July 25, 2019
David and Mary Grace here with a final update as we reflect upon the closing days of our trip. Our time in the Galapagos these last few days has been nothing but good times. We’ve soaked in the salty air and held onto the breeze with each passing day. We can’t believe how fast these past two weeks have flown by, and we cannot imagine waking up without the company of 13 beautiful faces that have become family to us.
An early morning wakeup call led us to a morning on the boat, where smiles only seemed to stretch wider. A short ride from the harbor to an island just off the coast of San Cristobal led us to Isla Boba, where the wildlife runs wild and free. Sadler beautifully photographed the abundant sea lions, frigate birds, and the infamous blue footed boobies surrounding us. Chris continues to amaze each of us with his knowledge of the world and all the beauty that fills it. He could have filled in as our local guide it seems! After the nature walk, we all dived in off the boat to enjoy the wildlife under the sea. Zack jumped in the open ocean to snorkel for the first time ever. Sea turtles, sting rays, and marine iguanas, swimming amongst the schools of fish were beyond beautiful to swim amongst. What a place to be for your first snorkel! Once back on the boat, we drifted to a nearby private beach where beautiful white sand meets crystal clear water. Reyn wasted no time swimming ashore to create art in the sand with a washed-up stick as his paint brush. His drawings were big enough to be seen by all the passing boats.
After a morning on the water, we headed straight to lunch to fuel ourselves for the afternoon at Darwin’s Cove, where Charles Darwin first set anchor when discovering the Galapagos! When we arrived, the beauty of the cove stunned everyone in the group and raised the excitement even more. Without hesitation, the group jumped in the water ready to discover more. We saw everything from sea lions to sea turtles, and even a camouflaged octopus that Holden miraculously spotted for the group. The cove presented amazing wildlife and incredible views. From the cove, we walked along the coast to a hidden beach covered in sea lions! The group continued to watch in awe as the sea lions interact with each other. Finn also spotted a lighthouse on the point where she led a group to go exploring. Later in the evening, we hit the town for some pizza and ice cream after some well-deserved souvenir shopping along the harbor.
The next day, we traveled to the highlands to visit a tortoise preservation center, where we lucked out because it was feeding day for the tortoises! Tortoises travelled far and wide to munch on the greens. We watched in satisfaction with each bite the tortoises took as they use their beaks to chew. The preservation center is unique as it has tortoises from just a few weeks to 150 years old. After the tortoises, we went to a beach nearby to dive further into the crashing waves. Camille helped carry down the surfboards on the walk to the beach, only continuing to impress us with her eagerness to always be of help at all times. Robert grabbed a board and immediately ran into the water, shredding the waves all the way into the shore. Matt was right beside him body surfing the very same waves, going further than everyone else who tried to compete with him. Hanna joined the fun, playing in the huge waves and floating amongst the rest of the group, noting the pure happiness radiating from everyone’s faces as we experienced feelings of simply being in the present moment, we were all sharing with one another. After everyone had felt the crash of the waves, we went to a beautiful restaurant for lunch, where Sara B was showing off her ping pong skills, but she was no match for Mary Grace. That afternoon, we went to our last beach of the trip, where we walked the coastline, passing iguanas and baby sea lions along the way. Arriving at the beach, we threw on our snorkels and fins one last time for the final snorkeling adventure. An abundance of sea turtles concluded the afternoon. In the evening, we headed out for a big Italian dinner to conclude the trip of a lifetime. We finished off the night with some crepes before circling up one last time for Moonup, where each of us were asked to reflect upon our most beloved memory of the trip. We told stories late into the night, not wanting to leave each other’s company.
The next day, we woke up slowly enjoying some tea on the roof of the hotel as we watched the sun fill the sky with life. Carolyn enjoyed the still morning with a few of us before the whole group was up and moving, expressing her sadness for going back home. As we finished breakfast, the group packed up and took in the Galapagoian air before heading to the airport for the day ahead. Amongst the hast of the airport, Isabella managed to buy a new pair of tennis shoes on sale, providing the group with a well-deserved laugh while also snagging a fresh pair of sneakers!
We enjoyed every last moment shared together as the 15 of us have become more than group 3B, but a family with stories to share together for years to come. We could not have asked for a better group to lead for our third and final group of the summer. We thank our families and our friends for allowing us to embark on this beautiful journey with each other and will hold onto the shared experiences for all our lives. Here’s to the trip of a lifetime!
Mary Grace and David
July 22, 2019
Hola from MG and David!
