Tuesday, April 7, 2015, at 8:30 a.m., Guayaquil, Ecuador
Octavio, José, Ismael, and I are waiting in Guayaquil airport for our connecting flight to Baltra Island, the last leg of our journey to the Galapagos Islands. And it has been quite a journey.
We left Scripps Institution of Oceanography 36 hours ago on Sunday evening, drove to Los Angeles, and stayed there overnight. Our flight to Panamá would leave at 6 a.m. Monday. Checking our more than 300 kg of luggage—scientific equipment, field gear, and enough cameras to photograph every fish in the Pacific—was complicated to say the least, but for a while, it seemed more likely that all of our bags would get there than all of us! The airline representatives were helpful enough to point out an issue with José’s passport and were in fact so generous with their time that we spent an hour at the counter discussing the matter with them. With minutes to take-off, we had to leave José and two of our bags behind and to run full-tilt to the gate.
The rest of the day was uneventful in comparison. Octavio, Ismael, and I enjoyed ceviche in the airport in Panamá during our layover and were soon en route to Ecuador, where we would spend the night before heading for the Archipelago in the morning.
South of the Equator at last, we got ourselves (and our ponderous luggage) to a hotel in the city of Guayaquil by 10:30 p.m. last night, and, miraculously, José showed up a couple of hours later, having renewed his passport at the consulate in Los Angeles and jumped on the next flight. This morning, we returned to the Guayaquil airport and ran the gauntlet of checkpoints that monitor and restrict what is allowed into the ecologically sensitive islands of the Galapagos. The biological communities on these islands are highly endemic, its organisms having descended, diversified, and specialized from ancestors who washed or blew ashore by chance over hundreds of kilometers of open ocean. Our journey has been (somewhat) less haphazard than that, and we are eager to complete the journey, that is, once we clear one more hurdle… our flight is delayed.