As I have not uploaded many photographs from my travels to my other blog posts, I would just like to take this time (and semi-strong wifi) to share a burst of photos from Ecuador! Although I have been spending a significant amount of time with my host family since we get along so well, I have also had the opportunity to travel to a number of exciting locations. IES Abroad Quito does not offer Friday classes, so the program is perfect for traveling to cities, the beach or national parks over the 3-day weekends!
The very first weekend trip I took was to Mindo, a small tourist town nestled within the lush clouded Andean forest. Mindo is known for its rich biodiversity, especially with regard to its butterfly garden which contains 25 species of butterflies (around 1,200 butterflies in total). Birdwatching is incredibly common here as well since there are over 500 species of birds that call Mindo home. If you are looking for a great hike, you have to check out Nambilla Cascadas which begins after a breathtaking cable car ride over the forest canopy. The waterfalls are beautiful with multiple opportunities to swim in lagoons (although the water is cold!). Aside from the breathtaking natural scenery, I recommend participating in a chocolate tour at Yumbo's. They tell you all about the cacao cultivation process while letting you sample different types of chocolate (milk, dark, lemon, etc.).
I also made a short, day-long trip to Papallacta—a beautiful area known for its lavish hot springs. Featuring both hot and cold pools to improve circulation and soothe joint pain, las aguas termales (thermal baths) of Papallacta are a must for all spa enthusiasts. The water in the hot springs comes from the nearby volcano of Antisana, while the cold baths are fed directly with natural creek water.
After not having done much traveling in February (save for visiting Quilotoa Crater which I included pictures of in my last post), I decided to take a much-needed break in the midst of midterms...to the island of San Cristóbal in the Galápagos through my IES Abroad program! We only stayed four days, but they were jam-packed with incredible adventures, from snorkeling in the waters of León Dormido to swimming with Galápagos sharks, sea turtles, and even a sea lion and her cub! I highly recommend traveling to the Galápagos if you ever get the chance because there is an incredibly high rate of endemism, meaning that a large number of species only live in the Galápagos and nowhere else in the world. Whether you have been dying to meet the Blue-Footed Booby or listen to the hilarious barking of the sea lions at night, you're sure to enjoy basking in the world's wonders while exploring the mystical wildlife of the Galápagos.
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<p>I love writing, specifically about the relationship between humans and the environment. Not only have I written a number of self-help articles, but I have also written (and plan to write many more) poems about this crucial topic. Because the environment is very important to me and creative writing is one of my passions, I find that putting the two together keeps me happy, satisfied, and feeling both empowered and capable of changing other people's opinions about their relationship to the world around them.</p>