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2023 Ecuador Semester Blog #5

November 10-18: Palugo Farm:
As usual, our days at Palugo are busy. We start our days with yoga and chores, and often have a morning class before an afternoon of academics. The farm has a warm familiar feeling after so many incredible new experiences in the jungle. 

November 11 was a particularly interesting and exciting day. Morning meeting yields a heartbreak song competition (Olivia Rodrigo carried my group) as well as a rap battle between SkyMax (Skyler) and Lil’ Sudz (me) about our beloved semester-mate Iris. At one point Skyler has me on the floor laughing when he says, “My rhymes are simply unmatched, so take your overalls and go back to your farm patch.” I am still proud of my REI overalls, no matter what anyone says.

Bridget, in the overalls and the chocolate

The afternoon brought a special treat– chocolate making with Marcela’s mom, Inez! We walk the 20 minutes to her quaint little house where she shows us pictures explaining the process of harvesting the cocoa beans. We go from task to task– grinding cocoa beans, cutting chocolate, snacking, melting chocolate, peeling cocoa beans, snacking. Once the chocolate is melted and tempered, we use piping bags to pour it into molds and add supplements like candied orange peel, jam, or coffee beans. We lick our piping bags clean, and messy chocolate faces begin to be a norm. Another norm that began was a general hyper energy that led to uncontrollable dancing, yelling, skipping, and shaking. We each leave with a bag of Chakralates (the name of Inez’s brand) and way too much confidence as we bless the world with our version of “Dancing Queen”, out of tune and off-beat.

While at Paulugo, the days of solos begin. We each are brought to a location around the farm where we will spend 48 hours alone with only our knives, sleeping bags, a tarp, and a few other small items. This is an incredibly intense experience that has the potential to make someone feel hungry, tired, cold, reflective, lonely, grateful, and alive. We start with a ceremony around a beautiful spiral of rocks and fruits. Then, we are led to our locations. Some take on the solos with incredible grace: weaving baskets from vines, carving necklaces, watching sunrises… I sang a lot to myself and was thrilled to find a pen in my pocket so I could doodle faces on my fingers. We are gathered on the second morning (November 17) and remain in silence until invited to speak at the beautiful breakfast that is prepared for us.

We wrap up our time at Palugo with packing, making a lovely smelling salve with Marcea, and having a Pizza Empanada night (a petition was made to request this). Our new teacher, Marga, joins us to help with packing.


Sunday, November 19, 2023: Expedition Day 1: To Cojitambo
We are up at 3:15AM and load on the bus around 4:40AM. We curl up, ready to sleep the first few hours away, but the bus driver decides to play up beat music quite loudly, and sleepy faces look around groggily in confusion and disarray. Luckily, Marga gets control of the aux and plays much quieter, mellower music for a while that coaxes us to sleep, or at least into a relaxed-looking-out-the-window kind of state. 

Our beautiful instructors, Jack & Tashi

After eight long hours of driving (during which we see an up close view of Chimborazo and get to listen once again to Julian’s classic song Drip Drip Drop– I don’t know which was more exciting) we off load at the base of Cojitambo Mountain. Davicho (our other incredible new teacher) meets us with lunch. After lunch we hike up Cojitambo mountain; about a 30 minute hike. We reach the top and lay down side by side to look off the edge at the view. Davicho tells about the Canari people, who are native to this land.


We hike to Davicho and Marga’s house to set up camp: this will be home for the next five days. They have a beautiful garden, and we set up our kitchen space below a huge eucalyptus tree that looms over us with its blue green leaves. We meet Sochi, their dog, and Anders meets his new amor: Rene, their cat. We can see Cojitambo in the distance.

Monday, November 20: Expedition Day 2: Climbing and Digging, WHAT A LIFE

We are greeted with a delicious breakfast of tamales along with yogurt and granola. Then we set off to Cojitambo mountain once again for some climbing. Ian whips out his watermelon climbing bag and asks ,“Do you even climb, bro?” 

Watching everyone climb, no matter what level, was incredible. Some took to the walls gracefully, others with a bit more confusion, others with panic, and others with loud screams to consolidate strength (Willow). We learn Davicho’s catchphrase, “WHAT A CLIMBER!” which will become an integral part of our vocabulary on this expedition.

Julian ascending

The afternoon brings hole digging in preparation to plant new trees by the climbing walls. We grab different tools and get to work– my group passionately sings Frozen songs to pass the time. 

