An experienced tour guide is crucial for certain destinations. In 2009 we traveled Cambodia with a guide named Mono. He picked us up early, helped us choose sites to tour, and even helped retrieve my brother The Freak from the airport. During our first press trip, Marco our tour guide from Italy led us to a local winery, translated the honey making process as we gazed at swarms of bees, and later served us homemade pizzas at an agriturismo and organic farm called La Tavola Marche. Most recently, Alberto in Montevideo broke down history, architecture, and provided us with nostalgic feelings for New York. Alberto left his native Long Island to pave his own destiny in Chile and Uruguay.
At the moment Melissa and I are sitting on an airplane. We are headed home after eight months of exploration in South America. Over the course of this leg of our two year journey around the world we have lived in four distinct cities and toured parts of six diverse countries. My personal highlights have included viewing mammoth cascades at Iguazu Falls National Park, tracing indigenous history at Peruvian ruins including Kuelap, interacting with musicians in Ecuador and Argentina, and volunteering at The Bib in Baños de Santa Agua and Aldea Yanapay in Cusco.
However, my ultimate highlight has to be the time we spent on the Galápagos Islands led by tour guide extraordinaire Rafael Pesantes. We began the South America leg of our multi-continent adventure at the end of August 2011. Melissa had secured us a press trip to the Galápagos Islands, so we began in Ecuador living on a ship called the M/V Evolution for over a week. Our guide through the Galápagos was born and raised on the archipelago. He is fluent in several languages, a trained expert in various fields of natural science, and has led tours in dozens of countries. He is even hired as a private guide for celebrities.
During our exploits out in the Pacific Ocean with Quasar Tours, Melissa and I had the opportunity to snorkel five separate times. We were happy to have recently purchased a Sony camera. The Sony DSC-TX10 has underwater capabilities and we utilized it to snap shots and collect video footage of species including penguins, sea lions, sharks, and sea turtles. Rafael was so enamored by our camera that he borrowed it and swam to the sea floor to capture amazing footage for us. He wasn’t wearing a life preserver or wetsuit, and was not hounded by buoyancy. Gliding under the surface of the water he was able to free dive and follow schools of fish and reef sharks and get up close to seahorses and starfish.
Rafael took some of the photos featured in today’s Photo Friday. As our eight months in South America come to a close we are headed to New York/New Jersey to spend time with our families and friends. The last time we were home Melissa spent time with her family celebrating Chinese New Year.
While home, we will plan out the Europe, South East Asia, and North Asia segments of our trip. I want to thank Rafael, our friend Sergio who gave us a private tour of Monetcristi on the Ruta del Sol, the captain, and the crew of the M/V Evolution for starting our sojourn at a perfect pitch. To everyone else we’ve met along the way, from Otavalo, Ecuador to Mendoza, Argentina, locals and travelers alike we appreciate all the memories you’ve helped us forge and we look forward to seeing many of you again, on one continent or another. Keep winding the world and it will keep spinning.