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Ecuador + Galapagos 3A • July 14-July 27, 2017

San Cristobal and Final Goodbyes!

July 27, 2017

Hello friends, family, and Moondancers! I hope everyone arrived home safely. Jewlz and I left the Atlanta airport after saying our goodbyes to everyone and headed back to Nashville to the Moondance office. We miss the unique personalities from our group, but we are excited to keep up with all of them and hear about the amazing things they do in the future.

After we sent out our last trip update Paige and Peter led us in a Moonup that had us laughing the entire time. Everyone was in a silly mood after our long day in the sun, but Paige and Peter did a great job of balancing a fun and meaningful discussion.

The last two days that we spent on the Island were amazing. On Monday we went to the tortoise breeding center where we got to see baby tortoises! Afterwards we went to Puerto Chino, a beautiful remote beach on the eastern side of San Cristobal Island. Peter initiated a game of “signs” and played with the guys while Lilly, Chloe, and Emilie played in the water. Greg hiked up on the ridge to overlook the beach and got some really pretty shots on his GoPro from up above.  We all got a good laugh when one of the Darwin Finch birds flew all around Blake’s head while he was lying on the beach.

Our LODs, Sam and Hadley, led a sentimental Moonup and then passed on their LOD responsibilities to Whit and Chloe.  

The next morning we went snorkeling at Sea Lion Island, boated over to a remote, and then boated back to our hotel where we got ready before our banquet. Mary Fleming and Haven got really good footage of the sea lions underwater on their GoPro cameras! At our banquet dinner, Jewlz and I surprised the group with superlatives. Each person received a superlative followed with a short speech. We all got a laugh when Carter got “world’s greatest dad” because of his care for everyone in the group.

The next morning we woke up to a late breakfast and then traveled to the airport to fly back to Quito. We all sat around in the Quito airport and held a special last Moonup together before going through security. Instead of a nug jug, we did a “memory jug” where we all went around and shared memories from the trip. Hannah recalled how much she loved the waterfall hike, even though a lot of people we not psyched to do it going into it.

Of course we can say that the past week have been fun, but they have been so much more than that. They have been challenging, rewarding, and worthwhile. Jewlz and I will miss each person dearly. We wish to stay in touch with each person in the group and will always be here for each one of them. Each personality contributed to the group dynamic in some way, and the trip would not have been the same if one person were not there. We are so thankful that we had the chance to work with them and we hope to see everyone again in the near future!

Until then,

Lizzie & Jewlz

Hola from the Galapagos Islands!

July 24, 2017

Hola from the Galapagos Islands! We have arrived safely on the island of Santa Cruz, where the streets are vibrant and full of life and the food is extra good.

Since our last update we traveled back to Quito on our bus, stopped at the center of the world equator museum, woke up at the crack of dawn to get to the Quito airport, and flew to Santa Cruz. We have so much to tell!

The equator was really fun to visit and everyone really enjoyed the different demonstrations on the equator line, especially watching the water swirl in different directions down the faucet in the northern and southern hemispheres! Greg and Chloe were LODs for the day and they did an awesome job of keeping us all entertained with their funny jokes. After a long day of riding in the bus and checking out the museum, it was nice to find our hotel and relax for a bit. Later that night we went to get Mexican food for dinner and then returned to the hotel for Moonup on the roof overlooking the Quito skyline.

For Moonup Greg and Chloe had everyone go around and say who they admire the most in the world. A majority of the group named their parents and/or grandparents.  They then passed their LOD responsibilities to Emilie and Mary Fleming.

The next morning we woke up early, ate breakfast in the hotel, and then headed to the airport for an early flight to the Galapagos Islands. Once we arrived to the Galapagos we went straight to the tortoise reserve to see the giant tortoises. We sat down for lunch at the tortoise reserve and everyone ordered pesto pasta, except for Hadley and Blake who ordered the daily fish. After lunch we walked through the lava tunnels and explored underground. The lava tunnels are very dark and cold—it was a nice change from the heat. We continued to walk around the reserve and take pictures with the giant tortoises, including some that were over 100 years old! Our guide did a quick question-and-answer session on the tortoises and a lot of people asked really good questions about the biology behind the tortoises.

