We made it back from Santa Lucia!

We are back in Casa Foch after an amazing week up in the cloud forest at Santa Lucia!

Over the past week, we have seen so many cool things and learned so much about the species rich forests of the Andes.

We have had lessons in botany, identifying different families of plants during our daily hikes via Dr. McNicoll and our local guides. The class split into three small groups for hikes so each group had a different destination each day. Destinations included: the lek of the Cock-of-the-Rock (a colorful bird whose mating ritual is a sight to remember), a sugar cane field where they showed us the process of extracting the sugar from the cane and the steps required to produce brown sugar, a beautifully set waterfall, and the infamous orchid garden where we were able to identify over 20 species of orchid in just a small area, not even scratching the surface (25% of all plant species in Ecuador are orchids).

Lessons in entomology have also been important in determining which order insects belong to as we come across them on the trails. One of our small groups got to know Hymenopterans (the order wasps belong to) a little too well on one of our hikes. Five of the seven male students on the trip, including myself, have taken entomology with Dr. Larsen, also a leader on this trip, so we have had an especially fun time teaching the other students the different orders during our long hikes in the forest.

One tricky assignment the class had over the week was trying to distinguish different bird species from one another, considering there are over 1,600 bird species in all of Ecuador. We had numerous close encounters with many species of humming birds since feeders were set up just steps from our lodge. Some of them even posed for the perfect picture, unlike the Cocks-of-the-Rock who seemed to be a little camera shy.

One of the most amazing parts of Santa Lucia was the staff. The time and effort they put into making sure we felt at home and comfortable was incredible. I don't think any of us were ready to leave at the end of the week.

They never disappointed us with food, preparing a large breakfast to fuel us for the day, a delicious lunch always consisting of soup followed by some form of rice and beans, and finally an amazing dinner that always followed with a yummy dessert.

Large games of cards always followed dinner and most of us have even gotten the hang of the local favorite card game of cuarenta. It gets pretty loud and crazy to say the least! Santa Lucia is electricity free so games were played all with candle light.

Though we hated saying goodbye to our gracious hosts, we said adios to beautiful Santa Lucia and its gorgeous view from the rainforest exposed showers and made our way back to Casa Foch where we will be for the next three nights.

On the bus ride back today, we made two stops: one at the Tucanopy where we zip-lined over the forest and the other at the equator monument museum. Zip-lining was so much fun!

Tomorrow we head out early to hike Volcan Antisana and depart again Tuesday morning for the Galapagos!

I hope to update again before we leave the islands!

Until next time,

Kyle