All students have departed safely and are making their way home!
Farewell to Ecuador!
We toured Old Town Quito yesterday morning and were able to visit the national cathedral, the presidential palace among other historic sites. We also learned all about how chocolate is made and were able to sample to locally-made Ecuadorian chocolate – Delicious!
Ready, Set, Explore
A Treasure Trove of Photos
On Top of a Mountain
On Monday we started work at our new site on top of a mountain. Our work was definitely more challenging than the other days, but we got through it. We pulled invasive species out so they could be replaced with plants that would help the environment. After a long hike through mud and rocks we ate lunch back at the place we are staying. We headed to the harbor for snorkeling, which was an amazing experience. We saw everything from sea lions to sea turtles (and even caught a few glimpses of marine iguanas!). Then, as all great days should wrap up, we had some free time in town to get some ice cream and shop.
On Tuesday, we continued our work on the side of the mountain. We cleared the area we started working on yesterday and planted endemic plants.
Today’s work was a lot easier than yesterday and very rewarding. We took the same hike through mud and rocks again to our home base. After lunch we headed to a beach where we had the opportunity to snorkel. Some chose to tan instead, so we all had the freedom to choose what we wanted to do with our small bit of free time. We followed that up with our group activity, and of course another excursion into town before the day was over.
Goodbye Isabella Island
Today was our last morning in Isabella so we had to say goodbye to the island. The boat trip to the next island, Floreana, totaled two hours so most of us napped the whole way. Floreana was really beautiful and we learned a lot about the turtle population and the history of the island. We also saw the caves where the first colonists lived and heard a ghost story. The next boat ride was another 3 hours and by the time we reached the island we had a limited amount of time to explore the shops in the boardwalk. After that, we arrived at our new hotel in San Cristobal.
San Cristobal Project
Hi parents and friends.
Today we started to work on a new site in the project here on San Cristobal. We are cleaning out introduced species like blackberry bushes to give space for an endemic plant called Meconia. Everybody seems to enjoy working part with machetes and part by hand and with shovels.
For the afternoon we keep our fingers crossed for some sealions, frigattebirds, and sea turtles while snorkeling at Las Tijiretas.
Tortoise Breeding & Lava Fields
Yesterday, we visited the tortoise breeding centre where we were able to see a four month old tortoise. We also ventured on a lovely 10 mile hike. Crazy you say? It was!
However, our stunning view of the lava fields and – of course – the company, made it all worthwhile. We saw a beautiful land iguana and a plethora of colorful birds. At the end of our hike we stopped by a little shop where we were greeted with the comforting smells of sweet empanadas. Those fried treats made us forget the aches and sunburns we had squired from the hike.
Today was our last day of working on Isabella Island. We helped dig a trench for a small lagoon for the tortoises. Then a few of us picked papayas, passion fruit and oranges to make our own marmalade. Everyone pitched in whether it was stirring or juicing. We cooked the marmalade over a bonfire and it ended up tasting delicious! A few of us played a rousing game of soccer where there wasn’t a determined winner. Some people went to see biologists and learn about what they were studying here in the Galapagos. Then we had a large amount of free time followed by an exciting scavenger hunt. At the moment, we are attempting to cook our own dinner, wish us luck!
Building a Lagoon
Today we worked at the tortoise center again and started building a lagoon, pulling out more invasive plants. After that, some of us played soccer and then we headed back to the hotel for lunch. Later on, we went snorkeling and kayaking at the harbor and had tons of fun. We saw giant rays, puffer fish, sea turtles, penguins, an octopus, and a shark. We finished the day with a game of ninja and a hearty meal for our hike up the Sierra Negra volcano tomorrow.
– Kristian and Cori
For the Tortoises
Today was our first full day in the Galapagos Islands. We started our first day of service work at a giant tortoise nursery. Our guides told us about some of the work we will be doing and why it is extremely important to do for the tortoises. We learned that there are many introduced plants that are taking over the area where the tortoises’ food source grows. We started out by removing the invasive plants and cutting down branches that block sunlight. There are many orange trees that grow there, and we enjoyed eating them while working. After we finished up our service work, we played a very fun game of football (soccer) against each other.
After we enjoyed our lunch at the hotel, we headed out to the old prison called the Wall of Tears. We learned about the history of the prison and saw some very scenic views. We made some pit stops and we were able to take some pictures of the wildlife we saw, such as iguanas, tortoises, frigate birds, blue footed boobies, and even some flying flamingos! At one of our pit stops we hiked through a mangrove and we swam out to the ocean from a small river. This was one of my favorite activities that we did today. We then walked the beach and went swimming in the ocean afterwards. Overall it was a fantastic day in the Galapagos and many more to come.
Today, our day started bright and early as we headed for the Galapagos. We were all struggling to keep our eyes open but once we landed in the islands it was all worth it. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The water was super blue and there were little baby iguanas everywhere. We had a chance to stop at a local bakery for lunch where we had a chance to practice ordering things in Spanish. One of the coolest things about this trip- so far- is to be able to take a subject taught in school and actually have the chance to apply it to a real life situation.
After that, we took a couple boats to get to the island of Isabella. The ride was a little bit long and about half of the group was asleep on the boat floor. Once we got situated, we had the chance to explore the island where we saw sea lions, penguins, and giant iguanas. The highlight of my day was being able to swim in the ocean. We were all jumping on waves and playing frisbee. Our group is getting closer every day and we can’t wait to see what the next 10 days in the Galapagos has in store for us.
Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed
Here’s a photo of us, bright and early this morning, getting ready to board our plane to the Galapagos Islands!
Crossing Over the Line
Hello family and friends! I know you are wondering what your kids are up to. So far it has been eye opening day! Last night we arrived in Quito. As we landed, we saw how large and beautiful this town is sitting along the mountains. Today, we all had fun when we went to the equator this morning! The locals call it Mitad Del Mundo (the middle of the world). The tour guide gave us lots of information and demonstrations on the actual equator. We learned what the equator is and how it impacts our lives. We all walked on the equator line with both hemispheres pulling at us in both directions as if we could not control our movement. Some of us were even able to balance an egg on a nail head on the equator. It was amazing.
Later we went to an open area where we did many leadership activities together and had the opportunity to do some shopping, too. Finally, we went into the tall monument which was a museum and we all learned about the different groups of people who live in Ecuador. So far the food is good and the weather is treating us well. Tonight may be the last night we have cell service for a while, because we will be leaving to the Galapagos tomorrow morning! We will have limited internet service there and we will blog every night for you. We are very excited to see what are next adventure is in the Galapagos! On behalf of all of us here in Ecuador, we want to say we love it here and wish we had done a longer service! We miss you.