Category: South America (Page 1 of 2)

Cabins of Balcon del Lago with Lago San Pablo and Cerro Imbabura in the background.

Review: Balcon Del Lago Hostel Outside Otavalo, Ecuador

I awoke to the sound of children giggling as they skipped past my cabin on their way to school. I pushed my way out from under three heavy blankets, grateful for their warmth during the cold night, grabbed my glasses, and made my way to the large picture window.

I pushed back the curtains and looked out at the vista that would take my breath away this and every morning during my stay. I was on a hill overlooking the town of San Rafael de la Laguna, Ecuador. Just beyond the town, I could see the glassy Lago San Pablo, and towering protectively over its surroundings, the imposing Cerro Imbabura, the sacred protector of the region. The plan for today was Christmas shopping at Otavalo’s Saturday market. Another amazing day in Ecuador. 

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San Cristóbal lizard surveying his kingdom. Galápagos.

Galápagos Islands: San Cristóbal & Saying Goodbye

I was on my own again in San Cristóbal for an inner-island group tour with an English-speaking guide. Mockingbird Tours translation: a slightly awkward one-on-one tour of snorkeling spots with Danny, a very young guide with a better command of English than I have of Spanish (but, admittedly, the bar is low here).

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Galápagos Islands: Volcanoes, Baby Iguanas, & Isla Isabela

When Gav and I arrived at Puerto Villamil on Isla Isabela for our three-day/two-night tour, it didn’t take us long to realize something was amiss. We waited on the rapidly emptying pier, looking for expectant guides. Groups gathered and left, while I literally spun in circles, hoping for a clue. Luckily I persuaded a woman on the pier to call the number on my Mockingbird Tours receipt (seriously, people, bring this with you everywhere).

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Galápagos Islands: Giant Tortoises & Isla Floreana

For the tour of Isla Floreana and our first up-close look at the giant tortoise, Gav and I were to meet at the tour agency at 7:50 am on November 19th. In what was to become a familiar routine, we took a water taxi from the pier to a larger boat and then hung on as we were bounced and jerked about for the two-hour ride to Floreana. This is not a pleasant ride, people. If you’re prone to seasickness, well…don’t sit next to me.

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Marine iguana. Bahía Totuga. Santa Cruz. Galápagos, Ecuador.

Galápagos Islands: First Arrival & Isla Santa Cruz

Quick Facts

  • The Galápagos Islands are made of 13 large volcanic islands and over 40 small islands, islets and rocks scattered across 45,000 square kilometers (17,375 square miles) of the South Pacific, 960 kilometers (597 miles) from the Ecuadorian mainland.
  • Charles Darwin arrived in the Galápagos in 1835 on the HMS Beagle, and in 1859, he published On the Origin of Species.
  • Four of the islands are inhabited: Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela and Floreana.
  • Since 1959, more than 7,600 square kilometers (2,934 square miles) of the Galápagos have been protected as a national park. Tourists are restricted to the colonized areas and the more than 70 designated visitor sites spread across the islands (with an additional 75 water-based sites).
  • The Islands’ history of pirates, whalers, and early settlers has brought certain animal populations to the brink of extinction.

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