Ecuador: An Evolutionary Trip
By Sandra Scott
Before leaving for the Galapagos Islands we toured Quito visiting churches and monasteries that were built before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Walking up and down the hills of Quito, located in a valley of the Andes at 9200 feet, is laborious due to the oxygen-thin air. It is best to go slow and start the day with a cup of coca tea, which, according to the packaging, is a panacea for fatigue, diarrhea, and altitude sickness. After a few days at altitude most people acclimatize.
Our boat, The Discovery, is a much-used motor sailboat with 21 passengers, mostly from Europe. The only other Americans are the Lazeroffs from Rochester! Each day includes two shore trips to various islands and snorkeling. Each night after dinner we get a briefing for the next day including a chalk talk with sketches of the islands showing the trails, resident animals and birds, and whether the landings will be dry or wet (wading ashore from the dingy).
Acres, high atop the cliffs of Esmeralda Island, are covered with nesting blue-footed boobies, masked boobies, and albatrosses. A personal favorite was watching the courtship display of the large albatrosses, which includes dueling with their long beaks.
We sail followed by the opportunistic frigate birds, the pirates of the sea, occasionally accompanied by dolphins. Last night we sailed under a star-studded sky marveling at the bioluminescent sea organism sparkling in the wake of the boat. Luckily, we did not experience any of the mal de mar that afflicted half of the other travelers.
I was not prepared for the spectacular beauty or the uniqueness of the islands we visited. One was covered with green cactuses and reddish ground cover; another edged with soaring cliffs, another with sweeping, powdery white sand beaches.
For such a small country, Ecuador offers a variety of travel opportunities including Inca ruins, colonial cities, cultural diversity, and plenty of adventure. We concentrated on the natural aspects of the country and thoroughly enjoyed our time in Ecuador even though our busy schedule led John to quip, "I feel like I am in the Marines on maneuvers."
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