Quilotoa, Central Highlands

Visiting the Quilotoa crater from Black Sheep Inn was an easy 45 minute jeep ride. Once at Quilotoa the views were spectacular. We had been thinking we would walk to a neighbouring town Guayama, but decided on the day to take a good look round the crater instead. We walked part way round the ridge and then did the descent. It was pretty steep but the views were amazing.

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On the road to Cotopaxi Province

I hadn’t really thought about the drive from Quito to Black Sheep Inn, just that it was going to take about three to four hours. So the fabulous scenery on the trip to the Central Highlands was a bonus. Complete with Ecuadorian music and then disco hits of the 70s as the soundtrack. Good driving music in anyone’s language, obviously. And our driver was a local which was handy – it was a pretty windy road as we got closer to Chugchilán, and in a couple of places landslides had rendered the road one lane. After stunning mountain views the last 30 minutes of the trip was slow as visibility was minimal due to the afternoon cloud rolling in.

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The middle of the world – Quito

La Mitad del Mundo is part historic locale, part geographical must go, part kitchy tourist trap. You definitely have to visit if you are in Quito. It is well documented by various killjoys that the site is not quite actually the true equator, which is 240m north of the yellow line – but who cares! Although, I was a bit sad to discover that the whole thing of water moving in opposite directions depending on what side of the equator you’re on is (for small scale operations) bollocks. Since our guide book was published, it seems that there are a number of additional venues besides the Equatorial monument, museum, and pseudo (souvenir shop) village to explore. One of these additions, in the building labelled ‘Francia’, is a museum explaining the history of the scientific expeditions which led to the identification of the equator and proof of the theory that the world bulges in the middle, and not at the poles.

If you’re there at lunchtime I recommend selecting one of the cafes that looks towards the monument, and enjoy watching people’s photo setups incorporating the equatorial line.

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The Middle of the World monument
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View from the top

 

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Llamas! Tranquilo Ecuadorian ones. 
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One of several beautiful globes in the Scientific Expedition museum
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A beautiful celestial globe
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The amazing UN building next door to the middle of the world. 

Pichincha views, Quito

Waking up to a spectacularly clear day, we decided it was the day for a ride up the mountain in the Teleferico (cable car). We had glimpses of Cotopaxi on the way up, at around 10 am, and a clear view of the mountains to the north. At the top it was relatively tourist free, very tranquillo and beautiful. Three hours are recommended for a walk to the very top – so we aimed instead for a gentle amble on some of the trails closer to the Teleferico. Having been in Quito for a while now we didn’t find the altitude too limiting, although few people around us were puffing as they walked about. For extreme cases there is a handy oxygen bar in the main building next to the Teleferico arrival point.

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View down to Quito town
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Oxygen bar
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Chocho bush (lupins), Pichincha. The cooked beans are a local snack. 
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View to Ruku Pichincha
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Vocan Cayambe

 

Rumipamba, Quito

We took the opportunity to go on an excursion to an archeological site within the city of Quito, Rumipamba. The site is still being excavated and part of the park was closed due to ongoing work. As with many such sites, you can’t actually see the richness of the finds. The interpretive centre helps identify the importance of the area for the non-expert (ie me). We are talking finds from 1500 BC. There are some reconstructed huts that give the flavour of the kinds of dwellings found here centuries ago. But I wonder – why did the population keep on returning when volcanic eruptions kept destroying their villages?

The place has wonderful views of Quito, today very tranquillo: and we saw a few hummingbirds as well – one with a spectacularly long tail. (M says it was a black tailed trainbearer).

A walk in Guápulo Parque – Quito

One of the lovely things about being in a holiday destination for an extended time is that you have the luxury of doing ‘normal’ things – like going for a walk without a particular tourist must-see in mind. We took a stroll down to Guápulo park, which has one of the steepest paths I’ve been on in a city park. It was kind of like home with all the eucalpts, flowering callistemon and wattle trees.  But not really. I am enjoying surprising Ecuadorians by telling them that eucalypts are ‘de Australia.’

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Alambi Cloud Forest – Día 2

After experiencing Refugio Paz de las aves, we headed back to Alambi Lodge. Jairo filled the bird feeders, we had breakfast and then we headed up the road to see what we could see.

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Spot the Purple Throated Woodstar (female) ready to dive in

The weather was fine, so we parked and walked for more bird spotting, including hiking up the road to the San Jose waterfall. We finished off our visit with a wonderful lunch of rainbow trout from one of the nearby farms before heading back to the city.

Although I love walking in the country and admiring beautiful birds, I am not much of a birder. But staying for a night at Alambi and having many opportunities to see not only hummingbirds but many other species as well, coupled with Jairo’s enthusiam and knowledge, even had me remembering bird names and hoping we would see the species Jairo could hear calling in the forest. The Beryl Spangled Tanger was a particular favourite – what a great name. Also the Booted Racket tail – you should see the fluffy ‘boots’ of the male … oh no, what’s happening to me…

Walking the Alambi Cloud Forest – special twitching

At 5.30am M, Jairo and I head off to the special bird hide at Refugio Paz de las Aves. It’s dark, and the road is wet. Jairo drives cautiously as there have been reports of landslides on the same road which heads back to Quito in the other direction – when there’s a lot of rainfall it’s a regular occurrence. At least it’s not raining now. After about 25 minutes we head up a boggy track and park in what seems like the middle of nowhere. We head down a narrow, steep and muddy track to the bird hide. As we head to the hide we can hear a loud racket – the male cock of the rock birds (Gallo de la Peña) are in their lek, the place they gather to carry on in an attempt to attract a female.

From time to time the birds are close enough that you can see them without binocs. They are such unique looking birds, it’s fantastic to see them in the wild.  We also see Quetzals and a Trogon. We’re lucky that most of the time we have the hide to ourselves – only one other couple with fancy cameras and their guide are there for part of the morning. We get to meet the owner of the place, Angel Paz, aka the bird whisperer, an ex-logger who now realises the value of conservation. His neighbours still can’t believe that people pay money to come and see birds. On our drive out of the reserve we stop to admire a number of other birds easily seen on the property. A great way to start the morning and all before breakfast.

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In position before day break
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View of the bird hide
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Andean Cock of the Rock (male). M took this with just a little compact camera.
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View of the mountains on the way home for breakfast