Hidden Galápagos and Peru
September 11-26, 2021
Mike and Judy Henderson
I'll leave the trip diagrams on each page so you can see where we are.
9/17/2021 (Friday) We were up early again this morning, about 3am. Bag pull was at 5am and the restaurant opened early for us so we could eat before departing at 6am.
First, we fly to Lima, then a flight to Quito, and finally a flight to Guayaquil. Due to COVID, there is no direct flight from Lima to Guayaquil today.
Here we are, gathered in the lobby. Marcos is giving us a briefing before departure.
The Cusco airport was not far from the hotel, and we took the small bus.
We arrived at the Cusco airport fairly quickly.
The flight to Lima was uneventful. We had a three hour layover in Lima before our flight to Quito. However, we have a very short connection in Quito for our flight to Guayaquil and we have to collect our bags and go through customs and security in Quito.
The flight to Quito was uneventful, except that wind conditions prevented our first attempt to land. That doomed our slim chance to make the connecting flight, by delaying us at least 20 minutes. We could not get through Customs or Security in time to make our flight to Guayaquil. The connection was just too tight.
Through some magic, Marcos was able to get all of us booked on the next flight to Guayaquil, which left about an hour later. If we had been a group of forty, he would have never been able to do this - there just wouldn't have been that many open seats on the next flight.
We made the later flight to Guayaquil and checked into the Hotel Del Parque, a lovely Colonial-style hotel.
We went to dinner at the hotel's restaurant. We were happy to be there!
Jamie and Tim discovered a problem this evening - their bags were not in their room. The hotel staff examined the video from the camera in the hallway and discovered that the staff had put their bags in the wrong (unoccupied) room. They didn't get their bags until about midnight. They had an even longer day.
That was the end of our major travel day - three back-to-back flights.
9/18/2021 (Saturday) We fly to the Galápagos today and board the Silver Origin.
I took a few pictures around Hotel Del Parque this morning. Tauck contracts with some very nice hotels, and this one was no exception. Here's a picture of the exterior. (photo credit to Tim and Jamie)
And a picture of our room, taken as we were departing. It was a very large (and very nice) room with a big bathroom, and a giant shower.
The bus took us to the Guayaquil airport - a very beautiful airport. Note that Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador, and is the commercial center. Quito is the capital but not the largest city.
We checked in and cleared security without any problems.
Our flight was to San Cristóbal, and was uneventful. The flight was not full.
We had to clear a security check because the entire area of the Galápagos is a national park. There were document and baggage checks.
A bus took us to the port and we were taken by Zodiac boat to the Silver Origin.
I was able to get this picture as we approached the Silver Origin. She's a brand new ship - her maiden voyage was July 19 of this year. We learned that there were only 43 guests on this sailing, not including the tour directors and naturalists.
While waiting for our cabins to be ready, we had lunch.
After lunch our cabin was ready. We were surprised at how large it is, and how well thought out. There is plenty of storage area, space for two suitcases under the bed, a big well-designed walk-in closet, and a sitting area. The top of the window shown in the picture can be lowered. The ship has satellite Internet access, but it's not that fast. I was able to get this blog updated, however.
The bath area is fairly large for a ship cabin. There's a good-sized shower area, and although there's only one sink, they put in two faucets so it can be used by two people at the same time. The one weak area of the sink is that it has an almost-flat bottom and does not properly drain. When I shave, the shaving soap that I scrape off my face will linger in the bottom of the sink unless I use my hand to scrape it to the drain.
But except for that one weak point, the cabin is excellent and very modern.
After getting settled, we were required to watch a safety video on the TV, and then muster together for the briefing on how to leave the ship in case of an "abandon ship" order. After that we had a presentation on what events we'd have the next day.
The captain took the ship close to Kicker Rock (also known as León Domino) to allow us to photograph it.
Then it was dinner and to bed.
9/19/2021 (Sunday, Genovesa Island) The cruise activities begin today. After breakfast we had a nature walk on Genovesa Island. But to get there, we had to take the Zodiacs and do what they call a "wet landing". Any time we get into a Zodiac, we have wear a life vest. The ones we use are small, but work like an air bag. If they are immersed in water, they inflate with a bang. We know, because a woman accidently allowed her life vest to get wet when she was washing her wet suit. Everyone in the area heard the bang. Here's a picture of some of our group getting ready to board a Zodiac. You can see the relatively small life vests on each person.
We board the Zodiac from the back of the ship.
This is what a "wet landing" looks like.
Then we have to take off our water shoes and put on our regular hiking shoes. Silversea has thoughtfully given each of us a backpack for onshore needs.
Side note: For walking tours, Tauck has used a device carried by the tour guide that transmits his/her voice to receivers carried by the guests. The receivers have an earpiece that fits into your ear. But for people who wear hearing aids as I do, these devices don't work. My hearing loss is not linear - I (like most people) have more loss at higher frequencies so if I remove a hearing aid and put in the receiver earpiece, I can't understand what's being said. To get around that, I carry a headset that I can put over my hearing aids (Tauck never has headsets available for people with hearing loss, even though I've brought this issue to their attention many, many times).
