Family Bikepacking Trip by Burton

Arriving to Palugo, Ecuador — By: Burton

We arrived at Palugo farm late, after two long flights from Boston. Once we met Marcea and Roberto, we had dinner in the Chozon with everyone that had arrived already. We woke up early the next morning, and met the last family to arrive. The day was sunny and bright. We did chores and explored the farm before breakfast. Some of us met and fed the horses, and others fed the guinea pigs and helped in the garden. After, we ate breakfast. Before lunch, we fed the pigs, and saw the cows and llamas. We drank fresh water from a spring and took a walk. After lunch, we assembled and fitted bikes for the expedition, and milked cows. Once dinner had been finished, we had a spanish lesson with Liz. The next day, some of us carved wooden spoons and others roasted bread over a fire. After lunch, we packed for the expedition, which we would leave for the next day.

Biking, Camping and Otavalo

On the morning of the first day of expedition, we woke up early and packed the few things we had not and loaded them onto the bus that would take us to the starting point. On the way, we stopped at a town for a brief exploration and to wait for our bikes to arrive. Just as we started biking, it started to rain. We biked along the side of a canal towards a tunnel where we would eat lunch. Halfway there, it started to hail, but only for a short while. We ate lunch at the mouth of the tunnel, and then biked through it. After 20 minutes of riding through darkness and mud, we emerged on the other side in bright sunlight, the first we had seen all day. Next, we had to push our bikes up a hill towards the campsite that we would stay at. Once there, we met Roberto and the truck that had all our camping gear and food. As soon as we got the tents up, it started to rain again. The next morning, we all woke up to a cloudy sky. The forecast for the day was an 80% chance of rain from 6:00 on. We all prepared for the worst, and started biking, following the canal. By lunchtime, it hadn’t started raining. We got to camp, a field with some grass and sheep. After dinner, we started a bonfire with the thorny bushes that grew in the hedge. That night, it rained lightly. We got up early and packed up camp. We biked down a hill and met the bus that would take us to another town. Once there, we unloaded our bikes and rode to the town of Otavalo. On the way we experienced small Ecuadorian towns and briefly met their occupants. When we arrived at Otavalo, we were excited and proud of our biking expedition. We rode to the market, parked our bikes, and split up to eat lunch and buy souvenirs at the market. A few of us a lunch at a restaurant that Roberto had recommended. We all had fruit smoothies, which were delicious. Afterwards, we bargained for souvenirs at the market and got chocolate in the grocery store. Finally, we met our bus that would take us to San Clemente.

San Clemente

When we arrived at San Clemente, we were welcomed by Roberto’s father and a representative from our host families. We split up to our houses to eat dinner. At the house I stayed at, we had Cuy, or guinea pig. We roasted it over an open fire with a barbeque sauce. It was fantastic. After showers, we went to bed. In the morning, we helped cook breakfast, which was tortillas, fruit, and other foods. After breakfast, we helped the animals on the farm. Our host family taught us a game that we loved, even though we always lost. Around 10:00, we walked down to the school where we met everyone else. We played soccer with some of the students that attended the school. Before lunch, rode alpacas. Lunch was a potluck, all of the families had cooked something. The food was amazing. After lunch, we packed up, said goodbye and thank you to our host families, and got on the bus for the 3 hour trip back to Palugo farm.

Hot Springs and Goodbye

On the last day, we took a bus to a hot springs water park. There were a bunch of hot pools, and some cold ones. We took turns jumping in the freezing cold water and back into the hot water. Apparently, if you do this 7 times, you will be completely clean. After hot springs, we went back to the farm. The kids performed a skit for the adults of all of our favorite moments during the trip. It included herding cows, roasting hot dogs and the confusion between hot sauce and ketchup, biking in the hail, bargaining at the market, and soccer at San Clemente. We said goodbye to the people that we wouldn’t see in the morning, and went to bed. We woke up at 5:00 the next morning and packed our luggage in the bus that would drive to the airport. We said goodbye to Roberto, Thomas, and Noa. At least one of us didn’t want to leave. I could of stayed longer in Ecuador! It was a special trip!  –  By, Burton Townshend, Student

More biking inspiration!


