Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Tortoise

rose petals

Flower vendors are a common sight in Quito, Ecuador.  Flowers do not seem to be a luxury item or relegated to only special occasions.  Old, young and the not-so-well-to-do could be seen carrying two dozen roses back home on Saturday morning.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador is the typical connection point for those taking the final two-hour flight to the Galapagos Islands.  We spent a night here as a precaution in case a flight was delayed or luggage lost while getting our group together for our 10 day cruise around those islands.

Quito does not appear to be a destination spot for tourists.  Like all other Spanish settled countries, the towns have a large, centrally located plaza.  The one surprising aspect of Quito’s plaza was the lack of foreign tourists.  Being tall, white-haired and obviously a tourist, I stood out like a beacon and could feel the stares from the locals.  Most everyone else appeared to be Ecuadorian and were listening to and singing along with local guitarists.

Quito Plaza


Quito Plaza

Street vendors selling to the locals

There were a few vendors selling their wares, but based on the lack of tourists, these must be purchased by the locals.

Vendor selling colorful scarves


A flower girl does her best to brighten the mood of the city with some colorful locally grown flowers.

Flower girl selling to the locals


Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Vow

Also like so many other Spanish countries, a church is an important part of the community.  I visited the Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Vow and spent much time in the courtyard.  I could not go inside as a service was then in progress.

Basilica Ceiling, Outside Walkway

Much of Quito is very steep and mountainous.  Inside the church courtyard are these stairs bringing you to the street level just behind the church.  Very steep hills indeed.

Quito Stairs


The gargoyles of the basilica take the form of the celebrated iguanas, paying tribute to the Galapagos Islands.

Iguana Gargoyles

The Local Stores and Shops

Colorful Ecuadorian Hats for sale

Just as in Europe, the small storefronts are highly specialized.  Some sell only fruit, others only a few local vegetables.  The store shown below sells nothing but eggs.

Egg Store, vende huevos solomente.


Carnes (Meat) Shop

Carnes (Meat) Shop, fresh meat delivered daily


watermelon on the streets

Finally, The Galapagos Islands

We arrived in the Galapagos Islands via a large commercial jet.  Years ago, the Ecuadorian Government would pay their citizens  substantial sums enticing them to move to the Galapagos Islands.  Initially times were hard.  No electricity nor running water and no amenities.  However, they eventually learned that tourists with expensive cameras slung around their necks could provide a relatively good living.  Now to reduce and limit new residents to the Galapagos, Ecuadorians  can only move to the island if they marry a resident already living on the islands.

The bustling harbor town is not what the first-time visitor would expect from seeing the National Geographic shows of these ‘isolated’ islands.  The harbor towns have t-shirt shops and many bars and restaurants like what you would see on a touristy Caribbean island.   The homes which dot the volcanic island are often poorly constructed of cinder block with chickens in the front yard.  Cattle, goats and chickens are visible along our route to the tourist luncheon.


The Millennium Catamaran

Cruise ships are visible out to sea as we landed.  After landing we took a bus, a boat, then a van to our three deck catamaran the Millennium.  This boat would be the home of 10 avid photographers over the next 10 days.


The Millennium Catamaran


Millennium Catamaran Interior, Bar, Dining room and Living Room


Galapagos Tortoise

Turtle Crossing

While driving across the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz to our catamaran, we spotted the famous Galapagos tortoises grazing alongside cattle and goats.  They were plentiful around our touristy lunch spot as well.





The lumbering Tortoise

All of the photographers in our group ran around the fields snapping dozens of photos like we had never been up close and personal with a giant Galapagos tortoise before.

It was very apparent which green plants the turtles favored.  Some plants were ignored and other areas were chewed to the ground.  They would occasionally take a break from eating to study yet another pesky tourist bobbing up and down a few feet from them.  Some of the tortoise would suddenly start laughing out-loud….

Laughing Galapagos tortoise


They laughed realizing we tourists had traveled halfway around the world to simply take a photo of …  this face.

The Tortoise Look


As long as we are discussing the personality of the tortoises, there may never be a better time to bring back my favorite, the courageous tortoise living in the hilltop town of Corniglia, Italy.  This tortoise is only found along the rugged coastline on the Italian Riviera of Cinque Terra, many miles from their better known cousins of the Galapagos Islands. 





6 thoughts on “Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Tortoise

  1. Beautiful images and interesting writing, as always. I especially love the shots of the basilica ceiling and stairs, the hats, and the tortoise. The one at Zoo Boise is very reserved, and as such, I’ve never heard its voice. I was surprised to hear the tortoise you met. Of course, the ones up here would likely not be speaking Spanish.

    • Bonnie, since I was with a group I did not get to explore the town as much as I would liked. One item on your agenda should be to eat their specialty dish…. Guinea Pig. Just like when in Scotland you need to try haggis. Let me know how it turns out.

  2. Hahahaha! Loved seeing our Cinque Terra turtle in action again! Great photos, thank you for sharing your adventure with us! Looked like you were really roughing it on the Millenium, NOT! ???

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