At what point does the tourism industry completely overrun and obscure the landmark? Is it possible to have both without devaluing the experience for either the tourists or the locals? Opening up a culture to tourism will taint it … but when does it go too far and where is the balance? Are you really experiencing this world if you are only visiting the tourist-ready version?
Nora and I arrived at the airport, ready and excited to take our tour in what turned out to be a glider, a six passenger aircraft (including the pilot and co-pilot) with propellers on the front. Although I’ve never been afraid of heights or flying, I started to feel a little nervous while waiting for our turn. I assured myself that those feelings would subside as soon as we took off safely.
I spent a week volunteering in the rural Amazonian village of Yantaló, Perú, and it changed my life.
Through the grapevine of travelers and the good ol´ Interwebs, the news of this countryside treasure started surfacing: Cajamarca is Perú’s capital of both cheese and Carnival. Swoon. I instantly thought it would be worth deviating from my ever-so-sacred plan.
With lush hillsides, jungle rivers, city skylines, white sand beaches and cloud forests — I personally think it´s difficult to declare one place the winner of beauty in the small, yet diverse country of Ecuador. But nestled in the south of the nation´s illustrious landscape is certainly a contender for the prize — Cuenca. It´s a small city of 400,000 people, and deservedly known as Ecuador´s gem.
Guayaquil, Ecuador, was pretty much a bust. The city is filthy and there´s not much to see. Except one thing. But this one thing completely salvaged my experience in Guayaquil, so here´s way too many pictures …of … pre-historic looking iguanas!
For four days and three nights, I sacrificed modern conveniences for cold showers and candlelight in order to experience life in the Amazon Rainforest. To be fair, in the heat and humidity, cold showers were hardly a sacrifice. But I did have to sleep under a mosquito net and once woke up to the sound of a mouse (probably rat, but I prefer to think mouse) chewing through my friend Nora´s backpack. A few days of roughin´ it were more than worth the experience, though.