Last year Nicole, Mathias (Gogi’s guides) and their daughter, Ayra, biked from Cusco to Lake Titicaca. Here are some beautiful photos and stories! Nicole will be guiding again this year in Peru! Also, Gogi now has bike packing trips in Ecuador~

El Taraumara is filled with stunning photos and adventures

Our Year Abroad


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My husband, our two boys and I spent this last year traveling to thirteen countries, an experience that was transformative and expansive on many levels. We began our adventure with the intention to connect with new cultures and people from all over the world, with special attention to water and natural resources. We experienced first hand how global warming is changing climate world wide, and how many cultures are feeling its effects.  As the director of Gogi Abroad, this year presented me with amazing opportunities to create new partnerships with like-minded communities.IMG_1492

We visited tribal villages and unique communities around the globe. It was life-changing to work alongside the farmers in Malaysia and to watch how they worked with their land and how they approached animal husbandry. One afternoon my son, Nathaniel, and I drove home on our moped and we stopped to observe the children working with the water buffalo in the rice fields. We saw how beautifully the community farmed together. Nathaniel observed, “I feel like we are living in the olden days; everyone works together with different tools, and the animals are almost part of the family.” This was a new feeling for us, a new perspective on farming as an aspect of communal living.IMG_2673

As we progressed to Vietnam and Myanmar, we hiked to tribal villages, and discovered that the people there lived with very few material things, no running water or electricity.  The entire village left a very small carbon footprint, and it became apparent that these were the people that suffer most from global warming.P1090698

The villagers had no calendar, or smartphone to analyze the weather patterns. They worked with the phases of the moon, and each generation passed their essential knowledge to younger members of their tribe:  knowledge of the of the planting season, when the rain would come and when to harvest depending on the blooming of different plants. The farmers and villagers were confused because the rain hasn’t been coming when it used to, and when it does, flooding often occurs.

Despite their obvious suffering due to the lack of a vital resource such as water, their community continued to find joy in daily living together. My nine year-old son, Asher, told me as we sat in the mountain village in Shan Myanmar, “I know what the universal language is.”

“Oh really?  I asked.  What is that?”

Asher replied with a smile, “It is laughter.”  We spent many hours with this particular Tai ethnic group and heard and shared much laughter over the simple things in life.  This was comforting to share something that was so fundamentally human.  Someone so different can be connected through the simplicity of laughter.  The Tai probably laugh more than people who have access to all the resources in the world.IMG_2486

This year of travel introduced us to sustainable models of managing essential resources such as water, food and animals in small tribes as in Tanzania, and in large ones as in Israel and Spain.  We observed cultures creating art which expressed their reality.  We were intrigued by their rituals for bringing children into their world, and to mark the coming of age, and establishing a sense of place in their tribe. We had a special Vermont connection that brought us to stay with a Maasai tribe in Longido, Tanzania. What a proud and timeless people!  Their culture has been intact for millennia. Eating freshly slaughtered and roasted goat in a tent at their weekly cattle market was a culinary experience that took us far out of our comfort zone.  We saw the Maasai in their red robes all over the countryside tending their flocks.  It was all such an indelible part of the landscape.  They, too, were feeling the scarcity from the effects of global warming as frequent droughts kill off large parts of their cattle herd.

I worked alongside the Maasai women at the beading cooperative.  I never expected to gain so much from an afternoon of bead making together.   There was intention in each bead, as if each bead had its own consciousness, and I was swept away into their sincerity, their world of scent, energy and call and response. This art form was deeply representative of their culture. After beading I was left with more questions about our world we live in and more profound questions of how one discovers a sense of place and identity in tribe.2016-03-24 16.22.00

How are people of different cultures coming together to manage their resources sustainably?   How are communities brought together in farming, and animal husbandry?  How are communities brought together in music, and in ritual?

The common thread through all of these questions and their answers became clear: it was connection through community.  

I believe there is hope for a new paradigm to emerge in the management of our planet’s natural resources, and in currently fraught international relations.  Our current models were grown from a seed that guaranteed their self destruction:  the seed of belief in separation, belief in fundamental disconnection from those whose ways of living differ from our own.IMG_9521

After this world tour my family and I learned what it is to know this sense of universal interconnectedness. Even though we didn’t speak all the languages, or understand all the cultural rules we did develop a sense of belonging through the experience of tribe, an awareness that all human beings are looking for the same things in life: collaboration, connection, and community.

Each time we arrived and settled into each new culture with its people and landscape, we began to see that, at our core, all human beings are the same. We are of one large tribe that has adapted to survive in different environments.  It is not only possible, but vital for the future of this world that our youth explore the concepts of tribal identity and to experience connection to our wider, human tribe, across cultural divides.P1090330

We need to allow the new to spring up from the compost of the old paradigms of “us” and “them” to replace the concept of “tolerance” with a sense of humility and appreciation for other cultures. Tolerance assumes there to be a difference at the fundamental level between people. The development and fostering of a sense of connection, on the other hand, is a more sustainable model.  Through world travel and cross-cultural engagement, we develop a more united perspective through experience of tribal art and social ritual.  We can work together as citizens of the earth, to share methods of managing vital resources such as water, as well as methods of farming, animal husbandry and food production for the benefit of all.

We had an amazing year of growth and travel together! We are grateful to everyone that opened their hearts and homes to us!

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