The Heights and Depths of Ecuador and the Galápagos

By Sarah Martin ’19

On Friday, March 8 a group of 14 LCS students alongside two teachers embarked on a journey to Ecuador. Our first day consisted of a day of driving and flying until we eventually arrived at 2:00 a.m. at our first hostel “La Casa Sol” (or house of the sun in English) in Quito, Ecuador. During our stay in Quito, we explored the older parts of Quito including the Basílica del Voto Nacional, which; if we weren’t afraid of the height, we could take the steep climb to the top to marvel at the view below us. Continuing on, we then drove to the Equator where we experimented with its physical effects on the way water drains and our balance and strength. We were all collectively in shock of how much the Equator could change a certain thing just by simply stepping on or over the line.

The next day we had an early rise and a day of travelling to the Chimborazo Volcano where we stayed at Casa Condor for the next three days. After some rest, the next day we really testing our endurance. This was the day we climbed to the peak of Black Rock. The hike was around three hours to summit and one hour to return. It was very challenging due to the altitude but every step was worth it. Along the journey, we were greeted by cows, alpacas, horses and the occasional farm dog. Once we finally reached the summit, with a total height of 4035 metres, the view was breathtaking (almost literally). Standing on top of the peak was an unexplainable feeling and a sight. There were times where we would be literally inside a cloud, but once it would roll by you could see miles and miles of fields.

The next few days of our stay at Casa Condor consisted of shaving alpacas and turning their fur into clothes. We also did some tree planting and learned more about the Andean culture. While we were there, our meals were very unique and natural, ranging from potato soup with popcorn, to a fruit that none of us seemed to recognize. Trying something new was definitely exciting. After a night of dancing and singing with our wonderful and welcoming hosts, the next morning it was time for us to say goodbye and head back to Quito. As we drove, we had time on the bus to really take in the surroundings. Travelling around the base of the Chimborazo volcano was like driving through a desert. Later that day we arrived back at the same hostel we stayed at for our first two nights, La Casa Sol, but we weren’t there for long because the next morning we boarded a flight to the Galápagos Islands.

Our first day in Galápagos we arrived at the island of Santa Cruz where we stayed in a gorgeous hostel for the night. Before we went to bed that night, the group had the chance to explore the island, as well as eat lunch with the Galápagos tortoises strolling around. As we toured the town we were delighted by the storefronts and the cheerful atmosphere, but even more so to discover that sea lions are practically the pigeons of Galápagos.

The next morning, we took a water taxi, followed by another larger boat to San Cristobal island to where we would be staying, at the Hacienda (a farm),  for the next 5 days. When we finally arrived, we were immediately greeted by friendly faces and more animals. Our stay at the Hacienda was very refreshing for all of us. Surrounded by wildlife, we had the opportunity to do some service, and work with children who were attending a camp on the island. The majority of the kids spoke Spanish so communicating was a challenge at first, but we used body language and gestures to build a connection with them. Another part of our service work was gathering food for a group of tortoises as well as helping to collect seeds for endangered species. For two of the days, we had the chance to go swimming at two different beaches nearby. The sand there was slightly gritty and the beaches were rocky from leftover volcanic rocks, but the water was as clear as day. The occasional iguana would pass by from time to time and at one point we saw a sea turtle swim directly underneath us. On the fifth and final day in Galápagos, we took a boat out to go on a snorkelling excursion at Lion Dormido (Sleeping Lion rock) where we saw plenty of different fish, sea turtles and even a starfish. From there we took a boat to an empty beach. The tiny strip of land gave off a serene tone, the crystal clear water and silence interrupted only by the waves. This day was easily one of the favourites for the group. That night was our last and we spent it watching the sunset cast an array of colours over the land and sea from a high peak at the Hacienda.

There were countless moments and memories made on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Overall, the trip was truly unforgettable. Through our education and well-being, we had learned and experienced culture and nature on so many levels that will stay with us forever.
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