Malabar Cash does Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

I was on the tour with 27 very nice people I’d never met.  (Well, there’s always one, but we came to an arrangement.)  I got back on Monday just before all the borders closed, because of coronavirus.  I picked up a cold on the flight.  Today I am better, weak as a kitten, and I look like Dracula.

The trip was organized chaos.  A Curate’s egg – some parts very good.  I went into a park in Quayaghil to see the Iguanas but there were none there, just a few statues.  Then the statue next to me got up and walked away!  They are bright green and look as if they’re made of metal. I saw some extra-large tortoises and a whole lot of sea lions who mill about everywhere, getting up to lollop across the road.  The traffic waits.

I swam in the Pacific with the aid of a handsome man and a snorkel.  I don’t care if I never see a snorkel again.  Looking down into eighty feet of water and huge dark rocks freaked me out – the man had to help me get back to the boat.  The others saw Parrotfish and blue-footed Boobies.

We took a ‘plane to Ecuador which I liked very much.  I got lost in the city of Cotopaxi and was rescued, panic-stricken, by a very nice cafe owner.  A sit down, a glass of water and advice on how to find the police.  I found some of the group and we went back to his cafe for lunch.  His menu said ‘grilled cheese sandwich’ and he didn’t know what it was!  I dug up some Spanish.  ‘Sandwich – Queso caliente.’

Then there was a ‘hike to the waterfall.’  It was 340 steps down, unevenly hewn out of a cliff to see an unremarkable waterfall.  Then we went back up.  In that humid heat, I wasn’t the only one knackered by the time I’d done two hundred.  I thought I’d met my Waterloo.  Some of the very kind men involved came back down and helped me, along with the lady with a recently fitted pacemaker and the woman with a dodgy hip.

The highlight came in a former Jesuit Hacienda at Pinsaqui where the Jesuits had held the indigenous people as slaves.  I didn’t expect a Mariachi Band there – five blokes in costume singing their hearts out.  La Bamba, Guantanamera, etc.  There was a dance floor in front of them, so I danced – all on my own, to cheers.  Then everybody else got up and it was great.  When I was leaving the next day an American hotel guest called out ‘You dance great, lady.’      Made my day.

At five one morning, at a series of huts with an attitude that called itself a hotel – in the middle of the Ecuadorian Rain Forest, I joined two men and another mad woman to look for red-footed Toucans and black-billed Mot Mots. It was persisting down, so naturally, the birds had more sense and stayed put.  At that elegantly decrepit hotel, I showered before dinner and then found I could not get out of the bathroom.  The damp had swollen the wood and no amount of pushing would open the door.  I realised that with that amount of people I could be there all night until they counted us onto the bus the next morning.  After kicking the bottom to no effect I went back as far as I could and ran at the door, shoulder first.  It flew open and I tumbled out onto the steps beyond.  I reported it and got a ‘Thank you.’  What I really needed was a Gin and tonic.

I did three zip-wire rides over the Ecuadorian tree canopy.  Interesting, mostly for the handsome lads who fitted the straps.  They had said it was the tree canopy – and I zipped over a hell of a lot of trees.

So.  Was I glad I went?  Yes. I learned that I’m still a tough old boot.

Would I go again?  No.  You couldn’t pay me enough!