Global: Session 1 - Darwin - Galapagos & Ecuador

Posted: Sun, Jul 5, 2015

An Adventurous Last Day

Location: Quito
Author: Elinor S.

Today we woke up super early. The only thing that made waking up at 5:30 tolerable was Nicole’s full head of cornrows. After breakfast we headed out to the bus on our way to whitewater rafting. Everyone was super jealous of Luke’s poncho because it was really cold out. On our way to rafting we stopped at a gas station to pickup our guides. Then we continued on a long bus ride. Some people were a little nervous about traffic since Pope Francisco was coming today to visit Ecuador! We kept seeing signs with his face on them and we all secretly wanted a t-shirt with his face on it. Halfway through the bus ride we stopped at a rest station and got grilled cheese sandwiches; they were so good! Also, Lauren got a really good deal on bananas. She got 5 for one dollar and then she shared them with us! Then we left the rest area and continued on our path. We arrived at the river and the guides blew up the boats with a leaf blower. We split up into two groups: the yellow boat and the purple boat. Going down the rapids was so much fun! Everyone got soaking wet by the rapids or our constant water attacks on each others boats. Every once and a while the guides would say, whoever is adventurous, jump out now! during the rapids. Some of us would jump out and try to survive the waves. We even stopped at a giant rock and jumped off and swam back to the boats. After amazing fun during the rapids, we changed into dry clothes and had great burritos provided by our guides! Then we hopped back on the bus to go back to the hostel. It was a very long ride back (4 hours)! Then after already being late to the restaurant, we took 10 minutes to change into nice clothes for our final meal together. The food was great and we all loved it, especially the ice cream and cake at the end. At 10:30 pm we met for a closing meeting where James showed us a video of the whole trip. The video was a great way to end the trip and nobody wants to say goodbye! The three weeks went by so fast but everyone had a life-changing experience that they will never forget!

Posted: Sat, Jul 4, 2015

Goodbye Galapagos & Happy Fourth!

Location: Quito
Author: Luke S.

Today we had a late start – breakfast at 8:00. After finishing breakfast, we packed up up our things and departed for the airport, saying goodbye to the beautiful town of Puerto Ayora and the picturesque waters of the Galapagos. On our hour-long bus ride back to the airport we all tried to soak up the ever fleeting beauty of the Enchanted Islands. Upon arriving back to Quito after a full day of travel, we found that our hosts had a surprise for us. They had decorated our dining room with red, white and blue balloons and ribbons. They fired up the grill and cooked us cheeseburgers and fries, served with bottles of Coke. For dessert, we got to roast marshmallows on the grill, the highlight of our day (except for Taylor; the highlight of her day was walking through airport security while eating a popsicle). As we were eating our food, fireworks started going off nearby. We decided they were a special celebration for us. As the last leg of our trip winds down to an end, we are sad to have to say goodbye to all of our new friends, but we are all happy to have had the once in a lifetime experiences with our new-found friends.

Posted: Fri, Jul 3, 2015

Laters, Baby (Galapagos)

Location: Galapagos
Author: Nicole G.

To start off our last full day in the Galapagos, we woke up at 5:30 to get on our small boats at 6:00. They rang the bell and called us out of our rooms well before six….so that’s good. We all piled into the boats and went on a little boat tour around the mangroves. We saw dozens of cattle egrets flying off the mangroves as they woke up. The boats took us through until we spotted some sea turtles lazily swimming through the water. Many pictures were taken. Upon our return to the boat, we brought our luggage to the front and resumed our usual spot on the top of the boat. We sat for a while and applied more aloe to our burns (sorry mom, I’m a lobster now). They called us down and we got back into the small boats and went to shore. We anxiously watched as our luggage was brought over the same way. This is the part where we all got kinda agitated. A bus took us to the airport…but we were not leaving. From the airport, we boarded another bus that brought us to the ferry, which we took just a few days ago when we arrived in Galapagos. After the ferry, we got on yet another bus which brought us back to our hotel. We got into our rooms and laid around. We had lunch at a restaurant near the hotel and then were given the choice to lounge around or to make the most of our final day in Galapagos. The choice was obvious. We all walked the 15 minute walk to the National Park and walked around inside of it, trying to soak up anymore that we could. However, the sun was quite hot so half the group walked home and the other walked on a small beach for a bit and then to a ceramic garden full of mosaics. They came back soon after. At 3:30 we made our way downstairs. We were given our phones so we all called home to let our families and friends know how we were doing. A group of students went grocery shopping for our packed lunches tomorrow. The grocery store didn’t have much to offer, but we’ll manage. After shopping, we did our final rounds of the tourist shops. Once back, we used our phones even more and a few of us did interviews about our trip (all good things!). Thank goodness it was time for dinner. We walked to a street filled with tables and picked a restaurant that looked like it had good tacos. We ordered our food and the tacos were, in fact, good! The students screamed for ice cream on the way back, but a dog scared us so we ran back to the hotel. We were promised ice cream if we were good during our meeting. We went back to a hand activity we had done in the Amazon and thought about how we had grown over the trip. Reflecting on past times (even just 3 weeks ago) is good. We read a story about a school teacher and learned what our final task would be. You’ll have to wait till we get home to find out. The ice cream goal was achieved! A large group of us went down to our favorite ice cream shop and took the last of what was delicious ice cream. Gotta get packed tonight because we’re leaving tomorrow. Adios, Galapagos.

Posted: Thu, Jul 2, 2015

The Galapagos Adventure Continues & Discussions Deepen

Location: Galapagos
Author: Grace R.

