There’s nothing that makes you feel that tad more disgusting on a Monday morning than a quick wet wipe shower.
Today was our last day of project work in Camp Esmeraldas, so off we went to Cacha, even more determined to finish what we’d started, even if we had to work ‘till mid night.
Our first half of the morning consisted of making bins, which sounds harder than you’d imagine. We all had different jobs today, so myself, Cami, Maddi, Charlotte and Iain were bin-makers of the day. The pieces of bamboo that had been sawed the day before were now being nailed into pieces of wood that we’d previously stripped from any nails or metal pieces. We had to make two bins that were precisely the same and correct measurements to fit into the already fitted and built frame where both bins would hopefully swing and sit when not in use.
It was challenging to nail the nails straight through many layers of wood and bamboo (or maybe I was just awful at it,) but after a bit of persuasion and encouragement from both Maddi and Iain we got there, and just before lunch we were pretty much done with our part. After lunch, apart from Cami and Charlotte who finished things with the bin, and Gemma and Nicole who were finishing the huge Ecuador emblem on the wall of the school, we were mainly focused on the shelter that needed finishing.
It was 2pm, and we were struggling. With everyone’s water finished, no food left, and working directly underneath the sun weaving, nailing, and building this wooden shelter for the kids, yep, we were struggling.
But thankfully, as if a gift from above, one of the hopeful Camp Leader trainee’s went to buy inka cola (YAY!) and coke, from where we still haven’t figured. Regardless, after our surge of sugary energy we powered through, aware that the day was coming to a close, and we just had to finish.
6pm arrived, and miraculously (it was a miraculous day) we finished apart from a few leaves on top of the shelter. We were hysterical, emotional and thrilled. The maestro gave us an emotional speech, despite being in Spanish it truly did come from the heart.
No language barrier could’ve tainted his love for both volunteers and lovely Paula.
Paula cried, so we all cried. We each had a shot of the scorpion juice again, Paula had about 3 or 4, and with that we left after farewelling the locals, who were equally as grateful as the maestro.
But a special someone had something else to add to the tugging heartstrings. Precious had been a favourite from the very beginning, and after the best part of two weeks we’d gotten to know her, seeing her develop confidence in a way we never imagined. She followed us all the way back to the boat, which was a decent walk.
Each step grew worse because we knew this would be a hard goodbye. There was no chance she could come back to Camp with us, firstly it was an extra responsibility for the Camp Leaders and she would probably get killed by the local male dogs on the other side of the river.
Eventually we all sat in the boat and said our goodbye’s to this precious little doggo. She tried jumping in, started crying and as the boat started we all did our best not to look back, convincing ourselves that she’d be alright and that this was the best thing for her.
We got to shore, and headed home. I couldn’t help but look behind me and see an orange ball of fluff on the other side, still in the same position as when we’d left. I could just about spot her on the bank, probably waiting for us to come the next day.
I’m not a crier, but that was the second time I cried that day.
After the rather too emotional day yesterday for my liking, today was our last full day at Camp Esmeraldas, so we decided to make the most of it.
We went to the waterfall again in the morning to cool off (making sure not to blister my skin again this time, Gemma and her after sun were life savers.) but we were all in this dazed mind-set, because somehow we were halfway through our trip, and we were leaving for Quito tomorrow. It was all so weird.
Up until this point, we all knew that Will enjoyed his yoga, but today his yoga extravaganza came into full swing. He’d trimmed his green Camps International top around the sleeves so he was sleeveless, and used them as sweat bands around his head and wrists. It was a sight to say the least.
Will was in the best mind-set though, because we were heading off to the school because we had a sports day waiting ahead of us.
I was one of the captains (and without being biased had the best team) and the afternoon was such a laugh. We played a round of stone and spoon, goal shoot-out, football, 100m sprints, tug of war and relay. The kids loved it so much, and so did we. It was the strangest feeling, looking around this village as we headed back (after buying some much-needed chocolate) knowing that the likelihood of ever seeing these children growing up, the village develop and thrive was very unlikely.
I don’t cope well with emotions.
