Update 1: July 15, Ecuador & Galapagos Arrival
As we have the company’s 10 year anniversary this year I’ve been trying to experience a few things that I have not done to date for one reason or another. So far this year that has involved finally making it to South Africa, tracking Siberian tigers and now, the ultimate test - travelling to the Galapagos. You may say ‘why is this an ultimate test? That’s surely pretty easy?’...Well yes, you may have a point. However, this trip is different for a few reasons, firstly I have left a rather large (but very generous) 8 month pregnant wife at home with our autistic son; and secondly I am travelling with my biggest critic and biggest fan, my 5.5 year old son, Oscar.
When I first mentioned to my wife (Ciz) that I was considering taking Oscie to the Galapagos, she was at first excited by the prospect and then seconds later, concerned…could I look after Oscar for the whole two weeks by myself?! Of course I could…at least I thought that…until we set off. Not that there have been any disasters yet, in fact he has already been set up as future marriage material with the stewardess’ 6 year old daughter and he is one of the most laid back travel companions I have ever had. He is however, also my most VIP client that I have ever travelled with. I’m nervous for him (and for myself) but I want him to enjoy this trip, learn stuff, experience what I love about my job and what I have invested so many years of my life in.
Our journey starts at 0430hrs from Brighton as we make our way to the airport. 19hrs later, we arrive in our destination having travelled from London to Madrid to Quito, having watched three films, drunk a little bit of wine (that was me!), a lot of apple juice (that was him!) and basically, not slept. Immigration is a bit of a doddle (Africa could learn a thing or two here!), but baggage collection is bizarrely slow. Having said that, Oscar managed to make a game even out of that, laughing hilariously as the bags crashed down onto the conveyor, at those that made a big bang or those that got stuck.
Making our way through the exit we were warmly greeted by our local office who whisk us off into Quito (approx. one hour drive), winding our way up onto the plateau from 2,400m to 2,800m. Set in the foothills of the Andres, the brief glimpse we got of Quito seemed to be a fascinating place with lots to see and do, backed up by the fact that it was the first city to be nominated a UNESCO World Heritage site back in the 70s.
We arrive at our hotel in the centre of the old town, the beautiful Casa Gangotena overlooking the Plaza San Francisco. If we had longer, we would love to explore more but the fact is, the 19 odd hours on the road has taken its toll – we make a valiant effort to go to the dining room where we order our dinner…only to realise within a few minutes that we will never make it to the end! Instead we ask if it is possible for our food to be delivered to our room…within minutes of finishing, we pass out horizontal in the knowledge that we have to be up early again for our onward flight to the Galapagos…
0530hrs – wake-up call. Meal times are usually the loneliest times on these recesses, but it is with a smile on my face that I wake up this morning to hear my little assistant snoring away in the other bed. We grab some clothes and wander downstairs to the dining room that we had deserted only a few hours before. Fresh fruit and ham and cheese sandwiches are the preferred choice for my little buddy so I tag along as well – why not? Maybe on this trip I should learn a thing of two from him in how to travel and enjoy oneself?
Setting off at 0630hrs, we transfer back to the airport where we do the usual formalities before clearing customs and waiting for our flight. This has been the moment we have been looking forward to…the Galapagos!
Whilst I say that we have been looking forward to the Galapagos, this is actually only really Oscar. I have never been particularly drawn to these little islands located a thousand kilometres off the coast of mainland Ecuador. I’m not sure why, they’ve just always felt a bit ‘mainstream’ and predictable unlike a lot of the destinations that I have done over the years. The Galapagos fans in the office though have managed to convince me that it is a must and therefore I finally caved in…and to be honest, I was happy too once I realised that this is something I could enjoy experiencing for the first time along with Oscar. Will it live up to expectations, I’m not sure really as thinking about it, I am not even sure I have any expectations…
Anyway, I write this from the tarmac of Guayaquil airport as we stop off to refuel and pick up some extra passengers; next stop the Galapagos Islands.