Deb's Active Adventure in Ecuador & the Galapagosby Bike tour guru
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands a bucket list must!
ÂWhat a DuVine tour! There are so many highlights of my multisport adventure in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands; here are some of my favorite:
We started by discovering the Andes lakes region in the North of Ecuador, a great contrast to the Galapagos Islands. I had spent an extra day in Quito pre-tour to adjust to the altitude and to explore the old town and it churches, which I highly recommend. The city is on a plateau at 10,000ft, which when you are not used to it you definitely feel when exerting yourself and this is an active vacation (hydration and aspirin can also assist). Our guide Felipe kept us entertained with the history of the region on the van transfer north along the spectacular 'avenue of the volcanoes'.
In the Imbabura region we hiked along the volcanic rim of the Cuicocha Crater Lake from 11,350ft, the mountain views were stunning surrounded as we were by volcanoes. Remember to bring sunscreen and hats! We mountain biked along farmland, passing sleepy indigenous Andean villages, with friendly locals, as colourful as their local crafts, the weavers at Peguche still follow the old handmade traditions. We said hello to some wonderful old ladies sitting by the fireplace of their one roomed smoke stained hut; a true insight into local living. The Otavalo indigenous market was a great opportunity to pick-up mementos, before returning via the Equator line, on which we could clearly see Cayambe with its snow peak, the highest and only point on the equator with snow.
The Galapagos Islands are amazing! One of two planes fly between the islands, a 9 or 5 seater, so the luggage restriction of 25lbs per person is strictly adhered to, and even cabin baggage is weighed. Most visitors cruise through the islands but you see far more actually staying on them. We had great accommodations, though facilities are more limited in the Galapagos with occasional erratic behavior with services such as water, electricity and internet, which we take for granted, all part of the cultural differences. Wildlife abounded, we had sea lions sleeping on our hotel doorstep! All our hotels had amazing views and we were lulled to sleep nightly by the sounds of the ocean.
On San Cristobal we spent an amazing day sea kayaking, boating and snorkeling amongst the playful and inquisitive sea lions; they would literally swim up and introduce themselves to you. We swam next to marine iguanas, which looked like prehistoric creatures camouflaged against the rocks, and turtles in the aqua water. Further out to sea at Kicker rock, home to thousands of sea birds, including the frigate birds and blue-footed boobies, we swam amongst the Galapagos sharks, so awesome; I could see twelve under me at one point! I followed a graceful eagle ray, which looked like it was flying through the water! August is the dry cool season so we wore wetsuits that we rented there, while December-February is the hot wet season, more popular for swimming.
On Isabela Island we hiked up to the crater of volcano Sierra Negra, one of the most active of the Galapagos volcanoes, it last erupted in October 2005. Our national park guide Carlos was there at the time of the eruption and showed us footage of his video clips, which really put the experience into perspective. The crater is huge, and its surface covered in young lava looked like the surface of the moon. We had climbed above the clouds and walking the dirt trail of the rim we looked down to the black crater on one side and fluffy white clouds on the other, a heavenly experience.
On Santa Cruz the highlight was the giant domed Galapagos tortoises, huge tanks compared to the intermediate tortoises we had seen on Isabela, the difference in the species between islands made it easy to see how Darwin was inspired to formulate his theory of evolution. We walked the 'tortoise highway' through the national park and came across so many tortoises it was hard to believe their numbers have so declined. For 200 year old, 800lb monsters they move surprisingly fast when they wanted to. When they feel threatened they emit a deep hissing noise as the air escapes from the lungs, making you feel as though you are approaching Darth Vader. We were treated to an amazing display of dominance when our guide slowly approached one face on, each raising its head higher to establish dominance; Felipe soon lowered his! It was interesting to see the relationship between the tortoise and GalÃ¡pagos finch and mockingbird, with the birds feeding on the irritating parasites on the tortoise.
Nature is amazing and the Galapagos Islands are a unique experience not to be missed.