[Endeavor -> Baltra airport]
I woke early Saturday, since I needed to put my checked luggage outside the door of my cabin before breakfast. And since the crew had two hours between our vacating our cabins and the next week's passengers arriving to change the sheets. I decided to give them a bit more time.
The ship has a two week agenda. We saw the south and east islands; the next week's group would see the young, western islands. Lava. Isabela and Fernandina. Flightless cormorants. Between this and the dry/wet season split, I feel like I've seen about a quarter of what there is to see, and I didn't see everything this time around, either.
They played Lindblad Expedition videos as we waited to leave after breakfast... and I want to go on them all. The Antarctic, yes. Seeing the polar bear pressing its face against the ship's porthole to look inside (and hearing Birgit talk about that, the other night) definitely whetted my appetite for the Arctic, before it's gone. The Amazon seemed fun. Baja is close but similarly matches desert and ocean. We didn't get to the Costa Rica portion; it was time to depart.
Our last zodiac ride was a bit sad. I gave Gaby a hug at the dock; all the naturalists were great but I had been with her for some of the most memorable walks.
a blurry gaby, fernando, aura, celso
sofia, juan carlos, aura
I spotted the last two Giftmas items I needed for the nieces -- bought 'em and then headed into the airport, where there was free wifi. Ahhhh.
Back at Guayaquil, where we were all a bit frazzled. I wanted to go on the city tour despite only having an hour between arriving at the hotel and leaving -- essentially only a half hour in the hotel room to wash up and go out again.
I did enjoy it though, the boardwalk and the colorful old town. Tempered by the sight of malnourished kids trying to sell candy and the knowledge that hailing a taxi on the street was asking to get robbed.
It was nice traveling with only my point and shoot and iPhone camera, after lugging two DSLRs around all week.
Got back, worked out, showered. Headed down to the bar, where many of us were gathered before dinner; it was like the ship, except no soothing announcement from Cindy.
I ate with the nineteen -- those who had gone on the Machu Picchu extension trip before the Galapagos cruise. Now I'm wondering why I hadn't gone, as well; it sounded fun and the group was very tight. I think I was worried about needing more clothes and more camera gear, which was valid. I think limiting myself on this first solo trip might have been good as well.
The prawns were frickin HUGE and seriously tasty.
Afterwards I joined Kristie and Maureen back at the bar and got tipsy on pricy booze and stayed up past my bedtime. It was fun though.
The smooth travels so far? GYE -> JFK not so much.
- Getting called in to have my luggage opened + inspected at GYE, passing by drug sniffing dogs; not being able to communicate well with the Spanish-speaking security staff;
- the screaming babies on the plane all the way to JFK, and I mean screaming. all. the. way;
- noticing that the airline had failed to give me a US customs form after waiting in line, forcing me to double back, find a form, fill it out, and wait in line again;
- US customs stopping me to check my bags again at JFK
all added up to a relieved Aki once I was at my hotel shortly after 11pm.
Staying in Manhattan for a day seems odd, especially after a trip to the Galápagos. I think it was a good end to my vacation, though. A full day to myself, guided only by my iPhone, Yelp, and vague "hm, I want to [eat|see|do] ____".
- a bowl of ramen;
- Adorama. I got to B&H just when they closed, but that's definitely on my list for next time;
- stopped by a Barnes&Noble to pick up The Beak of the Finch, which Alan was trying to read on the plane. It's a fascinating read so far, and I'm only a few chapters in. Much better/more thorough than the Daphne Major documentary we watched, though the documentary whetted my appetite, surely;
- stopped by Guitar Center on a whim;
- a slice of New York pizza;
- Zuccotti Park and #ows;
- a quick walk by the 9/11 tribute grounds;
- pastrami sammich;
- just a general feel for the city that you can only get by walking through it. Bus tours have a different feel.
Google maps tells me a direct route from my hotel to Zuccotti Park was ~4miles. I'm guessing I walked 9-10 miles that day.
I definitely want to spend more time there at some point.
[JFK -> SFO]
The flight home was uneventful. I'm still not all unpacked, nearly a week later.
I'm so glad I brought:
- my cotton carrier; this allowed me to lug around my 100-400mm with ease.
- both my dslrs, though I wish I had brought my 24-105mm instead of my 17-40mm, given how often I was photographing at the 40mm end of that lens. I was using my 7D + 100-400mm between 80-90% of the time. still, being able to switch from telephoto to wide angle near instantaneously helped me capture a lot of shots I wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
- my point and shoot and underwater housing were useful, though other passengers were getting better results with smaller cheaper underwater cameras.
The bulk of my camera accessories (filters, mini tripod, 1.4x extender) were all unused. Speed and not having to fiddle with things are so important when you have limited time on the islands, and when you're traveling with a group and need to keep up.
... So many great memories. I'd recommend this trip in a second. Already thinking about where I want to go next.