July 11, 2017
It is unbelievable that we have already reached the end of our trip. This session has flown by because everyone has been so enthusiastic at each moment. The whole table was talking at our last breakfast together how it seemed impossible that two weeks had already passed. While it seems like time has flown, the friendships formed seem years in the making. We finished the trip strong with once-in-a-lifetime-memories, and even better, good company.
After leaving Shandía Village, we headed straight for the river. We spent the whole day rafting down the wide Jatunyacu River in three different rafts. Each rapid was just as exhilarating as the last, with cold water splashing onto our faces as we hopped out of our seats and moved side to side. Thomas was brave and took on most of the rapids sitting at the front of the raft with his legs over the edge. Mayers gave it a shot and fell straight into the refreshing water. We all pulled her back in laughing at the short-lived ride on the front. Others joined her in the water, some voluntarily and others not so much. Mary Brooke and Charlotte were popular targets for their raft to playfully push into the water. Even during the calm waters in between the rapids, there was no rest. Everyone loved jumping from raft to raft trying to push their friends off. JT was always having to defend his raft from Rex’s sneak attacks. We finished our day on the river pulling over next to a waterfall. Flowing from a large rock into the river, we all got out of the rafts and stood under the falls. It was a great ending to a perfect day.
After non-stop adventure, it was nice to sleep in and have a free day in the beautiful city of Baños. We had time to kill before the markets opened, so we decided to go on what we thought was going to be an easy hike to a nice view that the hotel owner suggested. Our short walk turned out to be a steep hike full of never ending stairs. Anne Carter showed us the right way to hike the trail, hitching a ride on the back of a friend for a good bit of the way. We could have turned around when we saw the challenge, but every single person made it all the way to the top. The views were so worth it too. We could see the whole city below and the mountains all around us. Sometimes the best things aren’t planned. It was refreshing to rest at the top. After a much easier walk down the beautiful mountain, we ate a large lunch and treated ourselves to ice cream. Baños has great shopping, full Ecuadorian souvenirs and goods. We spent the whole afternoon walking around the fun and interesting city until it was time for our last dinner. The whole group put on their new Ecuadorian pants, ponchos and alpaca sweaters and enjoyed the last night in the country we have all come to love. Instead of the typical ice cream run after dinner, we went to the supermarket and everyone got their favorite local treats. Sally B. made sure to get the trip favorite “armor” cookies to share. We then went to the park and laughed about the fun times we’ve had. A cake-fight soon followed, and Caroline and Marian ended up with cake all over their faces. We closed the night with our last Moonup led by our Leaders of the Day, Adelaide and Jack. They asked the thoughtful question: “What was your favorite memory from the past two weeks?” It was so nice reminiscing and hearing how everyone was impacted by their time in Ecuador and the Galápagos.
Our last morning seemed extra early because everyone was tired from a late night of talking and making the most of their time together. However, horseback riding in Cotopaxi quickly woke everybody up. The air was thin but so fresh as our horses guided us up higher and higher. With the beautiful green grass and open pastures, you would never know we were riding up a volcano. All of our horses liked to move at a slow trot in a tight group. Sally S. was eager to gallop with her horse so when the guide allowed us to go ahead of him she was not afraid to race to the front of the pack. The wind was very strong today and it felt so good as we cantered back into the horses’ field. We definitely ended the trip on a high note.
We are on the way to the airport now, and no one is ready to say good-bye. This Moondance trip brought an amazing group of individuals together for some unforgettable adventures. Everyone will probably find it hard to top this trip for the rest of the summer!
We’re so thankful we were able to lead such a great group of people!
-Caroline and Zach
Marian- hey guys!! Excited to see y’all soon!! Love you
Caroline- hey fam!! I’ll see y’all super soon I love and miss everyone!!!
JT – Hey we are on our way to our last event which is horseback riding. I had a great trip and am excited to see you guys.
Sally – hey fam!! see you tomorrow!!
Anne Carter- hey!!! On the way to horseback ride, see yall in the morning:)
Charlotte – Hey!! Right now we are on the way to go horseback riding on the highest active volcano in the world!! See ya’ll tomorrow!!