After the tortoise reserve we went to our hotel where our luggage was waiting for us. Upon settling into the rooms everyone immediately rummaged through their bags to find their bathing suits to take a dip in the rooftop pool. Hannah, Haven, and Lilly decided to sunbathe and watch the sunset over the Pacific.

That night for dinner we went to a local restaurant on the island, where everyone ordered burgers and fries. After dinner we hopped over next door to grab a bite of ice cream before our stroll along the boardwalk. We went into the little shops along the boardwalk and shopped for souvenirs.

For Moonup everyone went around and shared a place he/she has been that makes him/her feel special. Answers varied from hometowns to vacation destinations, but Whit had a thoughtful answer with his family’s lake house. Emilie and Mary Fleming proceeded to pass on their LOD responsibilities to Paige and Peter.  

The next morning Peter and Paige woke us all up for breakfast and after breakfast we got ready for our first beach day on the Galapagos Islands. We hiked to Tortuga Bay, where we got to wade in the still ocean (it was like a pool!) and play on the beach. Carter and Sam decided to swim to the deeper part of the bay and they could see marine iguanas in the distance playing in the water! Afterwards we walked back to town, ate lunch and ice cream, and took the ferry across the ocean to get to the island of San Cristobal.

We will spend the next three nights on San Cristobol snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on the beaches and on Wednesday we will fly back to Quito. We are so grateful to be on the Galapagos Islands and we are looking forward to the days ahead, but sad to see the time go so fast on such an amazing adventure.

Until then,

Lizzie & Jewlz

Service, Smiles and Sunshine!

July 21, 2017

Hola from Tena, Ecuador! We have had an awesome past four days doing community service and rafting on the Jatanyacu River—the energy level in this group is off the charts! We have so much to tell…


Our bus ride from Baños to the Shandia community was full of music and dancing. Yes, we literally all danced the entire ride. We arrived to the Shandia Lodge to welcome drinks and friendly smiles. After we all settled in to our cabins we went for a short hike to tour the community. We stopped by the river to skip rocks by the shore and play on the beach. We even had the chance to try to shoot a bamboo rocket! Everyone gave it a shot and most people got close but Whit was the only one who made it on the target. Quite impressive since it was a difficult shot. Along our stroll we also stopped by the local school where the children were all hanging out and playing volleyball. Everyone in our group absolutely loved playing with the little kids! Mary Fleming and Emilie each established friendships with many of the little kids, and they each had a kid in their arms the entire time we were there.


That night for dinner we all ate chicken and rice followed by a strawberries and whipped cream dessert. Peter lost in “what are the odds” and had to eat his with his face, which encouraged Paige and Haven to do it with him. Later that night we held Moonup outside and everyone went around and expressed how playing with the local children made them feel.  LODs Hannah and Peter then passed on their LOD responsibilities to Hadley and Carter.


The next morning Hadley and Carter woke us all up for breakfast and after breakfast we got ready for our first day of community service. In our morning huddle they shared the quote, “a little goes a long way,” in preparation for our day of building a trail in the forest. We spent the first half of the day raking leaves, passing stones uphill, and placing stones along the pathway. It was not easy work, but Jewlz played fun music for us and Blake initiated a dance party to pass the rocks along the line.


After community service we sat down for lunch where we each had our own tilapia. Hannah and Lilly decided to be adventurous and eat the eyeball of their fish! Everyone was really impressed with their bold move. After lunch we went on a jungle hike to a local farm where we painted our faces with the dye from picked berries, picked yucca roots (similar to potatoes), and visited the lake from where our tilapia lunch came. We all had a contest to see who was brave enough to eat a pepper from a pepper bush and out of all of the “contestants” Chloe came out on top by eating three of them!


