My last day in the land of soups and fresh juices in many flavors you can only imagine. Today consisted of classes, and the two buses and a taxi to wait for my early flight at 12:30am. One of the rides was on very windy roads, so I'm glad to be stationary for a bit!
28 January 2016
Today we took the motorized canoe upstream to hike up to a waterfall with a swimming hole (pictured - also pictured are the plants growing in the mist of the falls) - I could only get in waste deep as I'm a wimp and the water was too cold. The ficus tree pictured is probably 300 years old. Other pictures include a cacao tree with its fruit and a colorful grasshopper on the leaf. Later we I retuned back down the Napo River. And now I have a sunburn to end my trip! :$
27 January 2016
This morning we went to a Kichwa community called Tiyu Yacu to learn about the culture. We learned how chicha is made - fermented yucca that they commonly drink. We got our faces painted with achiote (seeds used for the color are pictured). The painting will protect me from bad energy. :) We watched how ceramics are made and painted - I bought two bowls. Then we learned about blowguns, and I did quit well on my first two tries (pictured- poor parrot!). Then we watched them pan for gold - it takes two days to get about one gram, which they sell for about $24. Also pictured: Gisella my teacher getting her face painted, the motorized canoe we took to get to the community on the Napo River.
26 January 2016
We went on a guided nature walk to learn about the plants and some animals - all in Spanish so I think I understood about half! I ate some ants that taste like lime. Saw many butterflies. Did I say it was humid? I am constantly sweating. I forgot to mention that soup is very popular in Ecuador, so I've had some tasty soups - kale, eggplant, etc. Learned a lot about the many celebrations in Ecuador during my lessons. Sorry for the stream of stream of consciousness, but am typing on my phone!
25 January 2016
After dinner we watched and helped prepare chocolate. First the seeds dry for four days, then they're roasted for about 25 min, and then you peel each seed. Then you grind the seeds and mix with sugar and milk (it is very bitter plain!) Heat up again and done! Now I am watching and hearing bats on their nightly hunt. :) There is a group of about 20 French people which is messing up my Spanish!
After a noisy night in a hotel facing the main drag in Tena, I am very happy to be at our lodge (Cotococha) where it is more peaceful. I think I've seen a Roadside Hawk and a Boat-billed Flycatcher from my patio (overlooking the Napo river with a great perching tree - pictured). But it's hard to know if I am getting the right ID now that I don't have a guide to confirm it! My stomach has been unhappy for the last few days so I am not too happy to eat, but the food so far here is excellent. Already brushing up on Spanish in the Amazon heat and humidity! Enjoyed a nice evening swim and am now watching a guy fish in the river by tossing a net. We don't have electricity so I will have early nights! (Also pictured is a ginger plant.)
24 January 2016
First morning I got to sleep in, and of course I woke up at 5:30am! Luckily I was able to go back to sleep! Met my teacher, Gisella, at the bus station for our bus to Tena. After a week here I still get anxious with new things! Gisella is very nice and speaks at a pace I can comprehend so looking forward to brushing the cobwebs off my Spanish! It was a beautiful drive up up up out of Quito through the Andes to the Amazon. My bus pictures couldn't do it justice so not posting photos. We were greeted by heat and some rain. I just may have to post the rest of my trip in Spanish and have you google translate si no entiendas! :)
23 January 2016
Then we went to the famous market in Otavalo where locals and tourists go to buy all sorts of goods. They have a traditional outfit that many wear (pictured for sale and on a few folks) and the women can change how the scarf is on their shoulders to indicate marital status. We decided to check out the church and happened upon a wedding! (pictured). Then we went to Cotacachi Mountain to see Cuicocha lake (pictured).
I was so tired yesterday that I almost decided not to go on my day trip today. So glad I did it! We drove where they grow avocados, tree tomatoes, and roses. We also stopped at a monument and giant sun dial on the equator where we learned that they have used the sun track maps to search for archeological sites, and found some pre-Incan sites. We ate bizcochos - a type of biscuit known in Cayambe (pictured - folks making them). We learned that Panama hats are really from Ecuador and called Montechristi hats - where they were made.
A rabbit lives at the Hostal I am staying at in Quito.
22 January 2016
My guide met me to take the bus and a car to Pasachoa. He did not speak much English so it was a challenging day, although later found out he knew most words if I asked! Hiked up near Pasachoa peak (pictured) at about 12,500 ft which was a challenge, especially on some of the steep stretches. The slight hump on the ridge to the left of the peak right above my shoulder is where we ended. We were hoping to get a view of Cotopaxi but did not. I am happy we are coming down! I love how the clouds look alongside the mountains.