Mayers- Hey fam! Going horseback riding right now. I will see y’all tomorrow morning!
Jack-Hey, we are on the way to go horseback riding and ill see yall tomorrow!
Rex- howdy family! We are on the way from Baños to horseback riding. See y’all in a few hours!
Sally- Hey!! Going horseback riding on a volcano and then coming home. Love y’all
Adelaide – Hello! I am about to go horseback riding in my new Ecuadorian poncho! See you soon
Thomas – hi!! See y’all soon, about to horseback ride, love y’all
Mary Brooke- hey guys!!! see y’all soon, love ya!!
July 8, 2017
4 days ago, we arrived in Shandia village for the service portion of our trip. We traded the beach for the rainforest and have had the best time! The families are so welcoming and the children are so eager to play. The group has gotten really close during our time here, working together in the village, eating all of our meals at one large table, and always making the most of each moment. It has been amazing to see everyone find joy in serving this community.
For our first service project, we enhanced a new river trail by clearing the path, planting flowers, and adding stones along the sides. It was a lot of challenging work, but it was so rewarding to see the progress we had made at the end. The project could not have been finished without JT hauling loads of sand in a wheelbarrow to and from the river while everyone else spread it along the path. On our way back to the lodge for lunch, Thomas traded hauling sand for a lucky little girl who loved being pushed in the wheelbarrow. After a long morning of working in the hot sun, we got to play with the local children. Jack joined a soccer game while Charlotte and Mayers had their hair braided by several little girls. Rex showed some of the villagers how to throw a football for the first time. The younger children jumped all over Mary Brooke and Anne Carter as they swung them in the air and taught them new handshakes. The boys and girls loved climbing the soccer goals, chasing us around, and repeatedly doing cartwheels with Sally B. They were still full of energy and laughter when we left exhausted for dinner. We were ready for showers, food and rest but it was still so hard to leave the fun.
Even though we were there to serve the Shandian people, they were so giving with their time and energy as well. Several of them took us on a beautiful waterfall hike through the rainforest. They gave us boots so we could trek through the streams and mud more easily. As we climbed up, water rushed down the rocks above us. When we reached the largest waterfall, Adelaide, Caroline and Sally S. ran through the cascading water. Everyone enjoyed feeling the water splash onto them as a relief from the rainforest’s humidity. Later that night, they continued to show us their hospitality by performing traditional songs and dances for us. They even pulled us in to join them! The young children heard the music and ran over to dance with us too. The little boys and girls did not want to stop spinning in circles with Marian until the night ended. We may not speak the same language….but everyone enjoys dancing to Despacito!
For our last moonup in Shandia we talked about what we have learned from the people here. Every single person in the group has been touched by the love of the Shandians. We may be finished with the service portion of our trip, but no one will forget our time here!
Zach and Caroline
Sally- Hey family!! We are in the Amazon and it’s super cool!! I made some great chocolate!!! Hope we have Escalante’s sometime soon. Lots of love <3
Anne Carter- Hey y’all!!! The Amazon is so cool, I love it here:) Sally and I ate the eye of a talapia! See everyone soon love you.
Jack- Hey mom and dad, I’m having a great time and am doing some really cool things. See you soon!
Caroline- SUP FAM i miss yall so much!!! I’m in the Amazon right now and we have been playing with the kids and its so much fun. Today we hiked up a waterfall and tomorrow we are rafting. I can’t wait to be home and see you all, love you!!!!
JT – Having a great time in the Amazon right now. Today we hiked up a waterfall and tomorrow we are going rafting. Make sure to have watermelon ice cream when I get home.
Rex – Hello Parents!!! I miss y’all so much but I’m having a blast and doing OK. We’ve eaten some great food and met some amazing people.
Adelaide – Hi mom and dad! We are currently in the Amazon and I am having the best time. I love and miss you all very much. See you soon!
