The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador

November 2, 2002, half past midnight

I arrived in Ecuador a scant few hours ago and now sit in the bar of the Hilton Colon Hotel, one of the best in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I have embarked on a trip with the California Academy of Sciences organized by Lindblad Expeditions of New York. The trip is a high-class one (or so it seems) for non-scientists. A curator from the CAS, who has carried out fieldwork in the Galapagos is to be our guide visiting the islands. Penguins! Turtles! Sea otters! Blue footed boobies! So much will I see. Tomorrow (today?) we will have a 1 1/2 hour flight to the islands from this city of three million to board the ship Polaris which holds a maximum of about eighty. We will have five or six days on the islands - I hope to SCUBA dive there too - and then return November 9. The balance of the group, principally retirement age folks???, then fly back to the U.S. November 10. I return on the 19th and plan to see some other parts of Ecuador - perhaps pick up some Panama hats (made here).

In the gate area at Miami International airport, while waiting for the flight to Guayaquil, I chatted with a young man who is affianced to a young lady who lives in Ecuador. He recommended places to visit. When I asked him what differences were most striking he indicated the poverty - Ecuador has poor people and rich people and no middle class to speak of. In the short bus ride from the airport to this hotel in the dark the highways appeared modern and well maintained, but closer inspection out the window seems to show poor housing and hotels for [relatively] wealthy tourists. My guide book indicates that the cost of visiting Ecuador can be extremely low compared to costs in the U.S. Thus, although my trip to the Galapagos will cost on par with $3,000, or about $300 per day, the balance of my trip will likely be quite inexpensive.

Before descending from my room to the bar, Andy Jaros arrived. I am sharing the hotel this evening with him and shall be sharing a cabin shipboard with him too. He seems a nice sort, lives in San Diego and works for Sony developing electronic game systems. In any event I anticipate spending most of my time shipboard in lounges, decks, in the water, or on the islands! So close confines in a cabin appear of little consequence.

In truth, this hotel seems like almost any new hotel in downtown San Francisco, although there appears to be more staff here - perhaps it's that poor class which enables hiring of a great number...

I should turn in in anticipation of an early wake-up.

November 2, 2002, 10:00 pm