Countries, South America, Sport

World calling Ecuador

As Qatar kick off the Jules Rimet Trophy let’s remember there’s another team playing too so an invitation here… world calling Ecuador, world calling Ecuador.

Having sidestepped the Qatar issue with all the guile of a Luca Modric.

Let’s turn our attentions to South Americans Ecuador.

And you barely need any Spanish to work out that the country derives its name from the Equator.

That being the case time pretty much stands still in Ecuador.

With the sun always rising at 6am and setting at 6pm.

Now if you know anything about Ecuador beyond the Equator then full marks to you.

But, of course, there is a whole country above, below and beyond the dividing line.

Gallop to the Galapagos

Here tortoise: And aren’t they giant?

Most notably the Galapagos Islands where the locals move at a very slow island pace.

A thousand kilometres to the west the Islands are on G Adventures, Intrepid Travel… 

And mostly all of your adventure tours to this part of the world.

Because of their giant tortoises who live for hundreds of years, its iguana and penguin and a host of other attractions.

Darwin’s species 

The evolution: Darwin

Charles Darwin remains the Galapagos Islands’ most famous visitor until that is I get there.

And it was here that my fellow beardie formulated his theory of evolution.

From studying finches’ changing beaks.

It’s not just in the Galapagos Islands either that you’ll be bowled over by just how many species are on show.

Biodiversity rules

A whole different ball game: Ecuador

In fact Ecuador tops the world for the density of its biodiversity.

The Galapagos themselves have 38 endemic species.

But there are also 106 reptiles and 138 amphibians endemic to Ecuador.

And count them (well no need, someone has done it for us) there are tens of thousands of bird species alone.

In fact 15% of the world’s population.

The Ecuadorian capital, Quito, will get more than a mention or two.

Because it’s naturally the hub of Ecuadorian football.

And where because of the geographical advantage they have from being the second highest capital in the world.

After Peru’s La Paz they have a tidy home record.

Hitting the heights

Cat in the hat: Ecuador, home of the Panama

Of course, you’ll feel it yourself from being in a city 9,350ft above sea level (my highest is Mile High City Denver).

In the rarefied air that closer to God you are.

And that’s borne out too by the medieval churches.

Which UNESCO recognised Quito and Krakow as their first World Cultural Heritage sites in 1978.

You might hear too that Ecuador is the world’s biggest exporter of bananas.

And that it’s really where Panama Hats derive and you’ll be away.

Cheering Ecuador

Let’s call it Quitos: The locals

So that’s more than enough to be getting on with, and for the rest get out there.

We’ll try and keep you going as the tourney progresses but for now while the heat is on Qatar.

Here is where you’ll find the world calling Ecuador.

America, Asia, South America, UK

Baby, you’re a firework

Baby, you’re a firework, come on let your colours burst… as they might have sung back in 1605 to mark Guy Fawkes Day.

Well because we’re fortunate enough that Katy Perry lives in our age.

Then that’s what we all do when the sparklers, rockets, Catherine Wheels and Roman Candles fizz through the air.

In the UK in those areas where people don’t celebrate the burning of Catholic traitors or have got past 17th century history.

And just like a light show then today, Guy Fawkes Day, is a national fireworks spectacular.

Of course, not everybody, the passing of a queen apart, is obsessed with British history.

So we’re taking a look at where and when the world lets their colours burst.

Fire Eid

Sparkling: Eid

Eid, the Muslim world: And as you would expect in the land of the world’s biggest building, Burj Khalifa, Dubai reachest highest in the Muslim world for Eid.

There are also numerous shows and music concerts and the amusement parks go into overdrive.

Jewel of India

Light up: Diwali

Diwali, India: Now if we in Britain think that our skies are spectacular at this time of year.

Then it is nothing compared to India.

Diwali, the festival of light, has just been dimmed for another year.

But not before India lit up the heavens in style.

