So, Ecuador was INCREDIBLE! I can hardly believe we’ve been back stateside for almost a month now. For those of you who are just tuning in, I led a group of students from Stevenson University on a two-week trek through the Andes and the Amazon in pursuit of herbal remedies. It was fun and exhausting and an all-around awesome experience. I’d never traveled to South America before this, and I loved so many things about the biodiversity and the culture. To sum up our trip, I’ve included some things I loved and things I learned below!
THINGS I LOVED
Fruit juice, you guys. I’m talking freshly-squeezed and accompanying every meal. Blackberry, pineapple, and tree tomato were my favorites! I almost drank as much fruit juice as I did water each day, and I loved every second of it.
Speaking of eating and drinking, the food was excellent! Breakfast consisted of eggs, pastries, and fresh fruit. Lunches always started with some sort of soup, followed by the main dish, which was usually some variation of rice and chicken. Dinner was similar to lunch, though usually a little bit on the lighter side. Lunch is considered the main meal of the day.
Our students were awesome. No one got lost, got their wallet stolen, or got too cranky (with the exception of those humid few days in the Amazon). They were incredibly curious and adventurous. They all challenged themselves in different ways and kept open minds the whole time. The impact of this trip on their experience alone makes it all completely worthwhile.
Escaping the January cold in exchange for mild temperatures and lots of sunshine was pretty amazing. I definitely miss those warmer days, but I’m not sure I would’ve lasted much longer in that harsh sun! I just barely escaped without getting sunburnt.
THINGS I LEARNED
20-year-olds will be 20-year-olds. Overall our group had incredible attitudes and got along well, but there were some exhausted moments after our time in the Amazon. While I truly enjoyed their company for the most part, there were definitely evenings where I was eager for some alone time (and to take a break from counting to 16).
Ecuador is small but mighty in terms of biodiversity! Because of the four different regions, there’s a ton of variety in bird, plant, animal, and insect species. A researcher’s paradise!
The Incan empire only reached Ecuador for a very short time. I assumed since neighboring Peru had such a large Incan influence that the same would be true for Ecuador, but that’s not the case. Incan rule lasted less than a decade before Pizarro arrived.
You can balance an egg on the head of a nail at the equator. I have a certificate to prove it 😉
Attempting to read while riding on switchbacks through the Andes will result in carsickness. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. And for the love, try to ignore the fact that there are basically no guardrails.
Students will, at some point, start to feel a little too comfortable with you, and start talking about their favorite drinks or how they want you to have a baby. You should ignore these things.
And in terms of herbal remedies, I’ve got a whole notebook full of the medicines and plants we encountered during out travels through the cloud forest, the botanical gardens, the sanctuary of a shaman, the Amazon, and the Andean dry forest.
Ecuador, I hope we meet again soon!