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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day Numero Diecinueve y Veinte:

Welcome to the states y'all! We arrived safely at noon yesterday and we are all alive, healthy, and more than happy to be home. Here is a run down on the last two days of our amazing journey in Ecuador and the Galapagos. We left Santa Cruz and headed back to Quito where we checked into our "home." We packed our three weeks worth of things and had some trouble with the smells. Let's just say the doors to our rooms remained open so fresh air could make its way into our rooms. After hanging our for an hour or so we went over our On Assignments for National Geographic that we have been working on the entire trip. After presenting our slideshows we went out for our last Ecuadorian dinner. In honor of our last night, we ate Cuy or guinea pig. It tasted just like chicken, but the idea of it kind of killed us since we were eating our kindergarten class pet. We headed back to our hostel and finished packing. We didn't go to sleep but took a nap seeing that we had to wake up at 2:45 (no, I'm not joking at all) and headed to the airport. We said adios to Ecuador, Sam, and Taylor and began our journey home. We were sad to say goodbye but happy to be home. Our trip was incredible and once in a lifetime. I already miss our leaders so much and miss all of our adventures. Hopefully I go next year too. Goodbye for now world, but don't worry I'll be back.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day Numero Dieciocho:

So seeing how our trip is beginning to wind down, this morning we decided to arise extra early and watch the sun rise. A few of us made it to the roof by 5:45, however the clouds that were in the sky didn't exactly burn off by the sun decided to appear. It was fun being there with every one watching the sun [attempt] to rise. We sauntered back downstairs by 6:15 and climbed back in bed. Seeing how I am the type of person to not be able to go back to bed, I went back downstairs and took advantage of the glitch free internet. The owner, Judy, was kind enough to feed a couple of us before breakfast and we headed back to our rooms for a little nap. After everyone else ate, we headed out to the Darwin Research Center. While there we got to see Lonesome George! I am very sad to say that we were some of the last people to ever see Lonesome George alive. Tonight we learned he had died we were all in shock, first of all, and then very sad. Who would have thought we would be here when he died? He's been at the research center since the 70s! It's weird to think we saw a species go extinct...but enough of the sad things. After we left the research center we headed back to our hotel and had a little swim break. We then went to lunch and then made a hike to Tortuga Bay. At Tortuga Bay we walked the length of the beach and made our way to a swimming lagoon where we stayed for a few hours, just hanging out and having some fun. We buried our leaders, each other, and even ourselves in the silky, white sand. After everyone was all swam out and a little sleepy so we headed back into town. We showered off all our sand and headed into town for dinner. If you hadn't already noticed, our schedule kind of revolves around food. I have never seen so many people, myself included, eat so much in three weeks. It is definitely a remarkable sight to see all of our food devoured in t-2 minutes. Enough about food and the amount the nine of us can put away, after dinner we ate some much deserved ice cream to properly mourn Lonesome George and then came back to the hotel. We came back early and had to compile all of our photos into different categories for both Memorial's photo credits, but also for National Geographic. Tonight we must pack because we head back to the mainland and bunk down for the night in Quito before we head back HOME!!!! This trip has been absolutely incredible but it will be very sad to say goodbye. We are going to have some last minute bonding so ta-ta for now.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day Numero Dieciseite:

Today we arose and said goodbye to San Cristobal. A speed boat picked us up and took us to Santa Cruz. Before entering the boat, however, a thorough inspection took place of all our things to make sure nothing was being taken from the island. Even though none of us had nothing to hide, it was still kind of scary to think you could get in so much trouble by taking anything. It just proved how much people care about their environment and actually made me respect the people of Ecuador, and their attempts at conserving the world. After we all passed inspection with flying colors we boarded our boat and headed for Santa Cruz. Upon arrival we checked in Galapagos Inn, by far the best place we have stayed on this entire trip. It is beautiful, clean, and so home-like that we have all fallen in love. The best part of it all is that it is our Galapagos tour guide's mother's hotel. SO STINKING CUTE! After checking the rooms out, we headed into town for a little bit of shopping and lunch. After lunch we boarded a bus and headed for family owned ranch which had the typical cows, horses, and a variety of locally grown plants. The real kicker about the main reason it had such a claim to fame however, was that it has giant tortoises. When I say giant I actually mean GIANT. The biggest one we found while walking around the property was over 100 years old and weighed at least 500 pounds. He got kind of vocal when we attempted to approach him, so our telephoto lenses were put to the test.

