Practical things I learned. Notes to self.
The discussion all along was could we afford a Galapagos cruise. We switched the trip to Peru at one point. Our back up plan was either to arrive on the islands and find a cut pricecruise when we got there. We had a big advantage of arriving at a fairly low season. If that didn’t work we would explore the islands on day trips.
As we got closer to the dates we monitored falling cruise prices on some of the last minute sites like this one. What dawned on us was that despite an 11 day visit, there were only a couple of boats doing an 8 day trip to the north west destinations that we wanted.
So we blinked and booked a cruise from London through Deals Galapagos rather than from Puerto Ayora. That also saved us the problem of carrying large amounts of cash around (the ATMs there let you take out a maximum of $600 a day) and the inevitably fraught negotiations. Carlos at Deals Galapagos was friendly, helpful and recommendable. We still had to get money to them which involved online FX and wiring it to a bank account in Quito; so still plenty to worry about!
I think the cruise was the right decision over a land-based trip. There are plenty of day trips on offer and lots of competition. But they didn’t seem that cheap and the 11 days would have added up. We would have restricted ourselves to the neighbouring islands and exposed ourselves to some rough seas in small boats.
It wasn’t cheap. The flights (London to Galapagos to Guayaquil, Quito to London) were about £850. The Galapagos is much more expensive than the mainland. The cost of the cruise is extremely fluid.
We chose a 14-berth yacht, the Beagle. And very nice it was. An 8-day cruise booked from the UK might cost £3,250. We watched the price on a couple of websites and decided to buy when it got to £1,900. It came down a little later to about £1,650. There were a couple of vacant cabins on our cruise and some more on the next week. This was low season. Two couples who booked it in Puerto Ayora just before departure paid about £1,100. That was a real bargain.
It was transition season in the Galapagos, moving towards a wetter climate. We had a bit of rain is in Puerto Ayora and it was generally overcast, even cold on this side of Santa Cruz. The temperature dropped going up the hill and it got very windy, but going downhill to the airport on the north side the skies inevitably turned blue.
The cruise was generally under blue skies but we had moments of grey skies and greyer seas. sunstroke conditions alternated with cold winds as we crossed the equator.
As expected the seas were rough in parts. The first night crossing to Genovesa across open seas meant few of us got much sleep. Seasickness was avoided.
Sea temperatures varied, getting increasingly cold as we went south. Wearing shorty wetsuits, we created some of the snorkelling,whatever lay beneath the surface. The guide said that temperatures could plunge further; at some times of the year in single figures. Very odd for the equator.
Guayaquil was hot but overcast. The weather forecasts of endless rain and lightening in Cuenca and Quito didn’t happen. The weather was warm and skies generally clear but we had a couple of days of rain and low clouds. We needed warm jumpers at night but the coats weren’t used.
Quito could get cloudy and hazy. The volcanoes drifted in and out of view.
Always things we didn’t need to bring: water resistant coats not needed, too many t-shirts and swimsuits. Impossible to anticipate these things. We still travel far lighter than anyone else we meet.
Hmm! Not convinced. The only dish I came back wanting more of was ceviche. Not always great; sometimes chewy and warm or over acidic and soft. But it could also be fresh fish with balanced lemon/lime, chilli and pickled onions.
Stand out meals were the brand new and modern Anker Mar to Table in Puerto Ayora, old school Tiesto’s in Cuenca, a little touristy but atmospheric and a fun chef who hosted rather than cooked, and the ceviche in Picanteria la Culata in Guayaquil
Too many meals were a struggle.
Special praise for the food on the Beagle. Good variety and quality, and appropriate quantities for the ravenous passengers.
Things to buy
We didn’t bring back a great deal of souvenirs. The textiles were bright and of indeterminate origin. Frustratingly there were plenty of interesting things in the museums and the traditional belts, hats and shawls being worn on the streets.