Some friends signed up for the Galapagos & Otavalo Highlands Trip through REI, and let us know about it. Was expensive, but we decided this was on our bucket list, so signed up to join them. Another couple we often do things with also signed up, so our little group was 6 of the 10 people on the trip. This post shows some photos from what we saw in the highlands near Quito, Ecuador, where we started our trip.
Hiked around the Cotacachi-Cayapas caldera early on in the trip. 6 mile hike, but made much harder by being at some 10,000 feet in altitude. This is north of Quito, near Otavalo.
(click on photos to see larger size)
Andean condors that we saw on the hike. Given that there are only 60-70 of them in Ecuador, we were looking at some 3-4% of the total population. Also saw some eagles in the area.
Spent a night at the Termas de Papallacta hot springs resort, which is east of Quito. Hotel is at some 12,000 feet in altitude. Drove uphill from there to do a hike at Lagunas de Banos. Soaking in the hot tubs was quite nice, but the water was a few degrees cooler than the onsens in Japan.
In the highlands of Ecuador, the driving style was a bit more aggressive than we were used to, particularly when passing. This was a switchback area going down a gorge - did seem to be newer pavement than many of the other areas. But potholed roads sure didn't slow them down. And the signs and lane striping all seemed to be suggestions, not requirements (notice how the bus I am in is smack in the center of the road).
This is cuy - something that is a specialty of the Andes. In English, it is called Guinea Pig. We had heard about it on an Anthony Bourdain TV show, and made a point to try it. Tastes a bit gamy, but not that bad. More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig#As_food.
Galapagos photos to come in another post.