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Thank you, Ecuador…you'll be missed - Nicole Barry

As we dreaded, our last week has just about gone by. After a six hour bus ride from Quito, we got to our absolutely stunning and secluded home in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest. We arrived to the Gaia Lodge with Group B as well, so there are now 31 of us together. It’s been fun to exchange stories with the other group of our different experiences spent in the same communities.

The staff here have been great by providing us with so many opportunities to submerge ourselves into the rainforest. Only a few minutes after arriving, we were already off on our first adventure of floating down the Napo River on a bird/monkey watch tour. On Friday, we were woken up bright and early for a two hour hike through the rainforest. Unfortunately, a massive rainstorm decided to take place at the same exact time, so our hike turned more into a mud slide. We were all proud of our clumsy friend, Sarah, who only fell over six times! Despite being absolutely drenched from head to toe, it was still an incredible experience– when else will we get to say we hiked through the Amazon Rainforest in the middle of a thunderstorm?!

Aside from the hike, we’ve spent the past few days doing lots of different activities. To list a few: meeting an indigenous family, crocodile watching, visiting a butterfly farm and animal rehabilitation center, chocolate making, and a traditional Shaman presentation.Spending ten weeks traveling through an amazing country has left us with memories that we will remember for the rest of our lives. It’s hard to chose one moment that was better than another, but I think if I had to pick, it would be a toss up between snorkeling at Kicker Rock and getting to live with a host family in Agato.

Here is what everyone else had to say for their favorite memory:

Luisa– Visiting Isabela Island and our nights out in Quito (squad sleepover)

Eden– White water rafting in Baños

John– Scuba diving in the Galapagos #SorryEmily

Sarah– All of the times I’ve clumsily tripped

James– Canoa.

Olivia– Seeing dolphins jump right in front of us on the boat trip in the Galapagos

Chris– Playing volleyball in Agato

Andrew– Tori and Jack singing “Rage Against the Machine”

Rhian– Body-boarding on Isabela Island

Jack– John dancing with an Ecuadorian on stage during carnival

H.J.– Visiting Sardine Bay during the 360 boat trip

Emma– Feeding the pigs at Hacienda Tranquila

Hannah– HJ singing us to sleep (“Broken Strings”)

George– James’ facial expressions while white water rafting

Tori– The carnival on Santa Cruz Island

Marcus– Jumping off a bridge in Baños

I can’t believe how quickly these ten weeks have gone by. From the first few days in the Lowland Jungle to the last few days in the Amazon Rainforest, it’s been such an incredible experience with every day holding new laughs and adventures. Spending 24/7 with the same 17 people definitely brought its challenges every now and again, but it also brought us so close together and forced us to really get to know each other. It’s sad to think that we may all never be together at the same time and place again, but that’s what made Ecuador so special. I’m getting on a flight home tomorrow as a completely different person than when I arrived, with so many amazing memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life. Thank you to everyone who made this trip what it was– it wouldn’t have been Ecuador without you guys.

“Hasta banana”

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