I think that sometimes when traveling, we spend much of our time and attention on the grand adventure, looking through a camera lens trying to capture that perfect “National Geographic” shot. The older I’ve gotten and the more I travel, I have become increasingly fond of the small—and often unexpected—moments. For me, the small moments add a richness and another dimension to a trip, making it much more meaningful and memorable. There are no photos of the small moments—they are captured and stored in our hearts.
Our last Wildland Adventure took us back to South America—to iconic places in Ecuador and Peru. Our ambitious itinerary included Quito, the Napo Wildlife Center in the Yasuni National Park, and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and in Peru, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lima. A trip designed to fulfill lifelong goals and, from grand sites to small moments, the trip did not disappoint. I cannot share all of the small moments that made this trip special to us—it would take way too many pages—but will share some of the highlights.
In Quito, we stayed in a small boutique hotel, Casa Aliso. On our last afternoon, we were a bit tired and decided to spend the afternoon in the garden reading. The day manager, Fernando, appeared with a tray of tea and several plates of homemade empanadas. We voraciously gobbled up the empanadas and, in our limited Spanish, tried to tell Fernando how much we enjoyed the food in Ecuador. He came back out a short time later with a bunch of recipes for locro de paya (potato soup), ceviche, and other native dishes. Later, we were leaving for dinner in a neighborhood restaurant but were uncertain about where it was. Fernando locked up the hotel and, not only personally escorted us the several blocks to the restaurant, but also accompanied us inside, introduced us to the hostess, and made sure we were given a great table. Before we could turn around to thank him and give him a tip for his gesture, he was gone. We left early the following morning and didn’t see him again, but we’ll never forget this kind man who went out of his way to take care of us.
Our guides on each leg of our trip inspired us with their love and knowledge for the places we were visiting, but our naturalist in the Galapagos was particularly unforgettable. His name was Ruly. Every night before dinner we would meet in the lounge of the catamaran, the Athlala, and talk about the events of the day and the plans for the next. One night, we prodded Ruly with questions about the dedication of the Ecuador government to the protection of the Galapagos. Ruly began talking, at first choosing his words carefully. We could tell this was a hot issue and he was hesitant, but after more questions from us, he spoke honestly and openly about the lack of stewardship from the central government and his fears for the future of these islands that had become his life’s work. We all sat for well over an hour mesmerized by his passionate speaking. Some of us were moved to tears by Ruly and his deep fervor for the land and the wildlife of the Galapagos.
In the town of Pichingoto in the Sacred Valley in Peru, we were invited by a young woman into her home and shown the ancient art of making baskets from corn husks. While the wife worked on weaving the husks into a disc and we unsuccessfully tried to do the same, her husband serenaded us on his guitar. Kids from the town peered in the windows and smiled at the strangers, us. Smiles are a great universal language and our keepsake corn husk mementos hang from our desk lamps at home.
We ended our trip with 2 days in Lima where we stayed at Second Home Peru, a B&B in the Barranco section. While walking the grounds, we encountered an elderly gentleman who spoke no English but insisted with gestures that we go along with him into a building that looked like a storage shed. It turned out he was Victor Delfin, the 83-year-old noted Latin American artist whose daughter runs the place. He gave us a personal tour of his studio and showed us his newest piece, an amazing work on canvas. It was an incredible and totally unexpected experience—we were blown away.
There were more small and unforgettable moments on this trip. In Napo, our guide fooling us with a beautiful “insect” that posed perfectly for pictures because it was fake, something he constructed from leaves. The go-with-thet-ent-flow-or-miss-iirely experience—for seemingly no reason on Espanola in the Galapagos, our “waterproof” camera diede wit right before wnessed a pair of winged albatross doing their mating dance. We had a decision to make—either get piustrassed off and frted or enjoy this amazing spectacle right before us and leave with a memory. We chose the latter. W had a sepiritual experience—3 miracles in the Sacred Valley! That same camera that died on Espanola and didn't work for 3 days, unexpectedly started to work again; then a pair of binoculars that had fogged up for seemingly no reason on the catamaran de-fogged; and finally a watch that had also stopped working in the rain on Espanola started to keep time again. The Inca spirits cured our modern devices. Of course, there was also meeting the native tripe and discovering the diversity of life in the Amazon, snorkeling with the playful sea lions in the Galapagos, walking with Incan ghosts through the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. The small and the grand coalesced into a memorable adventure.
We feel so lucky that we are able to travel. The world is an incredible place filled with remarkable people and places. We cannot wait until our next adventure!
The Hammer's trip was a custom built itinerary that included parts from the following adventures:
Galapagos Adventure Cruise - Athala
Napo Wildlife Center, Ecolodge and Research Facility
Sacred Lands of the Incas: Cusco to Machu Picchu