It's been a while since I've written because it's been a while since I've been at home with the time to update my blog!
March has been a really hectic month, and I've just spent my first days back in my normal routine in Guayaquil.
I'm trying to keep this post as short as possible so I'll just go through the highlights of everything that's happened...
From the 12th to the 16th I went on a trip with Rotary to Galapagos! I've dreamed of visiting the Galapagos islands ever since I knew that they existed. I'm a huge science geek so it was amazing to finally get a chance to go! I went with about 70 other exchange students which was hectic to say the least.
We got to play and swim with sea lions, see lots of beautiful birds (of course the famous blue footed boobies!), we hung out with some Galapagos tortoises, and even swam with sharks at the picturesque Kiker Rock! It was magical to say the least. I could've happily spent weeks in the Galapagos, its so enchanting and beautiful, and I can see why there are so many stories of people who have disappeared there…
Only three days after I got back from my trip to Galapagos, my parents arrived! They were here for two weeks to visit and we really did it all.
It was really weird seeing them after so much time, because once we were together it sort of felt like no time had passed at all. And by the time we were leaving it felt like we had all just come from the US together for a vacation and that we were all going back together too.
It was also strange for me because I have never been alone with my parents for that long in my life. I'm the youngest of four, so I wasn't even alone with them for an hour when I was born because my grandparents and siblings came over to see me right away, and then we went home! Probably the longest amount of time that the three of us have done something alone before was going out to dinner together.
It was also the longest trip I've ever been on in my life, as we traveled for two weeks all across the country.
They arrived in the night on the 19th, and the 20th we spent the whole day touring around Guayaquil. They got to visit the kids I work with at the home, and meet my host family which was really nice.
The next day we got up early to go to Cuenca, a beautiful cultural city in the mountains. From there we took a day trip to see some Incan ruins and ate some really good food, which is something I don't really get much in Guayaquil..
After two nights in Cuenca, we moved on to Baños which is farther north. Baños is this little town made famous by the hot volcanic pools and beautiful waterfalls, rivers, and hiking trails that make for a huge variety of extreme sports.
I visited Baños with the family of a friend earlier in the year and did a superman-style zip line over a waterfall. My mom saw the pictures and really wanted to try it for herself, so first thing we did was find a place to go!
If she was able to speak Spanish, she would've told them that she didn't want to go anymore as we were dangling there about to be let go of, but luckily she couldn't communicate that to the workers, and we went down at the same time which was really hilariously fun.
From Baños we took a day trip to the Amazon and did some hiking and canoeing and learned a bit about the Quechua culture.
The next day we moved on to Quito where we stayed for three nights. My best friend's parents were visiting at the same time, and we were all able to meet up in Quito a few times. It was really fun to have our families together, they were scarily compatible which we sort of assumed would happen.
We took in the beautiful old architecture in Quito, visited the Middle of the World, and took a day trip to the highest volcano in Ecuador, Cotopaxi. We hiked up about 5000 meters to a breathtaking view by a glacier. It was beautiful and incredible, but I never want to do anything like it again. The altitude makes walking very difficult, even on altitude pills, I felt constantly winded. And it was bitterly cold. I mean, Denver is at about 1600 meters above sea level, so this is very high up.
Our last stop was at the most wonderful place I've ever been to. It's a little ecolodge called Black Sheep Inn that I have been wanting to visit all year long. Its a very ecofriendly lodge, complete with composting toilets. They employ all local people and buy all of their food locally. We had a beautiful cabin like room with a wood burning stove and fantastic view of the mountains. There was coffee and tea all day, and an incredible yoga room that we had access to all day.
From Black Sheep Inn we went to Quilotoa, a crater lake that is set in a volcano. It was absolutely spectacular, definitely the best hike I have ever been on in my life. We also went horseback riding to a cloud forest reserve that is completely privately owned by locals. We had a local guide who knew everything about the forest and shared his stories of growing up there as a boy.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. Now I feel like I've really seen all of Ecuador, or at least that I've seen everything that I wanted to before leaving. Every time I travel, I like Ecuador more and more, and I will miss exploring its many wonders when I go home.