At Moonup Hadley and Carter asked everyone what animal they would be if they could choose one and why. Lizzie said a sea lion and told them they would see why when we get to the Galapagos…just a little foreshadowing for what’s to come! Hadley and Carter then passed on their LOD responsibilities to Sam and Paige.


The next morning Sam and Paige woke us all up for breakfast and a quick morning huddle before heading out for our waterfall hike. We drove 20 minutes away to the Pimpilala Waterfalls (in Kichwa this means “butterfly”), where we hiked for about an hour up the waterfalls and then an hour down the other side of the mountain. Our group absolutely crushed this hike; we did it so fast! Everyone was so full of energy and we stomped through the rapids and up the waterfalls super quick.


We returned back to the Shandia Lodge in time for lunch and before heading over to the school to spend time with the children in the community. Greg had a great time running around the soccer field with the kids; he had five kids chasing him at one point!


For Moonup everyone went around and said what they would do if they had the ability to change one thing about the world. We heard some very inspirational answers and enjoyed hearing everyone’s passions. Paige and Sam then passed on their LOD responsibilities to Haven and Whit.


The next morning we woke up and packed our things for a full day of rafting. Once we got on the river and the water was pretty cold, but not cold enough to stop everyone from pulling each other in the water! We spent a full day hopping from raft to raft and tugging each other in the water; it was a day that we will never forget. We tried multiple times to get our guide, Ivan, in the water but he was way stronger than any of us and he always won.


Once we got off the river, we headed to our hotel for the night. We are here now reflecting on how awesome this portion of our trip has been and how excited we are to head to Quito tomorrow and then to the Galapagos Islands!


Until then,

Lizzie & Jewlz


Here are a few shout outs from the group!!


Greg: Wassuppp famm I miss y’all. I am currently in Shania doing service and having the best time of my life. I’ve taken some cool pictures and met some awesome new people. See you soon!


Chloe: Hey, I miss you guys so much! Right now we’re in Shandia and helping make paths on a small island, which will help them have more attraction for tourists and eventually bring more money to the community.  It’s been fun and easy with the group. The local kids here are so cute, sweet, and grateful. I’m having so much fun but can’t wait to see you. Love you guys so much and give Walter, Olive, Tutu and Rose my love.


Carter:  Hey Mom, Dad, Cabell, Liz, Andy, and Homer.  I’m having a great time here in Ecuador, and I am excited to see y’all in a week. 


Hannah: Hi mom and dad! I miss y’all so much but I’m having tons and tons of fun here! Our group is awesome and I don’t want to come home 🙁 I hope y’all are having fun in Montana! Love y’all!!!!


Paige: Hey mom, dad, bubba, Trenty, Jo Jo, and Susan!!!! I love and miss y’all, but I’m having so much fun! The other kids on the trip are awesome and are so much fun to be with!!! Bye for now


Blake: Hey Mom, Dad, Hayden, Grandpa and Shadow!! Feeling great and have had a great time meeting new people and trying new crazy things. See you guys real soon.


Lilly:  Hey Mom, hey Dad, hey Alex I am having a blast so far. I can’t wait to see you guys and tell you all about it. I love and miss you guys to the moon and back. Hope all is well and I will see you guys in a week!!!


Sam: Hey family. I’m having a lot of fun on the trip. Everybody is awesome and fun. I have actually taken pictures. 


Emilie:  Hello family! Love you all so much. I’m having so much fun and am experiencing so many new things. Miss you guys tell Kate and Maddie and grandma I say hi and I love you.


Mary Fleming: Hey Mom, Dad, Kay, and Hattie (and Cinder)! I’m having lots of fun and the kids are so cute! Ecuador and my group are so fun! Hope y’all are doing well! Happy birthday Mom, hope you have a great day and can’t wait to celebrate with you when I get back!  Love y’all!


Hadley: Hey mom! Ecuador has been so much fun and the kids are so cute. Can’t wait to tell you all about it! Tell Ford I said hello. Love & miss ya. Give the pups a squeeze for me!


