Returning from a Vaya Trip to South America
Wow, what a journey! Such diverse settings, from the history and architecture of Quito to the small towns and beautiful beaches of the Galapagos Islands to the spectacular mountain scenery surrounding the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in Peru. It is this combination of amazing history, ancient ruins, and natural wonder that consistently garners superlative reviews from our travelers who combine a visit to Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
My first two nights were spent in Quito, allowing me time to acclimate (Quito is just over 9,300 feet above sea level) and stroll through the wonderful streets of the Old Town with my guide, discussing the many changes in Ecuador since my last visit, as well as the city’s rich history.
The next leg of the trip took me out to the Galapagos Islands. Arriving to Baltra, just off of Santa Cruz Island, I connected with a short flight on a prop plane to Isabela. This flight offered spectacular views of the coastlines as we made our way west. On Isabela, the beaches and waves took my breath away, and the ever-present wildlife kept me interested and entertained: I saw Marine Iguanas, who seemed to be on the same lazy beach stroll as me, tortoises munching greens alongside the road to the Wall of Tears, and beautifully colored fish and a white tip reef shark at Tintoreras.
A couple mornings later I made my way down to the pier for my boat ride over to Santa Cruz Island, a 2.5 hour transfer that can be a bit choppy, depending on the waters, but that definitely added to the adventure. Watching the sun come up as we left the bay is not something I will forget any time soon.
My next few days were dedicated to research. While most researchers in the islands are studying the plants and animals, many of which are endemic to select islands in the Galapagos and not found anywhere else in the world, my research focused on the many different ships and hotels that could be found in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. My takeaway from this research is that there are many great options in the Galapagos, whether it be a luxury yacht like the Integrity, a classic schooner with bunk beds like the Mary Anne, or a plush tent in the highlands like the Safari Camp. Each option offers a unique experience, but all share in the wonderful beauty and diversity of the islands that make the Galapagos such a rare and fascinating place in the world.
From Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos I flew south to Peru, meeting up with the rest of Vaya’s eclectic team for an adventure through the Sacred Valley. We trekked to Santa Teresa and back to Lake Piuray for a wonderful Pachamanca. Some hikes were longer than expected; some hot springs were more beautiful than expected; the Pachamanca was spectacular, as expected – but these are tales for another time.