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Ecuador + Galapagos 1B • June 14-June 27, 2017

Final Farewell

June 27, 2017

Final Trip Update! 

Hello from Ecuador! As we are ending our time here in this beautiful country, we are all becoming increasingly nostalgic and emotional. It has been an unbelievable two weeks full of laughs and adventure. Everyone is going to miss each other dearly but we know that these friendships will last a lifetime! 

After our meaningful service work in the Shandia Village, we left for whitewater rafting on the Jatunyacu River! Pushing out onto the water in the morning and finishing in the late afternoon, it was a long day on the rapids. Nevertheless, at the end of the day it felt as if only a minute had passed, and everyone wanted more time on the river. Although we were divided into three different rafts, the group had so much fun together as a whole. Whether it was splashing each other as we passed, or even attacks on the other rafts, there was never a dull moment. Of course tiny Evie was the easy target to push into the water, but that didn’t stop her from getting revenge on Foard and Steele whenever possible. Every single person ended up in the water at some point in the day! Elizabeth never failed to have a smile on her face and her whole raft was always laughing. Our amazing river guides allowed us to try new things like balancing on the edge of the raft, form pyramids and flip into the water. Everyone got a turn sitting on the front of the raft with their legs over, but Alex and Taylor had the balance to stand on the edge as we moved through the water! Ann Radford even tried to climb to the top of the raft while the rest of her group did a wheelie with the raft! 

The next day we took a 3 hour bus ride from Tena to Baños where we all boarded the coolest bus any of us had ever been on. Known as a Chiva in Ecuador, the bus had open windows for us to get amazing views of spectacular waterfalls while jamming to music! McAuley, Ruthie, and Susannah kept everyone in the bus hype by starting a dance party that would only pause just to catch a glimpse of the fantastic views. The bus then took us to our cable car ride over an amazing valley full of beautiful waterfalls and rainbows. Cooper and Celia were able to face their fear of heights on the cable car and ended up have a great time. We were also able to get up close to some waterfalls. While most of the group enjoyed it from afar, Tanner and Mary Douglas were not afraid to risk getting a little wet and walked behind the rushing falls. They remained dry and the rest of the group soon followed. We finished the night in Baños eating traditional Ecuadorian dishes like plantains and even guinea pig! Every single person at the table tried a bite!

Yesterday we had an amazing day, yet again. We were up at the crack of dawn to head to Cotopaxi for our horseback riding adventure! When we got to the top of the very chilly mountain, we all boarded our horses and headed out on an awe-inspiring trail ride with views as far as the eye could see. We got back into town late, but that didn’t stop us from making the most of our time. Our last Moonup was sentimental and we spent it reminiscing the past two weeks.

 As leaders, we could not have asked for anything better. These students love each other and get along so well. The group dynamics make every activity a blast. They are all tired today from a long night of fun conversations and stories, but we are so happy they have enjoyed their time in Ecuador in the Galápagos. 


Caroline and Zach



Tanner- this trip has been great and I am sad to see everyone I’ve met go. It’s has been a fun two weeks and I really loved seeing the water fall yesterday. 

Alexander- hi family I had so much fun in Ecuador and can’t wait to see y’all tomorrow

Foard- I made memories and friends that I will remember forever. This was such an amazing trip. 

Steele- This trip was amazing I met a lot of friends and made a lot of memories along the way. 

Susannah-I had the best time on this trip! I can’t wait to tell you all about all the cool things we did and the friends I made.

Ruthie- This has been such an amazing experience that I will never forget. Can’t wait to tell y’all what we did and the friends I made. See y’all soon!!!

Elizabeth- This trip was amazing and I have made so many unforgettable memories. Can’t wait to tell you all about it! See you soon. 

Celia- I’ve had such a great time and I can’t believe it’s over!! I’ve had so many amazing adventures that I can’t wait to tell you about! See y’all soon! 

Taylor- I had the time of my life on this trip! I have so much to tell you! Can’t wait to see y’all! 

Evie- This trip has been so much fun and I’m so sad to leave!! Can’t wait to see y’all and tell you guys all about it!! See ya soon.

McAuley- I had an amazing time on this trip. I’m excited to share my stories with y’all and catch up!! 

Cooper- This trip has been so fun!  I have seen and done the coolest things and I can’t wait to see and tell y’all all about it! 

Ann Radford- I have had such a blast and I am so sad to leave! So excited to tell you guys all about it and eat some Chick Fil A!!!

