Ecuador Semester

September 4 to December 16, 2023

A cross-cultural journey from New Hampshire to Ecuador

Our Ecuador Semester is a cross-cultural journey from New England to the diverse and expansive landscape of Ecuador. Students arrive to the Kroka farm and village in Marlow, New Hampshire at the beginning of September. Through a week of training and preparation a new community circle takes shape. Here we meet our instructors, set standards for group cooperation and prepare to embark on our transformational journey to the “Middle of the World.”

On week 2, we will depart for the Andean highlands and quickly find ourselves immersed in the daily life of Finca Palugo: a 3rd-generation village and farm in the inter-Andean valley outside of Quito. With Finca Palugo as our base, we begin a three-month journey – North, East, West, South – from the Andes to the Amazon. We will observe and experience cultural lifeways as diverse as Ecuador’s climates: from the peaks of the glacier-capped Andes mountains, rising 20,000 feet above us, to the highlands communities of San Clemente and Zuleta, to the cloud forests and jungle of the Amazon basin. We will experience deep cultural immersion through extended village home-stays, study Spanish language, and learn the traditional ecological knowledge of the Ecuadorian landscape.

Expeditions by foot, mountain bike, and river raft take us to remote and beautiful places where the rigor of expedition life moves us closer to our best and truest selves and roots us wholly in our community. The semester culminates in a glacier climb on a high, Andean peak. Finally, we return to New England for our final week and to conclude the semester.

 

A month-by-month overview:

Ecuador Semester: a month-by-month overview

New England to Ecuador: Early September

Immersed in the daily life at Kroka Village we begin forming our community and settling in to our rhythms for work, learning, training, and play. Rising with the sun, we will work on the farm to harvest and preserve food for our journey. During the first week we emphasize community expectations and group formation to build a strong and resilient team steeped in trust and compassion. We will also sew our own backpacks that will carry our gear later in the semester! All of these skills prepare us to meet the unknown that lies ahead with resilience and capacity for engagement. Packing our bags and waving goodbye to Kroka, we head to warmer climates where the peaks, rainforests and villages await us in South America.

Shaping our Dream Together: Finca Palugo, Ecuador

There is no place in the world quite like Ecuador. Based on a 3rd-generation organic farm in the Andean highlands, we are joined by our Ecuadorian teachers and immersed in a new climate and way of life.

With hearts wide open, Finca Palugo and its community will be part of welcoming and introducing us to the magic of the “Middle of the World!” These first days will be our grounding into a new land and culture. Learning about the history, geography and diversity of Ecuador, our days will be spent working on the farm and experiencing and learning its unique systems. We will live simply, cook our food by the fire and enjoy being on the Finca. The final days of this block will be spent packing and preparing for the journeys that lie ahead.

 

NORTH: Cultural Immersion, Spanish and Adventure

We will depart from the Finca on fully-loaded mountain bikes heading North through villages and mountain landscapes. In a few days we arrive at our next destination: San Clemente Village.

Nestled on the cold Northern slopes of Imbabura Mountain, the indigenous village of San Clemente has been practicing traditional Andean agriculture and artisanal craftwork for thousands of years. Immersed in the daily life of the village, we will each experience life in the home of our host family where we will participate in the daily household chores and rhythms while speaking Spanish daily with our hosts.

Each day will include a rhythm of morning Spanish classes, afternoon mingas (“work party” in Quichua), and treks to explore the surrounding peaks. We will learn about seasonal planting rhythms and life cycles of traditional crops, practice embroidery, and learn to cook and enjoy simple Andean cuisine. As our bodies grow stronger and our sense of community deeper, we will say goodbye to our host community, tune and prepare our bikes and set off.

This second leg of our biking expedition takes us through the beauty of the Paramo highland ecosystem and its importance to Ecuadorian culture. Riding through pajonales, highland grass landscapes, and thermal waters we eventually find our way back to Palugo farm.

EAST: Azhanga Chocolate Farm, Rainforest Culture and River Adventure.

A three hour bus ride will take us across the eastern Andean Cordillera and into the Amazon basin. Our first stop will be Azhanga Chakra, near Archidona, a small regenerative cocoa tree farm run by Mama Ines. This incredible homestead has regenerated a deforested pastureland into an amazing edible forest in just a few years! Here we are immersed into the ecology of the rainforest and the process of making chocolate from seed to tree to bar. In between working in Azhanga, we will weave vine baskets with the help of the skilled hands of the Kichwa women of the Mariposa community.

Our time will be spent by the Inchiyaki and other local rivers, reading its features and learning the dynamics and hydrology of Amazonian waters in preparation for our next leg.  We will venture further into the jungle, towards the powerful Arajuno River where we will practice and deepen our river skills as we descend down its rapids by kayaks, “gnus” and rafts until we reach the Calapucha family in the indigenous village of Shiwakocha. Living amongst this Kichwa family, we will deepen our understanding of Kichwa culture and their way of life in the tropical rainforest.

SOUTH: Cojitambo Multi-Adventure Expedition

Our Southern Expedition finds us calling Pillcomarca home. Here, based out of the homestead of legendary climbing guides Marga and Davicho, we will explore the lands of the ancient Cañaris and their sacred valleys and mountains. Here, the Sacred Cojitambo peak rises guarding the land. This is the perfect place to learn and practice rock climbing! We will put our hands and feet on the rock and arrive at an ancient ceremonial site of this intriguing culture. After full days of climbing, exploring and learning the history of the area, we will begin our trekking expedition.

With packs on our backs, we will follow the Inca Trail to arrive to the Ozogoche Peaks and then to San Juan to strengthen our climbing skills and gain high altitude training in the High Andes. To finish our adventure in the mountains, we will attempt the summit of Carihuairazo Volcano (16.784 ft), a unique and special peak located in the middle of the country.

Returning: December

After 12 weeks of living and traveling in Ecuador, our group will have traversed the challenges and joys of extended, rigorous expedition and true community life. We will have made strong connections across cultures, witnessing different ways of life still deeply tied to the land. With full hearts, strong bodies and minds alight with possibility and promise, we turn towards home. Our final week finds us amidst a magical and snowy landscape with familiar faces at the Kroka Farm. Here we will share stories and reflections with the Kroka staff and complete service projects in the local neighborhood as we prepare for graduation.