Peaks and pelag­ics

Action Asia - - OUTSIDE ASIA -

Top of many a vis­i­tor’s wish­list are the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands, fa­mous as the place where Charles Dar­win started to for­mu­late his theor y of evo­lu­tion by means of nat­u­ral se­lec­tion. A full 900km off the Ecuado­rian coast, they are vol­cani­cally ac­tive and so are more arid and rocky than lushly veg­e­tated. Div­ing here is fo­cused on a pro­ces­sion of pelagic fish species out in the blue, as well as ma­rine mam­mals such as play­ful seals and the less play­ful but char­ac­ter­ful igua­nas closer in. To get the full ex­pe­ri­ence, you’ll need to is­land-hop so it pays to go with a big­ger, more lux­u­ri­ous boat such as the Gala­pa­gos Ag­gres­sor III, run by the Ag­gres­sor Fleet, www.ag­gres­sor.com Go­ing De­cem­ber to May brings hot­ter and rainier weather, with calmer, warmer seas. The flip sea­son brings less pre­dictable weather un­der the in­flu­ence of the cool Hum­boldt Cur­rent but those nu­tri­ent-rich flows are also more likely to draw ham­mer­head and whale sharks. Switch­ing to t he main­land, t he usual cen­tre­piece of any ex­plo­ration is La Avenida de los Vol­canes: a road trip or train ride flanked by the vol­ca­noes of the East­ern and Western Cordillera. Many of them are ac­tive but still pop­u­lar with lo­cal and vis­it­ing hik­ers. Shapely Cayambe and Co­topaxi – vis­i­ble from the cap­i­tal, Quito – are both well over 5,000m, but the tallest of all is Chimb­o­razo at 6,268m. In­deed, the bulge in the Earth at the Equa­tor makes its sum­mit the fur­thest point from the planet’s cen­tre – so in a way it is the world’s high­est moun­tain. Be­sides hik­ing, this is also a good peak for moun­tain bik­ing on the paramo, or alpine tundra. The guides at Bik­ing Spirit, www.bik­ingspirit.com, run a num­ber of routes on the moun­tain in­clud­ing a few spots they guard for their clients alone. Book ‘Route 2’ to share in their se­cret, rid­ing on dirt roads and sin­gle­track fol­low­ing the old Talagua sum­mit route up to the Whym­per shel­ter at 5,000m. Af­ter the cou­ple of kilo­me­tres grind up, you get the glory of a view of the south face of Chimb­o­razo, fol­lowed by the glee of turn­ing about for more than 30km of down­hill!

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