21 January 2016
My last day on the birding tour! Great morning at Refugio Paz de las Aves where the owners have trained Antpittas (very elusive birds!) to come when called for worms. It's crazy! Saw three Antpitta species - Giant, Yellow-breasted, and Chestnut-headed - plus Andean Cock-of-the-rock displaying and calling (pictured). Arrived in Quito early afternoon to workout and relax. It was a great group with lots of laughs and a great tour. Pictured: our guide Andres; a Crested Guan found as abandoned eggs and trained to ride motorcycles (kidding!), and Powerful Woodpecker with a beautiful double knock (google it!)
20 January 2016
The weather cleared after lunch so we could appreciate the view from our lunch spot (pictured). Saw some neat butterflies. I love the way the fern pictured looks! The colors on the Velvet-purple Coronet (the hummingbird pictured) were breathtaking!
We had a rainy start to our morning; we are spending this entire tour in the Choco bioregion known for its rain! So we spent much of it at hummingbird and fruit feeders (we're pictured watching the feeders). Great views of Glistening-green Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanagers, and Crimson-rumped Toucanet (pictured at a fruit feeder). This emaciated puppy followed me to the feeders - he looked so sad and hungry. We saw this tarantula wasp (pictured) fly around and land (it was as big as my palm!) We also saw a Tayra (a type of weasel, but very large!) stealthily steal the bananas off of the feeders! It was too quick to photograph!
19 January 2016
Lots of little birds today! Grass-green Tanager, Cinnamon Flycatcher (pictured), and many others! Ended the night after dusk seeing and hearing a Great Potoo and fireflies! We had tree tomato for dessert tonight (pictured).
Look whose book is at our lodge!
18 January 2016
Fantastic end to our day. Found a Club-winged Manakin displaying (heard many others). Google this for a video! Walked through the forest to find another type of manakin with no luck (forest pictured). Saw a Masked Water-tyrant displaying. Ended our day with a Golden-headed Quetzal in plain view and at dusk a Lyre-tailed Nightjar displaying! What a special day! Pictured is a Green-crowned Brilliant.
Left at 530am to Rio Silanche (view of the river from our lunch spot pictured) for more time in the cloud forest. We climbed up about a 3-story tower to birdwatch with less neck strain! We kept hearing a Barred Puffbird (brown bird pictured) calling and searched for a while then found it plainly visible on a branch. Later we found a Red-capped Manakin (pictured) sitting in plain view.
17 January 2016
We had a rainy afternoon so went to another lodge to watch about 10 hummingbird feeders and fruit feeders. It actually was exhausting to try to keep focus with the constant flitting of probably at least 50 hummingbirds, but was a great end to the day!
Our guide got really excited when we thought we found a Fork-tailed Flycatcher flying around, but upon a closer look found it was a swallow with moss trailing from it. We all had a great laugh!
Started at 545am with a 5-minute walk to a blind on Tandayapa Bird Lodge property (where we are staying) to wait for dawn activity. Got predawn glimpses of Scaled Antpitta eating worms left for them. A Strong-billed Woodcreeper flew in (about the size of a flicker!) and feasted on the bugs by catching them and smacking them against the trees, and even climbed up the screen right next to me pulling on it like it wanted to come in.
Hummingbirds at our lodge; we've seen many of them! Birds pictured are: Toucan Barbet, Violet-tailed Sylph (with the long iridescent tail), and Buff-tailed Coronet.
This butterfly hitched a ride for quite awhile, and had its proboscis out feeling the backpack. (Wish I could post videos here!) Then it flew away and landed on two others for a shorter ride.
16 January 2016
Taking small bird pics with my phone is hard but see my first digi scope of a Slaty-backed Chat-tyrant! Highlights today were: Violet-tailed Sylph, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Streak-headed Antbird, White-capped Dipper, and Black-chested Mountain-Tanager...and many more! The number of species are overwhelming and difficult to keep track of!
I got distracted by the many flowers, bugs (check out the blue one in the photo!) and fungi. Photos 3, 6, and 9 are orchids and the rest I'll have to look up later.
530am start to get to Yanacocha. Beautiful Andes scenery along the way and in the park. The last picture is Pichincha mountain and on the other side is Quito. We're a group of 6 and everyone is really fun and interesting. And one is the spitting image of my fried Rod which is really strange!
15 January 2016
Andes sunrise. The texture and greens of the Andes have a hypnotic effect on me. Hope to capture an image to do it some justice soon!
14 January 2016
You have to wonder if everyone could actually get out in an emergency!
It's always odd to me how much I love to travel, yet I always get really anxious a few hours before my flight!