Hola de Isabela Island!
On Tuesday we flew out from Quito and made the long anticipated journey to the Galápagos Islands. After a tedious stop in Guayaquil we eventually made it to San Cristobal, excitedly taking in our first glimpses of the Galápagos from the narrow plane windows. Once through customs we drove to our hotel and were gifted some much treasured free time, which was spent exploring the beachfront and browsing the various shops.
The next morning we met our guides who will be with us for the duration of the tour and got suited up with snorkelling gear, then headed out to a bay not far from the hotel for some eargerly awaited snorkelling. We were joined by a sea turtle and a couple of very playful sea lions, making it an incredible once in a lifetime experience. After lunch we visited the research centre where we learnt about the history of the Galápagos and their current conservation projects, then ventured out for more snorkelling joined by more playful sea lion pups, even spotting a blue footed booby on our way.
On Thursday we said goodbye to San Cristobal and set off for Isabela, stopping off at Santa Cruz to visit the Charles Darwin breeding centre for giant tortoises and land iguanas. Though the boat rides were uncomfortable to say the least it made our arrival in Isabela even more wonderful as we were greeted with beautiful views of the island as the sky magically cleared. Today we were treated with a 5 hour walk ascending the Sierra Negra volcano, the most active volcano in the Galápagos. Though the rain and dust made it just slightly frustrating the vast lava fields in the volcano’s crater and glimpse across the whole island were certainly worth it.
Tomorrow, hopefully after seeing a few penguins, we begin our journey back to Santa Cruz then the long haul back home begins.
Buenos noches de Quito!
This afternoon we arrived back in Quito after an unforgettable 5 days spent working with a community in Guanabana. Our time was divided between refurnishing buildings or building from scratch, which for many of us felt like endlesss tedious painting, and spending time with the community getting immersed in their beautiful, vibrant culture.
Even as we arrived the community members were friendly and inviting, and over our stay the feeling of connection grew immensely as we were treated with the upmost respect and warmth. The children especially were a favourite amongst the team, many making devoted friends – though we were repeatedly shown up in games of football. Our help and donations were clearly well spent and very gratefully recieved, highlighted through the cultural display and meal organised for us on our final night where the community and team truly connected through ceaseless dances and laughter.
It was with a tearful goodbye that we sadly departed this morning to continue our journey, yet our final phase is one that has been highly anticipated and will no doubt be even more enthralling and enjoyable than we hope.
Hola de RioBamba!
After 4 exhausting days we have finally completed the trek phase of our expedition, climbing to 5000m up the magnificent Chimborazo volcano.
Measuring 6310m from it’s summit it is the heighest mountain from the centre of the earth so our achievement is a pretty impressive one, especially since it is one of the hardest treks World Challenge offers. Over the first 2 days we travelled over Chimborazo’s ecological reserve admiring the beautiful scenery and occasionally spotting wild lamas roaming the hills. Yesterday was definitely the most challenging working against the weather, terrain and altitude yet we managed to make it up to 4600m by crawling up far too many steep, rocky cliffs. Today we first walked up to a refuge at 5000m and a small group even made it to 5200m, then began our descent back to civilisation. Though our guide was definitely lying when he said it was all downhill, after 4 long hours we completed our trek with a private bus waiting to deliver us to our hotel, where the luxury of hot showers and fresh clean clothes were greatly appreciated! Tomorrow we rise at 5 am to travel 6 hours or so to Guanabana community, where we will be working hard for 4 days so expect little contact until our return to Quito on the 18th.
We finally arrived at Quito airport late last night after an exhausting 17 long hours flight, which I’m sure put most of us off air travel for a while at least. At our arrival we took a bus to our accomodation in Quito, The Yellow House Hotel, where at last we were able to crawl into bed and sleep until the dreaded 8 am wake up call.
After a delicious breakfast we are heading off to visit the equator, a sight anticipated by many though less exciting is the 45 minute drive to get there.
We will also be visiting many markets and city treasures during the next couple of days until it’s off on our acclimitisation trek then the real thing.
As we are soon off trekking the andes there may be limited contact over the next week or two but we will try keep in contact as much as possible.
30th June was Wearable Arts for the Primary School. We worked many hours creating our garments with pride. Ranging from past to future, the children had given up their lunch breaks to create their pieces. Year 3’s created stylish masks, Year 4’s made colourful hats and Year 5-6’s created full unique garments.
On the day of the show most of the students were nervous because they didn’t know if their parents would like their creations.
Students posed stylishly down the catwalk in pride as Miss Mitchell explained their garments and how each garment reflected on time. Cameras and phones were gradually filling up with photos.
We are very thankful for all the parents for coming and a big thanks to Miss Mitchell for organising this large event.
Written by Abby Engelbrecht