Written by Jeff Vredenburg

Tyler and I in the past week have taken apart a house brick by brick, hiked a trail through a cloud forest to a secluded waterfall, slept in a house whose roof was filled with bats, eaten more rice than we had ever before, cleaned freshly caught trout, hunted for the elusive crystal frog, taught a class (with kids from 4-12 in one room) about climate change, deforestation and CO2 levels, made chocolate chip cookies without chocolate, brown sugar or measuring utensils, used machetes to hack our way through dense underbrush, and drunk fruit juices we never knew existed.


Last Sunday, we took a bus from Quito to Chiriboga, a town of 200 people that is in the middle of the cloud forest 30 miles from the Capital. Don’t let that distance fool you, it took a good 2 hours of hair-pin switchbacks and white-knuckled drop-offs. At some points, our bus was scraping cliffs on one side and was close enough to a drop-off on the other that I could not see the edge of the road while looking straight down from my seat.  The  only thing I could see was hundreds of feet and then the valley bottom. We arrived kissing the ground and glad for the mile walk down a field-lined road to the cabin. Set up as a base camp for volunteers, the Chiriboga project is devoted to reforestation, education of the locals (who more often than not make their living through deforestation) and self-sustainability through their on-site trout farm, cows, and fruit trees. Needless to say, there is more than enough work to be done repairing old buildings, tending gardens, feeding fish, and making sure everyone is fed and warm. This week there were only three of us, Tyler, Ines (the German girl that was also in Jipijapa with us) and me. We started out by helping tear down a 40-year old brick building to prepare the way for an educational classroom. One of the goals of Project Chiriboga is to be able to take in students from elementary schools and teach them about the importance of the cloud forest, and the classroom built on that spot will serve that purpose. Later in the week we were lucky enough to have an invite to the local schoolhouse to chat about the environment. It’s surprising how easy it is to walk into a new place only knowing one person and being able to expand your social network within minutes which in some cases leads to us giving these environmental talks.


There isn’t much I can say in words to describe the Chiriboga experience and there wasn’t too many things that are worth writing about, but were  were gorgeous and working with people dedicated to advancing similar beliefs was great. The work was usually repetitive, tough, and long, but getting to know Geober and Javier, the two groundskeepers, and simply enjoying the nature around us was more than worth the experience.

Written by Tyler Depke



So for those of you who dont know I’ve had a bat fear for most of my life because of an incident that occured when I was camping. Basically a bat landed on me, got caught on my shirt for half a second, flapped its wings a few times against my shirt and left. I started crying and ran inside and was afraid to go outside at night for a while and to this day my older brother says it was a big moth and Im sure that other family members who were there are still skeptical. Anyway, I was watching TV one night in Jipijapa when a larger black figure flew down from the upstairs and started darting around where I was watching TV. It freaked me out pretty good because everyone else was sleeping and it wouldn’t go away and all the rooms are connected so it could just fly into my room, the bathroom, wherever it wanted. The next morning at breakfast I mentioned to the family that the night before there was a bat inside the house. They were all surprised and told me, “A BAT?! It was probably just a big black butterfly, we get them all the time.” Inside I was laughing at the irony of the argument exact same with my brother 10 years earlier as I asked, “Do bats make this chirping sound (chirp chirp chirp)? I still think it was a bat.”

As we walked into our new housing for a week long stay at the Chiriboga Project we noticed there were bits of poop on the ground near the wall, and even sooner we could hear chirping noises. It didn’t take us long to figure out that there was clearly something living in the walls. One of the directors came up soon to tell us, “Did you hear them? Don’t worry, there aren’t any rats, just bats!” OH GREAT! JUST bats…The first two days every time I heard a chirp or walking (yes, you could easily hear the bats walking through their little tunnel) I would duck down to my bed looking up for anything. I easily overcame this fear of bats because out of the 10+ minutes of noise I could hear everyday, whether it was 3AM, 8AM, 4PM, or 10PM I would usually just laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation and knowing that they couldn’t even enter the room. Nonetheless, we didn’t even see a bat the entire time at Chiriboga.

Natures True Colors
Nature at its Finest!
Shorter Perspective
Yet Again…
Sangre de Drago
Sangre de Drago Tree (Oh Yeah…its BLEEDS…like in Ferngully)
Thats a BIG...
Found this bad boy hiding under a board in the house we were tearin down
Just Past Dusk
Birds relaxing in a palm tree just after the sun went down
Mountain Dew
Morning sun + Fresh Dew = Killer Combo
Killer Combo x2
Sun Angles
Killer Combo x3
Dense Forest
Yeah, it’s green, and it’s dense.
Why do I Always have to GO!?

Petroleum workers doing pertroleum work stuff… I guess he drew the short straw…
Jeff Pummeling
Raisin the roof, and bringin down DA HAUS!
Best Lunch Ever
Fried Trout and Flan with the normal rice and salad…delicious!
Cleaned that puppy

Our next plan of action is to head to the town of Baños to chill out in the hot springs, mountain bike, and hike around the active volcano. Then we are going to Guayaquil for a Reggaeton concert on Friday. After that we might head to the lowland jungle for a tour or head straight south to Maccu Piccu.

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Author: tdepke

2 Responses to “Week 6: Ecuador's Cloud Forest at Project Chiriboga”

  1. Grant says:

    Sweet trip guys. Stay safe, try to limit the crazy to less than 52 new experiences a day! See ya in Santiago hopefully.

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