We awoke today to pouring rain. Pouring.
The rain stopped around 10, about the time we stepped off the most sardine-packed tram I have ever ridden in my life. But that’s part of the adventure. We wandered around Mariscal Sucre, also known by some as Gringoland, or the tourist district. Travel agencies abound! We were in search of one, though one in particular that had been recommended. We did inquire at the travel agency located in the hostel, but didn’t think the offered deals were really great.
We ended up at the Galasam travel agency, where we booked our Galapagos cruise – 4 days on a first class boat, for $700 USD each. That was a much better deal than others we’d seen, albeit a day shorter than we were hoping for. I think she said regular price for this was $1300. She offered us 8 days, which would have been great, for $2200 each – and that was the last minute deal. Ouch.
So we leave for the Galapagos first thing tomorrow morning, will spend a couple of nights on our own on a couple of the islands (there are local boat ferries between some), then hop on the cruise on Friday morning. Yay! We’ll also get one extra night on the island of San Cristobal at the end, and fly out from there.
We’ve also changed our plan a little bit, in that instead of flying back to Quito afterward, we will instead fly to Guayaquil, then maybe make our way over to Cuenca, which we initially thought we wouldn’t have time for. From there we’ll head north, making our way slowly back to Quito. There is the possibility of a brief jungle excursion, but we haven’t figured that out yet.
After the travel agent, we wandered about Mariscal for a bit – very different from the old town, and more… European. Not nearly as distinct or unique or interesting, not to mention more expensive. Spent some time in a botanical garden. Nice, but nothing special. Ate lunch at the mall – it was close by – the neat little places that are found in the old town are harder to find near Mariscal.
Later in the afternoon, we made our way back to the old town, to try and cash our traveller’s cheques (the cruise deal was cash only – draining our reserves). The one bank that had been recommended wasn’t able to do it, so she told us to go to another bank. 20 minutes in line later, we were told they couldn’t do it – go to the cash exchange. Well, if we’d known the banks couldn’t do it, we would have started there, but we were hoping to get (and were told we could get) a lower change fee. Oh well. All in all, it wasn’t too bad. A lot of people everywhere, but not very pushy. And people are helpful, despite the language barrier. We can understand some of it, and can mostly communicate what we need, but there are still situations where all we can do is look confused.
We took several cab rides today (one sardine experience was enough for me for one day, and we don’t think we can figure out the buses). They are easy to get, and cheap. So far, it’s been a pretty easy experience. Nothing overly challenging, though maybe a bit frustrating.
So we’re off to Galapagos tomorrow! We’re not sure what internet facilities will be like – I know they are plentiful on Santa Cruz, but we’re going to try to get the ferry straight to Isabella, and there I’m not sure.
So basically, if you don’t hear from us for a few days, don’t worry! (though you probably will hear from us)
Kathy has completely neglected to mention much about our wanderings on Sunday. Basically we just went out for a walk in search of lunch, and ended up wandering the API Call Errorold API Call Errorcity for most of the afternoon. Eventually our wanderings took us past an irresistible smell. Lunch was extra cheap – $1 each – but the crab soup that Kathy ordered ended up just having half a crab sitting in it staring back at her. I went for the somewhat less adventurous pork chop with rice, and was pleased with that decision.
Sunday is API Call Errorbiking day in these parts. I’d heard a lot before about Bogota’s experiment in closing the streets to traffic on Sundays, and Quito has a toned down version of that. There are still some cars out – and of course busses and taxis, naturally – but a lot of the lanes are open only to cyclists. Loads of people participate, making walking almost a little hazardous. There’s watering stations all over the place, and we saw one tent that looked like it was free bike repair.
It’s been great here so far, and we’re sure excited about the islands tomorrow
Oh, yeah – and I bought a API Call Errorcoconut from a guy with a wheelbarrow full – I thought I was going to eat it, he’d peeled it and everything, but instead he stuck a straw in it, and I had coconut milk! 😀