Read our Coronavirus FAQ

2019 Decatur Ecuador Service Adventure

Program Blog

Latest Updates

La Jimenita to El Teleférico

By Tommy Tyson – Program Leader

For our final morning in Ecuador, the group woke up in the Jimenita reserve in Pifo, about 45 minutes outside of Quito. The students had this beautiful, family run Hacienda to themselves to spend the morning and explore the reserve. Some used the time on these grounds for solo reflection, while others walked the trails, fed llamas or explored a pre-Incan tunnel by candlelight.

After a relaxing start to the day, we made our way to the capital again for lunch. From there we drove up to the teleférico, a gondola which took us up the volcano Pichincha. The group soaked up the incredible views of the valley below, making this sprawling metropolis seem small from up high. We held a final reflection over hot chocolate before descending the teleférico and now find ourselves on our way to dinner. We will enjoy one last meal together in country and head to the airport this evening. The group is sad to see the experience end but excited to return home to their loved ones.

¡Hasta la próxima, Ecuador!


By Tommy Tyson – Program Leader

Over the past three days, the students have had a wonderful time integrating into the community of Nanegal, a small mountain town in the cloud forest ecosystem an hour and a half outside of Quito. On Monday afternoon the group was received by their host families, with whom they would be spending quality time getting to know each other. Later this evening, we all met up in the park to have a reflection on our trip thus far and our first day with our host families. Some of the highlights shared by the students included teaching their host siblings games, helping out their host moms in the kitchen, being challenged by the Spanish conversations and playing Uno!

On Tuesday, the group began their first day of service. The students worked hard together as a team to build a vegetable garden clear for the elderly. We tilled the land and built a bamboo structure around to protect the garden. After a full work day, we followed the sound of music nearby and joined with the locals in their weekly “baile terapia,” or Dance Therapy class, where the students got to practice dancing to a variety of Latin styles.

On Wednesday morning we finished the service project and presented the project to the mayor and the people from the elderly home. We celebrated the project’s success by joining the elderly in an activity where the students learned how to make yucca and cheese patties. After lunch, we had some free time to explore the surrounding area. We made our way over to “La Piragua,” a beautiful 90 foot waterfall, to swim and relax. To commemorate our time in the community together, we ended the night with a celebratory “fiesta de despedida,” where we received a special folkloric dance presentation and shared a meal with all the families together.

This morning we bid farewell to our host families and went on a zip line adventure in the nearby Intillacta Reserve. The students had a blast soaring over the canopy before we broke for lunch. We now find ourselves on the road to Papallacta, where we will soak in the hot springs tonight and relax after an eventful week.

¡Hasta mañana!

Pululahua to Plaza de Los Ponchos

By Tommy Tyson – Program Leader
Today the group woke up to beautiful views from up high on the rim of Pululahua volcano. After a relaxing morning, we began our journey to Otavalo. Our first stop was in rose country in Pedro Vicente Maldonado. This region of Ecuador is famous for its roses and other hand-cut flowers, and is one of the country’s most exported products. It’s likely that the roses we’ve bought in the USA come from the green houses here!
Continuing onward we wound our way to Otavalo, enjoying the views of lakes and snow-capped peaks along the way. Upon arrival, we made our way to the house of José Luis Pichamba, a renowned expert in pre-colombian Andean instruments. He invited us into his family’s home and gave us a demonstration of a variety of instruments found in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, at times accompanied by his family band! They made us a traditional lunch before teaching us how to make our own pan flutes, which the students kept as souvenirs. We learned quickly that we will need to practice a lot more before we can make music like Luis and his family.
Later this afternoon we paid a visit to Plaza de Los Ponchos, one of the most famous artisan markets in all of Latin America. The students spent a couple hours browsing the textiles and other handwoven products while bargaining for good prices. After we had our fill of shopping, we ate dinner in town before returning to our hotel’s cabins to warm up by the fire, play games and get a good night’s rest.
¡Hasta luego!

Leyendas Quiteñas and the Coriolis Effect

By Tommy Tyson – Program Leader

The adventures began today as the group made their way to the Plaza de la Independencia. We were met by local tour guides dressed in 18th century garb who gave us a walking tour of old Quito- without breaking character! We learned all about the catholic traditions from the colonial era and explored the interior of La Compañía de Jesus, a beautiful, ornate church. The details in the architecture of this building were breathtaking and were the highlight for many students of the day. Next, student volunteers acted out a famous legend of Quito that has been passed down from generation to generation for over 400 years. We finished the tour with a lively game of “cuerpos y almas” before breaking for lunch.

In the afternoon, we got to climb around and explore the spires of La Basílica del Voto Nacional and then headed an hour north of the city to the equator at Mitad del Mundo. At the Intiñan Museo here, the students had the opportunity to jump between hemispheres, learn about the Coriolis Effect and play fun games to highlight the invisible forces at work at this unique site. Some students even were able to balance an egg on nail! They were rewarded with certificates acknowledging their new status as “egg masters.” 

Tonight, we made our way up to the nearby Puluahua Volcano, where we settled into our accommodations on the rim of the volcano. The students soaked up the views of the crater below as the sun went down. After dinner, we held our first group reflection, where the students discussed some of the unique things we saw and experienced in our first full day in Ecuador.

¡Bienvenidos a Quito!

By Tommy Tyson – Program Leader

Tonight the group was met at the UIO airport by their Walking Tree Travel / Smithsonian Student Adventures program leader and driver. After some brief introductions, we hit the road for Quito, the (second) highest official capital in the world. As we took in our first impressions of the misty mountains along the way, we held a brief orientation meeting on the bus to discuss our upcoming adventures as well as some useful tips to help us get accustomed to our new surroundings. 

Upon arrival to our hotel we went straight to bed to get some rest ahead of the next day. ¡Bienvenidos a Quito!