I think it's safe to say that my lens passed the test! Everyone meet Mortis the Ancient Tortoise. 

When we were finished watching all the tortoises we headed to an old lava tunnel. The best way to describe it would be like this: it's a big empty tunnel. Not that special to the naked eye, however when we learned about the history and what it really was, it took on an all new air of mystery. We were standing on old lava, in a tunnel! How many people can say that? After our little expedition, we headed back to the hotel and cleaned up for dinner. After a delicious meal of pasta [after close to three weeks without it, it didn't realize how much I have missed it] we rolled back to our hotel. We climbed up to the roof and practiced writing with light under the Galapagos sky. We had all sorts of giggles and fun times creating all sorts of different creations. After watching everyone tonight, I have realized that we have become such a close net group of people, we could easily be family. I have found seven new sisters and a new brother in all of my friends and I don't know what I am going to do without them when we return home. Tomorrow we are off to discover more about Darwin and Lonesome George. Goodnight to all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Welcome to Kicker Rock everybody. This rock formation may seem some what small in this photo, but let me tell you, it's far from small. All my shark and sea turtle buddies would be in that channel between the big rock and the smaller one. I would have to say today was one of the best experiences of my life to say the very least. 
Just a little side note before I launch into our adventures of today -- I  just went back and re-read a few of my last posts and I realized that they are slightly out of order...oops sorry about that. Our lack of internet has caused us to utilize Word and then transfer to our blogs whenever we get internet, which is not very often. WiFi is not exactly the most reliable thing here in Ecuador, but we make it work. Ok well now on to today.

Day Numero Dieciseis:

Today began with us waking up to absolutely no bugs, no mosquito nets, and not dying for lack of air. The Galapagos Islands are too good to be true. It is quite the difference from the Amazon and we welcome it with open arms. After a breakfast of Coco Puffs (we devoured the entire hotel's stash of it in ten minutes flat) we hopped into our suits again headed for the marina. We jumped onto a speed boat and made our way to our first destination for the day: Kicker Rock. For those of you Harry Potter fans, it looks like its from the Half-Blood Prince (6th one for those Harry Potter challenged) when Harry and Dumbledore find the locket horcrux. In case you were wondering not only did we see this massive rock jutting from the water, but we also snorkeled around the big rock. Oh and no it is not a reef or anything, it is straight, sheer rock into 300 feet of water. Kylee, if you're reading this, YOU WOULD HAVE DIED. I thought it was freaky, you my dear would have had a heart attack. I do believe the best part about it though was diving down and seeing the sharks swimming below us. Yes, I swam with sharks and I am alive to tell the tale. Not to mention they were also a good 300 feet below me and they could have cared less whether I was there or not, so there really was no danger in the whole thing. I must say, however, the only danger I could have been was how cold the water was. Seeing how Current Humboldt (the cold current from the Antarctic) is making it's way to the Galapagos, I was very thankful for my oh so flattering wet suit.
After seeing the sharks waaaaay down below, we got to dive down and see all the different sea turtles that were lurking underneath us. I came so close to one, that I could have touched it if it were allowed. They are very prehistoric looking if you ask me, but at the same time they are incredibly graceful at the same time. Once we swam around for an hour or so, we got back on the boat and ate some lunch, then went snorkeling again at a new location, Isla Lobos. Here was more reef-like, so no worries no sharkies were spotted. We did however play around with a very playful sea lion pup. It was SO cute! It was very hard to say goodbye and climb back aboard our boat, but it was necessary so we could head back home before the water became too choppy. We came back to our hotel and were allowed to go around town for a few hours before dinner and shop and take some town photos. After meandering the streets we headed to dinner and then back to the hotel. Tonight we pack and tomorrow we say goodbye to San Cristobal and hello to Santa Cruz. Goodnight everybody and see  you in four days! Peace and blessings.

