July 10, 2018
The kids just went through security to board their flight back to the States. It has been the most fun, fulfilling two weeks in Ecuador and the Galapagos! Our group had the best time swimming with sea lions, searching for Blue Footed Boobies, white water rafting, serving the Shandia community, and learning about Ecuadorian culture. Since we last wrote, our group has experienced another day full of exploration in Banos and a day full of adventure as we rode horses up Cotopaxi, one of the largest active volcanoes in the world. During our last day in Banos, we rode a Chiva down a road lined with waterfalls. A Chiva is an open air bus that plays loud music and dons bright colors. Eleanor and Jayden kept the group motivated as the designated Leaders of the Day by reminding us that we only had a couple of days left together. At the end of the Chiva ride, we hiked down to a massive waterfall called Pailon Del Diablo. Greer, Madison, Betsy, and Cameron hiked down behind the waterfall and took some pretty amazing pictures. Renn treated us all to some well-deserved ice cream at the end of our waterfall hike. Yesterday afternoon we had free time to complete some last minute shopping. Frank made sure to purchase some local taffy before leaving. We went in and out of stores all afternoon trying to find the coolest souvenirs to bring back home. Last night we celebrated our last dinner together at an Irish-themed restaurant. We ate one of our best meals and shared our favorite memories from the trip. We agreed that one of our favorite memories was watching the group evolve from compete strangers to the best of friends. Allison and Georgia were chosen as the last LODs of the trip, so they woke everyone up for the last time this morning. Horse back riding was the perfect ending to our trip. We were surrounded by rolling green hills, spotted cattle, and the sun shining over Cotopaxi, which made for a picture perfect view. Smith, Charlie, and Max rode in the front of the pack, while the girls held up the rear. The clouds cleared from Cotopaxi just as we made our way to the top, so we had an outstanding view of the majestic volcano. Renn and I had so much fun getting to know your kind, outgoing kids, and we will miss them dearly. Thank you for sharing them with us on this adventure of a lifetime!
July 8, 2018
We had a wonderful time rafting on Thursday! Though it was a long day on the river, we were sad when it was over. Our river guides did an incredible job teaching us different games, such as Navy Seal and King of the Mountain. Betsy rode the waves standing up on the front of the raft, and Charlie rode the raft like a cowboy with a lasso. We had a river guide follow us in a kayak and Eleanor, Madison, Cameron, and Greer all landed an opportunity to kayak with him through some extreme waves. They were loving every minute of it! We enjoyed dinner near the river and then explored the town before bed. Max and Jayden arm wrestled at the top of the city tower, and we all bet pennies on who would win. We arrived in Banos today around lunch time, and we will spend the last leg of our trip here. It is a beautiful town nestled in between many mighty mountains. Yesterday afternoon in Banos we shopped until we dropped. The kids bought matching jackets, fuzzy pants, and bracelets. While we walked through the market, we bought some Cui (guinea pig) for the kids to try. Everyone said it tasted like pulled pork! Smith and Frank ordered mile high milkshakes at a local store, and Georgia tried some of the local taffy. Before we all went to bed, we had a group game of “Teradactyl.” Allison took first place prize and left us all going to bed with sore abs from laughing so hard. We had a wonderful afternoon exploring Banos and its culture yesterday, and we look forward to the rest of our time here today. Tomorrow morning we will travel to Cotopaxi for our last day in Ecuador. The kids typed out some shout outs on the bus ride yesterday… they are eager to see their friends and family in just a few short days!
Eleanor: Hey Mom and Dad, I’m having a lot of fun in Ecuador. Miss and love y’all and can’t wait to see you guys.
Georgia: hey Mom and Dad! Ecuador is amazing and I’m having such a great time!! It’s been so much fun. Love you and miss you and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Betsy: Hey family, I am having so much fun!! Miss and love y’all!! See y’all soon!!!
Allison: hey guys! I miss you so much…even parker! I’m having so much fun and I can’t wait to see you soon and tell you all about it, love you!
Greer: Hey family and friends!! I am having the best time with the best people ever!! I can’t wait to see all of y’all soon and fill you in about everything! Love y’all all so much!!
Cameron: Hey fam + Will!! I am having so much fun here!! I love it! I can’t wait to see all of you soon! I love and miss you guys!!!
Jayden: hey Mom, I’m having a good time and I can’t wait to get home. Love you
Madison: This trip is AWESOME! I love it here!
Max- hey family, I’m having so much fun!
Smith- I’m having a great time!
Charlie- I’m having a lot of fun, I’ll see y’all soon!
Frank- hey fam, Ecuador is really great!