And the Indian diaspora around the world did the same as we’ve touched upon.

But we’re advised again that Amritsar and its golden temple shines brightest.

Disney lights

Da Mouse games: Disney

Disney (Orlando and Anaheim and around the world): Now while the cow is sacred in India, its Da Mouse who is the holiest of holy in Disney.

Fireworks are a staple at Disney where you can enjoy their nightly shows Four Seasons of the year…

Or whichever hotel you stay in.

Or when you stroll down Main Street USA you can sit on a grassy bank.

And take in Mickey in Da House or Potter magic.

And Christmas lights

Let there be light: Rio

South America: Now the party-loving Latin Americans aren’t the types prepared to wait for the new year to set off their fireworks.

It’s probably down to the weather which allows them to set off ‘little volcanoes’ firecrackers or sparklers known as ‘little stars’.

Fountains of light are also created in villages made of large collections of these ‘little stars’.

With Roman candles favourites over turkey sandwiches and pineapple juice in the evening.

Be a part of it

Let the ball drop: Times Square

New York’s New Year: And while we all have our traditions and claim ours is best.

And the Scots have their own name for New Year’s Eve.

Times Square, New York is the place to be for their famous Times Square Ball Drop.

We all have Adolph Ochs, owner of the New York Times, to thank.

And designer Artkraft Strauss (no, really).

Held annually on December 31 since 1907, and across a bunch of feelgood seasonal movies.

So, I think we can all agree, baby you’re a firework… all year around.


America, Canada, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, South America, UK

Drink up Oktoberfest is over

Drink up Oktoberfest is over… and only three days into the 10th month of the year.

So you’re thinking it should be Septemberfest.

Well, nein… the first Oktoberfest was held to celebrate the wedding of Kronprinz Ludwig Ludwig to Princess Therese on October 10, 1810.

It’s just that it’s been slowly been moved back to accommodate the lighter nights.

And the 16/18 day festival now runs from mid or late September to the first Sunday in October.

Or all year round if you’re two Aussies on the run.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

Toast of Munich; The Top Deck crew

It’s a well-told story but my Top Deck double deck bus 10-day trip to the Munich Beer Festival and Austria stretched a little longer.

One year longer to be precise as Brownie and Smutley dropped in on me, if a casual visit describes a 543 mile trip north.

From London to Aberdeen.

Being Aussies, of course, they asked to stay for a weekend and left a year later.

But only after returning to the scenes of my crimes at the Lowenbrau and Hofbrau huises and Kirchberg in Austria.

The original, and still best Oktoberfest may have poured its last stein for 12 months.

But the party still goes on around the world.

Oktoberfest around the world

Embrafest: Oktoberfest in Princes Street

In Edinburgh this October 6, 7, 8 and 9, here where I initiated the neighbour in all things Helga and Hofbrau last year.

And in the greater German diaspora with Kitchener (formerly Berlin) in Ontario, Canada where 700,000 clink steins annually.

The Americans, naturally, would never want their neighbour to outdo them and Cincinatti and Denver run them close.

You might be surprised to know though that Blumenau in Brazil is only surpassed by Munich and Kitchener for visitors.

Lager Down Under

Kick up your heels: Oktoberfest in Munich

Of course Brownie and Smutley could have stayed where they were and enjoyed Oktoberfests in Perth in the Supreme Court Gardens.

Or any of the great Aussie cities.

Mind you as anyone who has been to Munich for Oktoberfest will tell you for those two weeks it is a little corner of Oz.

So the Munich celebrations have wound up when the last lederhosen-dressed Bavarian has called ‘Drink up Oktoberfest is over.‘

But that just means finding your next Oktoberfest bash wherever it is in the world.



Africa, America, Asia, Countries, South America, UK

Brasaleia and other sold countries

For the day that’s in it when The Dutch Republic sold New Holland to Portugal in 1661 here’s Brasaleia and other sold countries.

