Tuesday, July 26, 2011: We woke up in the harbor at Baltra. I packed before heading up on deck. There were a limited number of birds flying around the harbor, mostly Blue-footed Boobies, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Brown Noddies. We put our checked luggage out before breakfast, then got the rest out afterward. The crew has to clean quickly as another group will be here around noon. After breakfast, we watched a Galápagos video. We now recognize many of the places shown!
We put on life jackets and stepped into the pangas one last time. From the dock, it was a short bus ride to the airport. We waited in the VIP lounge in the airport until our flight number was called. This took a while. Then it was off to Guayaquil.
The Guayaquil airport is easily the nicest South American airport I've been in. We spotted a person with an Isabela II sign as we left baggage claim. She led us to our bus to the hotel. Our luggage traveled in a separate vehicle.
On the way to the airport I spotted Rock Pigeon, Eared Dove, and what turned out to be Ecuadorian Ground-Dove. I saw the last again near the pool at the hotel. The hotel was fabulous. The only time I've stayed in such a large hotel room has been when we've gotten a suite to interview people in at the winter meetings. In fact, this room was larger than most of those too. It had a view of the pool and garden area. When I looked out, I could see anis, so I grabbed my binoculars and headed downstairs.
I got a close look at the anis by the pool. As I suspected they were Groove-billed Anis. There was also a Scrub Blackbird, and a hummingbird, apparently a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, was feeding on some red flowers. A nearby tree had two Tropical Kingbirds and a Blue-gray Tanager. There was also a second hummer, possibly a second species. I went back inside for the bird book and discovered that someone had put a cable tie on my luggage. Unfortunately, my swiss army knife was locked in the luggage. I got some scissors from the front desk to cut the tie.
I then went back out to the pool where several of our group had gathered. Some of them asked me to ID a bird they had photographed there. I identified it as a Pacific (Pale-legged) Hornero. Then I pulled out the iPod to show them one from Ridgely and Greenfield (I have photos of all the plates on my iPod). A little later, a hornero flew over the pool, allowing me to count it.
Dinner was at the hotel, where they had a fancy buffet.
From what little I've seen of it, Guayaquil seems a much more modern city that Quito. However, the instructions the hotel gave us in case we went out suggests that its reputation for crime is well-deserved. I've never received such a detailed safety briefing from any hotel, even in Rio.
My bird total for the day was 17 species, with 1 lifer. My trip total increased by 9 to 60 species (51 on the Galápagos), with 31 lifers. This is the final total for the trip.
Hotel Hilton Colon, Guayaquil
Wednesday, July 27, 2011:
About two-thirds of our group are leaving the 10:05 American flight to Miami. The hotel has hourly shuttles and suggested we leave at 7. After an early breakfast, we all checked out before 7. The ride to the airport was very short, less than 5 minutes. Since I was flying business class, I zipped through the line ahead of most of the group, and was soon through immigration and security. There was extra security at the gate (Ecuadorian security is apparently too pragmatic for the TSA), which slowed boarding. Nonetheless, we pushed off from the gate approximately on time.
Usually, business class is similar to first class of many years ago. The seats are wider, with more legroom, but not as fancy as the what first class has become. This time was different. There was much more legroom and the seat is capable of using that room by flattening for sleeping. It's a long way from modern first-class pods, but is more than I'm used to in business class.
The food was more typical. Heated almonds and peanuts, a salad course, an entree with vegetables, and dessert. When they came by with coffee, I asked for a Diet Coke. I was surprised when the steward asked if he could have his picture taken serving me. He's retiring. This is his last flight, and it seems I'm his last customer. He said it would go into an album his daughter is making for him.