Sadly, today was the last day of my tour. With hindsight, I should have stayed some extra days and organised some day trips for myself, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I also wish I had realised how easy it would have been to have organised the entire trip myself as it is really not necessary, as I had thought, to come here on a tour or with a very expensive cruise boat. However, given that the Galapagos are very expensive, I am not sure that I would have actually saved much money – just had more time to enjoy the archipelago.
After breakfast, which, for once, was in the hotel, we drove in utes/pickup trucks, along the very straight road to the other side of the island to catch the ferry to Baltra, where the airport is located. On the way, we detoured, in the Highlands, to El Chato Ranch, a private ecological reserve where Giant Turtles lived in the wild. Here, we all tried on a turtle shell (very heavy) and visited a lava tunnel, which had been formed when lava continued to flow under lava that had already cooled and hardened. Once the lava had stopped flowing, the tunnels or tubes remained. There are a number of these, some very long, on Santa Cruz.
After each of us had had our photograph taken with an 80 year old, 180kg turtle, we set off for the ferry across the short channel to Baltra and then transferred to the airport in a bus. Baltra itself is very dry and brown with little on it apart from the airport.
Having arrived in plenty of time, I almost missed the flight as I didn’t go through to the departure lounge until the last minute as I had gone to post a card. It was only when one of the members of the group, who was travelling on a later flight, told me that I should board that I realised that rather than the flight not having been called yet, the gate had actually closed! Whoops!
On arrival in Guayaquil, it was pouring with rain and continued to do so whilst I transferred to the bus terminal and then all the way to Cuenca. Consequently, I couldn’t see much of the mountains although we must have travelled over an extremely high pass as we ground our way upwards for a long time and then descended a very long way before arriving in the city, which, itself, is located at 2,600m.
I had some trouble getting a taxi at the terminal as the Ecuadorians kept jumping in front, but eventually, I arrived at the apartment, which is situated above office blocks in Gran Colombia, the main shopping street of Cuenca. There was no door bell and no way of getting in so I had to fumble in my bag, find the phone number I had been given and call Pilar to let me in. She had been waiting, a little impatiently, having anticipated that I would arrive earlier. She was going to her daughter’s to stay, having relinquished her room to another guest, who wanted to stay longer. By the time I had settled into my room, I was exhausted. However, as I was having a cup of tea, a Canadian couple returned and I ended up chatting to them for quite a while so it was very late before I actually made it to bed.