Sierra Negra

The volcano Sierra Negra is the largest volcano in Galapagos (2nd largest caldera in the world); the caldera is HUGE about 9 by 7 kilometers (5.5 miles by 4.3 miles) and is leftover from the collapsed volcano cone. Sierra Negra is on the Island Isabela; this is the largest island in the Galapagos; it is 2,883.162 square miles. The island expanded 1.4km when Sierra Negra erupted in 2018.

We hiked up to see the caldera and even went to the sight of a fissure though it wasn’t active when we saw it.

We had a guide named Nadia. The hike was one of the best parts of our trip. At the beginning, Karen and I sang the song, ‘The Ants Go Marching’ until we finally got to one hundred and thirteen. Neal joined in around sixty-three. The hike took around two and a half hours. The first part up to the gazebo was the longest. There, Neal and my mom stopped so Alora, Kate, Elle and Cooper could have lunch.

From that point on, only my dad, Jason, Karen, Grant, and I continued without the little kids, up to the fissure where the most recent eruption happened. On the way, we found out that we could eat the guava growing on the sides of the trail, even though it was a national park (because guava is an invasive species and that helps get rid of it) so that was cool. I did not like the after taste though.

After continuing, the dirt turned to lava rock. The further we went, the less trees and plants there were because the rock hadn’t eroded into dirt yet.

The ash at the top was hard like rock, not dusty like wood ash. It was really cool and when you would step on it, the ash sounded like glass. Some of the larger ash pieces that should have been heavy were really light. This was because they were really porous (lots of bubbles in them.)

Some of the ash rocks that were bigger, you would have to hold with two hands but that’s not because of the weight, it’s because of the size. If you had big hands you could probably easily do it with one hand. The rest of the ash was super small and it would get in your shoes.

In this one, the two rocks are the same weight.

The newly hardened lava created a thin layer that you couldn’t walk on because you would fall through into the abyss below. The area we walked on was made from the ash and exploding lava. If you looked closer at the larger ash-rock, you could see what looked like tiny river beds that had been dried up.

The newer lava ash was a shiny black. The older stuff (where lava didn’t get during the 2018 eruption) was a red-brown with plants most the time. This was where the lava from the 2005 eruption was so stuff had time to grow. Most of the spots where we were hiking had these kinds of places. The rest was gravel-sized ash that sounded like glass. The hike down was pretty uneventful except for a White Heron that was following the trail. That was cool.

Because Karen loves guava, she picked a lot on the way back, we saw lots of guavas on the side of the trail and since I was already covered in these little velcro seeds and Karen wasn’t, I had to go in to get them. We got at least 10 from one of the best trees. In all, we got about 20, (but sadly the next day we had to leave so we had to give them to the hotel because you aren’t supposed to bring fruits or plants to other islands. In the morning we saw a bowl of guava that could only be ours.)

This is a video of the 2018 eruption

Galapagos – Headed to Isabela

Since we were behind a day in our itinerary due to the missed flight, we lost a day of rest and had to keep moving. Today we are headed to Isabela Island, which is the largest island in the Galapagos. We were on the dock at 6am to catch a 2 hour ride back to Santa Cruz, and then from there another boat ride to Isabela. Thankfully no one got sick! By the end of the day I started to get used to being on a boat.

Although Isabela is the largest island, it is also the least populated of the islands we visited. The town of Puerto Villamil is where we landed and is also where most of the island’s 2,200 inhabitants live. We all liked this island the best, not only because there weren’t any crowds, but it also had the best beaches and we had our best accommodations here!

Our hotel was top notch and we had a pool for when we got tired of the beach! Aside from the wildlife, we had the beaches all to ourselves. The iguanas were all congregated around the black lava rocks and they blended right in. Sometimes I couldn’t see them until I almost stepped on them and they scattered away.

It was nice to have a bit of downtime compared to the previous few days, but we still have more to share, so stay tuned!

The “Soup Kitchen”

In town there is a “soup kitchen” that doesn’t serve soup. But, they do serve breakfast to the elderly Mon-Fri. There are 2 local employees & the rest is done by volunteers.

In coming to Ecuador we had two main purposes in mind:
1. cultural immersion
2. service learning
Before arriving to Cotacachi, I was anxiously searching for ways our family could serve in the community. I found a post about a thrift store that supported a soup kitchen, so I investigated. I was able to reach the thrift store owner and ask if childrens’ clothes would be useful for their shop. She responded enthusiastically. So, that was a great start. We filled one suitcase with childrens’ clothes for the “clothing closet”, that’s about the size of the store ; ).

After that she put me in contact with the Expat in charge of the soup kitchen, who just happened to live in the same complex as us. She invited me to go with her on a Thursday to see how things worked. And from there we were able to begin some actual service, it seems like a small drop in the bucket of possible needs, but it was a start nonetheless.

Today’s helpers

The morning begins by setting up chairs & putting silverware & fruit at each place setting.

The mural on the back wall depicts two individuals who attend the breakfast. The Señora on the right is 93 years old. She walks to breakfast every day, barefoot.

Once all the places are set. It’s time to administer the vitamins to everyone.

Meanwhile Grant & Max were peeling papaya for the meal. The meal usually consists of rice, eggs & bread served with fruit & a warm, filling drink. The drink is sometimes made of corn or oatmeal & other times fruit.

They also have clothes, shoes & shower facilities available for those who are in need. Medical professionals come once a month to provide needed care.

Musical Capital of Ecuador

So, the weekend after the fourth of July, Cotacachi had some huge parties & by parties I mean concerts. We have since learned Cotacachi is known & celebrated as the music captial of the north. I inquired about the musical capital of the south & learned there isn’t one = Cotacachi is just the musical capital. There are several sections of the local museum dedicated to music history & performers, composers & several dedicated practice rooms for current musicians. I thought that was pretty neat.

You’ve seen Alora & Kate dancing with friends at the Friday night concert (7/5) hosted by Youth for Peace (Jovenes por la PAZ). You can imagine my surprise when the 1st group got started at about 6:45pm, for their 5 o’clock performance (patience comes in handy around here sometimes 😉) & started rapping, in Spanish of course. It was so unexpected I just started laughing, don’t worry no one really noticed.

Hmmm, let’s see if I can find the clip.

The girls definitely loved the music.

July 6th Cotacachi celebrates becoming an official town of Ecuador (Cantonization).There were several concerts that day. Our friends were performing in Jovenes Indígenas. Their group, Tabikuna (“The Tabi’s” in Quichua), includes the boys’ YM’s President & Bishop, which I just think is extra cool. There are 7 of them in the group, all brothers! (Oh, that poor Mama! : D)

Here’s a quick clip.

We found their YouTube channel Juyanis (Quichua for “Love”). They play indigenous music of Ecuador, which we have really enjoyed!