July 6, 2018
It is currently Thursday night, and we have just completed the community service portion of our trip. As we reflected on our past three days of community service work, we all agreed that we are leaving more grateful for our resources back home and more curious about the various charities and volunteer organizations that our hometowns have to offer. On our first night in Shandia, the local teenagers introduced us to their culture by performing a cultural dance and singing a song. At the end of their performance, we played our favorite songs from the US and had a dance party with the locals.
Greer, Madison, and Charlie broke out their moves in the middle of the dance floor! It was awesome. We began the main portion of our community service project on Wednesday morning. Our project involved building a community lodge where the people of Shandia can come together for events and ceremonies in the future. Together, we moved materials from the beach to the project site. Georgia shoveled pounds of sand into bags and buckets, while Jayden pushed wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow filled with sand. All of the kids remained positive and light hearted during the project, so it made our jobs easy. We also started up a soccer game with the kids of Shandia one afternoon: they beat the stew out of us. Even though the kids are all less than 12 years old, they have incredible soccer skills and weren’t afraid to show them. Smith managed to score a goal before we lost 4-1! Eleanor and Betsy had a clique of five preschool girls follow them around all afternoon.
This morning we went on a waterfall hike, which quickly turned into everyone’s favorite activity! Max may have climbed up the toughest waterfall the fastest, but Allison climbed with the most poise. Cameron and Frank were the LODs today, so they were everyone’s cheerleaders, encouraging them to conquer their fears. We concluded our community service project this afternoon by collecting leaves for the roof of the lodge. We could already see the progression of a project from when we arrived to how it is now, and we are looking forward to seeing the final product. Tomorrow we will start our day by white water rafting out of Shandia Village to our next destination, Tena. There, we will check into a new hotel and have dinner downtown. We hope all of our friends and families had a wonderful Fourth of July holiday! It’s hard to believe we are about to begin the last portion of our trip! It’s been a blast so far, and we cannot wait to share more from our adventures!!
July 2, 2018
Bright and early Thursday morning, our group left for the Galápagos Islands. Georgia and Smith were our first Leaders of the Day (LODs) since they are Moondance alums and are familiar with the format of a typical day on a Moondance adventure. They did an amazing job setting the tone for the trip and keeping us organized as we spent most of the day traveling from Quito to Guayaquil to Santa Cruz.
We arrived here on Thursday afternoon just in time for a late lunch at a tortoise ranch in the highlands of Santa Cruz. We explored the ranch all afternoon: we hiked through a lava tunnel that was formed thousands of years ago, we saw giant tortoises basking in the sun, and we learned all about life as a tortoise on the Galápagos Islands. We also enjoyed our first Ecuadorian meal, which was quite delicious. Madison made sure to snag a selfie with a tortoise on her GoPro before we left! On Thursday night, we had a cultural experience as we cruised down the streets of downtown Santa Cruz. We had our first sea lion sightings, and we also saw sharks, sting rays, and albatrosses on the pier.
On Friday, we began our adventure with a hike to Tortuga Bay. There, we saw monstrous marine iguanas and explored a cactus jungle. Friday afternoon we made our way to the island of San Cristobal via boat. We had a long boat ride, but everyone managed to avert seasickness and maintain positive attitudes despite the large waves and constant rocking. Friday night we watched sea lions come up to the beach for their nightly slumber before dinner. We walked around town before making our way back to our hotel for Moonup on the roof. Moonup is a time we share every night to reflect on our day, get to know each other better, and announce the LODs for the next day. The LODs chosen for Saturday were Charlie and Cameron due to their strong leadership skills shown on Friday. Together, they motivated the group and kept us on time for activities.
We had our first snorkeling experience on Saturday. We discovered a whole other world under the sea: eels, blue starfish, green sea turtles, and parrot fish. Max nearly had a nose to nose interaction with a baby sea lion who was looking for a buddy to swim alongside him! Today (Sunday) was our last day on the Galápagos. Our time here flew by! It’s hard to believe that this section of our trip has already come and gone. We spent our last day hiking through Isla Lobos (a remote island about 20 minutes via boat from San Cristobal). Blue Footed Boobies, Frigate Birds, sea lions, and pelicans are all native to the island, and at the end of our hike, we went snorkeling again. Eleanor, Greer, and Frank performed tricks off the side of our snorkeling boat before we headed for land. We spent our last afternoon relaxing on a beach known for its huge waves and green sea turtles. We bathed alongside families of sea lions and large volcanic rocks. In fact, a daddy sea lion came up and kissed Allison’s toes while she was sleeping! Tomorrow morning, we are scheduled to head back to Quito to begin the next portion of our trip. Jayden and Betsy are our chosen LODs to lead the group while we travel all day. On Tuesday morning we will depart Quito for Shandia, the village where we complete our service work. Until then!