No, you didn’t know the Dutch took 63 tonnes of gold from Portugal for what would become Brazil.

They had run the north-east part of the country we now know as Sambaland for 31 years before cashing in after a war.

The Dutch were the great merchants of their day and dealmakers.

And the best dealmaker of our day, and most famous living New Yorker, Donald Trump, would have approved of another deal.

Manhattan transfer

The art of the deal: With The Donald in New York

Dutch governor Peter Minuit bought Manhattan from the native Americans in 1621 for trinkets to the value of $24.

And when the Dutch relinquished it in 1674 to the English who rechristened it New York they got the rich sugar and cotton territory of Suriname in South America in return.

Now you might remember Trump offering to buy Greenland a couple of years ago probably thinking we still deal this way.

United Stakes

The table is set: In Vegas

And in truth that is how America completed their manifest destiny.

Through most famously the Louisiana Purchase from France for $15m to help the Gauls fund the Napoleonic Wars.

And having got a taste that spending money is better than spending blood they went back 16 years later with $5m for Florida.

The growing US splashed out $18.25m to buy California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona from the Mexicans in 1848.

All of which would be a poor take on a weekend in a Las Vegas casino.

LA is my laddie: In Los Angeles

Ten million greenbacks got them southern Arizona and New Mexico from their neighbours five years later.

But they weren’t finished there and sealed the deal of all deals when they waved $7.2m under the Russian Bear’s nose in 1867 for Alaska.

And again that proved to be mere loose change compared with the oodles of money they’ve taken in oil since.

While the Americans have waved the chequebook more than anybody the British haven’t been slow in flashing cash either.

Rate Britain

Water island: Singapore

And at various stages they have bought bits of India and Africa from the Danes.

All of which makes you think Trump could have done a deal with them over Greenland.

While Singapore was purchased from Johor, a state in Malaysia, for $60,000 in 1824.

Scots bank it

Leg it to… the Isle of Man

Who would have thought too that the Scots were at it too long before any of them.

When they forked out 4,000 marks sterling and 100 mark annuity to the Norwegians for…

The Hebrides, Kintyre, islands off the Firth of Clyde and get this, the Isle of Man, from Norway in 1266.

It’s ironic then that the Scots were “bought and sold for English gold such a parcel of rogues in a nation” when they surrendered to the union with England which created Great Britain.

And which you can read all about in the excellent Price of Scotland from historian Douglas Watt.

All of which we’ll reflect on on this lazy Saturday afternoon… Brasaleia and other sold countries.



America, Asia, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, South America, UK

The Highland Games are back

They were forced indoors to toss their cabers in lockdown, but now we can gawp at them showing off their special skills in public again… the Highland Games are back!

Ours, in North Berwick, east of Edinburgh, is on August 6.

And it corresponds with our Fringe by the Sea, our offshoot of the Edinburgh Fringe.

The Highland Games have, of course, their origins in the training of the clans for warfare.

Although what use lifting a trunk and then heaving it forward is anyone’s guess.

Piping hot: Livin’ it up in Glasgow

Unless, of course, you wanted to land it on a gentrified Englishman’s slippered foot.

If some of the events look familiar from Olympic Games you’ve watched then it’s because they are those events…

The stone put, the Scottish hammer throw and the weight throw.

Because Baron Pierre de Coubertin was influenced to renew the Olympic Games after watching a Highland Games Exhibition in Paris in 1889.

The Heelan’ Games

Kilt it: The Heelan Games

The Heelan’ Games, as we Scots like to call them, are celebrated around the world.

Ours in my youth were the Luss Highland Gathering which we would regularly attend in the summers.

The Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon in the West is held in August.

And it is thought to have the most competitors in the world, at 3,500.

Cowal kids: The Worlds

The Americans though naturally do it bigger in terms of numbers of spectators.

We’re told the New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival is the go-to Games in North America.

New Hampshire being in our favourite New England… go figure.