Day Numero Catorce:

We survived the Amazon!! Hallelujah thank the Lord we're back. Not that I didn't enjoy the Amazon it was incredible, however I love electricity all the time and water that's NOT from Piranha Lagoon. So today we woke up to a downpour on our heads. After breakfast we headed out in our big canoe and made our way home. However as we began our travels, our boat got slightly sick and decided to die for 45 minutes. We got it to work and we were soon our way again. As we began again, the rainforest truly lived up to  its name. A torrential downpour soon began and I think its safe to say that not a single person on the canoe was dry. My leggings soon became a wetsuit and the rest of our boat ride was slightly uncomfortable. We stopped for lunch at another lodge and then completed our five hour canoe ride. We arrived at the airport in a cloud of stench and we all felt slightly disgruntled. We boarded our thirty minute flight and safely made it back in Quito, where we have began to call home. Tonight we ate at our favorite dinner hot spot, Foccia. Basically it's straight American food i.e. french fries and sandwiches, but we welcomed it with empty bellies and thankful minds. We came back to our hostel and packed for adventures tomorrow in the Galapagos Islands. Tomorrow can't come fast enough because all I want to do is see the SEA LIONS!! Goodnight everybody.

Day Numero Quince:

Today we arrived in San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Wow that's a lot of place to be described in one sentence. This morning we arose in Hotsal Arupo and had breakfast of eggs, toast, and juice (just like the past two weeks) and finished up our packing. We made our way to the airport and took off on our three hour flight off the coast of Ecuador. When we finally broke through the clouds covering all the islands, the view was absolutely incredible! Blue, blue water that you only picture in movies and small islands that look like they are painted graced the view from the plane. We met the people who will stay with us for the duration of our stay in the Galapagos Islands. After meeting up with Julian, Max, and Carly, we went off to eat lunch. We headed back to the hotel/hostel (we aren't really sure which one it is) and changed into our swim suits. We headed to the Galpakiwi headquarters where we were fitted with snorkel gear, wet suit, snorkel, and fins included. After being fitted with the goods we went to the opposite side of the island where we learned about the history of the islands before we headed down to Darwin Cove to snorkel around for 45 minutes. While we were swimming around, a very curious sea lion decided to swim with us. We were told if you would swim in circles and dart back and forth along with it, that it would play with you. So when it would come close to me I would dive down with it and swim with it. It was so cool! Since the sea lion was so curious, fun, and cute, I would have to classify today as one of the best days of the trip. However our day just got even better when one of our leaders, Sam, called us over a little ways out in the cove. He had found a sea turtle. It was so interesting to watch it feed and just function that soon we left the sea lion and just watched the turtle. The sea lion was not very happy to have its playmates leave him so he decided to come and watch the turtle as well. Soon we had both the sea lion AND the sea turtle right in front of us. How many people can say that? Well nine students can now say they have. After we were done swimming we went to Lovers Beach, where there were sea lions and we had an opportunity to photograph them at sunset. I have decided that I want to keep a sea lion because they are just so stinking cute. I think I'm just going to shove it in my bag and sneak it back into the US. I mean let's face it, my bag already smells fishy due to the piranha jaws, it's not like a sea lion would make it much worse! Dinner tonight was unbelievably good and all of us ate like we hadn't seen food in three weeks. Tonight we go to bed exhausted from snorkeling and stuffed full with delicious food, and anxious for our fun-filled last night in the great country of Ecuador. Goodnight to all, sweet dreams. 

Day Numero Doce:

Today we didn't arise with the birds of the Amazon and got to sleep into late, or at least our version of late. 7 o'clock is now our late but hey who is to complain when you get siestas? After we devoured our breakfast we headed out on another three hour hike where this time Libio showed us all the medicinal plants of the Amazon and how they have been used for centuries to cure the people of his culture. My personal favorite was the Dragon's Blood he took from a plant. If any of you watch Man vs. Wild, Bear Grilles definitely used Dragon's Blood in one of his episodes and I truly felt like his daughter and utilized his knowledge. After hike we headed back home and ate a much deserved lunch, however today there was no siesta. I know so sad but at least we didn't have to wake up at the crack of dawn. After lunch we headed back out in the canoes and went to Mono Island, or Monkey Island for those of you who don't know Spanish. We searched the island high and low and finally found some cute, little wooly monkeys. They were ADORABLE. I officially want one as a pet. We headed back to the lodge and ate some din-din. Then went out on a bug hunt and discovered the creepy-crawlers that only appear at night. We came back crawled into bed and went to bed. Or at least I tried to before the infestation of ants took over my bed. After a good twenty-minute freak out I finally was able to get into bed. Falling asleep is another story but the power is going out so I guess I'll say goodnight. 