Dinner was an authentic Ecuadorian meal, basically a glorified tuna salad with plantene, and to add to the ambiance we were eating in the dark with our headlights because the electrics cut off. TIE.
Finally before our daily evening chat, we were praised by the President of the community for our work, and he thanked us all, and especially, or I should say more importantly Paula for her dedication over the past 3 years.
Paula is quite literally one of the most incredible people you will ever meet, her heart towards people is so raw and genuine, she wants to see people develop, and wants to see change. Saying goodbye to her was so hard, we all dreaded it so much. The trainee’s have a lot to live up to.
We did our last-minute packing, talked all things Chicken Run related with Sarah, which made me really excited to see Maddi’s chicken photo (a really ugly / scary photo of Maddi) brushed our teeth ad had our final night together on the hammocks and cushions.
Adios Camp Esmeraldas.
Our bus journey to Quito mainly consisted of music, laughing and eating. Between these things though, it was hard not to think about the last Camp and the people we’d met. A few hours ago a young girl was crying in my arms not wanting us to leave, and here I was heading to a luxurious hostel of some sort, back to ‘reality.’ You couldn’t help but feel guilty.
But, of course, it was all part of the journey (literally and metaphorically) and I didn’t want to dampen everyone’s mood. Luckily Iain was sitting next to me so he cheered me up soon enough by dissing my driving skills and stereotypical Welsh portrayals, which I apparently fit perfectly.
Our hostel was, well, not a hostel. It looked like an elaborate white country manor house type, where we were greeted with refreshments, food and wifi.
I’ve never felt so popular in my life.
We were welcomed by Adriana and Alejandro, (who was the leader of this particular part of the trip,) and had a quick briefing on how things would work for the next few days. After this I showered, in a warm shower, and a toilet that functioned properly, AND, had our clothes washed properly for the first time in what felt like forever. I know, I know, we were elated.
This was also the first time the girls had worn make up for 2 weeks. I slapped a bit of mascara and blusher on, and stole a bit of Charlotte’s lipstick, to which Iain responded with “you guys look weird with make up… apart from Katy…”
What can I say? I’m sadly not a natural beauty.
The rest of the night we chilled in the fairy-light lit backyard with a huge BBQ and extended garden, ate, drank, ate some more and laughed a lot. It was just what we all needed after a fairly intense two weeks.
Oh, and did I mention we were all wearing our thermals? QUITO. FREEZING.
After breakfast and meeting our new camps mates who were on a different plan (two weeks in the next camp, and then two weeks in the Andes,) we set off in taxis to Quito centre which was a 20 minute drive. Me, Nicole and Maddi headed to the markets, to which I quickly realised I don’t like haggling of any sort and swiftly headed out of the seemingly never-ending maze.
Despite this I managed to buy harem pants and a cute lil’ turtle that had ‘Ecuador’ written on it. Classic tourist, hey?
Now, I don’t know if you remember me mentioning a McDonald’s in my first blog? Well we went there on our first day in Quito, and made a fool of ourselves, and somehow we managed to do the same today too.
We ordered our meals, and being the slightly OCD that I am, I got my hand sanitizer out before grabbing my burger, but somehow I ended up squeezing the entirety of the sanitizer into my hair and eyes. Not even my hands.
I screamed because my eyes were stinging and I couldn’t see properly, plus my newly freshly blow dried hair felt so greasy. Nicole couldn’t contain herself, mainly because I was suffering and looked a right lemon. To make matters worse it was chock-a-block there and, well, I found out the hard way that Ecuadorian humour is very different to British humour. Maddi sat down and as she was asking us what we were hysterical about, she spilt her entire 7UP over her meal and, being the foodie she is, did her best to recover her food and was not discreet about her anguish. Which ,made us laugh even more. That was the last time we went to that McDonald’s.
We nearly got lost on the way back to the hostel, the driver having to stop twice, but we got there eventually somehow.
After a rather stressful afternoon the logical thing to do was vent all our anger out through a workout, which WILL, Iain, myself and Sarah very much were up for. We taught each other boxing skills, ab exercises and how to squat properly.
We went to bed early, knowing it was an early start to Camp Donbiki tomorrow, for another two weeks of work.
And I couldn’t wait.