Tuesday, November 21: Expedition Day 2: Our First Multi Pitch!

After llankays and a delicious breakfast we split into two different groups to tackle a multipitch–essentially climbing all the way up a mountain bit by bit. This means tying into a rope with a group and climbing up one by one, belaying each other. Then we meet on a ledge and can look out into the grand views. Verena and Julian (my small group) climbed with much confidence. I only shed a couple tears, which was a victory for me. We finish our climb and have lunch at the top of the mountain (peanut butter+apple+walnut wraps), wondering how the other groups are doing. Anders joins us at one point alone, and a confused Julian asks, “What happened, did you cut the rope?” It ends up he decided to repel down early, but still made it halfway up!

Verena ascending

We walk carefully back to Marga to repel down. Julian laughs at all my repel jokes, so I do not feel repelled from making many more. We meet two climbers from Germany, to Julian’s excitement. Repelling down is freedom and exhilaration. We look out at the houses that look like little lego sets we could just reach out and move around. 

We all reach the ground, and as the lightning flickers ahead of us Marga urges us, “Venga venga!” It’s time to go! But Atreyu has different plans. “Una selfie! Una selfie!” So Tupac, Atreyu, and I all pause for an epic selfie by the mountain. Then the day is complete.

Una selfie

Wednesday, November 22: Expedition Day 4: Visiting Cuenca+ Happy Iris Day!

Happy birthday Iris! I could write many more raps about how amazing you are. Thank you for being such a light in our lives.

Feliz Cumpleanos, Iris!

Today we visit Cuenca as an active rest day. First we go to a museum called PumaPungo. It is an odd sensation to be in a museum, so quiet and contemplative, but it is enriching. We look around at the different exhibits about the different cultural groups of Ecuador. We then wander around the gardens outside– full of beauty and color. The rest of the day yielded lunch at a restaurant (always a treat), ice cream, and then looking around a magnificent church. We walk carefully, our footsteps echoing, and admire the paintings, candles, and gold. 



What is your favorite way to eat corn?

Julian: Popcorn!
Eamon: Ummm I guess tostada.
Ian: With my hands
Verena: Corn cake– yum!
Willow: Majado
Skyler: I like eating corn in food, rather than on its own
Angela: Chulpi
Mollie: U really like the corn cake/bread stuff, especially with cranberries like we had at Chakra
Iris: In choclo bread form… what is it called? *consults journal* Torta de choclo!
Jasmine: Humitas
Atreyu: Humitas con cafe
Anders: On a fork

Thursday, November 23: Expedition Day 5: Multi Pitching Part 2

We wake up at 4:30AM to start our day of adventure. After a breakfast of overnight oats (a classic early morning meal) we split into our groups and walk to Cojitambo mountain for a longer day of multi-pitching. A large group ahead of mine meant a lot of waiting, but luckily I have Atreyu and Tupac to keep me company. The first three pitches aren’t very technical, but go by slowly. At 8:40 Atreyu suggests “lunchtime?” and pulls out his bread and hard boiled eggs.

Climbing is exhilarating and incredible. Higher and higher we rise above the ground, roped into the rock but somehow still so free. The morning was spent searching for shade and applying sunscreen in the pounding sun. As the day goes on, however, we will find ourselves craving the warmth we had before. The cold and thunder comes crashing in, and as the group in front of us traverses, Atreyu and I huddle under a little ledge, cold and wet. We learn a new level of trust as we are caught after any slip or fall.

Atreyu and Iris navigating

We reach the top and climb down the mountain. Atreyu suggests we get helado, and Tashi proposes a deal: “If you can get me milk from this cow,” she says, gesturing to a black and white spotted cow on the side of the road, “then I will get you ice cream”. “Es un hombre!” Atreyu exclaims, “no es posible!”– no ice cream for us today. 

Friday, November 24: Expedition Day 6: Thank You Juan from the Ranger Station!

This is the last morning we wake up in Cojitambo at Marga and Davicho’s beautiful home. We savor it: even lying in the recently cut eucalyptus bows as we wait for the bus. A three hour bus ride brings us to the ranger station of Sangay National Park. We find out we are supposed to have a permit to enter, which makes us think we will have to change plans. However, once they are acquainted with who we are and our school’s values (and also who could say no to Davicho’s charm?) they let us by.

