Ten years ago next month, I boarded a plane for Ecuador, South America. Over the course of two weeks, I travelled through some of the most dramatic and varied country that exists on this earth, and experienced some of its most fascinating cultures. On Saturday, I’m going to do it again, only this time, I’m adding the part I didn’t see: the Galapagos.
Some of you will recall the post I wrote a few months ago about the Delta Airlines voucher that paid unexpected dividends, thanks to the strength of the U.S. dollar. I ended up with a flight to Quito, Ecuador’s capital, and that gave me a rare opportunity to visit the famed islands that led Darwin to discover his ground-breaking theory of evolution.
I’ve booked a six-day Galapagos tour, plus a couple of extra days to enjoy the islands on my own. And during that extra-long week I’ll be seeing the menagerie of birds and animals that draws thousands of travellers to the Galapagos each year: seals, penguins, flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, and of course, the giant tortoises that live more than 100 years.
After that, I’m back on the mainland, to explore Ecuador’s amazing panorama of sights: the Andes highlands, studded with live volcanoes: the temperate zone, where exotic birds populate thick stands of forest; the tropical lowlands, leading to Pacific beaches; and maybe even a day or two in the Amazon forest, to see brilliant scarlet macaws flying through the trees.
Along the way, I’ll be visiting the native villages that make the Ecuadorean highlands such an experience – the land of ponchos and felt hats, friendly people with weather-beaten faces, markets filled with vibrant textiles and multicoloured potatoes from rocky mountain fields.
And the music, played everywhere by groups of Quechua natives on guitars and pan pipes and the little mandolin-like charango, shown here (originally, the backs were made of armadillo shells).
This trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos will produce lots of stories, and many pictures: my 2005 visit produced some of my all-time favourite images, a few of which appeared as a photo feature in the Toronto Star. It will be an experience to remember.
Postscript: My trip to the Galapagos and the Andes was indeed a great experience. And you can read all about it in these posts: Quito, the city in the sky; An introduction to the Galapagos; Seals, sharks and boobies; Penguins, flamingoes and iguana island; A muddy day in the Galapagos mountains; Eye to eye with birds and beasts; and Market day in the Andes.