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Vanessa Humphrey, Ecuador

Vanessa Humphrey

  • The Americas

My Favourite Countries

  • Ecuador
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Galapagos Islands
  • USA

A self-proclaimed bibliophile, I started by reading my way around the world from the comfort of armchairs. But, having spent my most formative childhood years climbing trees and tracking wild boar in Germany, with occasional family road trip through the Austrian Alps, I felt the thrill of the outdoors from a young age.

As an introvert and a bit of a Walter Mitty-type with a tremendous passion for weaving words, writing has always been my method of expression and a creative outlet that I crave. Fascinated with the literal and metaphysical journeys of my favourite authors, I have written tens of thousands of words on the likes of Lord Byron and Ralph Waldo Emerson while tracking their tangible routes through forests and mountains. It is from literature that my wanderlusting sprouts – to retrace the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn along the Mississippi River, to travel Into the Wild in Alaska, to follow in the footsteps of The Alchemist from Spain to the Sahara, to sail around the world from Nantucket in search of Moby Dick. At Steppes, I am lucky enough to get to write about travel and our important projects daily.

Vanessa Humphrey, Atacama Desert, Chile
Vanessa Humphrey, Atacama Desert, Chile
Vanessa Humphrey, Sea Lion, Galapagos Islands
Sea Lion, Galapagos Islands
Vanessa Humphrey, Ecuadorian Amazon
Vanessa Humphrey, Ecuadorian Amazon

Looking Back on Happy Moments Around the World

Some of my most memorable travel moments include galloping through the pampas with a gaucho in Chilean Patagonia, star-gazing in the Atacama Desert, witnessing humpback whales under the midnight sun in Akureyri, and coming face to face with a bull elk in a moonlit Grand Canyon campsite. Not to mention paddling in California hot springs under a blue moon, swimming with mischievous sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, horseback riding in the Avenue of the Volcanoes, or being sung to by the children of the Kichwa-Anangu community in the Amazon Rainforest.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
lataaward-winner-vanessa-humphrey-milestone
Vanessa Humphrey, LATA Award Winner

The Land of Salt & Stars to the “End of the World”

“You will know if a puma is near. Your horse will tell you”, Negra calmly discloses as we navigate through a Sub-Antarctic Andean-Patagonian forest of crooked, whitish-grey tree trunks. These forests, which originated over 45-million-years ago on the supercontinent of Gondwana, are amongst the southern-most in the world. Negra is my guide, tasked with translating the quiet and infrequent utterances of Hernando, the gaucho native to Chilean Patagonia, who is leading our horseback quest to reach the 1,332-metre summit of Mount Donoso.

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Roberto Plaza, Guide, Galapagos Islands
Roberto Plaza, Guide, Galapagos Islands

More Than a Guide:
Sailing with Roberto

More than a guide, Roberto Plaza  is truly an ambassador of the Galapagos and at the forefront of conservation efforts in the archipelago. A man who holds a significant and important place in the modern history of the Galapagos, Roberto is someone who saw the potential for problems developing in the islands and took the wildly unpopular stance of doing something about it. In this magic place, with its fearless wildlife residents and miles of untouched wildernesses that reduced me to tears on more than one occasion, it was extraordinary to see the place through the eyes of someone who is the lifeblood of the archipelago.

More Than a Guide:
Seeding with Veronica

I spent an afternoon in the Atacama Desert with landscape architect and botanist Veronica Poblete, who finds spiritual meaning in every grain and raindrop. At length, we discussed her passion project: climbing mountains and volcanoes in search of ancient seeds used by the original inhabitants of the region, who settled 20,000 years ago. As she tells me how her cultivated crops of Andean corn and giant lima beans are irrigated with discarded wastewater and fertilised with llama dung, while happily plucking sodden seeds from a shallow pool of water, I suddenly see this great lunar-like landscape from her unique perspective.

My Most Memorable Experiences

Scroll to see some of my favourite travel experiences, from meeting locals in the north of Chile to waking to deafening bird calls in the Amazon.

Riding in the Desert

Riding through Chile’s Atacama Desert close to the Moon Valley on a light chestnut mare named Constantina was an afternoon well spent. The landscape was seemingly endless and little gustnadoes swirled all around.

Twilight in Valparaiso

I was not a particular fan of Valparaiso, but then again, busy streets have never been of much interest to me. That was until nightfall. The winding avenues glowed orange under street lamps, artful graffitis peeked from the shadows, and the harbour was lit as though by fireflies.

Picnic in Patagonia

Taking a leisurely lunch break next to a dazzling lake in Torres del Paine National Park, I watched my horse slumber against a backdrop of the cloud-masked Paine Massif. On this chilly day, the hot stew and red wine made for a welcome al-fresco snack.

Now Illegal Atacama Ballooning

My trip to the Atacama Desert coincided with the last week of legal hot air ballooning over the vast moon-like landscape. The local Atacamaneans had won their legal battle to ban the sky-bound jaunts, so I was one of the last to see this epic place from above.

Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro

In reaching the pinnacle of one of the Seven Summits, battling -20 degree windchill with my inhaler in tow, I understood the grandeur of Earth and my infinitesimal place on it – a wondrous feeling that never left.

Meeting the Atacamaneans

Walking through the streets of San Pedro de Atacama, the tiny gateway village to the Atacama Desert, I was struck by the friendliness of the local Atacamaneans. What’s more, their fascinating market was a treasure trove of handmade blankets and carved totems.

Spotting a Puma Family

As far as I was concerned, the chances of spotting a puma were slim. Elusive and skulking, these cats have a way of camouflaging themselves into the Patagonian landscape. Suddenly our 4×4 ground to a halt and, to my utter amazement, our guide pointed out a mother puma and her two cubs cutting a soft track between grey stones less than 20 metres away.

Creatures of the Amazon

Finding myself in the middle of the remote Amazon Rainforest was overwhelming on the senses. Luckily for me, I was in the company of an expert local guide who was able to spot and identify a plethora of fascinating critters, including this tiny poisonous frog.

Travelling with Liz Bonnin in the Galapagos

Travelling around the Galapagos Islands in the company of Liz Bonnin and a wonderful group of Steppes Travel clients was a once in a lifetime experience, one that was punctuated by close encounters with remarkable species and meaningful conversations about the environment.

Mornings in the Amazon

I still listen back to the audio recording I made on an early morning in the Amazon Rainforest. The symphony of the forest is created by a rowdy mix of bird calls and the resonating vocalisations of howler monkeys, and is a sound unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Read my Articles

Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, USA
More Than a Walk in the Park: Six Must-Visit Parks in the USA
Vanessa Humphrey
Spread over more than 85 million acres of iconic landscapes that boast sandstone arches, mighty rivers and soaring mountains, enthusiastic ramblers…
Buenos Aires, Argentina
An Insider’s Guide to Eating & Drinking in Buenos Aires
Vanessa Humphrey
Bounded in the north by red lunar-like expanses, in the west by charming wine regions and in the south by iconic…

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Meet the Americas & Polar Experts

With a combined total of more than 180 years working in travel, we are a small and immensely knowledgeable team of experts. Having driven vintage cars in Havana, climbed granite domes in Yosemite, snorkelled with sea lions in the Galapagos and camped in Antarctica, our passion lies in curating bespoke journeys for our clients, balancing our in-depth local knowledge with a penchant for picking up on the little details that make you tick.

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Our knowledge and expertise sets us apart. So too our curiosity. A curiosity of the world and of you, and your passions. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you.

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