Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Home sweet home!

We made it! We survived the Amazon, bug bites, guinea pig, whip scorpion/spiders, etc, and are now home with many stories to tell. Ecuador and the Galapagos was a trip of a lifetime and all of us have memories that will last forever!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Great Days in the Galapagos

Blue-Footed Boobie

Kicker Rock

Sea Lion


Friday, June 22nd
We are now in the Galapagos, and it is amazing-definitely my favorite part of the trip! Yesterday we flew from Quito to San Cristobal, the island we are on until tomorrrow.
Once we arrived on the island yesterday we went to lunch and saw a little bit of the town. After lunch, we headed to our hostel to change into swimsuits, and then we went to a little Galapagos history museum. After the museum, we got wetsuits, and snorkel gear, and headed to test them out. When snorkeling, we saw sea lions and turtles. Sea lions are EVERYWHERE here...on the sidewalks, on the playground slide, benches, beaches, etc. They can be very playful underwater, so we swam around with them.
Today, we woke up and had breakfast, and then hopped on a speedboat and made out way to a place called Kicker Rock. At Kicker Rock we snorkeled in deep water and saw tons of sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, fish, etc. After Kicker Rock we went to Isla Lobos, a shallower place, and we saw more turtles, sea lions, and schools of fish.  

Sunday, June 24th
Now we are in Santa Cruz (a Galapagos island), and we are getting ready to go back to Quito in the morning. Yesterday, we went on a 2.5 hour boat ride to get here from Santa Cruz, and when we arrived, we spent time exploring the little town and getting souvenirs.After lunch, we went to the Highlands, and saw many tortoises in the wild, and then we went to a lava tunnel. 
Today, we woke up and had breakfast, then we went to see the famed Lonesome George. After seeing him, we saw iguanas, interesting birds, and then went to lunch. After lunch, we walked to a far away beach, and swam until the evening. For dinner, we went to a local place that was very good, but while at dinner we received some bad news...when we saw Lonesome George this morning he may or may not have been dead, but the fact that he didn't move and his head was hanging down is a good indication that we saw dead Lonesome George. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday, May 20

Hi! We are back in Quito for the night after our adventure to the Amazon! It was an amazing experience and we learned so much about the wildlife and jungle. We stayed in a very remote place, and to get there, we went on a 30 minute plane ride from Quito to Coca, and from Coca, it was a 5 hour canoe ride (motorized canoe) along the Napo River and Parahna River to the Amazon Dolphin Lodge. The lodge is located on the Parahna Lagoon (doesn’t that name make you want to jump right into the water?!)
Once we arrived, we put our bags in our huts and then went in different canoes explored the lagoon and river. Later, we had a delicious dinner and some people went on a bug hunt, while others chose to enjoy the hammocks.
The next morning, we woke up early and went on another canoe ride and saw some cool birds, and returned to have breakfast. After breakfast, we went on a 3-hour hike, led by our guide, and learned about surviving in the wilderness. Later in the day, after lunch, we enjoyed a great siesta, which started out as most of us reading, and resulted in everyone falling asleep after about 5 minutes. After dinner, we hopped back on the canoes and went looking for Caymans (crocodiles or alligators…I’m not exactly sure….) Callie and I were in a wooden canoe, and it was slowly gaining water every few minutes, so we had a minor freak out because we thought our canoe was going to sink in the Parana Lagoon, late at night, with Caymans lurking nearby. However, we survived and the canoe didn’t sink (hooray!)
On the second morning, we woke up and had breakfast, and then we went on another 3 hour hike and learned about medicinal plants and such in the jungle. We learned a ton of cool things, and we even ate live ants that tasted like citrus! After lunch, instead of a siesta, we got in the big canoe and went to Monkey Island, and saw some really cool wooly monkeys. After dinner, Bailey, Micheal, and I went on a bug hunt with our leaders and Amazon guide. We saw some really awesome things, such as frogs (including a glass frog that is transparent), night monkeys, and other various insects.
On our last full day, we started with an early morning hike looking for monkeys and birds, and then returned to the lodge for breakfast. After breakfast, we went on canoes and traveled up Piranha River to go piranha fishing. I caught one, and tried it later at lunch! After lunch, instead of a siesta, some of us went swimming and kayaking. After getting over my initial fear of getting eaten by a piranha, it was really fun, and I didn’t get eaten!
Today, we left the lodge early and got back on the motorized canoe to head back to Coca. Just our luck, it was pouring down rain for the first 2.5-3 hours of the trip, our string for the motor of the boat broke, and I was convinced I was on the verge of developing hypothermia, luckily though, that didn’t happen. We made it to Coca and flew back to Quito, and we are now repacking for our trip to the Galapagos in the morning! Adios!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hello! Sorry for not posting this past week! We were in the Mindo cloud forest, and internet was not available.

