Galápagos Wildlife Watch

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¡Hola!

For our activity day in San Cristobol, we went to Kicker Rock and the beach. We split in two groups of 10 with naturalists and our charter boats. We sailed out to Kicker Island where we spotted two humpback whales. We then continued onto our snorkeling spots. We saw a wide range of sea life including eagle rays, black tipped sharks, sea turtles, and much more. Half the group had a sweet surprise when we got to ride with a pod of wild dolphins.

We wrapped up the day with some beach time, followed by a sushi dinner by the sea. We are all so thankful for the time we’ve spent together but so sad it’s coming to an end.

See you all soon!

Maya & Alex

Day 20: Hike Up Volcán Sierra Negra

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We arrived to the Galápagos Islands, and they are beautiful!

We started off Day 20 with a delicious breakfast of bread, yogurt, eggs, fruit and coffee. After leaving our hotel, we had a 30-minute ride to the Volcán Sierra Negra. Once we arrived, we hiked to a point on the volcano from which we could see a huge crater that was formed by the eruption in 2005. After taking many group pictures, we hiked back the base, where we had boxed lunch of rice, apples, juice, and chocolate. Lunch was followed by a fun afternoon at the beach, where many people attempted surfing. People who were experienced smoothly surfed the waves, while non-experienced people struggled more, and benefited from the help of our instructor, Juan Carlos. Afterwards, we had free time until dinner, where people either rested on the beach or played beach volleyball. The day was wrapped up by the delicious dinner of seafood ceviche, chicken skewers, or the vegetarian options. Overall, the day was packed full of amazing experiences and unforgettable moments.

– Hannah y Emma

Horseback Riding in the Andes

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The morning started off with a delicious breakfast of French toast, pancakes, or eggs. After breakfast, we suited up in ponchos and chaps getting ready to horseback ride! We rode the horses through the mountains and around the hacienda area for almost three hours. For many of us it was a new and exciting experience and it was exciting to step out of our comfort zone. Overall it was a very rewarding experience and a big highlight of the trip.

– Jaya & Callie

15,953 Feet

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Today we finally faced the challenge of hiking up Cotopaxi. We started out with a flat hike around a lake to acclimate ourselves to the altitude. After that we drove up the volcano in a bus and later got out and started the steep trek up the volcano. We struggled through a hailstorm with bitter winds. After climbing 300 meters—or nearly 1,000 feet—in about 40 minutes, we reached a small lodge located at nearly 16,000 feet! Everyone who made it up the mountain was exhausted and jarred by the cold weather, but we all felt extremely accomplished by our feat! We enjoyed some hot chocolate at the top. As we descended the clouds cleared and we got a beautiful view. We spent the rest of the evening and a relaxing afternoon at our beautiful hotel and eating delicious food!

– Ava & Victoria

The Last Goodbye

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There is no better way to spend the last day in Iltaqui than with the whole community. Despite the two-hour delayed start, the fesitivites quickly took off with a volleyball game between us and the locals. The games were close, but we won both games. We enjoyed our fresh pork for lunch and shared it with the community. The festivities continued with a traditional dance with all of us joining together, as well as performances by the locals who demonstrated another traditional dance—after which we performed the Macarena. To end our celebration, everyone put their handprint on the newly renovated community center. Later in the night we traveled to Otavala for a nice dinner to celebrate the end of our community service work.

– Adam D. & Adam H.

Independent Projects & Main Projects

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As the days wind down in Iltaqui, we all are rushing to leave a positive and lasting trace on the community we spent two weeks living and working in. For some, that means finishing up their independent project and for others it means working hard on the main projects: replacing the roof on the Casa Comunal and digging a drainage canal.

For those that chose to work on their independent projects, these last few days were crucial for their completion. The independent projects within our group include a “Welcome to Iltaquí” sign that was created by Zach, Matt, Adam, and Oliver with help from Maya and Callie.

Another independent project was the creation of a large mural on the wall of the Casa Comunal that was facing the road that included the emblem of the village, the name of the community, the location of the village, and many handprints from members of the community and members of our group. This project was done by Emma, Ana, and Hannah.

Another independent project was a small cookbook of recipes from our cooks including an empanada recipe that was done by Ava, Callie, Victoria, and Rebecca. Alex and Tate decided to take photos of children in the village and post them onto an Instagram page as their independent project.

The final independent project was the repainting of the lines on the court in the school that we stayed at. This was done by myself and Adam D.

These independent projects in their completion have helped to add new positive traces to the community.

– Quentin B.

La Mágia de Pepe (The Magic of Pepe)

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We started our overnight excursion to Intag by celebrating Alex’s 16th birthday with some watermelon (for him) and cake (for us).

There are not many people who can say that they are completely content, yet Pepe is one of them. We had the privilege to chill with the only Ecuadorian who climbed the highest summit on all 7 continents independently.

After this adventure by the age of mid 30s, he settled down with his family on a secluded area so that he can run a coffee farm. Pepe gave us all a tour of his coffee farm by showing us his plants and process.

Afterward, he invited us into his house to relax and taste his fresh coffee.

In the afternoon, we traveled to the hot spring nearby. It was a great time to relax by the pools. After, we got back and enjoyed the showers at the hostal and especially the hot water, which we do not have in Italqui. We ended the night with some karaoke.

– Adam & Zach

Craters & Conversations

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Hiking is good for three reasons: great views, physical activity (14 km @ 10,000 feet), and good conversations.

Although the group started off as one cohesive unit, after countless PUDs (pointless up and downs) the big pack split up into small groups, each having very unique and great conversations.

Our conversations varied in topic, going from heart-to-hearts, to simple jokes, but no matter the gravity or light-heartedness, our engagements quickly transformed us from simple friends to lifelong compadres with unmatched bonds.

What’s especially spectacular about these further tightened friendships is the location in which they took place. The breathtaking views took us all by surprise, from the panoramic cityscape and the large crater-filled lake.

Overall the combination of hiking within an active volcano along with the thought-provoking conversations led to an unforgettable experience and a definite highlight of the trip.

Peace out cub scouts,

Matthew S. & Adam H.

Cotacachi’s Birthday

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We started off the day by participating in Cotacachi’s 156th birthday parade along with the community of Iltaqui. In the town of Cotacachi, we experienced many different traditional dances and ate delicious Ecuadorian pastries. After the parade, we held English classes for all people of the Iltaqui community. Afterward, we played volleyball: Gringos v. Ecuadorians. Overall, the day was packed full of amazing experiences and full blown cultural immersion.

¡Hasta luego!

– Hannah & Ana

Shovels & A Dream

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Our first two days of community service consisted of starting a drainage canal and removing a clay roof off of the Iltaqui community center. We began the canal with the goal of turning flat land into a three-by-three-foot ditch.

Within the following two days, we completed removing the dilapidated roof and digging a portion of the canal.

Our work in the future will consist of expanding the canal and making a new roof for the community center. In addition, we started our independent projects. These projects are chances for us to explore and benefit the community in our free time. Personally, we are teaching English, interviewing children, and making a welcome sign.

– Oliver & Tate