We hike for about an hour over cow poop, streams, and tiny flowers and shrubs. The paramo is a unique place, so different from the others we have been in Ecuador. The sound of rain boots squelching through puddles coaxes us to our first camp in a valley. It is colder than many of us (or at least I) anticipated and we bundle up in layer after layer. I had on long underwear, a sweater, a fleece, two puffies, and my rain jacket and I still was shivering. Mind you, I am a rather cold person, but still. The ground is gentle and bouncy here; as we lay in our tents we can sense a person simply walking by from the vibrations.

Saturday, November 25: Expedition Day 7: I Swear the Lake Moved!

We set off from our first camp. Unfortunately, Jasmine– who has been struggling with sickness– has to leave us today. She will meet us once again at Palugo, but our group feels slightly empty without her. It is tragically depressing when we do our “ESP GEAR BOX!” count off to be missing two numbers (Izabo and Jasmine). 



In your opinion, what does ESP stand for? *must be appropriate

Verena: Ecuadorian Space Pirates… or Extraordinarily Spike Pineapple
Willow: Every Single Place… no, Every Special Place… no, Every Special Person… no…
Mollie: Extreme Salsa Picante
Skyler: Especially Stupendous Program… what does stupendous mean again?
Angela: no se!
Iris: Even Soupier Please!
Jasmine:  Each Step… I have no idea.
Atreyu: Ecuador… Oh my god!
Eamon: Extra Sensory Perception
Ian: Eating Some Pizza-Empanada
Anders: Eamon’s So Perfect
Julian: Everything I say gets censored anyways


However, we still manage to hike 13 long and rainy kilometers. We search endlessly for the lake we are supposed to camp by today, but are unable to find it. We send Eamon and Mollie to scout a camp near a river we see, and Eamon finds himself waist-deep in mud as he steps on what he thought was solid plant ground. We shiver in the rain waiting for them. Ian speaks truth when he says, “Being in the paramo is like when you’re crying but you’re also eating ice cream.” It has so many uncomfortable sensations, but it is such an incredible place you can’t help but find joy. 

Skyler and Iris making lunch

Our makeshift camp is cute and lumpy. The full moon greets us in our unexpected but welcoming (enough) home for the night. 

Sunday, November 25: Expedition Day 7: Happy Mollie Day!

Happy Birthday to our wonderful Mollie! You are so integral to our group; thank you for all the love, laughter, and beautiful music.

Feliz Cumpleanos, Mollie!

We meander the wrong way at first today. Tupac has no patience for it and simply sits down at the “crossroads” (a pathless turn on the mountain) awaiting our return. We do return eventually, and make our way to the Tres Cruces Ridge. We are amazed to encounter two Condors within about two minutes, who fly majestically far above our heads. Our eyes trace the enormous majestic birds, in awe and wonder. What a special birthday gift for our bird-loving Mollie! “Right when I went pee?!” Julian complains, unable to turn to look at them.


What was your favorite encounter with an animal while on semester?

Verena: When Davicho saw the dog and said “Go away!” but then started cuddling with it.
Willow: The blue butterflies in the jungle.
Mollie: 1) seeing two condors, 2) seeing the Andean mot-mot at Avispero, 3) Seeing the herd of Vecuñas with a baby.
Skyler: Any encounter with Rupango.
Angela: Cuando vimos el serpiente en Arajuno.
Iris: Beetle the kitten sprawled in my lap, looking into my eyes
Julian: The big black snake in the jungle.
Jasmine: When the alpaca spit on Skyler.
Atreyu: Whaaatttt… Todos
Bridget: Watching the ducks waddle around in Chakra.
Eamon: The blue centipede!
Anders: Trying to give the monkey my knife.
Ian: The first time I saw a vecuña chilling with its homies.



Our camp greets us with a cow skeleton in the grass. We circle up for a treat (candy!) and laugh as Davicho’s sunscreen covered lips give the impression he ate maybe a dozen of them. He smiles and holds his two candies in his hand.

Monday, November 26: Expedition Day 8: Happy Ian Day!

Today is Baddie Ian’s birthday. When Julian turns to him this morning in their tent and says, “Happy Birthday Baddie,” his first words as a 21 year old are, “It’s Merry Birthday to you, jerk.” Because of our love to sing, “Feliz Cumpleaños” to the tune of “Feliz Navidad”, Ian has made it his mission to make saying “Merry Birthday” a norm. Afterall, as he would say, you have to be the change you want to see in the world (although this is usually applied when talking about public nudity). 

