Wednesday, July 29, 2009

El Porvenir and the Paramo

Greetings family and friends,

, in loose translation, means unhospitable land. Although some of us were challenged to adjust to the high altitude, strong winds, and colder weather, our time in the shadows of the great volcano Cotopaxi was quite memorable.

Upon arriving at El Porvenir, our hacienda in the highlands, we warmed ourselves near crackling fireplaces and drank tea. We then took a two-mile hike around the grounds, and watched the sun set across valleys, mountains, and volcanoes.

On our first full day at El Porvenir we headed out for a horseback ride along gorgeous highland trails.
Despite a few worries beforehand, everyone had an amazing experience. Students also planted trees and watered vegetation around the hacienda.

The next day we traveled by vans approximately 35 minutes to Santa Rita, a reserve with completely different ecology and biodiversity. After a quick hike to a waterfall, students painted orchid holders and went zip-lining over the canyon and river below.

Our last day in the paramo was the most challenging, but perhaps the most rewarding. After an early wake up and delicious breakfast at the hacienda, we drove to the Cotopaxi volcano and hiked up to the Refugio
José F. Ribas, which stands at 4850 meters above sea level. The air was thin and misty, but our purpose was clear. We took our time, supported each other, and everyone made it up to the refugio, a huge accomplishment for our group! After reaching the refugio, we walked around a glacier lake, Limniolago, and returned to the hacienda for one more delectable lunch.

We are now in Quito preparing for our stay in the Galapagos. Everyone is excited to meet National Geographic Expert Kitty Coley and leave for the Galapagos on Thursday!

Jes, Elie, and Alex

Hacienda el Porvenir's dog, Lobo