Day Numero Trece:

Well this morning we woke up once again at the crack of dawn and walked around looking for monkeys on the property of the lodge. We didn't really see any since we were all tired and we crashed around in the forest. Oopsies we can be a little loud from time to time. We made it back in time for breakfast where we once again devoured our food. After breakfast we ventured out in our trusty old canoes and went PIRANHA FISHING!! Yes, we fished for piranhas and yes I caught some. Ok some is a stretch, I caught one, but more about that later. After our fishing excursion  we went back to the lodge and ate lunch. After lunch we were allowed to siesta, but Taylor, Sam, Lauren, and I all went swimming. It was so refreshing and I got nice and tan. After our swim session we came back and Callie and I went out fishing again where we got plenty more piranhas and had probably too much fun out in the canoe. We came back with all our catch and then had dinner. After dinner we were sent to pack seeing that tonight is our last night here in the Amazon. We had our nightly meeting and then we were sent to bed. Tonight I lay under my mosquito net and reminisce over the time we've had in the Amazon. Goodnight world. 

Day Numero Diez:

Today we woke up bright and early and made our way to the Quito airport. Little did we know our flight was boarding when we arrived to begin check-in…luckily enough security in Ecuador is not exactly the slowest thing in the world so we were able to make it through with flying colors and make it to the gate with little time to spare. After an incredibly short flight of only 30 minutes, we made it to Coca, Ecuador in one piece. We boarded an open air bus and made our way to the port in which our canoe would depart from. Port is kind of a stretch from where we left from. It was more along the lines of a building with a dock and a huge canoe. So began our five hour excursion across the Amazon. We arrived at the Amazon Dolphin Lodge where we claimed our cabins and then headed out into Piranha Lagoon to go swimming. I would just like to claim the fact that I have successfully swam in the Amazon River without receiving any type of scrape, bruise, or parasite…..well hopefully that last one is true but I'll have to just wait and see! Ok well let me just tell you that the villas in which we are staying are not exactly ideal. The cabins are open and all the bugs of the Amazon love to snuggle up with us. Thank the Lord that the lodge gave us mosquito nets because if they didn't not have them I would not be able to function. Tonight I fall asleep to the sound of howler monkeys calling back and forth to one another under the clear, starred sky of Piranha Lagoon. (In case you were wondering there are in fact piranhas in the lagoon and YES I WENT SWIMMING IN IT!)  

Day Numero Once:

This morning we woke up at 5:30 in order to make it out in the canoes so we could catch some early bird watching. The birds of the Amazon are unlike any other in the world. My personal favorite that I have seen since being in the Amazon is the Hoatzin. For all you Harry Potter fans out there, it looks EXACTLY like Dumbledore's phoenix, Fox. It is so prehistoric looking and is honestly right from J.K. Rowling's writing. After we bird watched for an hour or so navigating amongst the different tributaries we made our way home for breakfast. After breakfast we headed out on a three hour hike, where our guide, Libio, showed us different ways in which his native people, and the indigenous people, of the Amazon live off the land. Watching him transform simple leaves into huts, ponchos, and many other things was one of the coolest thing ever. We arrived back at the lodge where we had an hour long photography class with Ms. Bottoms and then had lunch. After we ate lunch it was time to SIESTA! I have never been more thankful for sleep. For those of you who knew me pretty well, I cannot for the life of me ever nap. Well let me just tell you, give me a hammock, a nice breeze, and two and half hours and I will pass out. After our little siesta we headed out and looked for monkeys. We had success seeing that it is very difficult to navigate three canoes without making quite a racket. We made our way back home and ate dinner.We then went out in the canoes in the dark and discovered some caymans. Or at least we attempted but we didn't see any. We called it an early night tonight because the power goes off at nine and there is little else to do but sleep.  I say goodbye as I fall asleep in my mosquito netted world. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day Numero Nueve:

