Flying is something that I love to do. It just seems impossible. The fact that I am traveling thousands of feet in the air cruising at hundreds of miles per hour is absolutely mind bending. Not everyone shares my love of flying though. Multiple members of our group had genuine fears of flying which served to be one of our many inadvertent bonding exercises. After a five-hour flight, we finally arrived in Quito, Ecuador.

Our first day we stopped at Museo de Sito Intinan which is at latitude 00°00’00”. Afterwards, we traveled to Maquipucuna (Maqui for short) Ecolodge and Reserve. We learned of the Canadian miners who wish to destroy the Cloud Forest for its mineral resources and Maqui’s initiative to conserve the umbrella preservation and reestablish the value of ecotourism. The following day we traveled to a coffee plantation, split into multiple groups, and raced to see who could harvest the most coffee beans – my team collected 8 pounds of coffee beans which was only worth a handful of dollars. We traveled to Mindo and ziplined through the forest which was fun for some but a bit nerve racking for others. My advice would be to know your limits and don’t compromise your safety to keep up with everyone else. We also stopped at a Mindo Chocolate and tried different purities of dark chocolate. My favorite was the dark chocolate mixed with ginger!

The rest of the time at Maqui was spent collecting insects. Being with entomologists taught me the importance of insects and their role in the environment. I also found new courage when it comes to handling insects. The more you know about something, the less fear has a grip on you. We found insects while black lighting at night, scouring the riverbanks, and hiking the trails. We also played card games, performed group improv, and learned how to salsa dance in our free time!