An apology: we have been having some technical issues so the blogs have been infrequent. Anyone who has spent anytime in South America may be able to sympathise, anyone who hasn’t can barely imagine what I mean; but trust me, for all our best intentions, it has been impossible. So, I thought I would give an update in words, which I know can’t equal pictures, but at least lets you all know what is going on, and I am sure we’ll do better with pictures soon. To start at the top: åÊBurgate School have spent the last week in Camp Amazon, having arrived there after some time at Camp Kuri Kuchu. Being the rainforest, there have been some fairly impressive storms and yesterday all project work was cancelled because of the strength of the downpour. Instead of project work, the group learnt Spanish and investigated the local Quichua culture. The weather was fine for the rest of the week, during which the group worked hard on the building of the school kitchen and dining room and developing a nursery for medicinal plants. Amongst all that they headed off into the jungle for a trek, accompanied by a member of the local community who – an inheritance from his forefathers – has an extraordinarily detailed knowledge of the surrounding forest. The Royal Hospital and John Warner group arrived in the jungle yesterday, and will now have many of the same experiences enjoyed by Burgate School. Before the jungle they were in Camp Maqui, where they worked hard on the bridge project. The bridge is a link in an ancient Yumbos tribe trail. The Yumbos pre-dated the Incas, and we are helping in the renovation of this path in order to promote tourism income in the area. On the journey between Camp Maqui and Camp Amazonia, the group crossed the equator, visiting the museum to see the oddly fascinating phenomena produced by the rotation of the earth: water spinning in different directions in the north and south, a strange weakness and inability to walk straight while actually standing on the line of the equator, things like that. Southfield School have been on the Galapagos, returning today. We have said so much about the Galapagos before, so I won’t witter on too much here. They spent a few days on San CristÌ_bal, visiting the site of Charles Darwin’s arrival on the islands, seeing giant tortoises, sea lions, rare birds and volcanic caldera. They then moved to Santa Cruz, visited the Charles Darwin Research Station, lava tunnels, more giant tortoises and Tortuga Bay – a beach that frequently appears in those best 10 lists. They are heading to Camp Maqui next. Crompton House school, like Burgate, have been in Camp Amazon for a while. They leave early next week to head to Camp Kuri Kuchu. Their life in the jungle has been experienced alongside Burgate, so everything I said about them pertains here too. Allerton High School have been in Camp Maqui. Alongside the bridge project they have, like Royal Hospital and John Warner, been working within the Maquipucuna Reserve. In the Reserve we work on projects to help with the conservation of this rare and threatened environment. At the moment we are helping the foundation build a new campsite, because the old one was too close to the feeding grounds of the very timid spectacled bear. There are also ongoing projects of path building and maintenance, tree planting, establishing a nursery, repairing the area around a waterfall and building viewing points for wildlife spotting. The Tavistock and Wavell group have spent this week at Camp Kuri Kuchu. This camp is at 2400 meters above sea level, so it is a little colder. The group have enjoyed the bonfire though, as well as a few dancing and music sessions with the local community in the evenings. The days have been full of projects, punctuated by a little trekking. The main project in the community is the development of tourist accommodation, again to bring tourism income into the community as there are few other opportunities for income development. The village sits beneath steep hills heading up to the famous and unique “paramo” of the high Andes. In smaller groups, depending on level of fitness and desire, everyone has had a chance to trek out of the camp to get fantastic views of the Andes and this wild environment. The group now head to the coast. The group made up of Finchley, Franklin, Harrogate, Havelock, Humberston, Ormiston, Poynton, Pittville and Sir Thomas Rich’s schools have been on the coast. Through Thursday and yesterday the various smaller groups within the whole have completed their PADI Open Water Course and been a part of the placement on the reef of the octopus houses they have built through the week. The regeneration of the reef off the coast is a major part of the project work in which we are engaged in the coast, alongside the building of facilities for the rescue of injured turtles and marine birds. This is whale season in Ecuador and Camp Costa is right on the beach. Some of the group managed to see a humpback whale breaching out at sea, without even having to leave the camp itself. Next stop for this group is Camp Maqui. Chaucer School and the group made up of Cowley, Callington, Hamilton, Holly Lodge, Parkside, Hayes and Studley schools have been in Camp Maqui, so reading what I said above in regard to Royal Hospital and John Warner and Allerton schools will fill you in on that. Chaucer soon head off to Camp Amazon while the composite group move to Camp Kuri Kuchu before their trekking phase. Finally, Hardenhuish have been in Camp Kuri Kuchu and you can read what I said about Tavistock and Wavell schools to find out what that entails. They are still there now and head off to start their trek in Cotopaxi National Park, in two halves, early next week. Again, apologies for the lack of images: I assure you we are working on it and will find a solution soon. Damian