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.
The bus dumped me off in the wee hours of the morning, and I learned pretty quickly that small Ecuadorian towns are creepy at night (almost tripped over a four-foot snake when I got off the bus). After a Jesus-adorned taxi ride with a babbling, mumbling fisherman-type driver to the sleepy beach town of Canoa, I finally caught some sleep.
Last weekend, I went on an adventure with some Spanish School friends to try our hand at some outdoorsy adventure. Besides jumping off bridges, we repelled down waterfalls in the thick, dripping jungle; zip-lined across canyons on cables two-thirds of a mile long; crawled through muddy stone tunnels behind a monster waterfall to a lookout underneath the rumbling, ferocious spillover point at the top; and rode rusty bicycles through a downpour along the side of the road, blasted by the grit of passing pickups and buses.
On Monday I moved into a hostel in the Mariscal neighborhood of Quito. This particular section of the city is known to the locals as Gringolandia – named “affectionately” after the travelers who congregate here – and is a cross between a red light district and a tourist beehive.