This week I climbed Volcán Pichincha and I went to the cloud forest. I have uploaded photos of the cloud forest, but I was unable to upload photos of Pichincha. If you want to see more photos, then go here. Sunday, I climbed Pichincha with a group of friends. It was super fun, and it was also very hard. It was similar to the trip to Chimborazo, but at Pichincha I walked more and the terrain was a lot more complex. There were tall, steep hills, and at teh end there were also rocks. Also, the pathway up Pichincha is a lot longer than the one to the second basecamp at Chimborazo. Finally, the top of Pichincha is at 4784 m! It was a very fun experience. I enjoyed the exercise and I also saw a Condor. After Pichincha, the group and I went to a cloud forest reserve called Santa Lucia. Santa Lucia is about 80km west of Quito. We got off the bus, and immediately climbed for 2 hours to the top of a hill. At the top of the hill, there is a lodge for tourists and scientists. On the path to the top, I saw a lot of really interesting plants. I have never seen a forest so green in my entire life. It was incredible. While walking, we learned a bit about the plants and the birds that we were hearing. After arriving at the lodge, the group and I studied hummingbirds. The hummingbirds were so gorgeous, with colors of green, blue, and purple. Also, we studied moths that night. This was an experience that was both very fun and stressful. In order to observe moths, you need to use an light and a blanket. The moths fly to the blanket and you can look at them easily. It’s fun because you can see all the different colors and weird shapes of the moths, but it is stressful because a lot of the moths will fly into your shirt of jacket! The second day, we woke up very early to look at birds. The birds of the cloud forest are fantastic. They have so many colors and are really easy to see in the morning. Afterwards, we set up mist nets in order to catch some birds. I liked seeing the birds so close, but I felt a little bad because the birds were so scared. On the third day, a group and I walked down the hill to the river in order to study macroinvertebrates. We was three waterfalls and some very beautiful butterflies. It was like we were in a postcard. The photos just don’t do justice to the beauty of this forest. It was truly an inspiring experience.
This week my program had a trip to the Páramo. The Páramo is a high desert is very cold throughout the year. On the way to the Páramo, we stopped at Lake Colta in order to study birds and human impacts in the area. At the lake, a lot of people have died due to boat accidents because the water is pretty shallow. Because of this, the community decided to create a deeper passage for boats in the center of the lake. When we were there, the lake had boats that were dredging the bottom of the lake, and we were studying the effects of these activities of bird populations in the lake. After the lake, we visited the Páramo. In Ecuador, we visited the Páramo that is close to Mt. Chimborazo. We stayed two nights in asmall community in a tourism hotel that is called Casa Condor. There are not any condors anymore close to the hotel, but the hotel itself is built to resemble a the outline of a condor. The first day, we studies geology in the region. We saw a lot of really cool rock formation and we also saw vicuñas! Vicuñas are animals that look like alpacas or llamas, but they are not domesticated. The people of the community use the wool from the vicuñas to make expensive clothing. In order to get the wool for the vicuñas, a human circle is formed in order to surround the vicuñas. After this, the people of the community cut the wool from the vicuñas. On the second day of the drip, we traveled to the Polylepis forest. It was cloudy and windy, but the forest was really beautiful. The trees are deep orange, and many of the animals use the forest to hide themselves. I learned that the whole area is protected by the community and tourism. Tourism is used to save money for the community. The people of the community use the funds to buy wood and other things, and because of this they do not need to use resources from the forest. We learned about the plants of this area as well. To be so high in the Páramo was very mysterious and fascinating. Because the Páramo is so high, you can see the clouds travel into the valleys. Clouds surround you as you are standing in a place and you can see them roll over the ground. After exploring the forest, we helped a farmer move her alpacas. We chased the alpacas in a field in order to move them into a stall. It was super fun! On the third day, we hiked to the second refuge of Chimborazo at 5100 meters. This part of the trip was difficult because I had never been so high up in my life. All of the students had to walk slowly and we were all breathing hard. However, the vies of the mountain were incredible. I can’t describe it, but I will include some photos on this page. When I returned from the trip, I practices Spanish with my host sister. She wants to learn English, and I am teaching her some words. It is very good for my Spanish and she is excited to learn.
I arrived in Lima, Peru on September 3rd after 10 hours in a plane. Immediately I was surprised by the speed that people spoke Spanish. I traveled two more hours by plane and I was now in Ecuador. I was very nervous when I arrived in Ecuador because it was my first time in a country where I had to communicate in a different language. Nevertheless, I have had a great first week. Quito is located among many mountains and volcanoes. The drive from the airpot was very beautiful. The city is spread out as far as the eye can see. I have discovered that I love to see the city at night because there are so many lights on the mountain, and in the day I can see an ocean of brightly colored houses. I have already met many great people, and this week was very fun. After our orientation, the other students and I went to Old Town Quito. A church here named La Basílica had animals on the roof of the church (like gargoyles except animals!). I learned a lot about the interesting and fascinating stories of different buildings, and I ate chocolate for my first time in Ecuador. The chocolate here is the best I have ever had without a doubt. Another important part of the week was when I met my host family. I was super nervous to meet them, but now I am really happy that I am able to live with them. My host mom has an 18-year-old daughter, and two sons that are 22 and 26. I live in the house with my host mom, dad, brothers and sisters, an aunt and uncle, and a cousin. The daughter had her birthday on Wednesday. To celebrate, we ate a lot of cake and we laughed a lot when my host mom showed me old photos of the family. A favorite part of my week was when the group of students and I went to Jerusalem Park on Thursday. I saw many beautiful cactus flowers, birds, and trees. I learned a lot about the plants of the dry forest of Ecuador as well. For example, I didn’t know that a plant named “Mosquera” can help to calm an upset stomach. Also, my group found a cactus fruit and we were able to eat it. It was super delicious and very sweet. After walking throughout the park, I played soccer with other students and swam. I only swam for a little though since it was super cold. Saturday my host family had a party for my host sister’s 18th birthday party. I danced a lot and I had a very fun time. I learned some dance moves for salsa, which was really exciting! Finally, on Sunday my host family and I went to visit Volcano Pululahua. It is a volcano with people living inside the crater. It was cloudy so we weren’t able to see much, but I really want to go back when I can. Next week it’s off to the Páramo!
P.S. I couldn’t get the other photos to upload but you can find them on this blog I am doing for willow public school!