G’day, Paul here from Active Adventures. Remember the blog I posted back in June about our series of Texas Ski Council trips to the Ecuadorian Amazon, Galapagos Islands and Peru? Well I’m back home in Queenstown now and I can happily report that it was an incredible adventure with plenty of laughs, rewarding challenges and awe-inspiring moments! I thought I’d share a few of these experiences with you all…
|Taking our dug out canoes to your lodge – what an entrance!|
The adventure began with an optional pre-trip to the Amazon and later to the Ecuadorian cloud forest. After exploring the attractive, colonial parts of Quito, myself, our guide Jhayro and our operations manager Pablo, together with eleven TSC members, journeyed south east over the mountains and down into the Amazon forest.
It was an action packed stay at Casa Del Suizo, exploring the surrounding jungle; visiting a butterfly farm; watching a local football match; playing volleyball; gold panning; enjoying some pool side cocktails; negotiating a high ropes course. But one experience in particular that just has to be shared was our visit to a local family, where we danced, ate local fare and tried our hand using a traditional hunting blow-gun. I have to report that the ladies in our group proved far more adept, nearly all hitting the wooden target (I missed it 3 times!). They even managed to hit a stray chicken behind the target (but don’t worry, the chicken was fine!).
After the Amazon, I regretfully left the group at the very attractive Termas Papallacta Hot Springs high in the cloud forest – it’s amazing how one can journey from the warm, lush Amazon and be in a completely different and cool, mysterious cloud forest just hours later. Meanwhile, back in Quito I was teaming up with Nick, our ‘Quito man on the ground’ and Christine, the summer expedition coordinator to prepare for the Galapagos welcome party. Despite a few delayed flights and weary travellers, we managed to get everyone together – all 55 TSC members, plus staff – to give a full briefing, enjoy some Ecuadorian finger-style food and live music.
As we made our descent towards San Cristobal Island I got my first glimpses of the beautiful blue and turquoise bays, bring it on! The first thing that hits you, of course, is the warm, Pacific breeze – and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t humid and not overly hot, just a nice comfortable temperature, which is apparently typical for August in the islands. Also typical of August, is a rich marine life, fed by the Humbolt currents, as we were soon to discover… The following day we set out to snorkel (and dive, for those with experience) at Kicker Rock.
|There is something magical about kicker rock, on its own jutting out of the ocean.|
Words don’t really do justice, but photos would, if only my underwater GoPro had batteries that day! Typical isn’t it –the best day of snorkeling in my life, and my camera decides to die as I enter the water! Although it was the only time I saw eagle rays, hammerheads and white-tipped reef sharks, it wasn’t the only outstanding snorkeling experience. As the following photos show, there were other occasions when we swam with sea lions, turtles and a myriad of fish. We even spotted a whale with its calf, where I gladly made use of my new Sony 55-210mm zoom lens.
Another highlight for me was our hike up and around Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabella Island. On this day I chose to join our guide Pablo and his group (we had 4 guides and 4 TSC groups all participating in different activities daily). This was a fortuitous decision as it turns out Pablo was once Sir David Attenborough’s personal guide during a TV series! Watching and listening to him describe the time he flew in a helicopter with Sir David right into the crater is a memorable experience, likewise, the time he witnessed first-hand the 2005 eruption of Sierra Negra. In another life I swear Pablo must have been in theatre as he certainly knows how to captivate an audience!
In my opinion, the best way to celebrate a challenging and rewarding hike is with a beer admiring the setting sun and this is exactly what we did, at Beto’s beachside bar. This is such a cool spot, with a sand volleyball court, balance rope, loungers and a view across the ocean. It was evident that the ‘who’s who’ of the island gather here, to be served by the 3x Galapagos surfing champion – alas it’s still an amateur sport in the Islands!
All too quickly our 10 days of adventuring in the Galapagos were up and our farewell night in Quito flew by. It was hugs all around as we bid our farewells – to most who were heading north back to Texas and a lucky few heading south to Peru for the final leg of the journey. I missed the Peru trip as other responsibilities were calling back in New Zealand, but from all accounts exploring Cuzco, the Sacsayhuaman Fortress and Machu Picchu were just the pen-ultimate activities fitting for a trip as awesome as this!
If you’re reading this and you think it sounds like something you’d be interested in, please do get in touch!
Paul – @ Active Adventures
|Pablo in his element.|
|Marine Iguanas are comfortable in each other’s space…|