Late the previous evening, Team Pinzon found ourselves and all our luggage (intact) at the brand new Quito airport. While the airport had only been open less than a week, it did not have a shiny, new car smell to it, but it was bright, spacious, and clean. The drawback is it is quite far away from downtown Quito. We found out a colleague’s brother had booked us a hotel in a town in between Quito and the airport – it was only about 25 minutes away. The best news was that we had gotten our permit, so we were scheduled to fly to Galápagos the next day at 9.30am.
Bright and early we showed up, and because the airport is brand new, nobody was quite sure where to go. After standing in line for a bit, we realized we had been waiting in the purchase ticket line. We headed over to the check-in line, but was told this was not for Galápagos, and directed another direction. We finally found the Galápagos check-in, but our luggage had not been screened, so then we had to find the luggage screening place. Once we got our luggage screened, the rest was a breeze, and so we waited for our flight. However, the gate number changed four times. Fortunately, after the first gate change, we didn’t have to move from our seats. We just had to watch the line form and re-form at different gates until they told everyone to sit down (and then changed the gate one last final time for boarding).
Flights from Quito go through Guyaquil, so the flight was packed for the first leg, but spacious for the second flight. Everything was going swimmingly until we got to customs. Because we were coming as scientists and not tourists, we had obtained a ‘transuente’ permit, and could enter the park for a reduced fee. However, when we showed up, despite the transuente receipt, the officials needed a copy of the actual permit, which had disappeared when we were running around the airport in Quito trying to figure out where to go. However, technology saved the day when Owen was able to show the permits as virtual documents on his laptop, and not physical documents. Persuasion was necessary, but we eventually made it through and onto the bus.
The airport is on the island of Baltra, so the bus takes you to the ferry which will cross to the island of Santa Cruz where the Charles Darwin Research Station is located.
Owen and Col on the bus to the ferry
From the ferry going to Santa Cruz from Baltra
From the beginning, we were able to observe several of the iconic animals Galapágos is famous for including Galápagos sea lions, blue footed boobies, and marine iguanas. The drive takes up and over the volcanic mountain that makes up Santa Cruz island and deposited us at the Charles Darwin Station which is located near the coast. On the drive, we spotted several of Darwin’s finches, of which there are about nine of the thirteen species on this particular island (no vampire finches, unfortunately).
The rest of the day was spent getting settled into the dorms at the research station and shopping for groceries in town. Nothing too exciting except ending up on the world famous Galápagos Islands. Our venture into town included witnessing first hand how the animals here have no fear of humans.