Guandera Reserve

Guandera Reserve, high in the Andes Mountains of Northern Ecuador, was like an outpost in the sky. At 12,000 feet elevation, they couldn't grow anything on their farm but potatoes, the 75 maroon and purple and yellow varieties we dug out of the ground and poured into giant canvas sacks.  

A thousand feet below the farm, down in town, the residents were able to grow carrots and broccoli. We farm volunteers walked down there to work the fields and practice our Spanish. 

Other days we climbed high above our sky outpost, to the ridge a thousand feet above. There, in the few moments we had before the inevitable thunderstorm exploded above us, we searched for the Andean Spectacled Bear. Failing an actual bear sighting, we collected hairs to be sent away for DNA analysis from the spiny succulents that made up most of that vegetarian bears' diet.