We bless our rice pudding breakfast with Baddie Ian’s favorite song, “Salamander Grace”. Our 21 year old has great sticky paws and sure knows how to get his tail going. 

Feliz Cumpleanos, Ian!

This morning brings one foot after another, rain boots knocking against each other, and aching toes. We stop to fill water at a clear and rushing stream. Suddenly, Angela urgently yells at us to move– there’s a herd of cows coming down the path! We grab our stuff and clump together to the side. There are a few moments of panic as a bull with horns approaches, but it doesn’t come near enough for concern. They pass and we continue on up hills that take our breath away. 

The day seems to be passing normally until Tupac abruptly pulls a rusted old machete out of the long Paramo grass– “Who wants it?” Ian, Anders, and Julian all leap forward, begging. However, as it is Baddie Ian’s birthday, he wins and is overjoyed with his new toy. 

 The rest of the day leads us smoothly to our campsite around 3PM. Cow poop creates lumps under our ground tarps, and a couple cows are tied up just a couple dozen meters away. Julian, our Leader of the Day, calls us for morning meeting before dinner. “Why are we having morning meeting at 5:40PM?” Skyler asks. Such is Paramo life. We circle and chat before enjoying our quinoa soup dinner. As we walk to our tents we are able to see city lights in the distance; civilization is closer than many of us would like.

Tuesday, November 28: Expedition Day 10: Paramo to Chakra

A yummy makeshift breakfast of quesadillas and applesauce starts the day out right. We leave on time, at 8:27AM! Today we will leave the Paramo, and this is evident as the hike goes on. The barren hills turn to farmland and dandelion fields, and then we slowly encounter people and even cars. We walk alongside a road and see a donkey that gives the most genuine “Hee haw! Hee haw!” I have ever heard. We enter the town where we will meet our bus, and throw our backpacks down by a building. As has become usual, Tupac gets us helado! A cone and all with vanilla ice cream and chocolate coating, much appreciated after tough conditions in the Paramo.

We end up waiting for a couple hours, which gives us time to journal. At one point a stray dog runs up to the group and Davicho yells “Shoo! Vamos!” but then begins petting it and says “Well, I have a new dog now.”

Then, an intense game of marbles ensues– there is yelling and clapping in the excitement. School children begin to file down the street during lunchtime and many of them circle around the game to watch. They decide they really like Davicho and award him with a juice box. As we migrate to a small restaurant for lunch Davicho sits at the head of the table sipping away at his juice box.

Our transportation arrives! We meet our new instructor, Heime, whose home we will be staying at the next few days. We wind down the roads, views making our heads turn. Davicho lets us pick music to play, and we smile and sing and dance from our seats to familiar tunes. 

We arrive in Chakra, a farm where we will be spending the next two rest days of this expedition. We set up camp and eat some chocolate, appreciating the incredible view of Chimbarazo that is available when the clouds clear. Julian will not stand for the tarp being hung to dry on the volleyball net, since of course we must fulfill his still lacking dream of playing volleyball on semester. 

Next, we each collect a flower and gather in a circle, making a spiral by placing them down one by one to set our intentions of living in beauty with the land here. We take the dandelions and blow out the fluff; Tupac tells us his grandparents used to say this is a way to send someone a message. Did any of you out there get them?



A message to family or friends: 

Julian: Filip, bin safe noch breiter als du.
Anders: I miss and love you Gabby!
SkylerOh Megan Dearest/Longing for you hurts my soul/Eyes as green as grass; Haven’t heard from you/Silence rocks my very being/Each day waiting stings; Haikus are so fun/But sometimes they don’t make sense/Calendula Oil
Eamon: Can Kippen and Snakey come to graduation? Please?
Willow: Get me a pint of scoop and a GT’s booch.
Verena: Siblings: I hope your eyes are right and your tails are growing long and bushy! <3
Atreyu: Familia y amigos! Si ven esto lo logre y estoy feliz de haverlo echo. Gracias por todo!!!
Iris: I want a Lemon Verbena plant!
Angela: Da gracias a mi familia por haberme apoyado y por darme lo oportunidad de ser parte de este semestre. Gracias a todos por sus ánimos lo hice fue un reto grande pero lo logre.
Bridget: Let’s go ice skating on my birthday! 

