Published on: Monday, July 17, 2023

In the first part of an expedition to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, ten King's pupils ventured into the Amazon rainforest for a week of community service, cultural engagement, and personal growth. Along the way, they have participated in various community projects, interacted closely with local inhabitants, and braved harsh environmental conditions, demonstrating exceptional grit, determination, and adaptability.

The first week has been spent in the Amazon rainforest/jungle in Camp Chili Urku, a camp set up amongst the small indigenous Kichwa community. They landed in Quito and then made the 7-hour bus journey the following day, with views changing from the various volcanoes in the Andes to waterfalls and the Amazon basin.
The ten pupils, Amalie J, Erin C, Evie P, Matt SC, Lenny P, Noah S, Natalia P, Daniela H, Leigha GW and Sophie F, have completed the following projects for the community: planting native yuzu trees along the roadside to help prevent landslides and the roads being washed away and cutting off the community during the rainy season, painting the small school, building the first part of a path to a viewing tower in the rainforest which is designed to bring eco-tourists and income to the community, digging out a terraced garden for the community to plant indigenous medicinal plants and planting fruit trees in the community's gardens.
They have powered through each project in the uncomfortable hot, and humid rainforest environment with such grit and determination that they have completed all the projects much more quickly than expected. They have also overcome various personal challenges and fears along the way, quickly becoming more used to the unfamiliar, including tarantulas in the toilets. It was 34°C whilst they were carrying large rocks and shovelling soil and sand to lay the path! The local Camps International team have been super impressed by the pace of their work and the excellent quality, describing our team as "tigers" and as being "super nice".
In addition, they have engaged brilliantly with the local community and staff, making efforts to speak in Spanish and to find out about the local culture, creatures, plants and traditions. They have participated in various cultural activities, such as having their arms/faces painted in the paint from the wituk plant, making chocolate from cacao beans and blowing (non-poisonous) darts through a blowpipe. 
They have also spent two days and nights at a satellite camp in the primary rainforest without running water and electricity, sleeping in hammocks. Despite the hot and sticky environment, 40°C heat, no showers and the enormous/prolific amount of bugs, the pupils have remained in good spirits embracing the cultural activities of a challenging trek deeper into the beautiful primary rainforest, painting bowls made from the dried shell of local fruit and listening to local legends around a campfire whilst roasting marshmallows.
It's been a challenging, action-packed, 'once in a lifetime' week experiencing the sounds, sights and smells of the Amazon rainforest. They are now all looking forward to a night in a hostel in Banos on the way to their next adventure on the coast, a 10-hour bus journey away.

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