Our first few days have been really great learning and exploring this beautiful country! After our 4AM arrival, we spent the day getting to know one another and went through an orientation with our trip leaders, Maclaine and Kristi! Casa Magnolia was so beautiful and the food was incredible – for the vegans, pescatarians, and meat lovers! We spent our afternoon in the booming town of Cumbaya as the trip leaders explained this is a growing place in Ecuador for the upper class.
The next day we set off for Baeza, enjoying lunch and natural hot springs near the pueblo of Papallacta, on the way. The biggest surprise of the day was a stop at a Humming Bird Sanctuary! It was amazing how many different species there were!
Baeza gave us the opportunity to take in incredible views, visit one of eight hydroelectric projects, and hike to a nearby waterfall for the afternoon. Although all of us were covered in mud by the end of it, we really had a good time! As we walked back to the hostel, two and a half rainbows formed over us – the brightest that many of us had ever seen – and it stretched its vibrant colors all the way to the base of a mountain just a few hundred meters away!!
As a part of this Sustaining the Amazon program, we are focused on developing environmental leadership and sharing many of our thoughts regarding the day’s activities with one another at the end of the day. Last night’s discussion helped us to examine the larger picture as we reflected on all we had seen at the dam earlier in the day. Although Ecuador is making strides towards becoming an energy independent nation, there were some obvious cons that cannot be ignored as a consequence – the geologic vulnerability in each location of the dams, the debt incurred, and a lack of local employment opportunities.
Today, we experienced first-hand some of the climate changes and effects in Ecuador. This year has been more rainy than normal and many landslides – some big, some small—have been causing problems on the highways and flooding rivers. We set off to see Ecuador’s largest waterfall, San Rafael, but the rain that started last night continued and we were unable to see anything. We were very excited for second “surprise”, which we were only told would get us very wet. Unfortunately, one of the landslides had gone over the path and we weren’t able to reach the second surprise waterfall, Cascada Magica, but we could see it from a distance. On the bus Rodrigo told us the river we were driving by was all feeding into this waterfall and it looked huge from where we could see it.