On our second to last day studying abroad, we had the opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite activities: snorkeling. We took out a boat to Isla de la Plata. It was roughly an hour and a half to reach our destination. During our bumpy ride, we were lucky enough to meet some friends on the way. A massive pod of dolphins swam beside us as they jumped out of the water. Before arriving on the island, I did some research on the history of the island. The name of the island, translated to silver island in English, has two meanings behind it. First, it was believed that there was treasure once buried there. It turned out that the treasure was never recovered so a new meaning emerged. The new meaning stems from the bright white cliffs of the Pacific island. This white color is actually the waste of birds and when the moonlight shines on it, it gives off a silver color. When arriving at the island, it was evident why these cliffs turned white. There were thousands of birds flying over the lush green island.
When first arriving, we instantly started making memories. We saw a newborn sea turtle put all of his might into trekking down the beach to get his first glimpse at the great Pacific. Following this, we started our hike. Once deciding between the long hike or the short hike, our separated groups split off. We quickly saw the highly sought after Blue Footed Boobies, they looked like cartoon characters. After learning about the boobies genetics, hunting skills, their calls, and how to figure out how old they are, we began exploring another species of birds. The next species that we were watching are called frigates. We stood right in between a massive colony of over a thousand frigates swooping directly over our heads. The frigates with the redneck, which puffs out to mate, are the male ones. The white necked ones are then the females. A fascinating fact about these birds is that they are known as thieves because they get their food by robbing it from other animals. To end this trek to Isla de la Plata, we enjoyed some snorkeling right off the boat. The gear was rather old and our group was not too interested in snorkeling, but Skipp and I had a great time in the water. We spotted a huge sea turtle, a black and white puffer fish, goat fish and many angelfish. Concluding our snorkeling, we built up an appetite and it was time for some relaxation and food.
Ending our second to last day, our group had some fun in the port city of Puerto Lopez and shared some laughs. We even struck gold with an amazing souvenir store selling Blue Footed Booby shirts with the phrase “I love boobies” on it. Due to the dreaded travel day ahead of us, we got to bed relatively early and prepared for our final hurrah at Hacienda Victoria. When we arrived, we were instantly blown away by the vastness of the property. The trees were never ending, and we quickly found out this hacienda owns 500 hectares of cacao trees. This was not surprising at all. After getting a brief history lesson of the hacienda and processing information, our tour began. First hand, we saw their cacao nacional trees being watered, opened, then brought over to fermentation barn. It was amazing to see the natural heat and scent that this fermentation gives off. After this we saw how the beans dry outside in the blazing equator sun, bagged, and then ready to be sold. Ending the tour, we sampled three different chocolate liqueurs made by the company. It was amazing to see how three different fermentation processes yielded three entirely different flavors.
Now, to the title of my blog, Ecuador wanted us to stay longer than our itinerary had planned. We had a flight from Guayaquil to Quito, and that went smoothly. But mid flight, the fluidity of our travels began stirring up. A rumor began floating around that our midnight flight to Atlanta was delayed seven hours until seven. We were exhausted and distraught. I’ve always been taught to let life do its thing and always look on the bright side, said David Bowie, so I tried to keep the morale high. Our group’s tensions were high, everyone was exhausted, and simply wanted to be home after hearing this news. But good things did come. We were offered a free hotel room to rest while we waited for our flight. We argued and bickered, but making the initiative to go to the hotel was a vital decision. It was the nicest hotel I’ve ever seen, offered a free room service meal, and had the best beds for a great nap. We regained some energy, the vibes were much higher, and we were ready to get to Atlanta. But, the bad news did not stop yet. Upon arriving, the news was given to me that my flight home to Pittsburgh was filled up and that I would have to spend a day in Atlanta and leave for Pittsburgh on Sunday morning. This was devastating, but I had to remain optimistic.
We got onto the flight, successfully arrived in Atlanta, and the bittersweet moment came. We all had to part ways to fly into our home towns. It was down to Melina, Ben, and I stuck in Atlanta awaiting our Sunday morning flight. It felt as if Ecuador was calling us begging to come back. We blocked out that voice and were proactive travelers and sought out a solution. I am a gambling man so I did what I do best. As a group, we wagered out one night hotel voucher to be placed on the Saturday night flight home to Pittsburgh. As I am writing this I am actually awaiting the news if seats were open to us. If not, twelve hours in the bustling Atlanta airport it is. Life goes on, reach out to me if we were able to get on the early flight!