_____________________________________________________________________________We get a little tour of the farm, including some incredible projects that incorporate the elements of the earth. We see the animals and the gardens before heading back to the kitchen/living area for a warm dinner. 

Wednesday, November 29: Expedition Day 11: Paz De Queso

We have a nourishing breakfast that includes about two full watermelons. Ian and I are cooks, and as Ian announces what is for breakfast to the group he makes sure they are aware they may only take one “paz de queso”. This translates to “peace of cheese”, as in world peace. Learning Spanish sure is a process!

We get a much needed morning to ourselves to catch up on journaling (many of us skip journaling when in the Paramo as our hands are too cold), do laundry, and take a HOT shower.

The afternoon brings a class on making instruments. Once our pan flutes and maracas are complete, we gather in a circle to play music together. I feel an explicable joy watching my semester mates dance and smile and spin. All of a sudden a student group of about 70 students shows up in the field to take pictures of Chimbarazo. They watch and giggle as we dance around. However, most of them end up joining us, picking up extra instruments and dancing in a circle. Ian and Skyler play their instruments so hard that they have cracks by the end. 

The evening ends with Mollie playing the guitar as the sun goes down and the view of Chimborazo shows itself for a long while. Then a volleyball match ensues; finally Julian’s wishes have been answered. 

Thursday, November 30: Expedition Day 12: Yeah, we can build houses too.

We once again have a huge and delicious breakfast, this time with coffee– to many people’s delight. “I don’t know how you spell happiness but I spell it C-O-F-F-E… oh wait” -Ian

The rest of the day is dedicated to a bioconstruction minga– helping build Heime’s sister’s house out of bamboo. Some people clean the bamboo, some cut, and some mix mud and molasses to cover the walls. Faces, hands, and feet get dirty. 



What would you build your house out of, if it could be anything?

Julian: You know Hansel and Gretel?… Yeah.
Anders: Monkeys with knives
Eamon: Colored pencils
Verena: I used to have this dream that there was a tree that would just grow into the shape of a house.
Willow: You know yurts?… Yeah.
Mollie: A combo of stone and wood to minimize weathering of the wood and lots of big windows and vines growing outside.
Skyler: Vecuñas. (Willow: Are they alive? // Skyler: Yes.)
Angela: De dulces! De chocolate!
Atreyu: rocas y bamboo
Iris: Paramo grass and goat poop
Jasmine: Seashells
Ian: The bones of my enemies.


Friday, December 1: Expedition Day 13: Who needs instructors?

It’s December! My favorite month of the year. And, today we get back into the Paramo.

After packing and saying goodbye to the beautiful Chakra farm we get back into the van, where Tupac blesses us with Quichua rap music. The landscape becomes more and more desert-like and we start spotting vecuñas (the majestic creatures that llamas were domesticated from). 

We get off on the side of the road, and during the navigation update discover that today we will be tackling an independent group travel, with Tashi and Tupac following a distance behind. We set off alone. Julian eagerly searches for dead animals. Dust gets kicked into our eyes, but the new landscape is incredible. Being alone together is a special experience, and though there are minor arguments over navigation and decisions, it shows how much we have grown as a cohesive group, a family. As the hours pass, we often give Tashi and Tupac, who don’t stay extraordinarily well hidden, little waves. Tupac’s bright orange backpack often gives them away. They eventually join not long before we reach the refuge, where we will be camping for the night. This is about eight houses on a small hill; we are able to use their kitchen and set up our tents in a little clearing. 

Saturday, December 2: Expedition Day 14: Hi High Camp!

Today we will go to our high camp, where we will stay a couple days before attempting to summit Carihuairazo. First, however, the day starts with a ton, and I mean a ton, of stairs leading up the hill behind the refuge. We all have different reactions to these– some take it slow, some take breaks, some start sprinting up and then have to lay down midway through (Julian).

Tupac makes it up fast to the windy top of the hill. To shelter from said wind he lies in the grass for about 10 minutes as we all file up the stairs. At first we wondered if it was just his backpack, but as we took a closer look it surely was our Tupac, gracefully face down in the sand.

Not much later we meet Marga and Davicho’s car which has our climbing gear, which is stuffed into already overflowing bags. 



How heavy is your backpack?

