Author Archives: Grant Traynor

Week 9

This week, we went to a small community northwest of Quito named Yunguilla. Yunguilla is a community that serves as a model of ecotourism in Ecuador. After arriving at the community, we learned about its history…

Originally, Yunguilla was a community where people cut trees in order to burn this. With the burned trees, they made coal to sell in the city of Quito. At this time in Quito, there was no gas to warm houses or cook food. Also, at this time people in the community made alcohol illegally to sell in the city as well. This went on for many years, but after the introduction of gas and road (which made alcohol transport from other places easier), the community had to find other options for making money. A conservation group approached the community at this time and suggested that the allow reforestation. This would help to bring tourists and money into the community. At first, many people didn’t want to work with foreigners, but 18 families decided to try it. These families had to learn about what the tourists liked and didn’t like. There were workshops on tourism, and each of these families began to earn money. After seeing that other families were earning money, the ecotourism business in Yunguilla took off with other families.

The first day in Yunguilla, we toured the property of the community. We learned so much about the organic garden there and varios native plants to the region. After orientation, we played on two huge rope swings. They both were located at the top of steep drop offs,  and we could see the whole valley from them. It was a really incredible view, and we laughed a lot while playing on the swings. After this, we met our new host families and played soccer against the community. Obviously, we lost by a lot, but it was really fun and everyone had a great time.

The second day we worked in the community. Two other students and I learned to make cheese. We really weren’t able to do it that great, but we were super impressed with how talented the people that worked there were. Afterwards, we planted grass on a community trail to prevent erosion. At night, we played soccer again and won! But…we won agains mostly children from the community. Still, it was really fun and the kids were super curious about the world outside of the community.

The third day, another student from the program and I helped our host dad build a fence on his property. We used branches from a tree called “The Dairy Tree” to make it. This tree has branches that can grow after being cut. So, the sticks that we put in the ground for the fence will grow after the fence is finished, and the branches from these poles can be used to make more fences. It’s a fence that makes other fences! It was a really hard job and we hurt our hands a lot. At night, there was a goodbye celebration for us and we danced a lot with the community.

On the fourth day, we milked a cow! I couldn’t do it very well but I did it! Then, we returned to Quito to prepare for our last week in the city.

Week 8: Las Galápagos

If you would like to see more photos, please visit www. ecuadorstudyabroadsite.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/week-8/

I could not upload videos due to file size, but I hope to photos from some videos show just how beautiful this place was.

Unfortunately, I have not written anything for the past couple of weeks because I have had a lot of homework in Quito. However, this week was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. I can’t describe the feeling of calm that this week has brought for me. This week we went to the Galápagos. This is the account of what happened.

