Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ecuador Adventure Guest Blog Series 7/8

Sternberg Museum of Natural History Education Director, David Levering, lead a spring break study abroad trip of seven Fort Hays State University undergraduate students to mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.  The students documented their adventures and explorations during the trip, and these travelogues will be featured here through a series of eight posts (with a finally reflection from David). Enjoy!

Day 7: The Last Day of a once in a lifetime trip
Location: Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands
By: Julie Clement

Garden at our hostel on Isla San Cristobal
Today was our last day on the islands, and it started with a bittersweet morning. Some of you will ask what there could be sweet about leaving a tropical island. Well the answer is quite simple: we students hail from the middle of the United States, which means we don’t have stomach churning boat rides, nor are we used to being so close to the sun. Instead we are accustomed to miles of land instead of ocean, very different seasons, and weather that changes on a whim. By this point all of us were thoroughly sunburned and tired (despite liberal use of sunscreen), and generally ready to head home. As we left the hostel and headed for the café down the street, we had some choices to make. Our flight back to the mainland was scheduled for 1:20pm and we had the morning free. Some of us chose to bike ride around the town; others to headed to a museum down the way, while others of us didn’t make it to that. My group was the one that didn’t make it.
Isla San Cristobal - a place of beautiful water,
lovely friendly people, gorgeous scenery,
and more sealions than you can count

Sealions sleeping on the stairs
Galakiwi office and the cafe next door
The one thing that I wanted to do this last day was to take more pictures. I was the unofficial group photographer. But before we started our adventure, we had some last minute souvenir shopping to do, and I needed to mail postcards. You would think that a little square of paper would be fairly cheap to send, but you and I would both be wrong. I spent a few pretty pennies on postage for twelve postcards, but when they arrive it will all be worth it. After spending the last of my money on stamps, our group headed out to find this museum, I was of course taking pictures the whole way. As we got further away from the shops and people, sea lions littered the path. There was one right in front of us that we took pictures with, during this picture break we witnessed something we had only seen the aftermath of the whole trip, a sea lion climbing onto a bench. It is my most prized video. For those of you who haven’t seen a sea lion walk, they waddle and it’s adorable. As we continued on we had to go over a wooden walkway. On the other side there were some restaurants with a great view. When we came to the end of that street we thought we would find the museum, but it was nowhere to be seen. David our instructor had gone on his own and we later found out that we had a few more turns and a lot more walking if we were to find it. Since we failed to find the museum we headed to the Galakiwi office. This is the travel agency that we went through and there is a café right next door to their office. On the way back over the wall was an upside down boat, and on top the boat were three sea lions. One of them looked to be a baby and was snuggled up to his mom, and dreaming; it kept twitching. When we reached the café, the five us in the group settled down to relax and reflect. A few of us got ice cream, and we all looked at pictures and talked about the trip and what all we had done. Riding down a mountain on the second day may have only been five days ago, but it felt like a lifetime. The time we spent in Ecuador flew by and felt like forever all at the same. Our last morning on the islands came to a close all too soon.
A map of the Galapagos Islands at the museum on
Isla San Cristobal

A male lava lizard
A dragonfly on Isla San
Cristobal, 600 miles from mainland
There is something about leaving a place that you never truly believed that you would visit. The Galapagos Islands is one of those places that you think sure, I would love to go, but you never really think you are going to. It’s a destination unlike any other and not a trip many will ever take. Over the next twenty-four hours we made our way back to Kansas, and our once in a lifetime trip was done. The students in our group came from a wide variety of majors and backgrounds, but we all had one thing in common: We wanted to go to the Galapagos for the island biodiversity, not just the island part. We had plenty of time to kill in the airports and so we did a little math. By the time we were to get back home, our transportation was thus: 3 cars, 9 buses, 7 planes, 1 train, 2 vans, 1 bike (each), 7 boats, 3 trucks, 3 flippers, and more walking than we could have possibly kept track of, and some of us had 1 more bike, and 1 paddleboard. That was a lot of transportation for an eight-day trip, and every single one of them was worth it.         
Map illustrating our travel stops

Watch a video with highlights from the Ecuador/Galapagos adventure!

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