|We started our time in Ecuador by flying out to the Galapagos to organize a last minute cruise. We ended up paying a little bit more than planned (everyone does in the Galapagos!) and found ourselves on a beautiful first-class sailing boat for a great week long trip. The days were spent island hopping, with island excursions everyday and lots of snorkeling. The amazing thing about the wildlife was their complete lack of fear of humans. We could walk straight up to sea lions or iguanas and would be more likely to step on them before they would even bother looking. We didn't need a high powered camera to get good wildlife shots! The snorkeling was a highlight because of the unique wildlife and we had frequent encounters with unafraid sea lions, penguins, sharks, rays and turtles as well as lots of fish and coral. After the cruise, we spent a couple of days hanging out in Puerto Ayora, the main town on the islands, visiting Lonesome George at the Charles Darwin Center, the highlands area, some beautiful beaches and soaking in the chilled out atmosphere. The Galapagos islands were amazing- one of the highlights of our trip, and we were sad to live.
After Galapagos, we flew up in the highlands to the capital Quito. This is a city of many views and has a beautiful 'old town' and a modern tourist center. We visited the 'middle of the earth', hopping backwards and forwardsacross the eequatorat a pre-Inca archaeological site. From here we traveled to an animal shelter a few hours away and spent two weeks building, feeding, cleaning and interacting with a variety of rescued animals. We were lucky enough to get up close and personal with animals such as lion, jaguar, puma, monkeys, turtles, kinkajou, coatis and various bird species including everyone's favorite little bugger, the Toucan. While we were there I managed to cut my hand with a sickle (cutting grass for the rabbits while watching the monkey) and had to make our first visit to a doctor of the trip to get stitched up. Through working at the shelter, we met some great people and traveled with a couple of them afterwards.
Further south, we visited the Ecuadorian holiday spot of Banos. It had many adrenalin packed tourist activities on offer at local prices and we had a great few days trying them all out. We went whitewater rafting down in the Amazon basin, drove dune buggies through tunnels and on windy valley roads (not even close to being road worthy). We had massages, relaxed in the thermal hot springs and ate great food. On the first day in town, Steve and Brian discovered a dirty fast food burger joint named Hickorys and they just had to have it every day – they usually called their nightly burger 'desert'. The highlight was a bridge jump that Brian and I did over the massive gorge near town (Steve and Claire made great photographers). We had a great time in our final South American country of the trip!