The last trip of the year we had was at the end of May. This was with all the exchange students in Ecuador. At the beginning there were 120 exchange students but by this trip I think there were about 90 because of those who had already left for home or had been sent home. We started off in Guayaquil and the Rotarians had a big reunion/meeting where we walked in and one girl from Machala spoke about our exchange. We walked up Las Penas - the old neighborhood of Guayaquil - and then along the Boardwalk.
We drove in the buses back to Machala. You know what that means: shrimp farms and bananas! We first had lunch at my counselor's shrimp farm and saw the works. Next was seeing a banana plantation. Later that night we went to see Puerto Bolivar. It was pretty strange because we went at night to see the port. We learned how Ecuador exports a lot of broccoli (that's about all I remember from it).
We stopped at the cocoa, lime, and ostrich farm on our way out of Machala, where we ate ostrich. From there we headed to Cuenca! The major things we did in Cuenca (we stayed there two nights) were going to the lookout point, seeing the downtown (historic churches, artisan market and such), and visiting the Panama hat museum. Leaving Cuenca we hit Ingapirca, the Incan ruins, and the city of Chordeleg, a city known for it's silver and gold (jewelry).
Nora from Hungary with a giant silver earring
We went to a llama farm, learned about them, and ate some of them. At that time, the volcano Tungurahua was erupting (mainly ash) and certain places were covered in ash, so we were able to feel the rumbling under the ground, despite the distance. We continued on the buses to Riobamba just to walk around the city and stay the night. We headed to Banos and stopped at a giant waterfall called the Nariz del Diablo, or the Nose of the Devil. You would hike to this cascade and could walk around on the paths up to the waterfall.
We toured around the downtown of Banos and got some melcocha (really hard taffy candy). Banos seems like a cool town, not completely inundated by commercial businesses trying to take advantage of the tourists. It had a lot of waterfalls, rivers, and action activities. We got back on the bus and drove more north for Quito. In Quito, we went to the Presidential Park and then the San Francisco Church.
The exchange students in Ecuador in front of San Francisco
We went to the Mitad del Mundo, the Middle of the World, took pictures, and got souvenirs. After that, we visited Otavalo, a city know for its proud indigenous habitants and artisan. So, of course, we hit up the artisan market (I think the biggest in the Americas), where we practiced our bargaining skills (the secret is to team up to buy in bulk and work down the price). We left the market for a presentation from a Rotary club near Otavalo. For some reason, we, all the exchange students, planted a little plant for the presentation.
Market in Otavalo
We got to hike up to a cool lake in between some mountains that was really beautiful.
After that we drove to Cotacachi which is a place known for its leather. A lot of the exchange students were going crazy buying the "cheap" leather. I just walked around the little downtown; it had a nice, little main street. With that, we drove back to Quito and finished our trip with the others. It was a big cry-fest when we were getting on our respective buses and saying goodbye to our friends that we might never see again. It was quite sad.
We Machalenos and Guayaquilenos got on our large van and drove south to our cities. That wrapped up our amazing final trip!