Peter: What is up family. Life has been very good and I have been loading myself in bug spray and sunscreen. Hopefully Zack enjoyed my scavenger hunt and I look forward to seeing y’all soon.


Haven: Hey fam! I love y’all so much and I miss you all I’m having so much fun and meeting so many new people! Can’t wait to show you pics!


Whit:   What is up fellas. I’m having fun with the boys, everybody is really chill and fun. Hope y’all are having fun without me there. Love and miss y’all

Greetings from Ecuador!

July 17, 2017

Hola from Baños, Ecuador! We’ve already done so much and it’s only day two in Ecuador! These Moondancers are so fun and spontaneous—we’ve already gotten so close as a group.


Everyone arrived to Quito safely with smiles on their faces and urges to explore Ecuador and the Galapagos. We hopped on our private bus from the airport to our hotel downtown Quito and settled into our respective rooms. We spent the entire bus ride jammin’ out to top 40 hits, and started getting to know each other.  


The next morning we woke up early to head out to Cotopaxi National Park. We arrived to the ranch to be greeted with waters and chocolate bars. We saddled up with our horses and began trotting up the mountain, where we learned that Whit and Greg had fast horses that like to sprint to the front of the group! We all wore gauchos, but Carter had on a giant pair made by a thick layer of llama fur. He wore them with pride!


After we left Cotopaxi National Park, we drove to Baños, where we found our hotel nestled in the corner of town. Once we all settled in, we decided to check out a local pizza restaurant for dinner. Emilie’s face lit up like a light bulb upon seeing the perfectly cooked pizza and her smile illuminated the room. After dinner we made a quick pit stop at an ice cream shop where Hadley chowed down on cotton candy ice cream that turned her teeth and tongue blue! Once back at the hotel we gathered on the roof of the hotel for our first Moonup, which is our nightly debrief. Jewlz and Lizzie led the first Moonup and then passed on the leader of the day (LOD) duties to Lilly and Blake.


The following morning Lilly and Blake woke us all up early for a morning huddle before breakfast. They read us a quote and then explained the day to the group. It was a perfect example of LOD leadership. We hopped on the chiva bus (a bus with disco lights and music!) and headed to the outskirts of town where we drove through the valley and stopped to check out the waterfalls. Jewlz played popular songs for everyone and we all danced and sang the entire time. On one of the stops Paige laughed riotously as she crossed the scenic valley in a cable car. On another stop we saw true bravery from each member of our team as we all went zip lining. Sam flew down the line in the superman position and Chloe surprised us all by going down upside down!


After the chiva bus ride and lunch we went back to our hotel where we rested for a bit before Jewlz and Lizzie pulled everyone together for a quick discussion on community service, which we begin tomorrow. We all went around and shared our past experiences with community service. After the service talk we went shopping for a bit before going dinner. Haven spotted a spunky pair of pants and bought them, which initiated everyone getting a pair and now we all have matching pants! For dinner we went to a Mexican restaurant down the road from our hotel. Mary Fleming said that this was her favorite meal of the trip thus far. Lucky for her the food continues to get better from here! After dinner we met on the roof of the hotel again for our second Moonup where Lilly and Blake passed on their LOD responsibilities to Peter and Hannah.  


Tonight is our last night in Baños and tomorrow morning we will wake up and head to Tena, Ecuador for an introduction to our service portion at the Shandia Lodge in the Shandia Community. We are so excited for this portion of our trip and there is more to come!


Until then,

Lizzie Hofmann & Jewlz Davis

All Arrived!

July 15, 2017

Hi Ecuador + Galapagos Families!

We heard from the group and everyone arrived safely in Quito late last night. Everyone is in great spirits and they’re excited to start this adventure! Stay tuned for more updates.

-The Moondance Team



  • Carter
  • Hannah
  • Mary
  • Greg
  • Hadley
  • Sam
  • Lilly
  • Blake
  • Paige
  • Whit
  • Peter
  • Haven
  • Chloe
  • Emilie