Galapagos Part 3: Ayora is a groovy little town

It is not unusual to see people lining up for days trying to get tickets for very special concerts. In Puerto Ayora however, several of the most eager customers sleep over in the street to make sure they are in the right place in the morning when the fish market opens!

Puerto Ayora is the main town on the Galapagos islands, home to roughly 12,000 of the 40,000 people who inhabit the islands. But as for the fish market, not all customers can be labeled as people. The most eager ones, those who go to sleep in the street or under the counter, are sea lions. Once the fishmongers show up in the morning preparing the sales for the coming day, the pelicans join in. Then the odd crow and the odd dog appear, and before we know it there is a marine iguana in the line-up as well. And he does not even eat fish!

After disembarking from the Angelito we spent a week in Ayora, mainly doing absolutely nothing. ES arrived with a stomach bug that kept her sitting in the room for the first few days, but once she was out and about we decided to continue the quiet life. Our cruise had been so overwhelming that nothing we could have done from town seemed worth doing. The one exception would have been taking a day or two scuba diving, but we ended up not doing that either. But by all means – if you find yourself in Puerto Ayora being a bit bored – go diving! There are hammerheads and reef sharks and turtles and groupers and other fish you never would have dreamed ever existed! DHH has done it before, and it was worth every centavo, every minute, and every breath of canned air!

So as Tom T. Hall would have said it, Ayora is a groovy little town. Main street roughly follows the seafront and is named after Charles Darwin. Darwin was the chap who made the islands famous even though he only spent five weeks there. The walkable downtown area is a small strip of hotels, restaurants, pubs, tour companies, gift shops, dive shops, clothing stores, tourist shops and night clubs. Avenida Charles Darwin begins at the main dock and finishes at the Charles Darwin Research Station, where they conserve the various sub species of the giant Galapagos turtle. Here you also find the most famous of them all, the deceased Lonesome George!

It is a rather expensive piece of groovy town, however. Except for fish and some veggies everything has to be imported from the mainland, and when food starts being expensive people obviously need to be paid higher wages. When DHH went out to eat alone with ES stuck in bed, a burger-and-beer-lunch at a seafront pub easily cost close to 30 dollars. This was more than what we a week or two later would pay for dinner for four in a cosy countryside restaurant in the Ecuador highlands. Should you at some stage need a quick pollo con arroz at a small depot cantina in between bus rides, a warm meal will set you back less than a Galapagos bottle of Pilsener Beer. 

There are alternatives to the Darwin Street restaurants, however. We fell for the Avenida Gastronomico, also known as Charles Binford Street, where a very charming 80-plus-year-old Italian runs the best pizza shop in town. It was half an inch less expensive than main street, even though we would not call that one cheap either.

There are actually more sea lions in the streets of Ayora than there are polar bears walking the streets of Tromsø, Norway, and that says a lot!

So what can you do in Puerto Ayora if you are not planning a cruise? First of all, plan a cruise anyway! If you do not have the time, as we just said, go diving! Other options are day trips across Santa Cruz Island where the town is situated, or you can take an express boat to one of the other islands nearby. You can visit the Darwin centre or the local museum. Or you can enjoy life doing absolutely nothing.

But do not forget to visit the fish market! It is totally for free, no need for an expensive PADI licence!

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