I am officially done with my first class! I know what some of you are thinking…already?! My classes are three week modules, so I am only taking one course at a time.
My first course was Techniques of Marine Research I, which was a great introduction to marine science. At Juniata, most of my classes are freshwater based and I have not had much experience studying marine environments. The course included two weeks in Quito and one week on the coast of Ecuador.
El Mitad Del Mundo
The week before I went to the coast, I went on a day trip after class with some friends to the middle of the world. Ecuador is right on the equator and just right outside of Quito is home to latitude 00° 00’ 00’’.
There are two ways to visit The Middle of the World City or in Spanish, “Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo”:
- Monument to the Equator (Monumento del Ecuador)
This monument was built around 1980 to replace an older monument built in 1936. The older one was set by geographer Luis Tufiño. However, they did not realize until it was checked with GPS that the actual center of the earth was less than 100 meters away. The monument is still beautiful and contains great history. However, we opted for the second option…
2. Itiñan Solar Museum
This museum is home to the middle of the world calculated with GPS. Admission is cheap and it includes a guided tour in English, which provided the history of Ecuador and its indigenous people. Our guide was very funny and entertaining. There are also a series of activities to do on the middle line, including a sun dial and viewing the water flowing down a drain in different directions on both sides of the middle line. The most popular activity is balancing an egg on a nail, in which you can receive a certificate naming you an “egg master”. This was a beautiful museum!
For the second week of class, we got up super early one Saturday morning to drive 12+ hours to the coast of Ecuador. During the trip we went to many beaches and stayed at 3 different hostels, Muyuyo Lodge, Finca Punta Ayampe, and Hosteria Canoa.
The first day, we were at Ayangue and went out by boat to the El Pelado Marine Reserve. We were two different groups, snorkelers and divers. I was part of the snorkelers because I do not have my scuba certification yet. Our job was to count species richness during our swim. The scuba divers did transect videos and photos of species lower in the water.
This was my first time snorkeling and I loved it so much. It was such a beautiful place. I also am glad I wore tons of sun screen. The sun is STRONG on the equator.
The next few days, we traveled to many beaches to study rocky intertidal zones, including La Chocolatera, La Rinconada, La Playita, Machalilla, and Cabo Pasado. It was not all fun and games though. We were not just hanging out on the beach. Every morning we woke up to make it there for low tide. We had different roles for field research there.
Some groups were using a quadrant and transect method to record the algal and sessile species. My role was every other day collecting whelk species, measuring, and weighing them. The other days I took pictures of the species found in the rocky shore for species identification guides.
We were outside working for 3-4 hours. Wearing sunscreen was very necessary and some days a long sleeve SPF shirt was best suited.
However, I had a lot of fun and enjoyed seeing the different shores that the coast provides. I also saw species that I have never seen before and practiced marine research methods for the first time. I also made amazing friends during the trip.
The only downside is that my phone was stolen right out of my pocket at a beach bar the last night we were in Canoa. I lost a lot of my contacts and photos, so I lost my most my photos from this trip and the middle of the world. However, luckily I had taken pictures with my Go Pro and nice camera so I did not lose those pictures. Long story short, always leave your phone at home or in the pocket of your guy friends (where mine was until I decided to take it out). Pick pocketing is very real abroad, especially on buses! Just because your things are below your feet does not mean they are safe. Hold everything.
We returned from our trip to Quito the following Saturday. Since we did work last weekend, our professor let us have Monday off. So being the crazy tourists we are, my friends and I went to Baños de Agua Santa (many people just call it Baños).
We took a bus from Quito for sooo cheap (I think $4.50?) and the drive was roughly 3 hours. After getting there, we found Honey Coffee & Tea and got some late breakfast. It was so delicious.
We then found our hotel, Selina Baños. It was a very nice place to stay and we were treated very well. They had everything you need at the hotel and the helped us schedule and plan our day to make sure we could do everything we wanted to do.
During all of our trips, we took a chiva, which allowed us to view the landscape during the whole ride.
The first thing we did was tour waterfalls on Ruta de Las Cascadas (route of the waterfalls). We went to the big one, La Cascada del Diablo. It was so beautiful, but it was a hike to get there! However, we enjoyed playing in the water and being so close to the waterfall.
After that trip, we set off to La Casa del Arbol (the treehouse) to swing at the “edge of the world”. The swing is a popular photo opportunity and it was definitely for the adventurous. There are people working to push you and if you want they also spin you. You are strapped in, don’t worry. Definitely worth the wait in line for this amazing experience. If you are lucky, you can see Tungurahua volcano from the view.
We also stopped at an amusement park like swing that you could pay to ride. The view there was amazing.
Our way home was not as easy. There was a road blocked, so we had to take a dirt road that changed elevations a lot back. Then when we got to Cotopaxi, we saw burning tires on the road. I was very confused and texted our study abroad coordinator. She told us we had approached an indigenous protest. The bus turned around and we thought we were going to have to spend the night and wait for the protest to be over. Thankfully, it ended or something (not really sure what happened) but we were able to make it through. Our trip home took 6 hours!!! We had to study for our final the next day on the bus.
The last week in Quito was filled with paper writing. We had a field report and a larger research report due by the end of the week. Luckily, we were working in groups, but we don’t have many grades so we all needed to do well.
My last day in Quito, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to go to Quilotoa in a private van. The benefit of a private van is that there is less risk of having your bags stolen. Also, it is a direct route there and back.
We even stopped at the Toachi River Canyon nearby.
Quilotoa is home to a lake created by volcano that erupted in 1280 and left a caldera, which is now filled with beautiful water. There is a trail around the rim and also one that takes you down the waterfront.
We did that hike and went kayaking on the water.
And saw a lot of dogs. That is one thing about Ecuador is that there are stray dogs everywhere.
However, we were not looking forward to the hike back up. The view was amazing every step you took while walking down…but it was also very steep and zig zagged. This means it will also be very steep and zig zaggy on the way up.
And oh boy, it was. We had to stop multiple times to catch our breath, mostly due to the high altitude making it hard to breath in general. The worst part was that there were horses that you could pay to take you back up to the top. These horses would run you over if you did not move out of the way. But the worst part…was…the manure. EVERYWHERE. It was so hard to breathe already and then we were inhaling horse feces!!! Definitely not glamorous but definitely worth it.
So that is kind of where my story in Quito ends. My next post will be all about my beginning of being in the Galapagos and traveling.
Until then, start planning your trip to visit me because you will be jealous.
I’m serious, Bachita (my new host mom) wants guests.