Mayers – Hey mom and dad! I miss and love y’all ! Hope AJ and Dad are having fun in Cali. We are in the Amazon right now and have been playing with the kids in El Shandia. See you soon.
Marian- Hey fam!! Love and miss y’all!! I’m having the best time, we’re in the Amazon right now! See y’all soon!!
Sally- Hey guys!!! I’m having fun in the amazon!!! Miss y’all and don’t forget my gushers hahaha love you all <3
Thomas- Hey yall! having fun on my trip! Miss y’all, see ya soon!! say hi to ????
Mary Brooke- Hey guys!!! I’m having so much fun, can’t wait to see y’all!!! tell Frankie I said hey!!!
Charlotte- Hey guys!! I am having so much fun in Ecuador working and can’t wait to see y’all! Love y’all and tell Sam I miss him!!
July 4, 2017
Happy Independence Day from Ecuador! While we may be missing the fireworks, we have thoroughly enjoyed the sun and the sand in the Galapagos! The past few days have been full of boat rides, playing in the waves, ice cream, and relaxing on the beach. We have spent every day on the water and we can’t get enough.
The ocean may be chilly, but the hot sun makes it so easy to jump in. Everyone was eager to snorkel and swim with all of the unique wildlife. Before jumping in we spotted blue footed boobies and many sea lions. Once in the water the sea lions joined us to play. Several of them swam playfully in circles around Mary Brooke and Adelaide. Sea turtles and schools of fish swam below us and we looked below from the surface. Thomas was always swimming to the bottom to get closer to the animals and the fish hiding in the coral. No one wanted to get out! However, it was so nice resting on the beach in the warm sand after hours of snorkeling. Our sea lion friends couldn’t get enough of us because they covered the beach and reminded us they were there with their loud barking. Mayers got a hilarious picture next to a sea lion mimicking it’s pose. Rex & Jack sat above the beach on a tall rock, making the most of the view. Each beach we have visited is different than the last, but they are all so beautiful! The beach we visited today was surrounded by rocks on either side with boats anchored in the distance. Charlotte and Sally S. were walking on the rocks and spotted a lighthouse nearby. We followed them and watched the sunset behind the tall red and white tower.
Yesterday morning Zach and I decided to start running and invited everyone to join us. While most of the group enjoyed an extra 30 minutes of sleep, Anne Carter, Sally B, Marian, JT, and Caroline got up early for a jog by the water. It was a beautiful morning and a great way to start the day, so more people joined us today. Maybe by the end of the trip we can have a full group run!
This is such a positive group and they are jumping into every activity with great attitudes. We are so excited to see what Shandia has in store!
Caroline and Zach
Thomas – hi mom/dad, love y’all , say hi to peaches!
Mary Brooke – hey guys!! Having a great time. Love y’all
Adelaide – hi guys! I’m having so much fun! Love you all
Rex – Hey Mom and Dad love you so much! Hope y’all having a great summer. I’ve seen lots of sea lions. Happy 4th! ????????
Caroline – hi familyyyy!!!!! I’m alive!! I love you all and miss you guys
Mayers – Hey fam. Love y’all and having a great time! Save me some beignets!
Jack – Hey mom and dad. I’m having a great time and met some new friends. Happy 4th
Charlotte – Hey Mom and Dad!! I’m having a blast and Galapagos is so cool!! Love you both and have a great 4th of July! Tell Sam I said hi!
Sally- hey fam!! please bring me gushers when you come and pick me up!! love you
Anne Carter- hey fam!!! Having a great time the food is so good. Love and miss y’all
JT – Hey guys I’m having a great time in the Galápagos. I have some good pictures and videos to show when I get home. Hope you have fun at Cherokee.
Marian- Hey mom and dad!! Tell Murray I say hi and see y’all soon!! Love you
Sally- Hey! Hope y’all are having fun!! I am. We have eaten lots of good food. Miss y’all and I love you so much!
June 30, 2017
Hello Ecuador + Galapagos 2B friends and family!
We heard from Zach and Caroline that the whole group made it safely to Ecuador. Stay tuned for more updates!
-Moondance Administrative Team