Mindo is two and a half hours away from Quito by bus, but rather than drive the whole way there, we stopped at the Equator for a little while. At the Equator, we put one foot on each side, so we were in both the North and South hemisphere. Right next to the Equator was a little bug museum with live and dead bugs similar to those found in Mindo. We had the opportunity to hold huge beetles called “Hercules Beetles.” Holding these bugs came with a few minor freak-outs from some people in the group (lets just say there may or may not have been beetles flung to the ground, a few tears, and some uncontrollable laughing), but in the end, everybody was glad they held them.

On our first full day in Mindo, we went to a butterfly atrium and got to photograph different interesting butterflies. After the butterfly museum, we went right across the road and ventured to the icy cold river on which we tubed. The water was VERY cold, but it was really fun!

The next morning, we went to a bird-watching place to take pictures. It was really cool, and the birds were fun to watch and photograph. Later in the afternoon, we went to a place called Chocolarte. At Chocolarte, we got to learn how to make chocolate and were put to work like Oompa Loompa’s peeling cacao beans, and mixing everything together to make chocolate fondue (which we got to eat with fruits when we were done!) Dinner that night was quite interesting for some people, because the fish they ordered was served as a whole fish, with eyeballs and all…luckily for me, I ordered chicken!

On day three in Mindo, we were split in half, and each group did a different activity the first day, and switched the next day. My group was the smaller group (with 4 people), and we went to waterfalls. We took a cable car and hiked to get to them, and along the hike, we learned all about different species of animals that live in the cloud forest.

On day four in Mindo, we went to see mist netting. Biologists use mist netting to observe the growth of birds in the environment; they have multiple nets set up made of thin black string, and birds fly into them because they are hard to see, and then they band them, take measurements, and let them go. We again hiked to get to the mist-netting place, and it was totally downhill on the way down, and all uphill on the way up. The biologists were named Luke and Katie, and they are from the US, and are in Ecuador for 3 months for mist netting. During the few hours that we were there, 11 birds were caught (which is a lot compared to the 5 that the group the day before caught.)

On day five, we headed back to Luke and Katie’s (where the mist netting was), to help them and earn some service hours. We painted signs and fixed stairs (I now enjoy sawing things, and have to say I am quite the bamboo and wood sawer.) Later in the day, Massimo, our National Geographic photography instructor, left us to go back to Italy. The past week he critiqued our picture, helped us with photography techniques, and told us all about his career as a National Geographic photographer. He will be missed, but he left us with a great deal of knowledge.

Today, we woke up and packed, and then went to town for lunch and bought some snacks because the ones we brought were already running out. Everything in Mindo is VERY inexpensive…I bought enough snacks to last the entire trip for a total of $6, and on a previous day, we split up and went to lunch, and my group went to a restaurant and got soup, chicken, lentils, rice, and lemonade for a total of $2.50! After eating in town, we got on the bus and headed back to Quito for a night before going to the Amazon in the morning. 

Friday, June 8, 2012


¡Hola! from Quito, Ecuador. The past two days on the equator have been a whirlwind of exploring the city, hiking, and getting a VERY interesting taste of local Ecuadorian food and drink. 
At the airport we were greeted by our leaders, Sam and Taylor, and then we got on a bus and were taken to our hostal by Nando (the bus driver). The hostal is a cute family-run place with comfortable beds, and surprising clean showers. After a night of extensive horn honking, music, and motorcycle riders from the street right outside our rooms, we were greeted by the owner of the hostal with eggs and watermelon juice. After an orientation we went to a local Ecuadorian restaurant where Madeline and I braved a vegetarian meal of rice, lentil type things, and plantains,as it was the best option other than seafood. Later in the day, we went to a big mountain in the Andes and rode the gondola from Quito's altitude of 9,000 ft,to the top, which was 12,000 ft. Needless to say, the high altitude left us short of breath, and it was quite chilly, but we hiked, took pictures, were amazed by the awesome view of Quito, and saw some really cute horses. Next, we headed back down to town and had dinner, and then went on a special night tour of Quito. 
The second night was similar to the previous night and was filled with noise from the street...but on the plus side,the beds are comfortable. Today, for breakfast we had toast with passionfruit jam, scrambled eggs, and tree tomato juice. After breakfast, we hopped on our bus and drove for 2 hours to Otavalo market. The market was filled with natives selling beaded jewelry, blankets, bags, hats, and even hammocks. I have to say I have developed some good bargaining skills. For lunch, we had another Ecuadorian meal of organ soup (with the option of putting dried blood from a mystery animal in it), pork, and "leche" ice cream. After lunch, we went to the local fruit and vegetable market and interacted with many native people. A 2 hour bus ride later (which consisted mostly of sleeping), we got back to Quito and uploaded, edited, and sorted our pictures. For dinner, we went to an Asian restaurant called Uncle Ho's. It is located in the middle of an Ecuadorian neighborhood, yet is run by people from Switzerland with a menu in English (we have been reading menus and ordering everything in Spanish, which have led to some mystery meats, vegetables, etc.)Now, we are blogging, and packing up our stuff in preparation for our trip to Mindo in the morning. ¡Adios!

Monday, June 4, 2012

This blog will be used to document my upcoming trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos!