Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back to Houston

We had a wonderful 20 days traveling around Ecuador thanks to Taylor, Sam, and Ms. Bottoms. Without these three wonderful and experienced leaders the trip wouldn't have been a success. We woke up around 3 and left for the airport at 3:15. Our flight was at 6:40ish so after we said our goodbyes to Sam and Taylor we had some time to sit and wait at the gate. We landed in Houston around 11:30, made it to customs around 11:50, and finally reunited with our parents at around 12. I'm glad to be home, but Ecuador will definitely be missed. Adios Ecuador!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

last day in Galapagos

Day 18

Today we made history. We were the last to see Lonesome George before his unexpected death. We went to the Charles Darwin Research Center and looked at the tortoises that are kept there for their own safety as well as for scientific research. We walked around the area and looked at all of tortoises, birds, iguanas, and finally stumbled upon Lonesome George. He appeared to have been taking a nap, but now that we know he died today we aren't sure if he was dead at the time we saw him. We took some photos of what we thought to be a perfectly healthy George then moved on to the iguanas. Around 11:30 we left the center and went back to the hostel for a little free time then put our swim suits on and went to lunch. After lunch we took a 45 minute walk to a secluded beach called Tortuga Bay and swam for an hour or so then headed back and had free time until dinner at 7. Our guide, Julian, suggested the slipper lobster in coconut sauce so I gladly ordered that and it was delicious! We had some ice cream after dinner then headed back to the hostel for our last uploading/blogging session.
Adios from the Galapagos!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

San Cristobol/ Santa Cruz

JUNE 20th
DAY 14

Today we woke up at 5:45 to go for a morning canoe ride, but it was raining so we couldn’t take the canoes out. Instead some of us did yoga on the porch before breakfast at 7. After breakfast we left around 8 to head back to Quito. The boat ride lasted until 3 this time, which was about 7 hours even though the ride to the lodge a few days earlier was only 5 hours! Our flight was at 5 and we made it back to Quito around 5:30. We got back to the hostel then ate dinner and updated our blogs.

JUNE 21st
DAY 15

Our flight to San Cristobol was at 10ish so we left the hostel around 8. The flight lasted about 3 hours then we were in the Galapagos! After lunch we took a little walking tour of the island and snorkeled in one of the bays. We swam with sea turtles and sea lions!!! The sea lions were very friendly and darted around us. After snorkeling for 40 minutes or so we hopped out and pealed out wet suits off then continued on our island tour to a peaceful beach filled with sea lions napping and swimming. The sunset on the beach was beautiful and the water was crystal clear. We headed back to our hostel and showered then went to dinner where we served massive portions because the chef knew that Americans put the food away!

JUNE 22nd
DAY 16

Today we had a snorkeling trip to 2 different spots off of San Cristobol. We had breakfast downstairs at 8 then headed to the pier where the boat was waiting for us. First we stopped at Darwin Bay to look at the blue-footed boobies then we headed to our first snorkel stop, Kicker Rock. We got all of our snorkeling gear and wet suits of then hopped in and started swimming around the giant rock protruding from the middle of the ocean. There was a channel between the main rock and a slightly smaller rock and we swam through and saw tons of sharks swimming below us!!! We also swam with sea turtles and sea lions. I got so close to the turtle I could have grabbed on for a ride! After we made it around the rock we hopped back in the boat and made our way to a little beach to park the boat and eat lunch (in the Galapagos its against the rules to eat on the beach so we ate on the boat). When we finished we took a 10 minutes boat ride to our next snorkeling spot. I was still cold from the first snorkel and reluctantly put the wet wetsuit back on. I slid into the chilly water but warmed up a little as I started swimming. The water was shallower here so the water was brighter and warmer. There was a huge school of these little shiny fish and pelicans kept dive-bombing on them! The birds dove so close to me I thought they might hit me! We saw more turtles and a baby sea lion was confident enough to come up and nibble on our fins!! We made our way back to the boat then headed back to the pier and went to the hostel to shower the sticky salt water out of our tangled hair. The rest of the day we were free to roam about the town and shop some. We met for dinner at 7 and I had some delicious grilled shrimp. Now we are back at the hostel and we leave tomorrow for Santa Cruz around 8am.

JUNE 23rd
DAY 17

This morning we left San Cristobol around 8:30 on a speed boat and took a 2 hour boat ride to Santa Cruz. When we arrived we put our stuff at the hostel (Galapagos Inn) and walked around town until lunch at 1. After lunch we rode up to the highlands and walked down a trail to find a massive sink hole. Then we saw some tortoises and took some pictures inside the giant shells! We came back to the hostel around 6 and had free time until dinner at 7.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


JUNE 16th
DAY 10

This morning we left our hostel in Quito to go the Amazon. We left for the airport around 8 and our flight got moved up to 9 so we took off then and landed in Coca 25 minutes later (it would’ve been a 9 hour bus ride). From Coca we hopped on a small boat with two rows of seat for a 5-hour ride to our lodge called Amazon Dolphin Lodge. We arrived around 4 and rode around the “Parana Lagoon” in canoes. We saw some cool birds and other animals then came back to the lodge and showered for dinner at 7. Some went for a night walk but after having seen a tarantula upon my arrival I was a little overwhelmed with the number of bugs and decided I needed to sit this one out. Good thing I didn’t go because Haley came back with a giant beetle/cockroach in her pants!!! Haley was my roommate so we calmed each other down by watching Pride and Prejudice in bed then going to sleep (under our mosquito nets).

JUNE 17th
DAY 11

Buenos dias!
We woke up around 5:45 for a morning activity before breakfast. We did some more canoeing around the lagoon and watched the sun rise. Then we returned to the lodge for breakfast of rolls, eggs, and sausage (more like hotdog meat). We left around 8 on our big motorized boat for a little hike a little bit down the river. We walked deep into the Amazon jungle and looked at the plants and animals. After 3 hours or so we went back to the boat and headed back to the lodge. Lunch was waiting for us and after lunch we had a siesta. The siesta ended around 3:30 then we headed out in the canoes to look for monkeys on the other side of the lagoon. We came back around 6 and showered then ate dinner around 7 after uploading and updating our blogs. After dinner we went out in the canoes and looked for cayman alligators, but had no such luck. However, we did get to see some amazing stars that left hardly any black space in the sky. Haley and I watched Pride and Prejudice in bed until we fell asleep.
Adios amigos!

JUNE 18th
DAY 12

Hola amigos!
Today we slept in (by that I mean woke up in time for breakfast at 7). After breakfast of eggs and an empanada type thing, we went for a hike around the reserve to look at the special medicinal plants used by the natives.  Our guide opened up one of the plants that had ants inside and we passed it around and ate them! They tasted sour kinda like lemon. He scraped some bark off a special tree and grinded it up to a powder then made a little leaf funnel and poured the water over the powder to make a liquid that is poisonous to animals but a medicine to humans. Three hours later we headed back and had some free time for an hour or so then had a delicious lunch of spaghetti with meat sauce!! We didn’t get a siesta today, but instead left on the motorboat for an hour ride to monkey island in hopes of spotting wooly monkeys. We got lucky and saw several monkeys after looking for only 20 or 30 minutes. They were swinging high up in the trees and peeing down on us! Around 3:30 we got back on the boat and headed for the lodge. It rained on us on the way back so it took a little longer and we got back around 5. We showered and now we are uploading photos and blogging.
Hasta luego!

JUNE 19th
DAY 13

This morning we woke up around 5:45 for an early morning hike around the reserve to look for monkeys. After walking for about 40 minutes we spotted 2 or 3 way up in the trees but they were hard to see that well. We made our way back to the lodge around 7:10 for a breakfast of eggs, rolls, and some kind of potato/root. We headed out on the canoes to fish for piranhas after breakfast. My canoe (Haley, Madeleine, and Michael) was led by Juan and we hitched a ride by connected our boat with the other motorized canoe. Juan caught his second piranha and when he was trying to get the hook out of its mouth it bit the top of his finger off and sliced one of his other fingers! He was bleeding pretty profusely and after 5 minutes or so we started paddling to the nearest group to get some medical supplies. We found them a few minutes later and the other guide patched Juan up. We stayed out fishing for a couple more hours then headed back and had free time until lunch at 12:30. The rest of the day was free time so Haley, Michael, Madeleine, and I went out in a canoe and swam for a while then came back and worked on picture stuff.

Friday, June 15, 2012


JUNE 9th

We left the hostel in Quito at 9 AM and set off for Mindo. On the way we stopped at the equator and straddled the line so we stood in the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time. After taking several photos of ourselves on the line we made our way over to a bughouse that had many of the species we would soon find in Mindo. The bughouse included tarantulas, scorpions, and huge beetles called Hercules beetles that we each held!! I completely freaked out when I had to hold one and I literally cried!! After it crawled around on my hand for a few seconds I started screaming and begging for him to take it away.  Thankfully he came over and took it off of me. I thought I was done, but he was just giving me a new one! Round two began and I was even more panicky than before (if that’s possible). As he placed it on my hand it tried to grip itself to me but I couldn’t take it anymore and flung it to the floor! In my defense, it didn’t grip tight enough so it wasn’t entirely my fault! I was flustered and shaky for twenty minutes after my traumatizing ordeal and only calmed down when I got a guanabana Popsicle. We headed for the bus as I happily licked my popsicle and forgot all about the massive beetle. We rode for another hour and a half to two hours then arrived at an inn in Mindo around 2 o’clock. We ventured into town and found a burger place (looked like a bar) with little swings hanging around. We enjoyed burgers and mango milkshake type things then returned to the inn and had a photo critiquing session with Massimo. We went out to dinner then returned and went to our rooms and relaxed/uploaded a few photos.
Buenos noches!

JUNE 10th

We woke up for our first full day in Mindo and started the day with a workshop led by Massimo and Ms. Bottoms. The floors were pretty slippery in the place we were doing that photography stuff and I slipped and fell because I was wearing socks. It was really funny. After working with our cameras with help from the leaders we walked to lunch in town. We returned to the inn and put on our swimsuits for tubing later in the day. Open-backed trucks picked us up and took us to a butterfly sanctuary a few minutes away. We walked around and took pictures of all of the different butterflies for and hour or so then walked across the street (dirt road) to the river where we would be tubing. Tubes were tied together and we split into 2 groups (7 on one set of tubes and 6 on the other set). We sat in the cracks between the tubes and held onto the ropes that tied them together and set off down the river. Our guide swiftly maneuvered us through the rapids and rocks down the freezing cold river. We made it to the end and hopped back into the back of the truck that took us to the inn. We uploaded and sorted photos from the day then typed our blogs to copy onto our blogs next time we had internet access. We went to dinner a little before 7 at an Italian restaurant and ate forty slices of pieces between the 9 kids. We walked home in the dark and worked on our blogs for a little longer then headed for bed.
Adios amigos!

JUNE 11th/12th
DAY 5/6

Hola Americanos!
We are in Mindo still and will be heading back to Quito on Friday. It’s Tuesday night right now and yesterday we went to a hummingbird sanctuary and got some action shots of lots of colorful hummingbirds. After spending an hour or so with the hummingbirds we went to town for lunch and I had some rice, plantains, and a vanilla milkshake!! Mmmmmm…..!! We split into groups of threes and walked around taking pictures of the town and the people in their everyday lives. Ecuador has good cocoa plants and there was a chocolate shop in Mindo. We went and made our own chocolate by roasting the beans then pealing the shells and grinding them and finally turning them into fondue!!! The woman that owned the shop cut up a variety of fruits for us to dunk in the fondue and it was delicioso! We ran home (literally) and got flashlights/small digital cameras for a bug hunt that we would do after dinner. Then we ran to dinner where I boldly ordered fish, which was served with the head and tails included! Once I finished the meat part of the fish (it was actually quite good and a nice break from all of the chicken I’d been eating) then took a whack at the eyeball! The instance it touched my tongue I couldn’t chew it so I just took a swig of water and swallowed it like a pill. YUM. On the walk home we looked in the plants on the side of the road for bugs…I kinda just walked along pointing my flashlight without really looking because I didn’t want to find anything that could potentially freak me out. We got home and had a short group meeting then head to bed because some of us had an early morning ahead of us. We split into two groups and my group was going on a birding excursion where we would help experts “mist net”. Me, Bailey, Madeline, Madeleine, and Clara set off at 6:10 with Massimo and Sam. A taxi truck picked us up and drove us partially up the mountain to the trailhead where we slipped and slid down the extremely muddy trail for about 45 minutes until we reached a cabin where two biologist/bird specialists awaited our arrival. Caught and tagged birds until about 11:10 then headed back up the trail for about an hour hike (this time it was uphill) to the taxi at the top. The taxi took us to lunch at a pizza place and we walked home around 1:20. The other group didn’t get back until a little after 3 so my group just showered and relaxed for a bit then everyone got back to the hostel we uploaded pics and picked our top 5 from the past few days to be critiqued by Massimo. Around 4:30 we went to have our photos critiqued then headed to dinner. We came home and blogged then headed for bed (I assume that’s what we are doing next).
Buenos noches!!

JUNE 13th

We were still in our two groups today and the other group got up early to go bird netting like my group did yesterday. Callie and Madeleine are in my room and Callie was in the early group today. She stomped around making as much noise as possible in our little bungalow/cabin. Finally she was gone around 6 and let Madeleine and I sleep until around 8:20 when we got up for breakfast and left for the falls. We took a taxi up the mountain then road a “tarabita” across a ravine and took a small hike down to a few waterfalls. We snapped some photos then dove right in for a swim. The icy cold water instantly made my hairs stand on end and gave me chills all over. After spending 5-10 minutes in the waterfall I had to get out because it was way to cold and I was ready to put my clothes back on. We got dressed and set off back up the trail to the tarabita. The taxi picked us up and drove us down the mountain into the town where we had burritos and guanabana juice then met the other group back at the hostel around 3 o’clock and uploaded our photos. Now I’m typing the blog on Word since the internet hasn’t been working here, but soon we’ll be back in Quito so I can upload all of the blogs that I’ve been keeping on Word.
Hasta luego!!

JUNE 14th

Hola amigos!
Today we woke up around 7:20 and took taxi trucks up the mountain to a trailhead and hiked into the woods to help people repair their steps and paint new signs. We sawed wood and hammered pegs into the ground to hold up the steps in the dirt. Around 12 we left and hiked back to the main road. On the hike back Callie, Madeline, and I got a little lost on the trail. The group in front of us got a little too far ahead and the people behind us were too far back to hear our calls! We yelled the names of the leaders who were behind us and the names of the girls that were in front of us, but got no responses. We started to walk back down the trail in the direction that we came from and thankfully ran into the group behind us! We made it to the end of the trail and took a taxi into town for lunch then went back to the hostel and had some free time to play mafia and say goodbye to Massimo.

JUNE 15th 

Today we spent the morning in Mindo and did a photo scavenger hunt around the town. Around 1:30 we left and got on the bus back to Quito. We arrived in Quito around 4 and went to do a little shopping at a market. We went to dinner then came back to the hostel and did some blogging. We leave tomorrow morning at 8 for the Amazon. We'll fly for 30 minutes to Coca then go on a 5ish hour boat/canoe ride down the Amazon to our lodge. HAPPY EARLY FATHER'S DAY DAD!! I love you. 

Friday, June 8, 2012


We arrived at the airport in Quito at around 9:30 on Wednesday night after a five hour flight from Houston. We made it through customs and met our leaders, Sam and Taylor. Our bus driver, Nando (short for Fernando), delivered us safely to Hostal el Arupo. We had a short meeting/intro then headed to bed. I am roomed with Haley and Lauren and when Madeline gets here tonight she'll be in our room too. Ecuadorian people stay up all night because I heard car horns and music outside our window all night long! (I learned the next night to use my iPod to fall asleep). We woke up and prepared for a busy day including a gondola ride up a mountain (12000 feet) and a small hike where we took photos over looking Quito. On the top of the mountain we met some horses and horse keepers. One of the horse keepers (Javier) who let me put on his pancho! We returned to the Hostal then went off to dinner where I ate goat for the first time! After dinner we had a night tour of Quito to see all of the cool architecture and religious buildings all over the city. Friday morning (today) we hopped on a bus (now driven by Jorge) at 8 o'clock for a 2 hour drive to a market called Otovalo. The market was full of colorful fabrics and trinkets and the local market had exotic fruits and vegetables and even raw meat hanging! We ate lunch at a local spot and had a strange soup with meat in it that we later discovered to be intestine of an unknown animal!! I took some Dramamine for the bus ride home so I wouldn't feel so queasy, but then I couldn't keep my eyes open and found myself sleeping in unnatural positions the entire ride back to the hostal. We got home around 5 and uploaded/edited our photos from the first 2 days then headed to an "Asian fusion" (Taylor) dinner at 7. I scarfed down my pad thai (first one to finish) then we headed back to the hostal and here we are!

Tomorrow we are headed to Mindo on a 2 hour bus ride where we will stay for 6 days. We may or may not have internet access there so I'm not sure when I'll blog next.

Shoutouts to: the fam, Travis, and Mallory!! y'all better be checking and refreshing the blog multiple times daily :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

NGSE 2012

Only a few days left until we leave for Ecuador and the Galapagos!!
This is where we are headed