Monday, July 10, 2017

Day 8 (30 June 2017) – San Cristobal to Guayaquil, Ecaudor - Adventures by Disney Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Tour (23 Jun – 2 July 2017)

This time, both Seth and I were up at around 5:30 am as it was just starting to get light outside. We finished our packing and then headed off to the library to get some coffee. We went upstairs to upper deck and could see that we had already arrived into San Cristobal. We realized this was the first time all week we had seen houses or buildings. The frigates were all circling above us.

We went downstairs for our last breakfast on the ship and Lauren found us and gave us our certificates for having crossed the equator on a ship. Plenty of people cross the equator on a plane but not many do it on a boat. We had crossed from the southern hemisphere where we landed (Baltra) and the crossed back to the northers hemisphere in the middle of the night the other day.

We ate our breakfast pretty leisurely (we actually found out from Lauren and Robby that there are ABD “black lists” and apparently you have to do something pretty egregious to be black listed from ABD) and then made a final check of our cabin, grabbed our carry ons, and then headed to the library to wait for our group to deboard. Robby let us know that the ship was preparing special packets for us of food for lunch which we picked up from reception on our way down to the pangas. It was the last time that dolphins and frigates would be called and I’m sure we’ll all miss those bulky red life vests we had to wear almost every time we boarded a panga.

We boarded the pangas and said goodbye to the Santa Cruz II. We were headed to the pier where we were told was like sea lion city and, indeed, we did see a bunch of sea lions playing in the water as well as some just laying on the steps. We dropped off our larger carry on bags that they kept for us in the back of a pick up truck while we were on our last excursion to the tortoise preserve.

The ride on the bus to the tortoise reserve took about 45 minutes but the cool breeze coming into the bus felt great. There seemed to be orange trees everywhere.

Once we arrived at the tortoise preserve, we went through the front gate and were immediately treated to a huge tortoise just inside the gate. At first, I thought it was a statue until it’s head moved. We were guided one last time by Indi who explained all about the tortoises, their funny, saddle shaped shells, how to tell their age (older = fainter lines on the shell that had been rubbed off with time) and how to tell their gender (males have much bigger tails). The adult males are much much bigger than the females weighing up to 600+ pounds. They moved very very slowly.

We were taken on the trail and saw a few tortoises along the way until we reached the back of the preserve where the young tortoises were kept. We were told that they had about 50+ adult tortoises and about 109 baby tortoises in the preserve. Tortoises usually just deposit their eggs and leave them to hatch on their own providing no protection to the hatchlings so at this preserve, the eggs are picked up, marked, and put in incubators until they hatch. Apparently, the gender of the tortoise can be determined by how warm the eggs are kept which I found to be fascinating. The new baby tortoises go through different areas of the nursery from boxed enclosures for the first few years to small outdoor enclosures for another few years, and then when they’re older, they are released to the general population of tortoises or to the wild on the island.

We headed back towards the front of the park via a different path and come upon several areas where the tortoises were being fed. It was amazing to see them so up close.

When we reached the front of the sanctuary, we had the opportunity to use the bathroom one more time before reboarding the bus. We were taken back into town and dropped off to do a little shopping – only about 30 minutes or so. We picked up a few small souvenirs – a tea bag box for Amina, some magnets, some stickers, couple shirts and a cap for Seth.

Meeting back at the point where we were dropped off, we boarded different buses this time to get to the airport which really wasn’t very far at all – we could have walked it. We picked up our carry ons and then checked our luggage in. We went through security and then sat in a large room waiting to board but it turns out that the flight into San Cristobal was delayed due to mechanical reasons so we had an extra hour wait. It was a good thing we got those lunch bags – we ate our lunches and then the airline actually gave us some juice and snacks as well. Our plane finally arrived and we boarded from both the front and back of the plane so that went a lot faster.

The flight to Guayaquil was pretty unremarkable. When we arrived, we made our to way to baggage claim and picked up our suitcases then followed Robby and Lauren out of the airport onto a waiting bus. Porters took our suitcases in the airport and loaded them on the bus for us.

The ride to the hotel took the better part of an hour in Guayaquil – the largest city in Ecuador. The traffic was interesting – there are no lane lines marked on the streets. We checked into the Hilton which was packed with people – there was some sort of veterinarian conference going on at the same time. The rooms are nice and spacious. We waited for our suitcases to arrive and then headed downstairs to the bar with our complimentary drink vouchers to grab a drink before we met the rest of the Adventurers in the lobby at 6:30 for the last time. They took us to the Portofino restaurant in the hotel which was closed just for our event.

For dinner, I had the Serrano ham with melon, a seafood bisque, tenderloin with baked potato, and crunchy apple pie for dessert.

 We enjoyed 2 guitars who played traditional Ecuadorian music as well as 2 dancers who did some traditional dances for us during dinner. We were also given our final pin of the trip.

After dinner, we viewed the slide show from the trip which is always a nice recap of everything we did all week. What was particularly awesome was that after the slide show, Lauren air dropped some picture postcards, instructions on accessing all the pictures from the trip online, as well as a copy of the slide show video to each of us. That was particularly nice because our internet connection at home isn’t the greatest and it probably would have taken ages to get that video downloaded.  *edited to add:  our Adventures by Disney Farewell video slide show has now been uploaded to my smugmug account.

We were given our departure information. Some families had a very early flight at 6 am for which they would need to leave the hotel at around 3:30 am. (OUCH!). Our flight didn’t leave until almost 11 pm so we had the entire day to spend in Guayaquil. Late check out was 2 pm or until 6 pm for an additional $100. We had no plans and I know Rhys and Seth were looking forward to sleeping in.

We said goodbyes and exchanged hugs with our fellow Adventurers. We also got a copy of everyone’s email addresses. Guide tip envelopes were passed out. As always, this Adventures by Disney trip introduced us to some of the nicest people and we seemed to really click with several of the families. Nobody loves the end of a vacation but I’m so glad for the things that we saw and the people that we met.  

Next post:  Day 9, 1 July 2017 - Guayaquil, Ecuador to OKC 

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