The start of week 2 of class, and I'm getting the hang of things. Monday, my friend Polly and I went into Quito in the morning before class and went hiking in parque metropolitano. It is a huge park on the East edge of Quito and there were some awesome hiking trails. We ran into some runners and mountain bikers as we explored. The we came back to Cumbaya and went to the cafeteria at USFQ where we had a nice, large Ecuadorian lunch. I am generally not a fan of this huge meal because I prefer to snack throughout the day, but after out hike it was nice to eat bread, soup, a main dish, and dessert.
Tuesday, I went back to the aerobics class with some of the girls in my ecology class. The professors at USFQ are all pretty chill, especially with the workout type classes, so we've "joined" the class for the few mornings we're around to attend. Not only is step aerobics interesting to figure out in itself, but doing it in Spanish just makes it that much more interesting. Then we went to what is my new favorite place, the crepe station on campus. They make everything from nutella to burrito crepes right in front of you, and they're so delicious :) Then, after my ecology class, I went with my host brother to one of his friend's houses and it was the largest, nicest house I've ever been to. When we arrived, my host brother asked where the party was at and his friend lead us down like 4 floors to a gorgeous patio with a stained glass window on the house next to it. It was a lot of fun and we just hung out and they played the guitar and sang.
Then, Wednesday and Thursday we went to Maquipucuna. It is a reserve in a tropical cloud forest in Northwest Ecuador. A tropical cloud forest is a forest in the mountains at the altitude where the clouds hit the mountain (~1000m). It is generally a very humid and wet place, but we got lucky and only had to deal with the humidity while we were there. We arrived Wednesday to this awesome lodge in a lush jungle: http://ecotourism.maqui.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=53&lang=es. We went on an hour long hike after dropping our stuff off where we learned about some of the different plants in the area and then we had an amazing lunch at the lodge. Then we went to one of the nearby streams and sifted for bugs and learned about the different types we found and where they prefer to live. Our professor's wife is a stream ecologist and she was teaching us all of this and she would just pick up some fairly nasty looking bugs and be super excited and then give them to us to hold. If you were standing near her, she would just set the bug in your hands. Luckily I was only handed smaller ones, but there was one called perro de agua which made me jump when I saw it. Then we took some water quality measurements and hiked to a different stream to compare/contrast. Then we had free time at the lodge til dinner, a lecture reviewing the stuff we did in the stream and then some of us went on a night hike which was incredibly disappointing. We just walked along the main road and didn't really see much.
Thursday morning, we got up early to go bird watching. I soon reaffirmed the fact that I am not a birder and really don't care that much about birding. We hadn't eaten breakfast and went on an hour and a half hike in silence in search of birds which I could never find. Our guide had this really cool scope and zoomed in on some sweet birds I was able to see (marmot and toucan!), but overall, I was dying of hunger and boredom. We returned for breakfast which was super exciting and then embarked on a 2 hour hike on an ancient trail to a waterfall. The trail was amazingly beautiful and because it was so old, it cut down 3-10 feet in most places so the vegetation was growing up around us :)
The waterfall was super cool, although the water was quite cold. There was a huge boulder covered in moss in front of it and we slide down it and then there was a cave up inside/behind the waterfall. It was incredibly rocky and slippery, and a fair amount of us got scrapes and battle wounds, but it was totally worth it. We then ate our pb&js and hiked back. Towards the end of the hike I was fading fast, so when we returned to have a late lunch prepared for us, I was super pumped. We then packed up our stuff and headed back to Quito. We had a nice stop for a half hour on the way to wait for them to finish some road work. Instead of closing down part of the road to do work, they just plopped down in the middle of the road stopping traffic both ways :/
On Monday, we head to Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the Eastern Amazon region of Ecuador where we'll spend the whole week!