Summarising Ecuador and the Galapagos - Expedition Leader Update

Expedition Leader program - Blog Post #3- June 24th, 2019

By: The Expedition Leader Program Team


Blindfolded trust games to create inclusive space; breathlessness climbing the pastel streets of Ecuador’s high altitude capital; billowing smoke rising from vendors’ barbecued meat skewers; sunrise over the sprawling city brightening our intentions for the journey ahead; immersing ourselves in the political history of the country while traversing churches and parliament buildings; poring over mind-bending travel logistics; sharing stories and traits and vulnerabilities over 750ml cervezas and karaoke. Eleven global citizens blasted into a single trajectory for a memorable chunk of space and time. 

Bulging packs loaded in vehicles for a winding journey down the mountains to the Oriente. Whiteout mist and shooting waterfalls characterising the high Andes; squealing and swallowing fat grubs in food markets; settling only for hostels with numerous quality hammocks; long and difficult conversations critiquing international development; bartering and questionable taxi drivers all part of the learning journey of travelling 101; slippery hikes to dreamy waterfalls; basic dinners brought to life with laughter and inviting strangers to join our tight knit family.


We were gifted a unique volunteering opportunity in a jungle community at the confluence of two rivers; an Irish-Ecuadorian family introduced us to the community effort at tourism in Sinchi Pura; falling in love rapidly with the eager children and jungle atmosphere; basic community living complete with mud brick houses, subsistence farming and countless dogs; sleeping peacefully in cabañas sans mosquitos, the roaring of the raging river taking us to wild places in our dreams. Hauling logs through mud and sweat; hands in the dirt pulling weeds and placing rocks; sweeping and painting and concocting plans for the volunteer groups that follow; communicating with smiles and games and light touches; tearing open cocoa plants and sucking on their sweet flesh; digging lluca from the back garden with kitchen knives and sharing cooking and meals; space for reflection and connection; nighttime fires, competitive card games and even a regional fiesta. Swimming away our worries in the Illa Coline as an afternoon ritual. We came here to serve and learn; both parties got ample doses of each. 

We floated over the Pacific to another world where sea lions act like domestic dogs; marine iguanas can’t be ushered off the walking tracks; birds would let you push them out of the trees and gigantic land tortoises mate in front of you because humans are simply flies on the wall.


The Galapagos. The volcanic islands have a painful history of human and animal exploitation, yet the 30,000 Ecuadorian inhabitants have recognised the natural value and gained World Heritage Listing for Charles Darwin’s iconic playground. Following our charming, caramel skinned guide Danny through the days, we explored San Cristobal high and low; diving deep with Pacific green turtles around kicker rock; rocking one whole day on our personal catamaran; deserted, glaring white beaches daily; feasting on lip smacking lemony ceviches and the staple banana chips. Workshops on environmental awareness; calculating how many trees we would need to plant to dissolve our carbon footprint. Walking pristine beaches sans micro plastics that seem to be home to the majority of wildlife in our precious world; frigate birds with a bulging red ballon instead of a throat; majestic blue footed boobie parents hanging with their awkward and vulnerable fluffball teenage chicks; sea lions better described as obese otters with a prawn tail, dog whiskers and puss-in-boots liquid black eyes; it feels impossible to resist the pull of nature and succumb to your deeper ecological identity. There is hope for the world yet. 


We are a reflective unit of travellers; sharing insights and learnings from everything we do. Our group experienced a turbulent week of stomach bugs and fevers; unaccustomed bodies struggling to find an equilibrium under constant change and movement. We are supporting each other through it all; the highs are higher than that the lows. 

Back to the humdrum of airports and powerful technology, we are stopping in Quito for a final farewell to Ecuador before moving to our next project in Peru.


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Check out the video below to hear Program Leader Keri share her experiences from the Expedition Leader Program with us. The three month immersive program wrapped at the end of August and we were lucky enough to steal 4 minutes of Keri's time to get a sweet snapshot of what the 90 days in Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, China, Laos, Thailand and Nepal was really like!


We loved having our Adventure Guide Program participants volunteer with the Wakatipu Restoration Trust last week on some important projects in Arrowtown! Thank you for having us, and we're looking to joining you again next time 😀


Goodbyes have been said, reunions have been made, photos have been uploaded and time has been spent reflecting. We are thrilled to hear how much our Expedition Leader Program crew enjoyed their 12 week experience and we're so proud of what each individual achieved! We wanted to share with you one last blog from program participant Chloe, summarising the key things she has taken away from the Expedition Leader Program. Whatever you're doing in your life, we feel as though it's an important and powerful read. Enjoy, and feel free to check out the teams awesome photos in our recent album we've uploaded. We're warning you now - every photo is envy worthy!


EXCITING NEWS!!!! Pure Exploration are SO excited to share our latest offering for our 2020 Adventure Guide Programs - CANYONING! Keen to sign up for one of our 12 week programs, but don't think that rock climbing is really for you? No drama! The canyoning option is now available for you to do instead of the rock climbing strand, enabling you to spend time in the water (splashing around, slipping and sliding between canyons) as well as your hiking, pre hospital emergency care and swift water rescue training. We are offering the NZOIA Canyon Leader qualification alongside the NZOIA Bush you'll also undertake over the 12 weeks. Panicking that we've dropped rock climbing? Don't be, we're still offering the rock module (which proves to be increasingly popular), we're just introducing canyoning as a further option! If you're keen to hear more just flick us a message!


