When I signed up for this trip, I guess I was unaware of how much traveling was required. For those of you that do not know (I’ll admit, I did not know this proior to the trip) the Galápagos Islands are part of Ecuador, like Hawaii to the USA.
The trek from Quito to the Galapagos went something like this:
6:00 am: Arrive at airport.
-chaos and confusion ensue, 2 trips through security for everyone, extremely stressful
7:45: 35 Americans run onto the aircraft, out of breath, take seats.
8:30: Stop in Guayaquil, largest city in Ecuador, to pick up more passengers.
9:00-12: Flying over the Pacific Ocean!
-before landing in Baltra, the stewardesses sprayed the plane with insecticide. Weird.
12:30-1:30: Galapagos customs (which included cleaning forgein dirt off of our shoes. It happened.)
2:00: Board bus, drive across Baltra
2:30: Board ferry to Santa Cruz
2:45: Board bus, drive across island
3:30: Board smaller boat to Isabella.
Two long, bumpy, sea sick hours later, at 6:30 pm our little boat pulled into Puerto Villamil on Isabella Island.
Yes, ladies and gents, 12 and a half hours and 4 modes of transportation later, we arrived at our destination.
Let’s see what you’ve got, Galapagos.
Today we loaded up the bus and began the treck to Tena, hometown of our guide and friend, Miguel. The bus ride is one I would not mind forgetting. With the drastic changes in altitude and windy, marrow roads, I was feeling a little queasy.
En route to Tena, we stopped in the town of Chaco where we completed our first dental sealant project. When our bus pulled up to the elementary school, we were greeted by the entire study body waving makeshift Pom Poms that they had crafted for the occasion entirely of old magazines. They then chanted an adorable song in English welcoming us. It was truly heartwarming to see how excited and appreciative they were of our visited. The principal ushered us to the gym where we were greeted by all of the schools administrative staff and the mayor the the city. After a formal introduction, we went to work lathering the sealant on the teeth of the students. I made an effort to speak to each child, even though I know minimal Spanish, but I could tell accommodating to them meant a lot. As usual, I was filled with the overwhelming joy only experienced when taking part in these projects. As we left, we signed autographs like celebrities. Our visit meant a lot to them, and their smiling faces mean more to me than they will ever know.
After an eventful morning, we visited an Ecuadorian dairy farm and ate lunch, prepared entirely from grown produce and meat from their farm. The owner of the farm, Jose, explained to us how he worked in the United States for five years and saved $100,000 to purchase the farmland in the depths of the jungle. He then explained a very interesting agricultural preservation program the Ecuadorian government enacted where farmers are paid a yearly stipend not to develop part of the land they own (we have similar projects in the US to my understanding). Our lunch was delicious and his story was inspiring.
Finally, we ended our memorable day in Tena where our bus driver dropped us off by a river deep in the jungle. We were very confused and the professors told us to go explore. As a group, we followed the river and my breath was taken away as we were suddenly standing in front of a giant waterfall. It was completely unreal and pictures do not do it justice. This was definitely an inforgettable day (and I slept well that night!)