Welcome back to Quito everyone! Today we arose and had our last delightful breakfast provided by our  loving hotel owners, Leo and Angelica, before packing. Let me just say, packing soggy, grimy clothing items is not fun. It did not smell all that good either. Sorry Momma, but the laundry room is going to be smelling pretty rank in two weeks when I return. Enough about my smelly clothes apart of our last few hours in Mindo, Ecuador, we went on a scavenger hunt throughout the town. Our list differed from a picture of a pizzeria sign to a picture of a hummingbird pollinated flower. After spending so much time with biologists and learning about birds, the last thing I said about the flower was actually the easiest one to find. We were split into teams and were left to roam the town. Oh and for the record, my team won. HOLLAAAAA. As a reward we got to eat any type of dessert tonight. After having our last meal ever in Mindo, we boarded our beloved bus and made our way back to Quito. The two hour ride of curves and bumps left us all feeling a little queasy and more than happy to be back. We said hello to Hostal Arupo again and quickly made our way to our old rooms. It's safe to say I have missed the city, even though the peace and quiet and wildlife is something I will miss tremendously. We walked around Quito and meandered into a local market where we were able to buy some more souvenirs and burn off some pent up energy. Dinner tonight was delicious and well deserved. French fries, a sandwich, and a Diet Coke have never tasted so good in my life. Oh and remember that dessert I was promised as a reward for winning? My rocky road brownie was absolutely divine. Tonight we pack for the Amazon, where for the next four days we will be surrounded by bugs, bugs, and more bugs! (Mom this is the part where you start squealing because you are picturing all the creepy crawlers from the movies) By the end of this trip no bug will ever bug me again, no pun intended. As our trip progresses bugs are more of fascination than a fear for me. There are some pretty neat-o bugs out there to be discovered. Well seeing I decided to write all this down, my packing has been neglected and I must go prepare for tomorrow. Ta-ta for now my friends and wish me luck on my five hour canoe ride tomorrow. 
Day Numero Ocho:

This morning we awoke and made another hike into Las Tangaras to help the two bird biologists, Luke and Katie, with cleaning up the sanctuary. Along with three other students, I made wooden steps to be placed along the trail entering the sanctuary. Who would have thought I would find so much enjoyment in sawing wood planks? It was very satisfying to say the least. One minor side note, never trust me with a hammer. Seeing how my hand-eye coordination is ZERO, I successfully hit my hand more than the nail. Oops now I see I will never be very good in construction. I guess that's a good reason to stay in school right? Mom and Dad you should proud of my epiphany! After a few hours of helping Luke and Katie we made the trek back to the trail head. However we didn't just hike. We spent a little too much time at Las Tangaras and were late getting back to the trail head so we had sprint to the top. When I said we literally sprinted up the mountain to make it back to the trail head, we really did. We were all exhausted and more than happy to be in a truck headed down into town. We had a delicious lunch and headed back to Hotel Bambu where we had a final session with Massimo before we said adios to him. After spending this week with Massimo we all became rather attached to him and seeing him go was sad. He headed back to his home in Italy while we made our way into town for our last meal in Mindo. We came home and played Mafia with the whole crew before we had lights out. Tomorrow we head back to Quito and then on to the Amazon!
Day Number Siete:

Sleep. One word I have never felt more thankful for. This morning while the other group of students woke up at the crack of dawn to work with the birds, we got to sleep in until 8. Although that may seem early to some, that was a late luxury which I am extremely thankful for. After we got to have a glorious snooze, we threw on our swim suits, hiking shoes, and adventure shoes and headed for Sanctuario de Cascadas. Sanctuario de Cascadas is just as it sounds. It is essentially a "sanctuary of cascades" where we swam in waterfalls. Those of you who are reading think that these waterfalls were warm like many would think in the rainforest, you have never been more wrong. The water was close to freezing. I was hot before entering the water, but when I emerged I was shivering and happy for the sun. Even though the rainforest is hot, humid, and sunny, the elevation is still incredibly high and our once easy walk left us huffing and puffing for oxygen. By the time I make it back to Houston I will run around like it's a breeze. Thank the Lord for sea level. But anyways, when we finished our swim and hike we made our way into town for lunch and back up to the hotel for some rest and another critique session with Massimo and the rest of our leaders. After  our session we went to dinner at Nikki's (a local who has partnered with National Geographic) family's restaurant where we devoured food like we were starving. As the trip continues, the more the nine of us eat. I secretly think our leaders, Sam and Taylor, are convinced we are never ending pits. Ok so I might stand corrected because let's face it, we kind of are. Oops we're growing kids who need our food right? We came back and called it an early night since sleep is a hot commodity around here. Goodnight world.
Day Numero Seis:

This morning we woke up at 5:45 again and hiked for 45 minutes to Las Tangaras where bird biologists were mist netting birds. For those of you who aren't bird nerds and didn't just Google that last phrase, mist netting is when biologists set up nets of very fine material to catch birds (don't worry safely for those of you who are animal lovers) and tag them for future research. After spending four or five hours with Katie and Luke, the two biologists, we made the now hour long hike back to the trail head. Since there was a torrential down pour the night before, our little hike back up the ridge quickly changed into an uphill battle (Miley Cyrus anyone?) against the mud and muck trying to drag us down. We won in case anyone was wondering. We made our way back into town for a much deserved lunch of pizza. The pizza was quickly gone and we meandered back up to the hotel and rested seeing how our past two mornings were incredibly early. This evening we had another critiquing session with Massimo and made our way back into town for dinner. Seeing how we are in the rain forest, the rain drenched us on our journey. I have decided that the entire time that I am venturing through Ecuador my hair will never be dry since as soon as I shower it gets wet right away. Who would have thought I would miss dry hair. Now that we are back, my bed has never felt better and I am ecstatic to go to bed . ¡Buenos noches muchachos!
Day Numero CInco:

Today we were given the opportunity to arise bright and early and make a journey over to a bird sanctuary to see the unique birds that rise with the sun. Although it was an early morning (5:45 EEEKKKK! So early I know), it was definitely worth it. Who knew so many different species of birds lived in the world, let alone in Ecuador! After we sat and observed all the birds for a few hours, we headed back to where we have called home here in Mindo, just in time for breakfast. After breakfast we had a session with Massimo about his work and everything he's done, which was very inspirational. After our little lesson time, we headed back to the bird sanctuary for another couple of hours of bird watching for those who didn't wake up at the crack of dawn. I would just like to say that after observing hummingbirds for four or five hours in a span of seven hours made me realize they are incredible animals. With their wings beating at thousands of beats per minute, capturing that still shot was difficult, but worth the wait. Capturing one good photo per hundred has taught me patience (which to those of you reading who know me well, this is something I lack frequently) and to be observant.

A pretty, pretty hummingbird I managed to capture.
 We decided to say hasta luego to the birds and went for lunch. In the afternoon we were released into the town of Mindo and had a few hours to capture the essence of what Mindo truly means. Walking the streets with nothing but my camera, partners, and a sense of adventure, I finally felt like I was on assignment for National Geographic. The leaders rewarded us after our adventures throughout Mindo with CHOCOLATE! We observed as chocolate went from the cocoa fruit to chocolate fondue, and even helped with the purpose. After gorging ourselves full of chocolate we then headed to dinner. Dinner was an adventure in of itself. Haley and I got a little bit into our fish and might have gone slightly overboard with them. The eyes, tails, and fins all became a new delicacy. Yes, I did in fact eat all three of those and might I add they were all quite delicious. By the time we made it back to Hotel Bambu we were drained of energy and decided to call it a night. Off to bed and ready for a new day and a new adventure in Ecuador!
Day Numero Cuatro:

I would just like to start off by saying that when I tried to download my photos from the day onto my computer, my computer screen decided to black out and no longer work. Four days in and no more computer….only something that would happen to me. So now that I have no computer I get to figure out who my true friends are and who will let me use their computer. (Props to Callie for letting me use her external hard drive!) Besides my small melt down when it came to my computer, today was incredible. This morning we had a workshop with Massimo around our little compound of Hotel Bambu, and discovered the mystery of light and spot meter (photography lingo for those who don't know photography). After lunch we made our way to Mariposario (a butterfly sanctuary). I think I had more fun playing with the butterflies than photographing them oops. I'm not saying I didn't get some very fun pictures though, I guess I'm just a butterfly lady, or as Sam calls me a step up from the cat lady. After the butterfly sanctuary, we ventured down the local river in inner-tubes tied together. What we believed to be just a simple tubing down the river rapidly turned into a turbulent, bone chilling ride. We survived to tell the tale! After defrosting in the shower, we made way into town for some delicious pizza and wandered around in the drizzle of the rainforest. Tonight we go to bed with rain on our roof and the buzzing of mystery bugs in our ears.
Day Numero Tres:

Today we woke up and decided to say goodbye to Quito and headed out. On our journey out of Quito we made a pit stop in the middle of the world. Hello Equator! Standing in two places at once really emanated A Walk to Remember and being in two places at once. After taking all the touristy type of photos that nine people could think of, we decided to move towards the bug museum. I am very proud to say I held a Hercules Beetle. If an image of a massive bug developed in your mind, then you definitely just pictured the same bugs I held, yes plural too by the way. After another hour and half on the bus traveling on hair-pin turns, we graced Mindo, Ecuador with our lovely presence. When you think of a small, native town, then Mindo, Ecuador is it. We ventured out in small groups on our own to find lunch. Trying to communicate with people who have absolutely NO idea what you are saying is incredibly difficult. After lunch we had a workshop with fabulous Massimo Bassano, a National Geographic photographer who joined up with us, and then called it a night.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Day Numero Dos:

After playing catch up on the past two days, brings us to today. This morning we woke up bright and early (yes, 7 o'clock is early) and boarded our bus to Otavalo, Ecuador along with Massimo, our National Geographic photographer. It was a two hour bus ride in which we all snoozed and woke up to a very colorful, market in which we proceed to browse the goods and purchase a few goodies. In between the bargaining and purchasing, quite a few photos were snapped and the realization of our photography trip was made.
Otavalo Market

Why hello there little one.

After wandering around the market for a couple of hours, we made our way to lunch. We ate some soup that we believed to have meat chunks in it, but soon learned it was innards soup made with stomach, intestine, and everything else you could imagine. I took a plunge and tried some, by some I mean one piece but that still counts right?

Once we finished lunch we made our way to the local's market where they buy all their food, sell their goods, and meet with friends. The different fruits and veggies were so overwhelming and made me extremely curious. We decided to try some of the unusual fruits of the region. My personal favorite was the lychee.
This would be the lychee fruit. (Don't worry Momma I made sure it was safe to eat!)
This man was more than happy to pose for our photos, thank you kind sir.

After our outing we boarded the bus and made our way back home. For dinner we stopped in at place very different from the rest of the neighborhood. Uncle Ho's Noodle House was vastly different from everything we have eaten since staying here. The noodles and chicken were warmly welcomed by my belly as I devoured my Chicken Pad Thai. 

Seeing that I decided to publish a novel instead of a blog, my unpacked bag needs to be packed seeing that we leave Quito tomorrow. Goodnight world.  
Day Numero Uno:
This morning we woke up and rolled out of bed and made our way down stairs where our delightful owner made us breakfast with some scrumptious juice concoction. Our watermelon juice was certainly not Minute Maid. We then went to orientation and then off to our first lunch in the city of Quito. After lunch we shipped out to a big mountain looking over the city of Quito in the valley. When we arrived at the top, the wind chilled everything and the 12,000 feet above sea level left us short of breath. We hiked the mountain and happened upon some mountain horses, then headed back down for dinner.

Tonight we went on a night tour of Quito called, Quito Eterno. El Diablo met us and provided us with plenty of entertainment while we wandered around. Quito at night developed a much different atmosphere than during the day. Couples walked hand in hand, while vendors cleaned up their stalls and prepared for the day to come. Our first day was jam packed and left us sleepy as ever, and all the sounds of the outside world began to melt away as my head hit the pillow and I said nighty-night to the world.
We made it!

Thank you so much, Callie, for making sure we weren't dinner for the bedbugs.

Sorry for the delay in posting some info upon our arrival to the great land of Ecuador. Upon our arrival we met Sam and Taylor, our fabulous National Geographic leaders, in the Quito airport and began our adventure into the city. We arranged ourselves in our rooms at Hostel el Arupo where Callie decided to de-bug our bed with her special anti-bedbug spray. After her de-bugging session we were all able to sleep soundly, until we woke up shivering. Coming from Houston did not exactly prepare us well for the weather of South America. With the honking, beeping, and thumping from the neighboring discoteca, sleeping was something short of a few hours long nap. However with the idea of venturing out into the city awaiting us, sleep didn't matter.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Everyone meet my friend Madeline. During our little adventure across the street to Starbucks, an unexpected photo shoot ensued. With the excitement of our three week excursion to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands hanging in the air, we are all waiting to say goodbye to the States and ¡Hola! to South America. Watch out world we're coming in hot.