Dance away

Glasgow Green: The World Piping Championships

The Cowal Games does though host the World Highland Dancing Championships.

I must give it a fling, particularly after attending the World The World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow Green back in the day.

With my wee Irish dancer herself, my Dear Old Mammy.

Now because us Jocks are a peripatetic people you’ve probably heard us coming before you even saw us in our wee skirties.

And that’s why they still have Celtic festivals around the world…

And may I recommend plenty of water when doing Eightsome Reels in the Barbados sun.

Games around the world

Braziliant: Samba Highlanders

Of course Commonwealth countries and the English-speaking (well their English) USA are obvs to the fore.

But there are Highland Games too from Rio Janeiro to Jakarta with Brazil and Indonesia both getting into the twirling and the swirling.

While Central Europeans get in on the act too.

Well where there’s beer you’ll find Czechs, our meaty stews will go down a treat with goulash-loving Hungarians.

And well the mountainous Swiss already have a head-start on us for the fells running.

The Belgians are somewhat of an outlier in Western Europe.

But there are few more Brit-loving countries in the world… and again there’s the beer.

So get your Scottish vibe on and don’t worry if you don’t know the steps.

There will always be someone there to teach you how to do a Gay Gordon’s or a Dashing White Sergeant.

Aye, the Highland Games are back.



America, Asia, Australasia, Countries, South America

Joby Aviation lost in translation

And how those of us of a Scottish variety sniggered how Joby Aviation got lost in translation.

A jobby, as Glasgow’s second most famous son, Billy Connolly, revealed to the world is the contents of your bottom.

But there is nothing crap about the all-electric aircrafts for commercial use that are coming to Scotland.

Flying by the seat of your pants: The Joby

As we reported in the Daily Record the The Joby is a five-seat, piloted electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

And it has a maximum range of 150 miles and a quiet acoustic profile.

Now we imagine the new aircraft will be s***-hot but perhaps they should rebrand for Scottish fliers.

All of which has us reflecting on the brands which we have seen lost in translation.

C U Next Tuesday

We swear by it: Northern Territory

Northern Territory, Australia: And I’m indebted to the doyen of Irish travel writers Eoghan Corry for clueing me in on this historical brand gaffe.

Now everyone is an expert after the event and the same mistook visited an old, and much-respected, boss.

When he cropped a picture of an England flag for an old newspaper so the ‘S’ and the ‘Horpe’ got cut from sCunTthorpe.

Coors fails sniff test

Colorado cool: But they’re too hip for the Spanish

Golden, Colorado, USA: And the Golden nectar with the taste of the Rockies will slake your thirst like few other beers.

The Coloradans, as anyone who has been out there will tell you, have a lifestyle and language all of their own.

But it doesn’t always translate, and their ‘Turns it loose’ slogan means ‘you will suffer from diarrhoea. Sloppy!

Fly solo

Grounded: Braniff

Braniff International, North America: And one from the vaults here when Braniff ran routes.

Primarily in the midwestern and southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America and South America before expanding into Asia and Europe. 

They ran an advert in Spanish boasting of their leather seats and urging passengers to fly ″en cuero,″ or ″in leather.″

Only the similar ″en cueros″ means ″naked,″ and when pronounced on radio or television, the two terms sound identical.

In the Nip

Wide-eyed and innocent: Kinki Nippon

Kinki Nippon Tourist Company, Japan: Japan‘s second largest tourist agency hadn’t factored in the Western World’s less prudish attitudes.

And they began receiving requests for unusual sex tours.

Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company decided to go with KNT in English-speaking countries.

Road tripped

Put the brakes on: Ford’s gaffe

Ford, Detroit, USA: Now many of us love a road trip and Henry can lay claim to changing American society with his Model T which you can see in Motor City.

Alas, again the Iberian languages caught marketers out, this time the Portuguese tongue.

