14th January 2011
The night before we were to head out to Galapagos, I did my ritual gear checking over and over again. Counting everything, making sure I had all the lenses, batteries, cables etc. I ran them off against a checklist. The hotel was near the airport and you would hear airplanes landing and taking off, the hotel was overlooking a football field with the hillside of Quito in the distance.
The next morning, we were picked up by the travel rep and taken to the airport. When going to Galapagos from Quito, there is a separate area for you to check your luggage. Once all the formalities were done, and we had got our tickets, we went through to departures and waited for our flight.
I’ve always said this to people but for some reason I don’t get the giddy rush of excitement when traveling to new places anymore. It’s a sad thing to say but its true. Since travelling around the world in 2005, the excitement associated with going to the airport, checking in, passport control, boarding the plane etc has evaporated. Saying that, there was a ‘sense’ of where I was going, and that it was going to somehow change me. How much it would change me, I didn’t know. The departure board updated, and we were ready. We quickly passed through the ticket desk and walked onto the tarmac, the sound of the plane engines was overwhelming, as was the distinct smell of jet fuel. We all meandered through the set path outlined on the tarmac, guiding us round parked planes and keeping us clear of moving ones. Once round the terminal building, I saw the plane that was going to take me to the Galapagos.
After my nap, I woke up to the sounds of the food cart being moved down the aisles, with the air stewards giving out light snacks. I looked out and saw the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The shimmering reflection of the sun’s light on the ocean surface. I didn’t know what to feel, but something was slowly happening to me, I couldn’t place it, but I knew it was happening.
The captain told us we were 10-15 minutes from landing and instructed us to sit and fasten our seat belts, and he told the crew to check doors and then follow suit. We then heard the strange mechanical noise of the airplane wing flaps being extended, and after a short while the sounds of the wheels being deployed, and then the feeling of the plane going into a gentle descent. I looked out the window and didn’t see any islands. I was looking for some glimpse of the ‘Enchanted Isles’, but as the plane veered right all I could see was the sky.
As the plane was approaching, I saw land, well more specifically, waves crashing onto land. Once the wheels touched down and slowly came to taxi speed, I knew we were somewhere pretty special. An iguana was walking along the tarmac and heading for a trolley cart on the tarmac. It was heading for shade. I’ve never seen anything like it, it was so bizarre yet so cool. Another thing that I had noticed was the terminal building and straight away it reminded me of Kona International Airport on the Big Island; it looked like an out- building, a big shed of sorts. Once the plane came to a standstill, what appeared to be jets of gas came out through the air vents over the cabins; it looked like white mist. We were told by cabin crew, this was to kill any bacteria in the air, and with that the cabin staff sprayed inside the overhead lockers as well. All this was to prevent contamination and the influx of foreign viruses that might have a devastating impact on the islands and kill off the indigenous species. This carried on for a good 10 minutes.
Getting off the plane to be hit with the cool warm breeze was soothing to the skin, but it still hadn’t hit me that we were on the Galapagos. After going through customs and getting my bags checked, we were met by our guide William who helped us with our bags and made sure we got onto the right bus. With the bags loaded, we were off.