Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Categories: School News School Trips

A team of ten set off from Glasgow at the end of June for a 32 day expedition to Ecuador and the Galapagos. This year we teamed up with a pupil from Airdrie Academy (Emily Rankin) and had as our World Challenge leader Mr Colin Watson, a former parent.

Initially a few hiccups with passports delayed things however all was sorted out and we set off for a short stay in London before the long haul flight to Quito in Ecuador via Milan. Our overnight stopover there lengthened as one of the Challengers’ rucksacks was still in Spain however it gave us more time to change money, source fuel for out stoves and generally get a feeling for the country.

The first phase of the expedition was acclimatising to the altitude at La Luna near Otavalo. Sleeping in our tents for the first time, it was a beautiful location and the team managed a short visit to the local market town in order to source provisions for the trekking and project phase.

We then headed to El Angel via taxi and public transport which gave us a view of the changing countryside. There we met our guide for our first trek which took us through cloud forest at El Corazon and onto the Golondrinas Reserve. Before setting out on our main walk we had the opportunity to acclimatise a bit more to the high terrain which also involved river crossings with and without ropes! We got wet!

The Golondrinas presented us with quite a challenge as not only was it through rainforest on a narrow path but areas had eroded away in recent floods which caused a few problems with our support horses (or lack of them). As a result some of the team had to carry full packs, which was very physically demanding and when the heavens opened mid afternoon (as it does in the rainforest) we all got thoroughly soaked. The muddy path was also a rather tricky obstacle to tend with.

We stopped off at a hut in the middle of nowhere where the team learnt that nothing ever dries in the rainforest! Again we had a slight delay due to lack of horses so spent a relaxing day celebrating one of the team’s birthday before finalising our walk into the next phase which was our project.

Staying in Las Juntas, the team were involved in planting coffee and painting signs for the community in order to raise awareness of environmental issues. Money was also supplied to buy large bins which again were painted. The team had the opportunity to interact with the locals including the occasional game of football. We presented the men of the village with a set of Celtic football jerseys which were very enthusiastically received!

Leaving the project area in the north of the country we travelled south to Tena before heading to Misahualli for our jungle trek. Travelling by motorised canoe to a cabana which was to be our base for the next few days was an incredible experience. Walking through the jungle we had to take care so as not to disturb any residents, namely snakes and spiders! Seeing a lot of wildlife including monkeys, toucans and a variety of colourful birds was spectacular. Whilst in the jungle we visited a local shaman, made chocolate and got eaten by various bugs. Delightful!

Coming out of the jungle the team had the opportunity to go white water rafting…as if we hadn’t been wet enough! It was then back to Quito and off to the Galapagos Islands.

Arriving in Isle San Cristobal we visited Frigate Bird Hill and saw where Darwin’s ship, The Beagle, first landed. We also saw sea lions, iguanas, pelicans and the famous Blue footed Boobies. The team then embarked on a land based cruise visiting areas where we enjoyed snorkelling, swimming in the surf with turtles nearby and a tortoise sanctuary. The climax of our cruise was snorkelling out at Kicker Rock alongside a turtle with a couple of sharks down on the sea bed below!

The team then transferred to Santa Cruz by boat (a few green faces) where we visited the famous Lonesome George as well as some other tortoises and land iguanas. We had the opportunity to swim off Tortuga Bay, a most idyllic beach nearby. By this time we were all shopped out, so, laden with souvenirs we headed for the long trek home. Unfortunately due to industrial action by the French air authorities our journey home took a small detour but eventually we were reunited with families looking forward to a hot shower, comfy bed and a well earned rest not to mention some cream for those bites!

Where to next? Destination to be decided!

F E Steel