The first day, we arrived on the islands in the early afternoon. A group of 12 students left to live on a boat for 4 days. Eleven other students and I went to live in a hotel for 4 days in the island of Santa Cruz. After arriving at the hotel, we went to a site called “the cracks” to do some snorkeling. We saw 2 types of fish , king angelfish parrotfish, that we’re super beautiful. Afterwords, we went to swim at a a different place on Santa Cruz and we saw pufferfish and an eel ray. At night, we got to watch  Galápagos sea lions and sharks from the dock of puerto ayora. The second day, we climbed to the highest point of Santa Cruz and we walked through a forest of miconis. It was really fun and we talked with Charlie (our guide) a lot. After this, we visited “the twins”. These are craters on Santa Cruz formed from collapsed volcanic chambers. They were incredible…super big and beautiful. I have never seen rock formations so beautiful except for Chimborazo. Later, we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about species of tortoise both alive and extinct in the wild. At night, we ate in a small street of local vendors in Puerto Ayora. The third day, we went to Floreana. We learned about the medium tree finch, tortoises, and angel trumpet flowers. We also learned about the history of Floreana, we saw labyrinths of pirates, and we explored a cave. In the cave, Charlie told us about the history of his family and how his grandfather was the first person born in Floreana. After all this, we snorkeled in the ocean. We played with sea lions and saw 2 sea turtles. It was incredible. I have never felt so close to nature before in my life. The fourth day, we visited “cerro punto” on Santa Cruz and we saw “el colapso”. El colapso is a cráter similar to the gímelos, but this time we got to hike down into the crater and stand in it. Here, we learned about plants and different animal species in the crater. After this, we ate lunch on a beach named “Playa Garrapetero”. The water was too cloudy to snorkel, so we all just built sandcastles instead. It was hilarious and really fun. Charlie left our group after this, and we were all bummed about that. The fifth day, we visited Rancho Chato 2 in he morning  and we learned about tortoises and the geology of lava tubes. In the afternoon, we switched places with the other group to live on he boat while they lived in the hotel. On the 6th day, we went to a small island called Plaza Sur to learn about terrestrial iguanas and the behavior of sea lions. We learned about several species of finches, birds and cactuses as well. After this, we went snorkeling off the coast of Santa fe. Here, we saw many large schools of beautiful fish. We landed on the beach after snorkeling to learn about different plant and bird species of the island, like the Galápagos Hawk. We actually got to see a hawk fight with a sea lion! The seventh day, we arrived at an island called Bartolomé. We hiked to the highest point of the island and saw a view Ruth volcanoes, plants, craters, the beach, and very blue water. It was spectacular. Afterwords we snorkeled off of the island and swam with white-tipped reed sharks, a sea turtle, several rays, and a sea lion. I cannot begin to describe how blown away I was. All of these animals were just in one place. I was super lucky to see this. We also saw a Galápagos penguin on the rocks while swimming. When we were done, we traveled to an islands names Sombrero Chino. We snorkeled again at this new island, and we saw two types of sharks! The Galapagos Shark and the White-Tipped Reef Shark. We saw the Galapagos Garden Eel, two penguins, some rays, and an ocean cave. After snorkeling, we walked in the island, learned about the geology of sand in the archipelago, and we watched the sunset. It was a really nice finale to our last boat night. Finally, on the last day we visited an island called Seymour Norte briefly and saw Galápagos Fur Seals. Then, we returned to Isla Balta and waited on the beach for our airplane to arrive.

 

Week 5

This week, I went to the Amazon, The start of the trip was very long. We had to travel in the bus for many hours until we arrived at Lagartos Caves. This caves are super interesting and are made of limestone. They have fossils of fish and other animals from the ocean, and it was really fun to walk through the river in the caves. After the caves, we visited a fish farm for paiche in order to learn about the economics of the farm and the environmental affects that it has. We spent the night in a community that is named Limoncocha. This community is a lakeside community that is also a biological reserve. in the morning, we went to Yasuní national park. We saw so many birds on a cliff at the park. The birds of this ares eat clay from the cliff to help neutralize toxins from the fruits that they eat. There were so many birds in one place. It was incredible. In the park, we looked for birds and other animals, learned about plants, and we ate tree ants. At lunch we ate ants for the second time. After lunch, we travelled to a community named Cocaya and we walked through the jungle at night. We saw frogs and venomous spiders.The third day, we did bird-watching from a canoe. We saw a sloth, ants, and macaws. The macaws were fantastic; they were eating the bark of a tree to sharpen their beaks. After this, we rode in the canoe through the rain in order to swim with pink river dolphins. We gave food to the dolphins as well, and it was an amazing and exciting experience. The next day, we walked through the jungle. We saw two species of monkeys and a very rare bird. Also, we learned about insects. After this, each person from the group spent several hours alone in the jungle after the lecture, and it was really fun. That night, we learned about bats. I loved this part of the trip because we could see the bats up close. The next day, we traveled to Lagarto Cocha. We saw many beautiful birds like the Scarlett Macaw. We saw monkeys, paiche, and dolphins as well. We tried to get further into the lagoon through vegetation in a boat, but we couldn’t do it. Also, there were fire ants that bit us a lot. We swam at Lagarto Cocha, and in the canoe we saw really beautiful purple flowers. The next day, we worked on research projects and had a night walk through the jungle. We saw a lizard and an Amazon Tree Boa. The last day of the trip, we returned to Limoncocha to see caimans at night. There were fireflies in the plants on the lake, and it was incredible to see the surface of the lake with so many lights. We saw a caiman at night, and I cannot describe the experience. It looked so dangerous and intimidating. The morning after this, on the way to the airport, we saw a volcanic eruption!