Every year our Myths and Mountains staff spend time traveling in our destinations, scouting hotels, researching new places to visit, and ensuring that our suppliers continue to maintain the high standards our travelers expect from us. Our operations coordinator, Julie Ganski, recently returned from her first Myths and Mountains site inspection trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos. She came home filled with enthusiasm for these amazing destinations. Here are some excerpts from her field reports:

Arriving at Cafe Cultura, our hotel in Quito, was mystical. It was drizzling rain, green and lush like entering a secret garden laden with a foggy mist. The room was gorgeous and enchanting, with fresh roses everywhere. From Quito we traveled north to the Equator and then on to Otavalo. The best thing about the journey was the surprises our guide showed us along the way. We stopped to sample chirimoya – an incredibly sweet fruit unlike anything I’d ever tasted – from a roadside vendor and hand-rolled pastries at the best bizcocho place in Ecuador. We also visited Huarmi Maki, a women’s center in Peguche. It was really interesting to learn about the traditional food preparation, dress, and methods for weaving sheep and alpaca wool without machines. Upon arrival at the beautiful Hacienda Cusín, we enjoyed an afternoon horseback riding adventure in the lush green Andes.

Then it was on to the Galápagos. Our ship, the Legend, was extremely comfortable, and the itinerary was carefully planned and packed with activities, with at least two – sometimes three – excursions per day. Snorkeling was a dream come true – we swam with a giant sea turtle, a very pompous sea lion, sting rays, sharks, and of course, tons of fish! I was fascinated to gain a bit of insight into such a mysterious and intriguing underwater world.

On land, we had to laugh as we were charged by a baby sea lion on his way to the ocean. He swam around and posed for us in inches of water as we stood on the shore of the beach, putting on a sort of show, until a big barking male sea lion came over to pull him from the crowd – almost a “shame on you” kind of moment. We also saw another baby sea lion suckling milk from his mother. I could have watched them interact for hours. Still, some of the most interesting animals to observe were the giant tortoises. It’s like witnessing a prehistoric creature – seeing a dinosaur in real time.

One of the best parts about the Legend was watching the wildlife at night. The ship has giant lights on both sides so you can watch birds and sea lions feeding, and also see an occasional ominous shark lurking in the water below. The richness of the islands, both the landscapes and unique wildlife, is hard to comprehend until you visit and experience it firsthand. The entire trip was quite a whirlwind, and unlike anything I’d ever dreamed. People kept commenting about the giant smile I couldn’t seem to wipe off my face.

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