I have been in Ecuador for about 3 weeks now and I owe you guys a blog.
The farm I stayed at was an interesting experience. The farm is in a little town called Nono, it is about 30 minutes northwest of Quito. Nono is a tiny town of about 300 people and not much else, to get anything you must go to Quito. So, the farm has two ‘sites’ in Nono, the main farm is La Querencia, where the calves are, where the events happen and where I spent most of my time. The second site is La Campiña, it is about 1.5 miles up the mountain and has only a milking parlor. I lived in an ‘apartment’ next to La Campiña. When I arrived, my apartment had a couch, sink, toilet, and shower, nothing else, no real kitchen stuff, no bed. I eventually got a bed, mini fridge and hot plate. I walked to work every morning about 7 am and the walk took about 45 minutes. In the evenings sometimes I walked, which took over an hour, or sometimes they gave me a ride if I asked.
A typical day for me at the farm was helping with calves in the morning, feeding, cleaning pens, and rebedding. Then I sat around for a little while, and around 1pm I would check on the calves again, refill feed and water. At about 3pm I would help milk, I always put feed in front of the cows while they were being milked. They use a pasture grazing system down here. So, during most of the day I can’t see the cows from the farm, they are far off in a pasture, then at 3 am and 3 pm they come in for milking. The parlor at La Querencia has 8 stalls with 4 milkers, it is a flat barn, so you stand on the same level as you milk the cows (usually in the US farmers stand in a pit behind the cows so they don’t have to bend down to put the milkers on, a lot easier on the farmer). The cows only eat pasture and then while they are getting milked they get a little grain. The milk production is much lower, but labor and feed costs are also lower. After milking, I feed the calves and then I head back to my apartment. My apartment had no tv, no wifi, no radio, nada, so I usually went to bed around 7 or 8 pm. I have never gotten so much sleep in my life! On the weekends I would help with the tourism part of the farm. La Querencia has a shelter house where they can host parties, or cookouts, which they do almost every weekend; they have a putt-putt course (where I mostly helped), a petting zoo area, a restaurant and soccer fields, they are nearly done building a fishing pond.
Some random and interesting things about my time at the farm:
- Only one person spoke passable English, but she didn’t like to and wasn’t around much. I had to converse mostly in Spanish and hand gestures. I did pick up some Spanish and improved my listening skills, but the language barrier is definitely a challenge.
- Nono and the farm sit in the valley surrounded by green mountains, I may walk to work but the view really is beautiful. Sometimes in the evenings I can see the cows from my apartment and if it isn’t too foggy, it is a beautiful view to watch the cows grazing with the mountains as a backdrop.
- One time I was helping milk and one of the workers came up with a baby bottle, bent down, filled it with milk fresh from the cows teat, and then walked over and handed it to a child, who drank the entire bottle of fresh, raw milk. You could say I was stunned.
- The mornings usually start out really sunny and really quite beautiful, the temperature reaches into the upper 60s, around early afternoon the fog starts to roll in. And the temps drop an bit and can get kind of chilly. In the morning I could see for miles and miles, by 5 pm I could barely see 50 yards into the distance. The nights then got cold, dropping down into the low 40s. They also have no such thing as heaters down here, so my apartment can get really chilly at night.
- On the weekends when people come to visit and are watching milking, they hand out samples of raw milk, straight from the cow!!! That would never fly in the states.
- I was on the farm for Ecuador’s Independence Day! The small town had a large parade and party in the streets. I am sure every single person in the town flooded the streets for the parade of dancers, and horse back riders. The party lasted all weekend, from Friday morning until Sunday night, we could here the music playing and the people shouting.
I ended up cutting my time at the farm short and booked a trip for the Galapagos! The Galapagos are a part of Ecuador and were something I definitely wanted to do before I go home.
I arrived in the Galapagos Monday, August 27. The Galapagos Archipelago is made up of four inhabited islands off the coast of Ecuador and are very famous for their wildlife. This is where Charles Darwin made most of his ground-breaking biology discoveries, such as evolution. Did you know that when Darwin first arrived in the Galapagos in 1835, he was 21 years old and had no interest in science? He was just along for the journey with an explorer that made a stop in the Galapagos. It is safe to say that his time in the Galapagos were inspirational, and he returned later to make amazing discoveries in biology.
We hit the ground running on day 1. We started on Island Santa Cruz, the eastern most island, we went to Darwin Bay to go snorkeling. We got in the water (a chilly 72 degrees, on day 2 I will be investing in a wet suit). I have snorkeled a couple times on different cruises in the Caribbean, but this is definitely the best snorkeling I have done. We saw tons of bright colorful fish, a couple sea turtles and even some sea lions!! The sea lions are sneaky and quick and are not scared of you, so they come up to you out of no where and scared the beejeezus out of me a couple of times. We then stopped at a beautiful beach to get a gorgeous sunset and observe a large herd? Clan? Family? Of sea lions. This island has sea lions everywhere you look.
This was just a preview of the Galapagos, I will write about the rest of my week in the next blog so stay tuned!!
~Adventure is worthwhile in itself~
*P.S. Wifi is scarce here in the middle of the ocean, so pictures won't upload. Check back later if you want to see pics