Eamon: .9/Julian’s backpack
Verena: The weight of a small llama
Mollie: five medium-sized chickens
Skyler: half of Verena
Anders: 300,622 toenails
Ian: 2.5 Sr. Milo’s
Julian: 5 centimeters– wait, what’s the question?
Willow: A lot heavier than my PCT pack will be.
Iris: 84 rats
Bridget: 357 clementines


High camp is sandy and cold and has a gorgeous view of Chimborazo. We bundle up and marvel at our surroundings. 

Sunday, December 3: Expedition Day 15: Shirtless on a glacier?

Today brings a hike about halfway to Carihuairazo, and a class with Mathias about glaciers and the environment. As we eat lunch our normal conversations ensue, and Tashi gets up and says, “Okay, I’m gonna go sit with the adults.” She leaves and at that Ian asks, “So guys, what’s your favorite type of juice box?” Anders exclaims, “Remember the ones we got from our families in San Clemente? Those were soooo good. Wait I think I still have them in my bag.” And sure enough, he pulls out two flattened and two month old juice boxes. We truly are children sometimes. 

We are disappointed to find out we won’t actually be reaching the glacier at the top, as too much of the snow has melted on the mountain to properly summit. However, we will still be summitting at the North Summit, which is still pretty incredible.

Our spirits are lifted when we hike a bit farther to a nearby snowpatch where we cache our gear, and Davicho lets us take shirtless photos with our ice axes, which we won’t be needing anymore. As the boys begin to take off their layers one by one for the picture, Atreyu goes, “Sin ropa? Oh my god!” Which is a quote I think is quite representative of some important moments in our semester.

We have an early dinner of mac n’ cheese before heading off to bed to shiver the short night away. 

Monday, December 4: Expedition Day 16: SUMMITING CARIHUAIRAZO!

Happy Birthday to our beautiful, loving, fairy-goddess-mermaid, enthusiastic Willow Hazel Dragon Fern. We love you, and hope this is one of the best (and longest) birthdays you have ever had. (Yes, there have been an extraordinary number of birthdays this semester!)

Feliz Cumpleanos, Willow!

The day begins at 2:30AM with Tashi’s lovely singing voice. Today is the final push of expedition on semester: the day we summit Carihuairazo. 

We clump together by the tarp manifesting 3AM poops and eating our delicious overnight oats breakfast and sipping warm Panela tea. We apply sunscreen under the stars before setting off at 3:58AM. A large number of the group decides to bring their ice axes just for the vibe. 



What has been your favorite poop spot of semester?

Ian: Birthday Sunrise Explosion
Julian: the one where Ian and Anders held my hand
Anders: In the middle of the night; I could see everyone but they couldn’t see me, hehe!
Verena: In the Paramo, above a river, with Ian’s machete
Willow: The first morning in the Paramo with a vast valley and our tiny camp in the distance. The sky was pink and puffy.
Mollie: On a hill in the Paramo watching the sunrise
Skyler: Looking at the sunset in the Paramo, specifically on Mollie’s birthday
Angela: El Paramo! Porque puedes ver el paisaje
Atreyu: En el Paramo; viendo el atardecer
(I swear all these Paramo and sunrise/sunset ones were answered individually and just happen to be the same)
Iris: On canoeing Skyler put the toilet in the middle of a field; it was throne-like and epic.
Jasmine: Honestly I can’t remember where I pooped
Eamon: We were biking through the Paramo and there was a motorcycle that stopped and looked at me so I hid behind a bush and I didn’t even end up pooping there, I pooped behind another bush later on.
Bridget: Any time after I ate beets


The dark hike is ethereal– headlamps shining reds and whites on the rocky ground. We can hardly see around us; though we did most of this hike yesterday it has a new energy in the dark. I watch Atreyu’s feet navigate the trail. Rocks are kicked, stars glint above us, the crunching of mountaineering boots in front and behind. 

The sun begins to come up as we reach our deposited gear. Harnesses and helmets are strapped on and we begin the real climb. The steepness leads to heavy breathing and slow footsteps. Also, peeing in a harness is always an adventure.

We reach the summit around 7AM, scaling around some rocks before climbing up to the rocky ride. This is moment that cannot be expressed properly in the blog, in a story, in words. All I can say is there is so much joy. We can see the layer of clouds below us, and when sitting in the right place, distant views of Cotopaxi and Antisana. And of course, the view of Chimborazo is the most vibrant and incredible it has been this entire trip. We sing “Love the Life You Live” and release flowers into the wind for Jasmine, who couldn’t summit with us. Willow cuts many inches of her hair with the scissors from the repair kit, letting anyone who wants take a turn cutting a beautiful lock. We hug and hold tight to each other and exclaim in disbelief– our time together is almost over, but has been so indescribably beautiful.