What is this PHEC you might hear us mentioning from time to time? PHEC stands for Pre Hospital Emergency Care, and there's a reason we keep banging on about it - if you're heading out to the back country it's vital knowledge to have. You could save a life. Regardless of whether you're heading out bush, there's actually never a bad time to undertake Pre Hospital Emergency Care and that's why we incorporate it in each of our Queenstown Adventure Guide programs. Our Patagonia Adventure Guide Program and Expedition Leader Program also feature a wilderness first aid qualification. Check out this article to find out more about PHEC and how it teaches you the skills needed to become an asset in an emergency.


For those of you who are interested in our Adventure Guide Program as you'd like to get your foot in the tourism industry, look no further. Dana, an alumni from our Adventure Guide Program in 2017, was kind enough to give us a life update at the end of last year. Since graduating from the AGP the wonderful Dana has been a Director of Operations, Lead Guide and a Naturalist in the US. We'll be checking in with her shortly for another life update. Until then, have a read and join us in celebrating the successes of Dana!


The Adventure Guide Program in Queenstown was always a tough one to name. The word adventure summons up thoughts of gripping journeys discovering untouched lands, undertaking challenges that your dreams haven’t even dared explore and of course, an envy worthy Instagram feed. But of course, it's so much more than that! So, in reality, what is the Adventure Guide Program? What should participants expect from it? Check out our latest blog on our website for the "6 things you should know about the Adventure Guide Program in Queenstown, NZ".


Is #throwbackthursday still a thing? We're not sure, but if not, we're bringing it back! As our Adventure Guide Programs are kicking off for Spring and Summer 2019 it seemed an appropriate time to share Deni Zawalski's awesome Queenstown AGP video with you all. What's more, talk about a success story, Deni now works for Southern Lakes Heliski right here in Queenstown. Yup, she's living the sweet life long after graduating from the program! For those of you who are wondering what life could look like after the three months on program, flick us a message. We have heaps of awesome stories about alumni who have gone on to work in the industry here in Queenstown, and we would take pleasure sharing their successes with you. Thanks for letting us share Deni!


We were curious to find out why some of our participants chose to join us on our Expedition Leader Program earlier this year. Chloe shares her reasons with us, maybe they're something that you can relate to as well!


A huge welcome to our 11 incredible participants who have joined us from all around the world for our Adventure Guide Program here in Queenstown NZ! We're excited to show you our home, watch you grow and share in your successes over the next 12 weeks! Oh, and they're eager too - check out the evidence captured of their lake swim in the depths of winter ❄🏊‍♀️ we love the enthusiasm - brr!


Things you learn when you travel the world 101. "Outgrowing people, jobs, places and situations is okay. You should not feel any shame or guilt for leaving toxicity, old patterns, or boredom behind to pursue your own journey to happiness." Check out the blog below to hear more Ah Ha! moments our Expedition Leader Program participants have identified on their travels so far.


Interested in our 12 week Adventure Guide Program in Patagonia but feel a little freaked out at the thought of reaching out for more information? We get it. That's why we teamed up with the guys at to write an article all about Patagonia, hoping that it gives you an idea as to what you can expect from this sparsely populated, jaw-droppingly beautiful region which is home to some of the world's best hiking trails and rock to climb! Keen to hear more? No drama, flick us a message and we'll sort you out with some more enticing information about the program. Just don't blame us when you've canned the job and booked your flights for our November intake! 😆👌


"Growth, vulnerability, pushing limits, authenticity, connections. These all come with being on the ELP team. When I signed up for this trip, I knew it would be a life changing experience in a ton of ways, but somehow, after only 1 month, we have all changed beyond expectations in more than one way." Please check out another one of Chloe's incredible, gripping blogs to find out more about how travel and adventure, plus everything that comes along with it, furthers ourselves in our own personal development journey.


Ecuador, Galapagos, Ecuador and ...China?! What were both the expectations and the reality of China on our Expedition Leader Program.


Last week our 2017 AGP Alumni and favourite German, Michel Affkerback, left NZ after almost 2 years with us here in Queenstown. Michel has been accepted into the Arctic Nature Guide program at the University of Norway to further his guiding career even more. It was an absolute pleasure to have Michel around, and to see his gnarly climbing, hiking and ski touring missions whilst he was in NZ. We miss you already Michel, and cant wait to hear all about your next adventures!


Meet Katherine! She is an alumni from our Adventure Guide Program having completed it in early 2019. Katherine explains what she learnt on the AGP and the skills she now feels equipped with in life. Katherine has also made her home in Queenstown, New Zealand since graduating. Curious as to what you can get out of the Program even if you're not looking to become an Adventure Guide? Check out the video below, or shoot on over to our Instagram for further thoughts from Pure Ex alumni!


Who wants to hear more about our ELP's experience on the Asangate trek in Peru? We do! 🙋‍♂️ "54 km, 5 days, 3 course meals, spectacular views, alpacas for days, chilly nights, and very dry hot days. This is what the Ausangate trek is all about." ... Link's below, you know what to do!


"PERU 🇵🇪A definite fav country of mine... we have just completed a volunteer project in the Cusco area helping regenerate native vegetation and then the Ausangate trek, a bitter / sweet reality of climate change. The melting of ice has allowed a trekking route through this volcanic landscape which has to be one of the best 5 day walks I’ve done. Expedition Leader Progamme #pureexploration" - repost from Keri Wingnut, one of our amazing Expedition Leaders for our current ELP.