Ford blundered when marketing the Pinto in Brazil, unaware that the term means male genitals in Brazilian Portuguese.

These are brand new too

Black name: The Negro licquorice

Along the road we’ve come across a Wanktunnel in Bavaria, an ISIS chocolate bar in Brussels airport and Negro licquorice in Croatia.

Share with us the brands which you’ve seen that have tickled your fancy, as it were.

Because how Joby Aviation got lost in translation is not an isolated incident.




Countries, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage, South America

Mary’s month of May

And I have good reason to honour Our Lady and honour Mary’s month of May.

Like much with the Catholic church the early leaders gleaned from existing culture.

And that meant transferring the worship of Artemis, the goddess of fertility, to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary, of course, is venerated for her matriarchy and May is the month when Spring is in its fullest bloom.

Now we all have much to be grateful for or reflect on after these past two years.

And what better way than visiting any one of her Marian sites?

Marian sites

Bandanaman and Bernadette: In Lourdes

Now growing up an Irish-Scot in Glasgow the focus was always on the most famous of them all Lourdes, and Knock in Ireland.

And little did I know that Mary has shrines from A-Z around the world.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised because as the old saying goes… when you want something done ask a busy woman.

And so I made the pilgrimage to Knock in the West of Ireland as a child, where Our Lady appeared with St Joseph and St John.

Lourdes above

Our Ladies: She’s everywhere in Lourdes

I don’t know what the sell-by date is on prayers but 40 years later I was back for more favours this time, the mothership.

Lourdes is the Holywood of Marian sites.

And yes it has more candles than on a Meatloaf video (ask your parents).

Waxing lyrical: About the candles

But there is something ethereal about grasping a candle with a cardboard square holder so as the wind doesn’t blow it out.

At the vigil mass at the grotto.

While the huge candles with inscriptions carved out by small Italian and Irish villages reminds us that Lourdes was once just that.

Each Marian site clearly has Mary at its heart but each has its own USP.

Fatima faith

On a podium: Our Lady

My own Dear Old Mum was moved by her own experiences in Guadeloupe in Mexico.

Where she recalled a worshipper climbing the steps of a church on her knees.

And I saw it too at Fatima, though the pilgrim was saved the incline as the altar is situated in a square.

Magic Medge

Mother of God: In Medjugorje

Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina in the Balkans holds ambitions to be endorsed by the Vatican as a Marian site.

Without getting too liturgical the Papacy accepts organised pilgrimages to Medge are OK by them.

Although it does fall short of their authentication of Marian sites. Very Jesuitical.

This year promises to be a special one with suggestions of a Big Reveal.

And pilgrims who crowd around the Blue Cross to hear Our Lady talk through one of the original visionaries are agog with expectancy.

Prayers from Brazil

Whether the Brazilian I broke bread with at breakfast who had made his way to Ilsa will be there to hear it who knows.

But as with all pilgrims he planted a seed for the next Marian traveller (me) to visit the next shrine, Aparecida.





Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, South America

Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues

Celebrating 35 years of one and the toppling of another… from Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues.

Bandanini and Bandanettes will recognise this as a pet subject here.

And how we prefer to champion statues of extraordinary ordinary people (and animals) than dubious war leaders and slave traders.

Fannie Lou Hamer died this day 35 years ago and is marked in the fist-clenched statue in Ruleville, Mississippi in the Deep South.

The Civil Rights activist who ‘was sick and tired of being sick and tired’ and upstaged LBJ at the Democrat Convention.

And Putin, the imperialist whose waxwork has been removed from the Paris Grèvin Museum’s gallery of world leaders.

The erection of statues and their deselection and destruction are a touchstone of where we are in society.

So it’s timely to ask where we are with totems of tyrants.

Putin on a podium

Gotcha: Vladimir Putin

Few things say narcissist more than erecting statues of yourself or having someone do it for you.

And if your palm has been greased to the tune of $1.2million by a Russian-sponsored development agency.

