Saturday 6 October 2012

Ecuador Part 1

Ecuador tour – Part 1 – August 2012.

1.      Long flights, lost luggage, freezing cold (yes, even at the equator!)

We started well from Heathrow after the taxi dropped us off. A long flight to Miami, followed by one to Quito, where, after delays, we arrived at 23.30 on Tuesday 31 July, dog tired. We waited for our cases, which didn’t appear, though many of the locals had trolleys piled high with 6 or 8 really large cases. We were really worried as we had never lost any cases before, but, as we made our claim to American Airlines and spoke to others, it became clear that non-arrival of luggage was commonplace. They simply didn’t have room on the plane for all the cases.
Giant antpitta
We had only the clothes we stood up in, and I had only flight socks (those knee-length, tight socks to prevent blood clots). At 00.30 we left the airport, relieved to find that our taxi driver had waited for us. We were soon at the hotel and asleep. We were woken by a call at about 5.45 from Gustavo, the guide, inviting us down to breakfast. He thought our cases would turn up in a day or two! In the meantime, I had no tripod, and neither of us had anything else! It was quite unsettling. However, as we made our way to the Bellavista Lodge in the cloud forest, all worries about lost suitcases were temporarily forgotten!

Red-headed barbet

Quito is about 2,800m high so it wasn’t that warm. Just as well! At least we didn’t sweat very much and start to smell!

Andean condor
Our group was small, only 5, plus Gustavo and our driver. It was a nice number for birdwatching. Too many and those at the back of the group often arrive too late to see a bird.
Great saphirewing

We drove out of Quito, stopping occasionally to search an area for birds. One of the rarest on the first day was the Andean condor which we were lucky enough to see in flight on the first morning. Photographically, those first two days were frustrating. I had my camera, but no tripod! I had my battery charger but no cable! Hand-holding a camera weighing 5.5Kg isn’t easy for more than a minute or two. Keeping it still to take a picture is even harder.
Here we are on a high mountain path in the Andes
Bellavista Lodge was also high, at about 2,300m in the Tandayapa Valley, about 2 hours North West from Quito if you took the fast route. We took all day, naturally. This map shows where the reserve (coloured green) is in relation to the capital:
Bellavista Lodge (in green) high in the Andes
The Lodge was quite remote and natural. Our room was basic but attractive. We both had a shower and dressed again in the same clothes before going to dinner. The cloud forest lived up to its name and it rained quite a lot. One of the receptionists lent me a cable so I could charge my camera battery. Gustavo rang American Airlines. There was only an answering machine. Gustavo told them we were leaving the following afternoon and that if they didn’t send our cases soon, they would have to deliver them to somewhere much further away!! It was true.
Our room at Bellavista Lodge
On Thursday 2 August, we woke at 5 and left at 5.30. This was to be the pattern for the whole holiday. We had a packed breakfast and spent the morning birdwatching around the lodge. This was very enjoyable and took our minds off the subject of cases. As soon as we stopped and came back to the lodge for lunch, the thought of having to manage without our luggage loomed large again. Fortunately, while we were out that morning a taxi had arrived from Quito with our cases. We were over the moon! We had a shower, changed into clean clothes, I assembled my tripod and we went out twice as happy as before lunch. What a relief!
Dining room at Bellavista Lodge
We then loaded the van and made our way to another high area, Sachatamia Lodge. We arrived as darkness fell but there was enough light to see that this was a haven for hummingbirds!

Ecuador - Part 2    
Ecuador - Part 3
Ecuador - Part 4

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