Wow! Today was a roller coaster—we went all over Mindo. My group started in the mountains, where we learned about the importance of fungi and solar colors in the ecosystem. One amazing note we learned was that leaves with two colors, for example red on one side and green on the other, absorbs twice the amount of energy. This causes the plant to die faster because they take in too much, making them strong, but later leading them to become weak. Another cool fact that we learned was that fungi actually break down dead carnivores, causing them to release the nutrients within that carnivore back into the environment!

At the end of this amazing hike we, as a group, had the opportunity to experience a freezing, strong waterfall. This gave both the photographers and wildlife students the experience of photographing the movement of water. The hike back up had the majority of the group in a sweat, uphill the entire time, but by the end it was all worth it, when we got to ride the trolley across between mountains. The trolley followed with a trip to an amazing restaurant with a killer view, and incredible food. After our lunch break we hurried over to the butterfly conservatory, where everyone held a butterfly by smearing banana all over their face! After this wild experience, we ventured across the street to the river rapids, where we tubed over rocks and many other crazy objects. Laughing through the day we signed this day off by enjoying dinner at a local pizza place.

The next day we were caught off guard by the high altitudes and chilling temperatures of the highlands, our stay was certainly an unforgettable one. Today was our only full day in Cotopaxi, and it was full of horseback riding, hot cocoa, and long fireside conversation. Some of us started the day off with an optional morning hike, where we watched the sun rise over miles of highlands, and got our first glance of Mt. Cotopaxi. After the hike, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast served in our beautiful hacienda. We geared up in classic Chagra clothes, and went out for a long and picturesque horse ride in the highlands. Once back, and full of warm cinnamon tea, we worked on our on-assignment projects with a very tasty lunch before we split up for more active on-assignment work. We went on another sunset hike later in the night. While we watched the sunset over the hills, it was impossible not to be in awe at the beauty in such a wonderful place. We went back to the hacienda to pack for the next exiting part of our adventure.

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