South America – part 1 by Betty Fielding

My dream destination was Antarctica and eventually my husband Garry and I decided to turn that dream into a reality. It made good sense to us to include a tour of South America at the same time as departing from Argentina on our Antarctic adventure.

The easy part was preparing our to-do list! We had all the pieces of the jigsaw and with the expertise of Tina and Joanne from Maverick Travel the pieces fitted together perfectly.

We finally set off for a magnificent eight weeks. After an overnight stay in Lima we continued to Quito, the UNESCO heritage listed capital of Ecuador. Initially I considered Quito just the stepping stone for the flight to the Galapagos Islands. How wrong I was – the old town of Quito, dating back to 1534, is high in the Andes (2,800masl) and is full of amazing Spanish and French history and architecture. It also provided the chance to visit the equator – twice! A monument was built at Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) to celebrate the mapping of the equator in 1739 – unfortunately, in the wrong spot. With GPS technology the equator was correctly spotted about 200 metres away – I managed to balance an egg on its tip and proved the coriolis effect theory (water spinning down the plughole).

From Quito we flew to the Galapagos Islands for an amazing few days cruising aboard the “Galapagos Legend”. Many pangi landings offered lots of experiences with the varied fauna and flora – tortoises, marine and land iguanas, flamingo, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, penguins and frigates to name a few. I experienced some of the best snorkelling I’ve ever done. The Galapagos is a truly unique and beautiful place.

A complete change was a few days in Lima, the capital of Peru. To really enjoy a destination my suggestion is to take it in on foot. Hours of walking in Lima did not disappoint. We explored the city centre with its baroque and colonial architecture and followed the coastline, ending up in the bohemian historical precinct of Barranco. With outstanding views from the cliffs across the Pacific Ocean we enjoyed a mouthwatering seafood lunch – served with a Pisco Sour of course!

Lima is where we had our first encounter with Inca ruins. Huaca Pucllana is an archaeological site with a backdrop of modern business and residential buildings in the centre of town.

I was excited to leave Lima as this meant we were on our way to the headwaters of the Amazon and an eco-lodge in the rainforest. We journeyed downriver in a long skiff, were deposited at the bottom of a set of steep stairs and then proceeded to walk for 10-15 minutes through the jungle to our lodge and an uinforettable Amazon adventure. The accommodation was great – our room was open to the rainforest and lighting was by candle and kerosene lanterns. The first night we shared our room with bats who found our high pitched ceiling to their liking. The next couple of days were spent trekking and boating, sighting amazing wildlife and plantlife. The highlight for me was not the pirhana fishing but waiting in a bird hide for the macaws to come to the clay cliffs – our patience was rewarded by a brilliant display of colour from countless macaws. As I am interest in natural remedies, a visit to the local Shaman (medicine man) was a real treat.

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