This morning, we woke up to a beautiful beach of red sand, and we took a short walk around a part of Rbida Island. Then we went back to the beach and most of us decided to snorkel. While snorkeling, we saw lots of different kinds of fish and sea stars, and sea lions swam just feet from us. Swimming with the sea lions was an amazing experience; one swam right by my face and though it definitely startled me, it was really cool. After snorkeling, we got back on the boat and once again made our way to Santa Cruz, this time to the northern part of the island. We went on another excursion there, going on another hike, this one about 40 minutes long, but the temperature was significantly higher than the short walk this morning. At the end of the hike, we decided to stay at the beach a bit longer, and after the hike, most of us wanted to take a dip in the ocean to cool off. We did have to relocate our stuff a few times, as the tide was coming in and getting everything wet. While we were in the water, a bunch of frigate birds flew right above us – James was quick to get his camera to take photos and videos. We had lots of fun in the water, though there was a little bit of a current and the water was too sandy to see very much when snorkeling. After we were done at the beach, we went back to the boat and discovered the strength of the sun at the equator while we were hanging out on the deck of the boat. Once again, the boat was on the move again, to a spot in between the airport and Santa Cruz. We had a great dinner (with cake for dessert!) and then we had our nightly meeting. For the past couple nights, we’ve had student-led discussions, and I especially liked tonight’s, which was about the impact our volunteer work has had. We all generally agreed that we’ve transformed over even just the short amount of time we’ve been on this trip. In the beginning of our journey, we didn’t realize the impact we could potentially have. I know that before I came on the trip, I didn’t know much about the invasive species of snails in the Amazon, I didn’t understand the effort it took to build and maintain trails, especially at high elevations like in the Andes, and I had no idea what the school system would be like in the Galapagos. I didn’t know the effort it might take to understand these things ” I didn’t know that the service work we’d be doing would be the key to my understanding of this and more. Our discussion tonight highlighted that having an impact is possible. We’ve proven it possible, as we have had an impact through our volunteer work, affecting the environment, a community or just a small base of people. I have learned through what we’ve accomplished what kind of impact 10 teenagers could have.

Posted: Wed, Jul 1, 2015

We’re On A Boat aaand…

Location: Galapagos
Author: Taylor W.

Today was a very full day. We had to get up at around 5:30 am, which was extremely difficult for most of us because the night before, the boat was rocking from side to side for six hours as we moved from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island. Those of us on the top bunks had to hold on to the ceiling several times in the night because of the fear of being thrown off the bed onto the ground, but the day that we had today made up for last night. After a really good breakfast of eggs, toast, bananas, yogurt and juice, we hopped in the dinghies and headed for a small, rocky island next to the boat. We circled around a small piece of rock with about 20 blue-footed boobies, and then when we looked to the other side, we saw a penguin! After attempting to get a picture of the penguin (it was quite difficult because it was standing against black rocks, so you could just see the patch of white on its stomach), we got off onto an island where we saw young iguanas, some sea lions, and another penguin swimming around near our boat. We then drove a little farther to our snorkel destination, and one by one, we all jumped into the beautiful blue water to explore. The water was clear and shallow, so we were able to see very well. Before 9 am we had seen blue-footed boobies, penguins, Sally Lightfoot crabs, iguanas, sea lions, many kinds of fish and starfish. After a short break on the boat, we went to the island of Isabela and took a path to get to another snorkel destination. The path was covered with sea lions that did not want to move for any tourist in their way. We made our way to a small dock where we entered an enclosed area that our boat driver later called una piscina natural’– a natural pool. We saw a lot of marine life here too, including a stingray, a sea turtle and an iguana that swam on top of the water between our group. It passed right by Daisy’s head without her noticing and made its way out of the natural pool. After drying off, we hopped in a bus to explore the island. Our first stop was a lagoon filled with bright pink flamingos. The pink color is from the crustaceans that the flamingos eat. The babies are born white and the more they eat, the pinker they get. We then got back on the bus in the direction of the beach. The beach was beautiful, soft, white sand, tall palm trees and rolling waves crashing onto black rocks and the white sand. A small group of us went immediately into a restaurant on the beach to find ice cream while others laid out in the sun. We found homemade popsicles at the restaurant; strawberries and cream was definitely the best. The hostess took a picture of us, and when the popsicles had been devoured, we headed for the beach to swim in the waves. The water felt really nice in the hot sun and the waves were the perfect size to play in. We then went back to the boat for a fish, rice and avocado lunch. Heading back to the island, we saw a boat taken over by huge sea lions sleeping in the shade of the top of the boat. A little penguin also had fun swimming around the dock underneath all of the boats. We then boarded a chiva, an open-air bus, to get to a place where we could see giant tortoises. We even got to see a baby about 2 months old. It was really tiny and super cute. After learning about these tortoises we moved to a cave formed by lava. We walked through it with flashlights, but then the guide asked us to turn out all of the lights. It was so dark that I could not see my hand in front of my face. It was really cool. The ceiling of the cave was also covered in a shiny, gold material. We made it out of the dark cave and headed back to the dock where we saw a family of sea lions run from the beach into the water. It was pretty funny because it was more of a waddle than a run. Dinner on the boat consisted of veggies, rice and fried shrimp. The shrimp were so good, especially with the sauce that Elinor kept calling Yum-Yum sauce. After dinner, our guide told us the plan for the next day and then we had a meeting where we discussed the differences in giving time and giving money concerning service work. We were all extremely tired and ready for bed by 8:00pm, but about half of us had not showered by the time the boat started moving again. We decided to attempt showering while moving to our new destination and soon discovered how difficult it is to do that. We all survived the showers and then immediately went to sleep at about 9:00 pm.

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