Sand S Tours - Learning Adventures
Layout Image


Tren Crucero Rail Tour

Tren Crucero Rail Tour

Tren Crucero Rail Tour












For all you rail fans we are offering a luxury train experience from Guayaquil to Quito, Ecuador. An authentic steam locomotive carries you through some of the most exciting parts of the journey. Climb the Devil’s Nose, a masterpiece of engineering that is known as the most challenging railroad anywhere in the world. There is a total ascent of 10, 800 feet, with dramatic changes in vegetation zones and spectacular scenery. Accommodations will be in historical farm houses (or haciendas) where you will experience local customs and cuisine.

Beginning in the coastal plains, pass through a dense cloud forest, where you come against the towering walls of the Andes and the Nariz del Diablo Pass (the Nose of the Devil) in the Andean Highlands. Imposing volcanoes preside over the landscape as the train cruises through colorful quinoa fields and lands dotted with grazing herds of sheep, llama, and alpaca. On the Eastern side of the Chimborazo volcano, encounter the last “ice merchant” whose way of life harvesting ice from volcanic slopes stretches back for countless generations. Enjoy the unique experience of tasting homemade ice cream made from fresh fruit and hand-harvested glacial ice. None of your friends can boast this unique experience. A visit to the Cotopaxi volcano and the surrounding mountain forest is at the end of your climb

The descent towards Quito crosses the Avenue of Volcanoes passes through the Northern Andes. See the Cayambe Volcano iin the background of the plantations and livestock farms. A wonderful treat is in store for you in the impressive city of Otavalo: a steam engine awaits you at the recently restored train station. On this special train travel on the old rail line across the northern valleys between Otavalo and Ibarra.

Multiple departures. Call S & S Tours, 1 866 780 2813 or email at Website:

Mexico City Travel Tour

We are excited to announce our new scheduled destination, Mexico City, Puebla and Cholula,
January 26-February 2, 2017

Entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico city

Entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico city

The tour emphasis will be Archeology, Anthropology and Arts. Mexico City’s historical city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with important structures from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Walk through the past and present of the Zocalo square (Main Plaza), the second largest in the world, built above the ruins of the Aztec City of Tenochtitlan by the Spanish after the conquest. Off the plaza you will find the Templo Mayor of the ancient Aztec capital, the Cathedral and National Palace with the mural painted by Diego Rivera. View more of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo paintings at Dolores Olmeda Patino Museum located in the colonial neighborhood of Coyoacan in Frida Kahlo’s home.

Stroll through 3, 500 years of Mexican history in the world-famous Museum of Anthropology located inside the Chapultepec Park where Lord Pakal’s tomb treasures from Palenque lay.

One of the most important Aztec ruins of the world is found in Teotihuacan, “the place where men become gods”. The pyramid of the sun and the moon are among the best-recognized structures in these ruins.

We can’t exclude a showing of the world-famous choreographed art of the Ballet Folkloric, founded by Amalia Hernandez. This mesmerizing dance features arts and dance from regions throughout Mexico.

This group tour also features Puebla and Cholula. Under the striking view of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl Volcanoes in the center of Mexico is Puebla. The “heroic” city where the French army in 1862 was defeated in the infamous Battle of Puebla or known to many as the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Colonial architecture in Puebla reveals exuberant European style palaces built by the Spanish conquistadores who also brought with them the sturdy and colorful Talavera ceramic. Cholula does not fall behind in its Talavera wares. The city of Cholula is mostly known for its 365 churches and the hidden pyramid of Cholula.

Join us on our first scheduled group tour. If you have been hesitant about visiting on your own, this is the perfect opportunity to see Mexico City and Puebla. Our knowledgeable and personable guides will provide an enjoyable and enlightening learning adventure tour

10 days in the Copper Canyon

Copper CanyonI just returned from 10 days in Copper Canyon with travel agents. I marvel again at the Adventure Park at the Divisadero Area in Copper Canyon. Rock climbing, repelling, cable cars and zip lines are among its offerings. The Park offers a 7-jump zip line which is the longest in Mexico and the Zip Rider which is the longest single zip line in the world.

I have ridden the 7-jump zip line about 6 times and I am always ready to go again. It is such a trill to be flying through the air over canyon views that one cannot see any other way. At one point you are 2275 feet above the canyon floor. Three miles of course with two hanging bridges added in gives you plenty of time to revel in the scenery. Looking around you see dramatic scenes with steep rocky cliffs, stream beds and Tarahumara Indian ranches. One of the lines is 1.2 km long and on one of the lines you double up so you will make it across the chasm to the other side

The Zip Rider seems too tame for me, but, for those who want soft adventure riding in comfortable chairs at 65 miles per hour, it can be an adrenaline rush. The vertical drop is 450 feet and is over 8000 ft. long with a 17% grade. It takes about 2.5 minutes whereas the 7 zip line can take up to 3 hours, depending on how many people are riding it that day. You can boast you have ridden the fastest, highest and longest single zip line in the world.

Even if you do not ride a zip line, you should at least ride the cable car across the canyon. It is 3.6 miles long and offers a good view of Tarahumara Indian ranches and the canyon floor and flora. On the 7-jump zip line, you return on the cable car so you get both adventures in the same adventure.

Touring Mexico’s Great Outdoors

Topics: Travel Experiences
Written by: Mexperience
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Living in Mexico, or spending extended stays in Mexico, gives you a unique opportunity to explore and discover this vibrant country.  Many expats who live here spend their leisure time exploring the rich culture and countryside that goes far beyond the beaches and resorts (although they enjoy these too!).

We have often extolled the wonders of Mexico’s great outdoors—there is so much to see and explore here—and for many years now, we’ve known Sue Stilwell, who leads small groups on learning and adventure tours.

Sue has been leading tours through Mexico for over twenty years. Although specializing in the Copper Canyon, her team also offers tours across other areas of Mexico, including the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Whale Watching in Baja, and Colonial Tours in south and west Mexico and the Yucatan.

Her passion for the country runs deep and this is reflected in the intimate small-group and independent tours she creates for people and offers through her business S&S Tours. Sue and her team organize travel for those who want to experience Mexico beyond mass-tourism circuits and delve deeper into the local culture and heritage, so their services are perfect for expats living here.

Sue knows Mexico intimately.  The tours she creates are ecologically and culturally sensitive, ensuring they contribute positively to the local people and are respectful to the land that sustains them. This strong ethos is reflected in the tours themselves: people who travel under Sue’s guidance experience the culture and become acquainted with the local people who live here. This is people-focused tourism: sight-seeing and appreciation for local heritage and indigenous roots are molded together to create remarkable travel experiences.

The tours led by Sue and her team are active and provide plenty of exercise and stimulation, and yet also allow you time to unwind and relax as you discover the unique places Sue and her team will unveil to you on the tours.

Groups are kept purposely small (8-10 people or less) to retain intimacy and limit the ecological impact of each visit. Previous clients talk warmly of the group camaraderie that is built on these excursions. The personal care and tremendous attention to detail make Sue’s tours some of the most exceptional available.

If your schedule doesn’t enable you to fit into one of the pre-planned annual group trips her team arranges, or if your prefer your tour to be tailored to your individual needs, Sue’s team can customize an itinerary to matches your needs and budget.

Make the most of your time in Mexico by exploring this country’s truly remarkable natural habitats—and if you need an experienced guide and mentor, we recommend you contact Sue Stilwell

Escorted Group Adventure Tours

2013 Escorted Group Adventure Tours still available :

****NEW!!! Bike Tours in the Old West:  Mountain bike, road bike and family bike tours offered with Tombstone, AZ as the baseFirst  mountain bike tour is Fe 15-17.  April tour dates TBA.  ****

NEW Bus Tours between Phoenix and Copper Canyon:  We are cooperating with the Balderrama Hotels to make Copper Canyon more accessible and more economical. Call for dates and more information. Monthly.  These tours have been a huge success.  We fill up the bus with 43 tourists and have waiting lists!  We still offer small group escorted tours and independent tours to Copper Canyon.

Colonial Cities:  Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and QueretaroOctober 1-8, 2013

Magnificent Spain :  Because you have asked for another trip to Spain, here it is. Visit Madrid, Granada, Cordoba, Gibraltar, Seville, and Toledo.  Save this month.September 16-27, 2013.

Travel Tips:   How NOT to stand in long lines in the airport—Global Entry Program,

This is a US Customs and Border Protection Program for expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. (No taking off shoes, belts or light jackets or separating out laptops, etc.)

