A Travellerspoint blog


Quito Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Uncruise on the LaPinta

sunny 67 °F

09-10 August 2017

Uncruise Galapagos Itinerary

Uncruise Galapagos Itinerary

There are multiple reasons that I'm writing, after the fact, for this trip. First of all, the internet was pretty slow but it amazed me that they even had wifi in the middle of nowhere. We weren't there to spend time on the computer. We were in the Galapagos!!! The land crew in Quito and our staff on La Pinta made sure that we filled our time with the wonders of the area.

Until this past spring, Galapagos wasn't even on our radar. Until, that is, I received an email from my dear friend, Karen Culbertson. Being a frequent flyer with Uncruise, she received an email to see if they (or friends and/or family) might be interested in a trip to the Galapagos. Due to a group cancellation, they were looking to fill the August 9th sailing. Though not inexpensive by a long shot, it would be a major "check" on both our life lists so we decided, in true "Burke fashion" to go for it.

We left Tucson very....very early on Wednesday August 9th and made our way (via LAX and Panama City) to Quito, Ecuador - arriving just in time to welcome in August 10th - it was a long day of travel.

On schedule, our driver, Carlos, was waiting for us in the arrivals area and whisked us towards Quito, which is about a 45 minute ride on very winding and, that night, thankfully, relatively car less roads. The dark night masked the hillside vistas of the Andes Mountains but the twinkling of the house lights told us "something" was out there.

Our hotel was the magnificent Casa Gangotena Hotel in the old town area of Quito. Our room, probably one of the nicest we've ever stayed, was so comfortable, we easily fell fast asleep.

Our wakeup call was early and we woke, surprisingly well rested. Karen and Bart were waiting for us in the dining room. There was a little of everything for breakfast and most diners were going to be our travel mates for the next 8 days. Quick smiles and head nods sufficed until food and, more importantly, coffee, got the old engines going.

For this days' activities, our group (39 of us) were broken up into groups - we were named - Cotapaxi (after one of the highest peaks in the local Andes). Churches, lunch, old town walking tour and a visit to a pre-Columbian museum filled our day. Dinner at the hotel was a highlight before heading off to bed for another EARLY (0400) wake up call....but that was totally ok because we would be off to the incredible Galapagos Islands.

11-17 August 2017

O-dark thirty came very early but you would never tell by the attentive staff. From the dining staff to the bell staff - it was like clock work.

For us - shower, finish last minute packing,.. bags outside for pick up... breakfast and then, on to the bus enroute to the Quito airport with flight to Balta Island in the Galapagos.

As we made our descent into the Galapagos, the stark island of Isla Baltra appeared out of nowhere (at least from where I was sitting). It was flat, brown with smattering of strange looking prickly pear cactus. We were told later that August is their dry/cool time of year. The plane pulled up to two older building - my thoughts, "oh my...is that the airport?". Well, of course they weren't. It was a short walk down the tarmac, up the sidewalk to the low slung , Aeropuerto Seymour (aka Galapagos Ecological Airport). This one story building , completed in 2012, was the world's first green airport. Built from recycled materials it is run on wind and solar power.

The group was met by Oscar, Daniel and the La Pinta/Uncruise team. All bags were check by a customs K9 before we could pick them up. One of the bags was taken aside (not mine or Jim's)...but...we're sure that was just a mistake. :-)

Because the airport is located on Isla Baltra, which is also owned by the military, it was a five minute ride to the port along roads that maybe the military might be able to work on sometime soon.

As we rounded a small hill, moored out in the harbor appeared a beautiful, large white ship. I really didn't think that was "our" ship but took a photo...just in case. Well.. it was. As soon as we arrived, four good sized pangas (zodiacs) left the ship and made their way to us. These zodiacs would be our transportation to and from the ship for the next seven days.

On board, we were greeted by staff, and while our bags were being spirited to our rooms, we were invited up to the lounge for a welcome drink and our initial briefing. The tentative plans for the week were laid out for us. And then, of course, the mandatory "safety drill". I'm happy to announce, we never did have to use that useful information.

The next six days flew by!!!!!!!!!!

Breakfast would start the day - made to order omelets, fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt and always at least eight other dishes made sure that we started our day well fed.

Usually having cruised during the night, each morning was a new location and a new adventure. These included hikes, snorkeling (and YES...the water is cold), kayaking, glass bottom boat rides and panga rides along the rugged island coastlines.

Blue Footed Booby

Blue Footed Booby

Lunch in Ecuador is generally the main meal of the day. On our ship, both lunch and dinner, all expertly prepared, made sure that we would not go hungry. One of the highlights was a beautifully roasted suckling pig...it was soooo good!! ...and there was always wine :-)

Roast Pig LaPinta Style

Roast Pig LaPinta Style

The afternoons followed suit with our morning itineraries. We did have to work off those calories.

Dinner followed our active afternoon activities and if you still had some energy....there was usually an informative talk or documentary. I tried my best to make it through one...unsuccessfully. Hope I didn't snore!

One of my highlights was crossing the Equator by sea...not once, or two...but four times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Equator Crossing - Jim Burke

Equator Crossing - Jim Burke

Equator Crossing - PGB

Equator Crossing - PGB

I can't begin to describe what it was like to be able to experience these islands. To be able to walk among birds and animals that don't scatter when you get near. To be able to snorkel with sea lions who just want to play. To know that these islands are promoting marine conservation and trying to preserve the safety of nearly extinct species.

Thursday the 17th came way too soon...and it was time to make our way back to civilization. Back to Baltra Island and then on to Quito, most of the other passengers waited at the airport for their red eye flights back to the states. I "really" hate overnight flights. Just can't sleep. So, we made reservations for that night at a small guesthouse about ten minutes from the airport - Hostal Saint Mary's Tababala. It was lovely. For dinner, our hosts suggested a local pizza place...and it delivered. Pizza, salad and beer - just what we needed.

After a good night sleep, it was back to the airport and a seamless series of flights which got us back home just about midnight.

This trip, though not really planned, turned out to be a once in a life time experience. The Galapagos is no longer one of those far off places we only dreamt of traveling to. The mere mention of it now will bring back memories and far off smiles to our faces.

NOTE: I've downloaded photos to Shutterfly. Click here to see some amazing sights. https://theamazinggalapagos2017.shutterfly.com/

Galapagos Sunset

Galapagos Sunset

Posted by pjburke 16:24 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

The Beginning of Time

Darwin's Galapagos Islands

75 °F

08 Aug 2017

Only one word................................Galapagos!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We're heading off tomorrow. Two nights in Quito and then traveling with Uncruise to the magnificent islands of the Galapagos!!

I'm not counting on good internet service but I promise some great photos when we get back!!!

Stay tuned...................

Posted by pjburke 21:02 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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