Mary Douglas- Hey y’all! See y’all tomorrow and this trip has been fun and I made a lot of new friends and I ate a piece of Guinea pig…….. see ya


June 24, 2017

Love y’all I’m having a great time – Foard


Miss y’all but not too much bc having so much fun!! – Ruthie:)


I like chocolate and shaved my eye brow – Steele


Hey yall! See y’all soon and please get me some camo crocs plssss! Thx – Mary Douglas


Miss y’all! The amazon is cool can you get me some camo crocs!!! – Cooper


Hi dad mom victoria and Elizabeth and Catherine I’m in the Forrest and I wore bug spray and pants – Alexander


Hey fam! The bugs are huge but I am keeping strong- see y’all soon!! -Ann Radford


Hey family. Miss u guys but I miss my dog more. My name is really popular here. Bye. – Evie


Hey y’all! Miss everyone so much! It’s amazing here! I’m having the best time, I don’t want to leave! I have some cool presents for all of you! See y’all soon love you!  -Taylor


Hey mom and dad it is fun in the amazon and playing soccer with the kids in the rain forest – Tanner


Hey mom having a great time in Ecuador made a lot of friends. We hiked up a water fall and it was a lot of fun xoxo – Susannah


Hey! Having a great time see you soon. – Elizabeth


Hi! We went on a really cool waterfall hike and played with some really sweet kids. Can’t wait to see y’all! – McAuley


Hi! Having so much fun and can’t wait to see y’all! -Celia

Heart of the Amazon

June 23, 2017

Although it was difficult leaving the Galapagos Islands, the past few days in the mainland have not disappointed us. The morning we left, we decorated Cooper’s room with streamers and a banner before she woke up. She definitely felt loved and appreciated when the whole group woke her up with party hats singing Happy Birthday. We then packed up and said goodbye to the sea lions, blue footed boobies and the crystal clear waters of the Galapagos. We made the most of our one night in Quito by going out to a local pizza restaurant. Zach snuck out in the middle of dinner to buy some cake and passion fruit pie to continue celebrating Cooper’s day. We got to walk around a fun and busy plaza but turned in early because tomorrow we’d be heading for Shandia village for the service portion of our trip. 


The drive to Shandia was long, but the amazing views of the Amazon rainforest and Andes Mountains kept everyone’s faces glued to the windows. When we arrived to the village we realized we were lucky to be able to stay right in the middle of this exotic region. Our tour of the area led us past houses, through the thick forest, to a large rushing river. As we walked, the local children ran out of their houses and followed us to play. We played by the river for the first night and knew that the next three days were going to be so meaningful. The little girls would not let go of Ruthie and Susannah’s hands, and every child wanted to climb on Alexander’s back or be chased by him. We quickly realized that if we spun one kid around or threw them in the air, we’d be doing the same for everyone there! Even when we were trying to work, planting bushes or picking up trash, the children would come help or try to pull us away from our tasks. After completing our service we were so ready to give our full attention to the children. We played soccer against the older Ecuadoreans and did not stand a chance, losing by 5 points. We did redeem the American name with 4 goals scored by Tanner, Caroline, Steele and Foard. Elizabeth, Evie and Mary Douglas entertained the younger children on the sidelines. We were definitely exhausted after a long day of service and play. The Shandia people asked us to join them after dinner to show us their native dancing and singing. After performing, they pulled us in to dance with them. It was so fun watching two different cultures come together with laughter and so much energy. Celia joined in on the traditional dance, but when it was over we asked if we could show them our music. The performance then turned into a dance party full of Taylor Swift songs and Ann Radford showing the Shandia teenagers how to whip and nae-nae! 


On our last day in the village we went on a hike through the rainforest. We thought we were hiking to a waterfall, but we actually hiked up one! Everyone had so much fun climbing up as water rushed down. The water was cold but that didn’t stop McAuley and Taylor from jumping into the pool next to the falls. We returned to our rooms soaked and smiling from the amazing hike. 


Every new thing we do seems so hard to top, but tomorrow we look forward to white-water rafting, so I’m sure we will be proved wrong once again. It hasn’t hit any of us that the trip is more than half way over because we are so caught up in the moment. This group has formed amazing friendships and that makes it so much easier to enjoy every little thing. 


Talk to y’all soon! 


Caroline and Zach

Land, Ahoy! Headed back to Quito!

June 19, 2017

Greetings from the Galapagos Islands! The past few days have been truly unbelievable for all of us. From the beautiful wildlife, to the fascinating culture, these islands have given us an experience we’ll never forget.

