Although, the physical journey started on the 19 December 2018, the destination had been a dream for many years since I visited Darwin’s House (Down House) in Kent, England. The idea that a group of islands and animals of these islands could change the course of science meant that it would be dream destination. Although I wanted to be the first of my family to make it here, the photos and stories of my brother and sis-in-law and my travelling buddy increased its order of importance in the ever-increasing travel list.
After a frantic early morning of finalising work, I made it to Sydney international airport, along with what felt like half of Sydney who were all going on away for Christmas on the same day. After a civilised lunch with a celebratory glass of bubbly for Linda’s birthday, we boarded the flight for what would be the longest day ever…. The 12.5 hour flight (excluding what now seems to be obligatory delay at Sydney airport) left at 12:50 Sydney time and got us to Santiago airport at 11:10 am on the same day… the wonders of a crossing the international deadline.
The Chilean surprise that greets all Australian is a reciprocal entry fee of 117 USD for the privilege of entering the country. While steep for an overnight stay, it appears to last for the life of the passport. With a 5.30 am flight the next day, the airport hotel seemed to be the most sensible option when we were planning, and luckily it was. Somehow we managed to delay the jet lag and lunch to have a single meal at 6 pm, ready to wake up at 2.30 am.
Santiago airport at 3.30 am was a sea of humanity all queuing up to go somewhere with lots of luggage, wrapped large Christmas presents, new TVs. Confusion about lines, automated vs. manual check-ins and poor signage meant that we were unexpectedly ushered to a separate queue. Unlike other airports, clearing customs was the lengthy process with the custom officials rather than an automated passport screening machine while bag screening was a smooth and seamless process.
After a 4 hour flight, and a 2 hour time change, we landed in Lima with a 4.5 hour stopover. Without access to a lounge, we lasted till about 10 am until we sat down for an early lunch. After a 2 hour 20 minute flight we finally landed in Quito, Ecuador for a couple of days to explore the city.
The final Ecuadorian flight, started with a 3.30 am pick-up for a 5.30 am flight, after a minor quarantine incident where my passionfruit was confiscated while the rest of the group’s apples were passed through without a problem; we finally took off for Isla Baltra, one of the Galapagos airports.
Upon arrival at Baltra airport while our luggage was subjected to a canine inspection we were required to pay 100 USD for to the National Park and 20 USD for a transfer fee. Having left earlier than normal, we had a long wait for our guide to drop the previous group of passengers off and pick us up. A welcome coffee, a typical Ecuadorian snack of Huminta and the intermittent phone/wi-fi signal was how we spent the next 2.5 hours. The highlight of the wait was the warning signs not to feed the Darwin finches and spying on the food choices of the airport staff.
Eventually our guide Alexis met us for the bus transfer to the boat jetty. Despite the boat shelter being in the middle of construction, we still managed to spot some sally lightfoot crabs, a sea lion and a pelican from the jetty.
Finally our panga (zodiac) came to collect us for the short ride to the boat. Once on board, we were lucky enough to have our fourth and final “breakfast” of the day…. To be quickly followed by lunch 1.5 hours later….. And so the holiday begins 🙂
Travel date: December 2018