Then you’ll be happy to put up a statue of the Russian megalomaniac in your ski resort in his puppet state of Kyrgyzstan.

Stalin structures

Go away you little people: Joseph Stalin

To the rest of us he was the perpetrator of the deaths of millions in the Soviet Union.

To some fellow Georgians (though not my old pal George, their ambassador in Dublin) Joseph Stalin is still a favourite son.

As he is in Russia, Mongolia and even more frighteningly outside a nursery school in Asht in Tajikistan.

Mao how

Clap of thunder: Mao

But in a game of Top Trumps psychopaths even Stalin would lose out to the master of the Cultural Revolution in China.

And yet Mao Zedong is still revered in Tianfu Square, Chengdu, Sichuan.

Where he is larger than life, a 100ft statue of the despot still looking down on the little people.

Chavez on high

Time to go, Hugo: Hugo Chavez

The further south you get in the Caribbean the more interest the locals show towards dystopian Venezuela just a few miles across the sea in South America.

Particularly the Spanish Ladies who make Trinidad & Tobago their home.

Venezuela is depending on your viewpoint a brave resistor of American imperialism or a tinpot Latin American dictator.

Either way you can see Hugo Chavez’s likeness marked everywhere in Venezuela in the 17 or more statues and busts and countless tat.

A good Korea mood

Here’s to me: Kim

And in North Korea it was even something of an export industry until the UN and their sanctions stepped in.

You get the Kims (obvs) but our browsing threw up a trade in statues for abroad.

From the Mansuade Art Studio in Pyongyang.

Where they do a roaring business to dictators, particularly in Africa.

Shake on it: Robert Mugabe

The hold that dictators can have on us was brought home to me by a Ranger on our game drive.

In Mount Kamdeboo in the Eastern Cape in South Africa where when I asked the Zimbabwean emigree his thoughts on Robert Mugabe.

And he surprised me by saying that in Zimbabwe the people still respected their elders.

Come on your Rangers: And a Zimbabwean in South Africa

And where there is a demand the capitalist communists of Mansuade were always happy to oblige.

Something to dwell on as we recap today on where we are now. From Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues.

Countries, Cruising, South America

Athy get it and its Shackleton’s Ship

Why is the county of Kildare like the leg of a fellow’s breeches? Because there is a thigh in it? Athy get it and its Shackleton’s Ship.

A welcome distraction from the war in Ukraine the discovery of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s boat is a feat of human excavation.

And all power to British historian Dan Snow and the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust for finding Endurance.

In 10,000ft of icy water near the bottom of the Wendell Sea nearly a century after it sunk without trace.

Kildare classic

Icy grave: Endurance

A long way from Shack’s birthplace of Athy in Co. Kildare in the east of Ireland.

It’s not the only thing that the town (population under 10,000 and 67kms south of Dublin) has in it.

You might know it too from the folk song Lanigan’s Ball.

Lanigan’s Ball

Athy’s the limit: And the joys of Joyce

Young Jeremy comes into money, throws a ball, learns how to dance, and invites high society.

‘Six long months I spent in Dublin, six long months doin’ nothing at all.

‘Six long months I spent in Dublin, learning to dance for Lanigan’s Ball.’

Only for the day to descend into a fight, as can be the wont at an Irish party.

It also drew the attention of James Joyce and his alter ego Stephen Dedalus, threading in the leg of a fella’s breeches joke.

No, seriously it brought the house down back in the day!

Burns’ ballad and big cars

On the road again: Athy racing

And it is also credited with the song, the Curragh of Kildare, the first song said to be curated by Scots bard Robert Burns.

And while the focus now is rightly Antarctic explorative ships, Athy too is the home of British and Irish motor racing.

Early petrolheads, the Automobile Club of Britain and Ireland, sought out Athy to run the Gordon Bennett Cup race.

As road racing was illegal in Britain.

And the origins of racing green began.