What is a moment you will never forget from Ecuador Semester? 

Ian: Cardinal direction Texas-four-poop; I am East: the sun.
Julian: Looking at Chimborazo, naked
Anders: When the monkey didn’t take my knife
Eamon: The view of Cotopaxi and Antisana from Carihuairazo.
Verena: The moment in the pouring rain on the river in the jungle right after I tragically flipped.
Willow: Getting my haircut on the summit on my birthday at 7AM while watching a rainbow.
Mollie: Can I have two? The first is biking into Coco-Cayumbe National Park down a mountain at 35 mph with Cayumbe in the background. The second is summiting and seeing the sea of clouds.
Skyler: All of December 4, Willow’s birthday, best day of my life.
Angela: Todos los dias!
Iris: Is there another question?
Jasmine: The downpour in the jungle
Atreyu: Cuando llegamos a mi casa en el jungle
Bridget: Dancing down the San Clemente streets late at night.


The hike down is much quicker, but of course contains many shenanigans. We run off the trail to a patch of snow, picking up handfuls and taking bites. We take even more amazing ice ax photos. 

Extra mac n’ cheese nourishes our souls back at camp. The group is quieter, tired, as we pack our bags and set off the way we came. We meet Davicho and Marga’s car in the same place and deposit our group and climbing gear to be brought back to Palugo. Then, having a bit of extra time, we just lay in the sun and listen to a ukulele being played. 

We hike our last stretch back to the refuge where the bus will get us. Some of us rest and some of us get enthusiastically into another game of marbles for a while before the bus arrives. We watch the views of this country that is now beloved go by. There isn’t much time to be introspective or nostalgic however, because Tupac pulls a classic maneuver: helado! There are so many funky flavors: passion fruit, coconut, chicle, kiwi, grape, sweet milk with little gummies in it… We drive through Quito, which is so different from our surroundings the last few days, before reaching the Palugo gates.

Our chapped lips and burned faces are covered with smiles as we come home. Tears come when we reunite with Jazz; our group feels complete. We gather in the chozon and sing, “My soul was new as I came out of the wilderness…” A Palugo dinner is very appreciated, as well as a yummy birthday cake for Willow. 

Back to our cabins, back to the familiar smells and places and sights.

Our souls are new, and they are happy. 



Big job profile photos: 

GEAR MANAGERS: Willow and Ian




FOOD MANAGERS: Anders and Iris



CAMP MANAGERS: Angela and Jasmine (Jasmine not pictured)


SCRIBE: Bridget



Is there anything else you would like to say to the blog?

Verena: I’ll let you know if I think of something.
Willow: “Theen the delight, when your courage is kindled, and our you stepped onto new ground, your eyes young again with energy and dream, a path of plentitude opening before you” (excerpt from For a New Beginning by John O’Donohue).
Mollie: Sending love and light out into the world.
Skyler: Ummmmm….
Anders: Cheddar cheese and bendy knees
Angela: Esta aventura fue increíble!
Julian: I like socks and I cannot lie
Eamon: I wish my sunglasses had a legit camera and internet because they’ve been used for some pretty snazzy vlogs.
Iris: Hi Nana!
Jasmine: I know my parents don’t read this so all you parents out there read it for me!
Atreyu: Oh my god, let’s go to the beach, beautiful places
Ian: Let me think about it… I need to think about the perfect thing to say… I only have one chance, I don’t want to squander it.


With love from the bottom of our swelling hearts,

The 2023 Kroka/Nahual Ecuador Semester

P.S. This might be the last blog, so… I apologize for any failures in grammar or spelling, extreme redundantness, which stems from no time to edit, making up words such as redundantness, not having every person represented in my blog bonuses, lack of descriptions such as mileage or elevation which I often forget,  lack of captions, the blogs being quite long and potentially overwhelming, too many details on bodily fluids (pee, poop, puke, snot, etc.), talking about Ian too much (I seriously didn’t mean to),

…and anything else that could have been in any way unsatisfying or upsetting about this super cool blog. Much love! <3 Bridget