6,000 words and 6,000 pictures cannot completely describe my trip. I was fortunate enough to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with my school. Already a 17 day excursion, it could easily double in length. We first arrived in Quito’s Airport, met our translator, and went to our hotel: La Reina Isabella. The next day we took a 12 hour through a beautiful mountain range to go to our base camp in the rainforest, where we later met Aurleo, the shaman of the Cofanes tribes. Our group worked with SELVA: Vida Sin Fronteras, planting some trees to help reforest the area, as well as hiking through the rainforest, and Aurleo showing us different plants he uses for medicine. I ate ants that tasted like citrus, and had water from a certain vine dripped into my eye to help clear it out. Telling people you have eaten ants gets a surprising reaction. Aurleo’s knowledge of the rainforest and what medicines it contains is so extensive. The rainforest has so many things it can offer the world! The rainforest could cure some of the world’s major diseases, yet almost no one has worked with the native tribes to see what medicines could be made.
After this, we went to the Cuyabeno Reserve and met D’leo, another shaman. We took a three hour boat trip into the middle of the rainforest to our camp. We saw a toucan, an anaconda, a flock of macaws, three species of monkeys, river dolphins, and caimans (at night). Here we learned that in the headwaters of the Amazon, twenty percent of the world’s water falls there, and Ecuador has .3 percent of the world’s oil. We went and saw an oil deposit in an unlined pit, a few miles from a town. This was scary and sad at the same time; so many people and a large part of the ecosystem will be destroyed from actions like these. Especially with water becoming such an important resource, it is distressing that people do this to the Earth.
At this point, I had almost forgotten that we were going to the Galapagos Islands, almost. We arrived in the Baltra Airport and went to our boat, the Nemo II. The seven days in the Galapagos was seven days of diving, ocean, hiking, and paradise: with paradise being palm trees, luscious forests, and dry barren landscapes. To me, this demonstrated the science of the world at work, and the beauty of it. Snorkeling with penguins and sea lions, and seeing tortoises 4 times your size is only a fraction of the stay. However, it is depressing to see the nonnative fire ants that hurt the tortoises or the abandoned albatross egg because the ants make it so the parents cannot sit on their egg.
This trip opened my eyes to the world, giving me a look at another country, and many of the problems in the world that everyone shares: balancing profit and conservation. Is .3 percent of the world’s oil worth 20 percent of its water? I might say no, but plenty of other people say yes. Viewing these experiences first hand is so much different than reading about them in a magazine: it becomes personal, and I now know that I have to try and make it personal for the people who cannot travel to these same places. People need to realize that simple things like recycling helps, but big things must happen, like writing letters or awareness, because if no one knows anything, no one can help. I must help to save these gems of the world.
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