UMO Honors Students Experience Ecuadorian Culture

UMO Honors Students Experience Ecuadorian Culture

MOUNT OLIVE- Twenty-one University of Mount Olive (UMO) Honors students recently traveled to Ecuador as part of the program’s international travel opportunity. The group trekked in the Andes Mountains and hiked in the Amazon Rainforest, creating a diverse experience that allowed them to soak up the Ecuadorian culture.

After a long flight, the group arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.  They toured the colonial section of the city, walked along the cobblestone streets and watched a ceremony in the Independence Plaza. The group visited La Compania de Jesus Church and the Church and Monastery of San Francisco.  They traveled to the equator and stood in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at once.

On Tuesday, the group arrived in Otavalo and toured one of the largest markets in South America.  The students shopped for handwoven blankets and sweaters, jewelry, ponchos, and other goods to take home as souvenirs. They saw a waterfall in Peguche before heading on to Papallacta, located at 11,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains.

The following day, the group traveled deep into the jungle arriving in La Punta Ahuano on the Napo River.  They took canoes to their resort in the Amazon. Later that day, the group visited an indigenous Quechua woman in her home. The group ate local cuisine including trout and plantains.  A few brave individuals even tired larvae.

On Thursday, the students hiked the Amazon rainforest and viewed plants and insects in the world’s largest ecosystem. The group crossed suspended bridges and zip lined through the jungle.  Emily Chaisson, a senior math and chemistry major from Stokesdale, said, “I saw so many things and learned so much while hiking.  It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.”

After a quick tour of a butterfly farm, some of the students visited a cacao farm and animal rescue center, while others enjoyed their time at a canopy adventure park. The Honors group returned to the Andes Mountains on Friday.  They stopped along the way to visit The Devil’s Cauldron, one of Ecuador’s most beautiful waterfalls. Kailyn Cottle of Deep Run said, “Watching the power of the rushing water as I walked across the high suspension bridges filled me with energy and excitement. It was beautiful, powerful, and also extremely relaxing.”

In the town of Banos, the group watched a demonstration on vegetable ivory, a form of jewelry making from palm nuts.

On Saturday, the group visited a rose plantation and dined at the Hacienda La Cienega, one of Ecuador’s oldest and most historic haciendas. They then continued on to Quito and spent their last day exploring the city.

“I had the time of my life in Ecuador,” Cottle shared. “I never thought about traveling to South America before, but now I want to go back and learn the culture, explore more, and just see more of the natural beauty.”

“My experience in Ecuador was a lot different than I expected,” said Chaisson. “It was so interesting to see the different lifestyles and foods. I had a really great time.”

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UMO Honors students and chaperones hiked the Amazon rain forest and stopped for a photo and view of the scenery below.