Climbing in the thick darkness in the hills above the town of Aguas Caliente, the final leg of the Salkantay Trek began an hour earlier at 4am. A string of lights flickers behind us, hundreds of tourist flashlights snaking single-file through the hillside jungle on the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu. We climb quickly and sweat like marathoners.
The crossing from Ecuador to Peru happened sometime between midnight and 3am – my cell phone was long since lost, and I had no way of telling time other than the aching fatigue circulating from my neck to my eyes and back again. We stopped to be scrutinized by the Ecuadorian uniforms with machine guns, then again by the Peruvian uniforms with rifles.
The Galapagos Islands are strikingly barren. While the vegetation changes from island to island, the young volcanic archipelago is dominated for the most part by dry grasses, low shrubs, leafless trees, and cacti.