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Ecuador to usher in the big finale

Written on: Thursday December 11th, 2008

A journal entry from: South America 2008

Next up was Ecuador. We only went to Quito and the Galápagos islands but that was already plenty for a week. Quito is... beautiful! It's situated about 2800m above sea water, so the weather was very much like in Cusco, temperate and dry. The city of 1.5 million is both simple and antiquated. You see a healthy number of foreigners, but you also see loads of locals (unlike Cusco). And the hotel we stayed at was simply charming, and at US$35 per night per person, I would highly recommend it (Hotel Vieja Cuba). Here, we fell in love with the guava spread, perfect on buttered toast. And ceviche of course... sometimes I can't tell Ecuadorian and Peruvian food apart!

And the higlight of course, was the Galápagos. The best way of visiting the islands is by staying on a boat and sailing from one island to another. Of course, when you have seasickness, it can be a bit tricky. Luckily, dramamine (motion sickness medication) came to the rescue! We went on a 4D3N trip on a yacht with 9 other passengers. We saw incredibly human-friendly animals of all sorts: marine iguanas, sea lions, red crabs, penguins, frigate birds, giant tortoises, sea turtles, lava lizards, all sorts of fish and rays, white-tipped and black-tipped sharks, red-footed and blue-footed boobies, and the list goes on!

One dramatic event that did happen during this trip was well... a nearly drowned experience.  Erina and I went for an amazing walk on Santiago island, where we were so close to resting sea lions, marine iguanas, and red crabs on the rocks. Afterward, we went "snorkeling" but the water was choppy, there was a high tide, and the sea was murky. Plus there were a couple of sea lions defending their territory against us human intruders. Well, since I'm not an experienced snorkler by any means, I really shouldn't have done it. I nearly drowned twice as a kid, so I have always been cautious of the water. Well, I panicked somewhere in the middle of the water, and I nearly drowned, taking my sis with me. We were both frantically waving our hands until finally somebody came to our rescue. I remember being lifted onto the rubber boat, laying down on the deck, and dozing off for two hours with frigate birds flying alongside. I'm really thankful that things turned out okay, but that was quite a scary experience.

But the saving grace of that whole experience was that the next day, under the urging of an elderly traveler, who happens to be an experienced diver, we went snorkeling again. This time at the Bartolome Bay, where the water was calm, shallow, clear, and the tide was low. We went in with the guide, and boy, that was nothing to be missed! We saw so many different types of fish, and even a couple of manta rays. More important than the amazing array of sea life we saw, was the fact that we bit the bullet, and went back into the water again. I secretly knew that if I didn't, the fear would magnify itself and I may never do any form of underwater activities again, but now that's all in the past. 

Well, this marks the end of my 9-week South American trip and aside from a killer tan, I think I might've made a friend or two, and gained a really valuable experience, which confirms my love of latino culture, and traveling. It was time well spent, and I'm sure there's much to be gleaned in the course of the next few weeks when I'll get the chance to properly digest and process the whole thing.

Now comes time for rest.