     Participating entry points for returning to the US are increasing and there seem to be enough to make the program fee of  $100 (paid by credit card) worthwhile.  The fee is nonrefundable if you are not approved. You must submit an application online at where you will find a description of the program. If you are approved for the program, the fee is good for five years.   To apply, you will need to have a passport, birth certificate number and a list of countries traveled to in the last five years, in addition to providing personal information such as name, address, etc.

When you receive an e mail approving your application, you need to book an appointment at an approved Enrollment Center for an in-person appointment.  The locations are listed on the website.  The email explains what you need to take with you and that you will be interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted.  The appointment can take 20 minutes.  Your passport will have a special sticker on the back and you go up to the Global Entry kiosk in passport control and use a machine that looks like an ATM to get processed.   You fingerprints are checked and you are screened on a camera. You may be issued a Global Entry card to use when traveling across the borders into Canada and Mexico. Note:  Few security personnel are trained in the program so you may need to explain to them your special status to join the crew and diplomat line.

You still have to present a Customs declaration form to a Customs agent. You receive this document from the machine that processes your passport swipe.


Cheer, not fear, on Day of the Dead

By Gay Nagle Myers

El Dia de las Muertos (the Day of the Dead), a national event honoring the lives of lost relatives, friends and public figures, is observed throughout Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2.

The Day of the Dead, on the other hand, is a joyful holiday that handles death from a sentimental perspective. Its origins spring from a centuries-old Aztec festival honoring Mictecacihuatl, a goddess known as the Lady of the Dead.

Today, Mexican customs call for colorful altars in homes, for decorating the graves of the dead with the deceased’s favorite foods, tequila, flowers and sweets and for sharing humorous stories about their loved ones.

Short poems known as calaveritas (little skulls) are written and dedicated to the deceased.

Although cities and villages throughout Mexico observe many of these traditions on the Day of the Dead, San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato offers a front-row seat to the rituals, according to Journey Mexico.

Families go to cemeteries to scrub tombstones, clear weeds and lay out flowers and candles. A candlelight vigil lights up the cemetery as crowds gather to honor the dead, listen to mariachi bands, share bottles of tequila and picnic with friends and family.

A special market near the Plaza Civica in San Miguel has vendors selling decorations, sugar skulls, miniature coffins, skeleton puppets and skeleton masks and figures, known as calacas. The annual Calaca Festival takes place during this time. Calacas are an important part of Mexican folk art intended to mock death and overcome the pain of loss. Skeletons are humorously depicted as noble ladies, merrymakers, dancers and brides.


Costa Rica

I feel so privileged to be able to return to Costa Rica often.  It is one of my favorite countries and I am going back in April, 2013.     The country is widely seen as a model of stability and good environmental practice in the region.  The recent earthquake has been in the news.  Thankfully, even though it registered at 7.6 on the Richter scale, it was a deep quake  (25 miles underground and 87 miles west of the capital, San Jose)  so the damage was very minimal –some power outage in San Jose. Seismologists and structural experts point to the deep location of the quake and to Costa Rica’s strict anti-earthquake building codes in steel and concrete, rather than mud and adobe , as the reasons for the country’s stability in the wake of the event. I would welcome hearing any comments from you if you have been to this wonderful country.

LONESOME George- Galapagos Islands

Lonesome George, the only remaining Pinta Island tortoise, dies aged 100

6-25-12  The Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia

gpsgeorgeLONESOME George has died, leaving the world one species poorer.

Lonesome George, pictured at Galapagos National Park’s breeding center in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz island, Galapagos, has died aged 100. Source: AFP

The only remaining Pinta Island tortoise and celebrated conservation icon passed away Sunday, the Galapagos National Park Service said in a statement.

Estimated to be more than 100 years old, the creature’s cause of death remains unclear and a necropsy is planned.

Lonesome George’s longtime caretaker, Fausto Llerena, found the tortoise’s remains stretched out in the “direction of his watering hole” on Santa Cruz Island, the statement said.

Lonesome George was discovered on Pinta Island in 1972 at a time when tortoises of his type were already believed to be extinct. Since then, the animal had been part of the park service’s tortoise program.

Repeated efforts to breed Lonesome George failed. “Later two females from the Espanola tortoise population (the species most closely related to Pinta tortoises genetically) were with George until the end,” the park service said.

In honor of Lonesome George, the park service said it convened an international workshop in July on management strategies for restoring tortoise populations over the next decade.

“I was privileged to meet George in one of my trips to Galapagos, so this news saddened me.”  Susan Stilwell, Owner,  S&S Tours, LLC