Talbot Heath

Ecuador Expedition

School Trip

By Amy Jackson L6

Over the summer holidays, at the start of July, myself and eighteen other students, as well as Miss Harrison and Miss Merlot, travelled to Ecuador with our Camps International Leader, Amanda Taylor. The trip was a month long, and involved travelling to five different parts of the country, where we took part in a number of community projects.

The first camp we stayed in was Camp Maqui, located in the Cloud Forest, where we stayed in what was essentially a very large tree house made of bamboo, just up the road from the local village. Our first ever day of project work involved planting trees in the forest and building bamboo fences around them, however, just as we were complaining about the heat, we got caught in a massive tropical rainstorm which was quite a shock to us, and was rather traumatic at the time, but is one of the many experiences from the trip that I look back on and laugh about now. We also painted a mural, designed by Georgina Harris, and dug the foundations for an outdoor podium area near the football pitch in the village. We then spent two nights camping at a nature reserve called Maquipucuna, where there were no showers and no proper toilets, so that we could have the most “authentic” experience possible. However, I have to admit, when we were all covered in mud and dripping in sweat and rainwater after project work, authenticity was not at the top of my priority list!

We then stayed at Camp Costa, on the coast, for a week, where we did our Open  Water PADI Diving Course at Puerto Lopez, as well as some project work at a local school in Puerto Rico. We slept in tents and were allowed one cold bucket of water to wash with a day since there was a lack of water in the area. This actually turned out to be surprisingly refreshing because of the heat. We built a dining room roof for the school, as the students there didn’t actually have anywhere to sit and eat their lunch; and we also repaired and built some benches and tables, and designed a beach-themed mural. Quite a lot of the time, we did our project work out of school hours, however on a couple of occasions the students were present, which was stressful at times, (especially when there were one or two younger boys who showed an interest in the machete and the saws), but in general, it was really rewarding, as the joy on the children’s faces made us aware of the difference we were making to the community, and made us feel proud of our work. We all took some time off project work to play games with and talk to the children, which was really fun. The scuba diving was also definitely one of my favourite parts of the trip, and I’m really glad I had the chance to do it.
On our way to our next camp, we pit-stopped at a town called Ottovalo, where we stayed for a night, and went shopping at the arts and crafts market. Because of the hostel we were staying at, we were able to experience the much-needed luxury of a proper, hot shower before we travelled to our next camp: Camp Kuri Kucho. This camp was in the Andes, situated over three thousand metres above sea level; and as it was absolutely freezing, we were allowed hot water in our bucket showers. The camp was definitely the most traditional part of Ecuador we visited, as most of the staff and the locals we saw were dressed traditionally, and there was a real sense of community in the area. One night, we had a local tribe come and perform a traditional song and dance around the camp fire, dressed in tribal outfits; and on another occasion, we had an embroidery session in the dining room when it was raining and we couldn’t do project work.

The view of the mountains from the camp was stunning, so Georgina Harris, Georgina Leadley, Chloe Larby and I woke up at 5:30 every morning to watch the sunrise. This was also the first camp we stayed at which owned a ukulele and a guitar, and was also the first camp we stayed at where other schools were present; so during our free time we had a chance to get to know new people, and to learn to play the ukulele. The project work here was slightly less intensive than at the other camps, since we were at risk of altitude sickness, but our work still benefitted the area. We painted walls at the local school, planted some trees, and helped build a greenhouse and a Temazcal, which is like a sauna, and is used in traditional indigenous ceremonies.

Our final camp was in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, and was called Camp Amazonia. The place was bursting with life – there was never any silence as there were always insects chirping, and the rush of the river passing through the camp could always be heard. Of course, we saw many new insects that we never knew existed (some pleasant, others not so pleasant), 99% of which were found either in our tents or in the showers; and the other 1% were seen on our trek into the depths of the Amazon Rainforest.

At the end of our stay in the Amazon, following a seven-hour bus journey, we arrived at our hostel in Quito, where we stayed for a few days before catching our flights back to England. We had a tour of Quito, visiting all the historical sights in the area, and had an evening meal out to celebrate the end of our trip. It was a really amazing experience, and I would love to do another trip with Camps International again.

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