time we arrived.
The house was down a two track dirt road and through a locked gate, very secluded. He drove us all of the way up the driveway and it was obvious that we didn’t have any food for dinner. Kleeber unlocked the house for us and we put our things inside. We then asked for him to take us to a market. At this time he must have thought we were idiots. He drove us to a one room country market about 10 minutes away. We used our severely limited Spanish skills to buy some eggs, noodles, potatoes, tunafish, and a can of sardines in tomato sauce which we thought was a can of Ketchup. Kleeber took us back home and we made a makeshift dinner before passing out for the night. We arranged with him to pick us up the next morning and drive us into town for the day.