Our journey down the Pan American Highway has already been an amazing adventure, and holds promise for even more incredible places as we continue south. Thus, the unexpected opportunity to visit the Galápagos Islands was not just like icing on the cake, it was like the sparkly candles stuck into the icing, which keep sparking back to life to spread more cheer even after you blow them out. As nature lovers, animal enthusiasts, and self-acknowledged science nerds, being able to explore the famous islands that gave Charles Darwin so much inspiration was a wonderful and unique experience.
Although Ecuador is small, as far as South American countries go, we still filled up a full month of exploration and enjoyment in this great country. We camped on the side of massive snow-capped volcanoes, strolled the historic streets of the capital city, played disc golf through a field of horny llamas at over 11,000′, hiked down to touch the frigid turquoise waters of a crater lake at high elevation, soaked our weary bones in scalding hot springs, hiked lush jungle trails, adopted another dog for a week while we boondock camped on the beach and surfed the perfect waves, and climbed impressive granite walls along shelves of agave and orchids while cows grazed around the van.