Volunteer Activities and Ecuador Explorations

This year there were half a dozen volunteers from the US, including H & H president Sandy Ross and husband, California Academy of Science's entomologist, Dr. Ed Ross.

They spent six weeks at Butterfly Lodge welcoming different groups of guests, including a renowned audiologist who was collecting sounds of nature. (Of course the rainforest is very melodious). Author Sara Godwin came to gather material for a book. A producer of educational media came to see the source of many of the photos by Ed Ross used in his rainforest presentations.

Loyal H & H volunteer grant writer, Apryl Owens, flew into Quito. She made the 6 hour trans Andean journey with H & H's driver, enjoying first the high Paramo, then exotic cloud forest, and finally descending into our rainforest area at the headwaters of the Amazon's major tributary, the Napo.

Apryl loved meeting staff members, about whom she had heard so much. Her scientific talents were put to use when she and Sandy - along with long time employee Dario Cerda - investigated the eco-lodge's sewage disposal system, learning first hand the meaning of "Schmutzdeker".

After the spectacular rainforest, they re-crossed the Andes and set out for the West, to visit Valdivia - an ancient site recently discovered. Located near the equator, this magical site was home to people who arrived about 4,500 BC and dispersed around 1,800 BC. This was America's first civilization!

Hitherto unknown and just beginning to be understood, Valdivians practiced a shamanism that appears to be closely related to that of Siberia. There is some theory that these people left ancient Europe, crossed the Bering land bridge, and descended all the way to the Amazon.

There they established themselves, learning the plants that they later brought over the Andes to the Ecuador's west coast. These first American astronomers left records in stone which Alex calls "Cosmograms", a term referring to ideograms related to space. This pictographic writing system, the first in America, is about the inherent relationship between the stars and Earth.

Symbols later used throughout South and Central America can be traced back to these Valdivian renderings. April and Sandy actually got to climb Astronomer's Hill and find pieces of broken Cosmograms and other artifacts with their own hands. This brought to life a collection of Cosmograms, sacred owls and other Shamanic figures seen in a private museum in Quito.

The experience reinforced Apryl's commitment to help raise the needed $25,000 to buy the sacred and scientifically important site.

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