After five hours on the plane to Ecuador, it was so nice to see Zach waiting for us with replenishing snacks and drinks. It was dark by the time we arrived in Quito, but it was still exciting to see the country we would be exploring for the next two weeks.

The first morning in Quito was pretty chilly so we put on warm clothes and headed straight to the airport after an early breakfast. Flying into the Galapagos Islands we quickly shed our warm layers, because here the sun never stops shining and it is always a perfect beach day. Even after so much travel, everyone was eager to explore. The small beach town on Santa Cruz Island had a huge pier that provided the perfect spot to watch small sharks, sting rays, sea lions, turtles and fish swim below us. It was an easygoing night that gave us time to get to know each other. Even with a group of people from various cities across the country, everyone quickly made connections and new friendships quickly started to form. Our two alumni on the trip, Ann Radford and Mary Douglas both set perfect examples of the behavior expected on the trip. Their high energy, goofiness and experience opened everyone up right away and set the tone for the trip.

The next morning we hiked to a beach called Tortuga Bay. Everyone enjoyed playing games in the water for hours. Alex, Steele, Tanner, and Foard played football on the beach until the sun led them into the water as well. The next day was another beach day, yet this time the waves were much bigger than the calm bay. After swimming and playing in the surf, everyone played in the sand. Ruthie and Evie wowed everyone with back handsprings on the beach while McAuley and Taylor buried Steele in the sand. It felt like a full day in Puerto Chino, but it had only been a few hours when we left for lunch. After a much-needed rest, we snorkeled with sea lions and sea turtles! Our guide, Harry, did a great job of showing us the best spots to see all the fascinating wildlife. The water was cold, but the incredible sights captured everyone. Days filled with adventure like this are exhausting but everyone enjoys staying up to share stories and play games. Waking up  14 high school students early in the morning has been no easy task so we asked for some help from the leaders of the day. It just so happens that the hardest person to wake up was chosen as LOD for the first morning!  Susannah did not disappoint and was up before anyone else to make sure the whole group was awake in time for breakfast followed by snorkeling and hiking. The hike was not for quitters, and with encouragement from Celia and Elizabeth, the group made it to the top for amazing views. Despite the hot sun and steep hills these girls never complained and really set a positive tone for everyone else to follow! It is so cool to see how each person steps up in their own way. This is such a dynamic group! Can’t wait to see how tomorrow’s LOD’s Ruthie and Cooper step up. Cooper is LOD on her birthday and we can’t wait to celebrate with her! Everyone had something so sweet to say on the birthday card! We are going to surprise her with it the morning.

We are sad to be leaving these beautiful islands tomorrow but so excited to see everything else Ecuador has to offer!

Feliz Día Padre from all of us!

Caroline and Zach


McAuley– Hey from Galapagos! Happy Fathers Day Dad, I love you! Hi Mom and Maizy and Atlas!

Celia– Happy Fathers Day Dad! Miss and love you!

Tanner– Happy Father’s Day,  having fun

Steele– I saw a turtle, it was cool.

Ann Radford– Happy Father’s Day Dad! What’s up fam! Hello from the Galapagos.

Ruthie- happy fathers Day dad I love you and the rest of the fam. I’m having an amazing time and wish y’all could enjoy it too! Love y’all

Evie- Happy Fathers Day Dad!  The sea lions are scary.

Cooper- Happy Fathers Day Dad! I love y’all. This trip has been awesome so far!

Elizabeth– Hey guys!! Hope you had an awesome Father’s Day! See you soon. xoxo.

Mary Douglas– Happy Father’s Day!  I saw the Galapagos turtles!!

Foard– Having a blast thank you for sending me!! Love you

Taylor– I’m having so much fun and it is amazing here!! Love and miss you all. Tell Payton and Laney I say hi!

Susannah- Hi Mom! I’m having a great time and miss you a lot. Thank you for this amazing opportunity, love you!

Alexander- Hi Mom, Dad, Catherine, Victoria and Elizabeth! I’m having a lot of fun and I love y’all very much.

Safe arrival to Ecuador!

June 15, 2017

Hey Ecuador + Galapagos 1B families!

We heard from Zach & Caroline early this morning that the group made it safe and sound to Quito, and are resting at their hotel.  Please stay tuned for trip updates as their adventure begins!

-Moondance Administrative Team


  • Steele
  • Tanner
  • Elizabeth
  • Taylor
  • Cooper
  • Mary Douglas
  • Ann Radford
  • McAuley
  • Celia
  • Ruthie
  • Foard
  • Alexander
  • Evie
  • Susannah