Silversea uses an app on your smartphone called "iTourSmartGuide". The tour guide carries a transmitter that creates a WiFi network. The guest will have downloaded the iTourSmartGuide app earlier and now bring it up on their smartphone.
The tour guide tells you what network he/she's using, and you connect to that.
For people without hearing loss, they use whatever earphones they normally use, including Apple Airpods, to hear what the tour guide is saying.
But the important thing for people with hearing loss is that, if they have hearing aids with Bluetooth, the hearing aids work like (expensive) Apple Airpods. I can hear the tour guide through my hearing aids without having to wear a headset. I didn't ask what they do if a guest doesn't have a smartphone, but I assume they have a receiver they can supply to that guest. End of side note.
On the walk we saw many birds and a few other animals. Here are some pictures. According to the Galapagos Wildlife Guide, this is a Striated Heron. This one looks forlorn but apparently is healthy.
This is a Red-footed Booby. The Galapagos islands are unusual in that there are many examples of a single specie being found only on one island, so this is the only place we will see a Red-footed Booby.
A Marine Iguana. It was almost invisible on the rock. I adjusted the picture in PhotoShop to make it stand out a bit more.
Two juvenile sea lions play-fighting.
A recent hatchling which still has its down.
And another Red-footed Booby.
A short time after we returned to the ship, we prepared for an "Introduction to Snorkeling" class, which started on a beach. In other words, snorkeling from the beach. We put on our wet suits and took our mask and snorkel, and a Zodiac took us to a beach.
I had put my iPhone into a waterproof bag so I was shooting through the plastic of the bag. The pictures may not be as sharp.
The instructor is helping Judy adjust her mask in this picture.
We gave snorkeling a try, but we both decided that it was not for us.
Here are MC and Gail getting ready.
Judy enjoying the water. We had been warned that the water might be cold, but it was very comfortable.
Here's Beth getting ready.
Judy on the beach with Alex, who's in training to be a tour director for the Peru and Galápagos tour.
In the afternoon, there was an excursion to Great Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island and Prince Philip's Steps. Prince Philip's steps are described in Wikipedia as "an extraordinary steep path that leads through a seabird colony full of life, 25 meters (82 feet) high."
Judy is not very good at climbing stairs so we passed on this excursion. But I found a couple of pictures on the web of Prince Philip's Steps and I'll include them here. Here's a view from a Zodiac looking towards the steps.
And here's a view looking down the steps.
That evening, Tauck and Silversea had a get-together for us in the Explorer Lounge. They laid out a nice spread of hor d'oeuvres and Champagne.
Lizardo, the Silversea Hotel Director, came and thanked us for being on the tour with Silversea, and offered a toast. He's joined by Alex and Marcos.
After this, we went to dinner and then to bed.
9/20/2021 (Monday, North Seymour Island) We were up at 5am today - our first tour is at 7:15.
We went down for breakfast early, before the restaurant was open. So we went into the Explorer Lounge to wait. The Executive Chef, Andrea Cruz, happened to come into the lounge and we spoke with her for a few minutes. She's Ecuadorian, trained in Argentina and is responsible for everything relating to the food service - planning the menus, ordering supplies, training staff, etc. A very responsible job.
Just a side comment, I think all of the ship's crew is Ecuadorian. The ship was built specifically for tours in the Galápagos and if I were Ecuador, I'd require an Ecuadorian crew before I'd allow the ship to operate.
We're going to visit North Seymour Island today. The tour guide is Jason, who does an excellent job of describing the geology and the animals.
He explained that the male Frigate bird inflates a red bladder on his neck to attract a female. Here's a male and female. It takes about 30 minutes for the red display to be at its fullest. There might be several females (or more) around an attractive male.
Here's part of our group on the nature walk.
There were some small Lava Lizards in the area. Probably very similar to the ones in your yard, except that their color variation will be slightly different from island to island.
And some iguanas. This is a land iguana.
Here's a cute young bird.
Another one, a bit older.
Same bird, looking directly at me. A down-the-nose shot.
I'm afraid I didn't remember the names of all the birds. Here's one that was very photogenic.
A dedicated birder from a different tour group.
This is a Blue-footed Booby.
I think this is a Swallow-tailed Gull.
And then it was back to the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon, we went to Sulivan Bay on Santiago Island. That's not a misspelling - it only has one "L". Sulivan Bay is no longer a bay - it is a bay that was filled with lava in a recent eruption, many years after it was named. We did a nature walk on the island, mostly to examine the lava fields.
As we were preparing to start our walk, we noticed some birds diving for food near the island. Gailen Hart got this picture of the birds as they entered the water.
A view of some of the lava. It's pretty barren, and it creates a fantastical landscape.
There was a hole in the lava, and Jamie was "eaten" by the lava. Don't be alarmed. The hole was only about 2.5 feet deep and she is a very convincing actress.
Some "rope lava".
Lava cactus. It's a pioneer plant for lava fields.
An interesting lava formation.
I did find beauty in the lava. (Thanks, Mike!)
That was our day. We had dinner with the group and then to bed.
Our adventure continues here.