EXPEDITION ECUADOR: ESMERALDAS
The next four blog posts are going to be posts that I've wanted to post for almost a year, but as sometimes happens, life got in the way. However, now I've got a 3 month long summer and no more school because I've finished my A Levels (*fingers crossed* I'll get into Uni but I really can't tell how I've done). There seemed like no better time than now, after a much needed blogging break... though it was admittedly a lot longer than I desired to share how I spent the summer of 2017: in Ecuador. I was there for four weeks with a group of absolutely wonderful and caring people. I learnt a lot about myself and it was truly a blessing to visit another continent. So, let's get into it...
Saturday 8th July 2017
Arrive at School @ 12:30
Leave School @ 13:00
Arrive at Airport @ 17:00
LHR to BOG @ 22:40
Arrive in BOG (local time 3:00) 5hr stop over
Buy a box of 12 $1 Dunkin' Donuts to share between 6 of us for breakfast.
BOG to UIO @ 8:20
A turbulent 2hr flight but nice views none the less.
|Base Camp: Tumbaco|
|A breath-taking view.|
Sunday 9th July 2017
From touch down in Quito at 10:00 we took a 30 minute coach trip through Ecuador's capital to a beautiful villa in Tumbaco. Rooms chosen and bunk beds allocated we all began to get to know the people (including our wonderful expedition leader) we would be spending the next 4 weeks (or in this case 4 blog posts) with.
Monday 10th July 2017
Early rise @ 6am we grabbed breakfast and our bags and piled onto a coach. Then it was a 5hr trip north through villages and thriving rainforests to Esmeraldas. Esmeraldas is a northern province in Ecuador, so-called because of the emerald gems that can be found there.
Arriving in Camp Esmeraldas we moved into our tents and were given a tour of the camp, including the eating area and bucket showers (which are actually super refreshing at the end of a long day). Then we were taken through the village and shown the two projects that we were to work on in the coming weeks. One was in the local School and one was a Medical Centre. The medical shelter needed building from scratch so our job would be establish the foundations and in the school we would be building a toilet block for the children. Upon our arrival, their toilet was a hole in the ground surrounded by a LDPE (low density polyethylene - in other words, the material you use for bin bags). No one should have to use that.
Tuesday 11th July 2017
Tuesday was spent like a majority of days on the trip: working hard. I loved it.
Wake up @ 6:00
Breakfast @ 7:00
Work @ 8:00 until 12:00
Lunch @ 12:00
Work @ 13:00 until 16:00 or 17:00 (depending on the heat and weather)
Shower and Dinner @ 18:00
Relax and enjoy our experience until sleep @ 22:00.
These were such rewarding days. I mainly worked within the school and learnt how to mix cement, mix concrete, lay bricks and plaster walls. We worked with local experts in these areas who were so talented and quick at their jobs, we called them Meastro's and communicated in mainly Spanish (which I LOVED). I am by no means fluent but definitely got better and hope to continue learning. The one phrase I vividly remember was 'más agua' which was used whenever we needed more water for the cement and someone would absolutely leg it to the water tank with a bucket. I would also consider myself to have gotten pretty good at sieving sand and would like to take this time to thank my sieving buddy Calum.
|The most beautiful butterfly.|
|When we started it was a grass heap, when we handed it over to the next volunteer group it was this.|
|Green tents for green surroundings.|
Wednesday 12th July - Thursday 13th July 2017
Wednesday was different to the other days in Camp Esmeraldas because we crossed the Esmeraldas river with a day bag and hiked along a path to a satellite camp which was being newly established in the community on the other side of the river. We dropped off our things in our tent and went down the many steps (swear we counted 100 at one point) to the School. Previously built was a football pitch and bleachers. It was our job to sand the bleachers down, secure some of the mud steps that were in place with wood, build play facilities in the school, sand old peeling paint off of the children's desks and build bins for any rubbish. I also got an opportunity to teach the children English - they were so keen to learn it was wonderful and my Spanish knowledge of animals was vastly improved by them. We spent as much time as possible helping in the two days, one night that we were at the satellite camp. I remember that community so strongly.
|Camp across the River.|
Friday 14th July through to Tuesday 18th July (my Birthday!!) 2017 was spent doing more project work back at main camp. It was amazing to see how much the work progressed in that time. I would go into every day in detail but I've covered a basic project day and they reflected that. Some of my most memorable moments of the trip were created at Camp Esmeraldas. It's when I first discovered my love for cheese empanadas and met some of my closest friends today (Calum and Sam I'm talking bout you). I remember the moment it rained on a gloomy afternoon after a long day building a medical centre and no one complained, instead we formed a long chain of people passing rocks and buckets of concrete and cement all whilst singing songs and laughing, I remember learning some basic salsa moves to classic South American music and Despacito (because it spread the world!), I remember 'star gazing' and having one of the local children dance with me for hours before falling asleep in my arms. I remember smiling and being happy.