After a long bus ride from Tena to Quito, the group was bursting with energy. A soccer game and some cheerleading stunts took place in the large field behind the hotel to exert some of that bottled up energy. Later in the evening, we headed to dinner and packed up for the early morning flight to the Galápagos Islands! Bright eyed, all 15 of us arrived at the airport beyond excited for the days to come. After a quick an easy flight, we touched down in Santa Cruz at 9 am, prepared for a full day ahead. The first stop was at a tortoise farm, where the group got their first taste of wildlife. Giant tortoises ran wild and free as we observed them in their natural habitat. Isabella confidently hopped into an old tortoise shell, feeling more beautiful than ever.
After a taste of these beautiful animals, we grabbed a delicious bite to eat before taking a quick stop at the hotel. A short break and relaxing walk later, we arrived at the Darwin breeding center where we observed more tortoises, as well as the chance to see the infamous Lonesome George. Sadler was mesmerized by all of the tortoises we saw as she couldn’t contain her excitement while watching them graze and eat in front of us. Before heading back to the accommodation, the whole group stumbled upon an açaí bowl restaurant. Camille was thrilled to no end being able to customize her own bowl with the fresh fruit from the Galapagos. The refreshing bowls filled our stomachs with much joy. That night we had an amazing dinner on the main strip of Santa Cruz, and got to experience some unique night life because it was the sixtieth anniversary of the Darwin breeding center. The town was full of excitement!
The next day we went to the cracks on the other side of the island. Our own little private strip of the ocean that the whole group was able to get in and do some exploring. Holden was jumping off the dock into the water, giving everyone in the group a good splash. Robert and Chris swam to the end of the lagoon then trekked over some rocks to see what else they could find. In their discovery of copious amounts of fish, Matt helped to identify almost any fish possible. We walked to a small beach before heading to lunch. Sara B continues to impress us with her filming of the landscapes and people around her. We cannot wait to see her videographer skills put to use in the video she is planning to create when the trip is over!
In the afternoon, we hopped on a ferry to San Cristobal. The bouncing boat had Zack ecstatic the whole ride from island to island. Once we arrived on San Cristobal, we dropped our bags at the hotel and immediately set out for the nearest beach to catch up on some much-needed sun. Reyn immediately made a friend as he laid down next to a sea lion and impersonated his awkward pose. Carolyn and Finn were the bold ones, jumping in the cold water as waves were crashing down right before sunset. Hanna didn’t have a worry in the world as she was sunbathing with the sea lions all around her. That night, we enjoyed an awesome pizza dinner in the town. Smiles only seem to be growing for the long days under the sun!
MGK and DK
July 18, 2019
Since leaving Banos, the pace has slowed a bit as we’ve soaked in all that Shandia Village brings. After a short bus ride to the village, we were fed some local Ecuadorian cuisine, and went straight to work. Our job this trip was to help gather rocks from the river that would be part of the ground in the house we helped build. The house is for the local artisans in the village to sell their handicrafts, in turn promoting tourism in the village. Although the work was hard at moments, it did not prevent Matt from bringing countless wheel barrow loads up the hill from the river to the construction site. After a few hours of work, the energy was revived after a quick dip in the river. Robert left everyone laughing as he was one of the first to show us how to cruise downstream with the current. Our local guide even found some natural clay that quickly turned into face masks for the group. Carolyn confidently rocked a full face of clay before rinsing off in the river. Before dinner, the group huddled together in hammocks getting deeper into conversation with every swing. After a packed day, we capped off the night with a performance by the locals in the village, where they showed us songs and dances wearing traditional Shandian clothing. When they finished, it was our turn to entertain them with some of our moves and songs. David and Holden performed songs on the guitar as the rest of the group sang along. The melodies of Riptide and Wagon wheel drifted into the night. The next day, we collected more materials for the building in the morning before taking an amazing tour of the Shandia historical museum. We learned an incredible amount about the deep roots of the village. In the afternoon, we went into the town to play with the kids. We started off with an intense game of soccer, where Fin was thoroughly enjoying herself as the ball continuously flew from one side of the field to the other. When the group was completely worn out from playing soccer, a variety of activities entertained everyone in the village, in additional to ourselves. Some of the girls huddled up and began to play pato-pato-ganso, or duck-duck-goose, with the children. Others enjoyed a game of tag. Sara B even found herself a new best friend that would not leave her side! Once we finally exerted all the energy we had after being human jungle gyms, we headed back to our accommodation to learn how chocolate is made. The group went step by step, starting out by tasting the cacao beans and finishing with a mouth full of chocolate covered bananas. At dinner that night, Isabella kept the group entertained with her stories that never fail to get the group smiling. In the morning, we woke up eager to start the waterfall hike leading us deeper into the Amazon jungle. The excitement only continued as we climbed up bigger waterfalls as we went along. Sadler amazed us with her courage while climbing up the face of a waterfall. The entire group found a great deal of satisfaction splashing each other and diving into the swimming holes along the hike. The cold water woke us up quickly and kept us energized for the entirety of the day. After finishing the hike and filling up on a well deserved lunch, we headed out into the village to learn about palm leaves, even getting the chance to weave crowns out of the leaves. We were later able to watch the locals start to assemble these very leaves onto the house we have been working on to serve as the roof. Before getting a chance to buy some of the handicrafts made by the women we have been living amongst, we were thanked by the village for all of our help that is going towards turning a dream of the village into a reality. After a restful night of sleep, the group was ready for white-water rafting. Once arriving at the river, we were immediately given a safety briefing before hopping into the boats for a grand ole time. From the moment we got on the water to the time we finished rafting, Reyn made sure the whole group was energized. His story-telling abilities, as well as his consistent positivity carried the group through the waves. Camille proved her bravery by riding the bull at the front of the boat while rushing through the strong rapids. Zack and Chris made sure everyone stayed alert on the boat, noting how calm the river was and how it was prime opportunity for a quick game of king of the boat. The entire group looked like naturals on the rafts as we carved through the mountains from Shandia Village to the town of Tena. Hanna’s eyes lit up with intrigue as she watched monkeys jump from branch to branch. Once we got off the river, the group still had a craving to be by the water, so we went to the hotel for some swimming and sunbathing. That night we went into the town of Tena for dinner, followed by ice cream to satisfy our sweet tooth. The positivity is contagious as everyone is eager to see all that the next few days bring us before diving into the crystal blue water in the Galapagos!
Lots of love,
MGK and DK
July 14, 2019
Things have been smooth sailing since all 13 of our students arrived at the Quito airport just three days ago. Everyone was bright eyed and full of smiles when we picked them up, eager for the days ahead.
We wasted no time diving into the adventure with an early wake up call on the morning after everyone landed. Hopping onto the bus, we drove a few hours to Cotopaxi National Park, where we threw on our chaps and ponchos and channeled our inner cowboys for the ride up to a breath-taking viewpoint. Sadler led the pack on horseback the entire way up, getting a good gallop in anytime she could. After our ride, we dropped our bags in the hotel, and immediately hit the town to see all the action. We went to the park across the street and brought back the good ole days of climbing on the jungle gym and seesaws. After dinner that night, we took a unique tour of city on a rhino themed ride though the town. To say that we had fun would be an understatement.
The next day, we climbed aboard an open-window party bus to take a more elaborate tour of the city while playing some fun music and naturally dancing along. On the ride, we stopped to take a cable car ride across a vast valley, stopping at a waterfall in the middle. After that, we continued to a local candy factory where Chris purchased a whole bag of natural sugar cane for the group to enjoy. Once everyone had a good sugar rush, we took a quick hike to one of the biggest waterfalls in Ecuador, falling roughly 350 feet. We all got the chance to experience a splash of the breathtaking falls. After getting misted, we went to the “Swing at the end of the world” for a great view and experience. However, the thrill of the “end of the world” was not enough for this adventurous group. To satisfy our need for a bigger adrenaline rush, we found a much larger swing that looked down into the town. The nerves were as high as the excitement within the group as people harnessed up and prepared for the plunge. Holden captured every moment of the drop from his GoPro as he swung through the air. Fin’s excitement could be heard from around the valley as she drifted into the sky.
Once everyone’s adrenaline had settled, we headed back to have some lunch in the local market, then immediately hit the town for some much needed shopping. Zack was extremely thoughtful and bought Ecuadorian crafted gifts for his siblings. Carolyn hunted down a very unique bag with a lot of pizazz. Hanna and David found out they have similar style when they bought the same pair of funky glasses without consulting one another first!
When we were all shopped out, the excitement only continued as we headed to a local chocolate shop to try for ourselves the Ecuadorian cheese hot chocolate. Reyn could not get enough of his cup, enjoying every sip of the sweetness. Later in the evening, we headed to a cool new dinner spot where we enjoyed some games of Jenga and pool as we waited for our food. Matt was a star on the pool table, even teaching Fin how to hold the pool cue. Robert took part in a legendary game on Jenga with us, where the blocks reached crazy heights. After dinner, the energy levels were ever so high, so we hit the soccer field across from our hotel to exert some built up energy. Sara B could not hold back her skills, being one of the first to dive into the game and play whole-heartedly. Camille was also eager to get into the game, even getting past some of the skilled locals. When soccer had finally come to a close, we concluded our time with a reflective Moonup. Isabella continues to surprise us with her thoughtful responses every single night.
We write to you with happy hearts as we reflect upon the last few days and look forward to all that is left to be experienced. Thank you all for each and every opportunity that you have given us, specifically the trip of a lifetime in Ecuador!
MGK and DK
July 12, 2019
Hello Ecuador + Galapagos Families!
We heard from our Leaders that the group arrived safely last night, and enjoyed a night of well deserved rest at their hotel. They are off for their first activity this morning, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventures. Stay tuned!