My first challenge was to choose which day tour to Cotopaxi to participate in. Would we hike to the Refugio only or go on another 200 metres or so to the glacier? Would we drive to Laguna Limpiopungo or bike down? Should we start at 7AM at 'Coffee Toffee' or get picked up at our apartment? What is the catch if one tour is $35, a similar one is $55 and another $60? Does the price correlate with the quality of the experience? If we choose the $35 trip and no one else signs up, are we willing to pay $47 instead? Waiting our turn in the travel agency made me question our choice of tour. If we walked across the street to the more expensive tour, would we be served right away, and would the experience on the mountain be more satisfying? Debra and I chose to wait and pay $47 for the $35 trip because only Mel, Debra and I signed up. Eric drove home from Yanayacu this morning with Mel and will be able to pick Maya up from school and get her to her ballet class as well as put her on the bus for school in the morning, so 7 AM will work us. All set, our first mission accomplished.
We fortified ourselves with fruit juice at the 'Magic Bean' and Debra went off to visit the Musical Instruments museum at the Casa de la Cultura (she has booked her trip to the islands), while Mel and I visited 'Galapagos Last Minute'. Mel had been up since 5 AM, so she was rapidly fading during our extravaganza of choices. We are limited by price (Mel had set a limit of $1500 but is willing to go to $2000 for something spectacular) and the stability of the boat (if we do a cruise) because both Mel and Rebecca have issues with seasickness. There are two huge boats, the Santa Cruz and the Isabela II, which have great itineraries. We could do four days on the Santa Cruz (the same trip I do with the students each January) for a good price, while the Isabela offers a great deal March 28 to April 4, which is too late for Rebecca, who leaves on the 30th. The luxury boats appear most comfortable, but the prices are steep. On the other hand, this is an experience of a lifetime and skimping on the boat does not make sense. All the suitable boats and itineraries are a bit too expensive, especially if I join the group, since I have the tightest budget.
I very much want my friends to have amazing experiences in the Galapagos, so the land tour option worries me. The wildlife can best be seen by boat. Staying on the islands offers amazing landscapes, and perhaps far less animal viewing. If unable to see animals, what sort of impression will Rebecca and Mel have?. When we were in Yasuni and the animals were hiding, we were disappointed and wanted to see so much more. The animals are IT in Galapagos and not seeing them would make the experience moot. On the other hand, the French scientists we met at Yanayacu raved about staying on the islands, felt they saw much of the wildlife, and had a richer deeper understanding of the islands. I am intrigued by the land tours and know that after being on a boat so many times, a land experience would be new to me (if I join the group).
I am running out of time and my indecisiveness can hurt Mel and Rebecca (we may literally miss the boat , or all the boats), so I have given myself a deadline; I must decide by Friday. In truth I believe that Mel and Rebecca will be satisfied with whatever I choose, so I don't know why I am agonizing about making the choice. Certainly I have spent hours and hours on this decision. Once the decision is made, I believe I can relax and look forward to the trip. I will forget about it tomorrow for the day, while gasping for air at 4800-5000 metres, and make my choice on Friday.
There are dozens of travel agencies all over the Mariscal, several on each street, with offers of all sorts and choices of every possible kind. After a while however, they all sound sort of the same, and I have to concentrate a little harder to note the differences. I want an amazing offer to land on my feet, an offer I cannot refuse, and a week or so to anticipate a return to the Galapagos. Meanwhile, waiting, patience, decisions, choices.