Shack’s ship

The mission: Endurance22

But as Shackleton’s Ship comes in so too does fresh interest for Shackophiles in Athy’s Shacketon Museum.

As it houses the only permanent exhibition of all things Shack.

If, of course, the excavation of his ship at the foot of the world has piqued your interest then you’ll want to explore the Antarctic.

And Silversea

Ice one: Silver Cloud

Which of course you can do, and in style, aboard a Silversea cruise ship.

They’re offering a 20-day package on Silver Cloud, departing November 7, door-to-door Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, from £21,000.

And taking in Elephant Island, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands and Drake’s Passage.

And a cruising tip

The eyes have it: Ernest Shackleton

And I’m happy to share a tip which will help you through the choppy Drake’s Passage passed onto me by the experts who disembarked in Dublin to see us.

Put a bandage behind your ear.

Sounds Irish doesn’t it?

Just like Athy get it and its Shackleton’s Ship.


Africa, Australasia, Central America, Countries, South America

Today 190 years ago Darwin set out

It’s all a globetrotter can do these days… watch Around the World in Eighty Days on TV which is timely as today 190 years Darwin ago set out on his own global journey.

Took him a bit longer to get around Earth (five years) than oul’ Phileas Fogg.

And barring stopping the assassination of the French President and saving a podgy Italian kid’s life (OK, I’ve only finished the first episode) it just seems to be jolly japes.

Darwin, for his part, unveiled the Evolution of the Species.

Tortoises and slow tourism

And met the Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos.

Now you can be doing without spending five years on the choppy high seas aboard the Beagle (and yes we know it has long since been scrapped although the site of its last home in Rochford is marked).

Instead get on a G Adventures trip to the islands off the western coast of South America.

Where our pals tell us that there is a nine-day trip from Ecuador from £1,499 which is a saving of £500.

And furthermore they’ll take care of your flight bookings in and out of Quito — with the cheapest flight cost possible. 

In the pink with the flamingoes 

Bird’s eye view: In Tampa

You’ll get to see the flamingoes… and believe me you’ll be in the pink as I was in Busch Gardens  in Tampa.

Hike up Sierra Negra volcano… tick, again done in Tenerife, but there’s always more.

Like Tenerife Galapagos boasts black beaches.

I’m reminded too of my pal from my Greek Odyssey, Gullaume Le Roux who only stayed overnight in the crater of a volcano!

What’s special about G Adventures is how much they put back into the local community.

As I saw fist hand in Jordan.

And here you’ll get to put something back in the supported community guesthouse in Floreana

In the slow lane

Horsing around: The giant tortoises

The highlight of your stay will be on Day Six.

Firstly, you’ll view breeding white-tip reef sharks, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, rays, and penguins.

And that’ll prepare you for a unique experience, a visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre.

Darwin’s odyssey

And here is a rundown of Charlie Boy’s five-year journey…

Chapter I: St. JagoCape de Verde Islands (St. Paul’s RocksFernando Noronha, 20 Feb.., Bahia, or San Salvador, Brazil, 29 Feb..)

II: Rio de Janeiro

III: Maldonado

IV: Río Negro to Bahia Blanca

V: Bahía Blanca

VI: Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires

VII: Buenos Aires to St. Fe

VIII: Banda Oriental

IX: Patagonia

And there’s more

Hero in a half-shell: And Tahiti has its stars too

X: Santa Cruz–Patagonia

XI: Tierra del Fuego

XII: The Falkland Islands

XIII: Strait of Magellan

XIV: Central Chile

XV: Chiloe and Chonos Islands

XVI: Chiloe and Concepcion

XVII: Passage of Cordillera

XVIII: Northern Chile and Peru

XIX: Galapagos Archipelago

XX: Tahiti and New Zealand

XXI: Australia (Van Diemen’s Land)

XXII: Coral Formations (Keeling or Cocos Islands)

XXIII: Mauritius to England