If the common travel adage is true that one should always leave a reason to return when leaving a country for the first time, then omitting to visit the Galápagos Islands on this visit to Ecuador should pretty much guarantee a return trip in this life rather than my next incarnation. That it is my dearest mother’s number one destination on her travel hitlist means that I should probably start looking at flights sooner rather than later…

In the meantime, I can reflect on an incredible month in Ecuador that has flown by in a whirlwind of astonishing natural beauty. Hiking along the continent’s Andean spine for the better part of three weeks was the undoubted highlight of the country, with mountain scenery mesmerising enough to convince my oxygen-starved brain that it was the beauty rather than the altitude that was halting my breath. There were many exhilarating one-day hikes along the way, but the three day expedition around the Quilotoa Loop, culminating in a final day lung-busting ascent to a volcano crater lake at 4,000m will long live in the memory as an appreciation of the simplistic combination of physical exertion and aesthetic reward.

But whilst snowy peaks and pastoral valleys were what I feasted on most frequently, nothing will leave a mark on my travel memory like the four consecutive Montañita beach sunsets I was privileged enough to witness. Sitting in silence with my fellow hostel buddies, on the same beach lounger, at the same time every evening, we were treated to such a bewilderingly different palette of red, orange, and yellow hues during every sunset that we were convinced that new colours were being created just for our benefit. The two sunset photos in the final selection of nine that can be viewed below do not have any filters applied. I still look at them three times a day, on average.

So goodbye, Ecuador, for now at least. You surprised me with old friends from Madrid two years ago and new friends from Colombia two months ago. You gave me new current travel companions (see you in Peru next week, Fernando), and a couple of future travel companions (see you in India next year, Margo). But most of all, hopefully, you will give me an even better travel companion: see you in the Galápagos this year, Mum.

The remaining photos from this wonderful country can be found in this photo album.

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