Monday, January 31, 2011

Crossing the Equator

This is La Mitad Del Mundo. It may be touristy and a bit hoaky, but I am standing with one foot in each hemisphere. Actually with current GPS technology it turns out to be 240 meters from the actual equator, but since I walked up and down the walkway, at some point I was at the actual, carefully measured spot.

Is this my first crossing? NO. Twenty-five years ago Lin and I crossed the equator on the Mahakkan River in Indonesia. That was my first crossing. Lin's first crossing was during his Destroyer duty in the Pacific.

The stop at La Mitad del Mundo was on our way to the rainforest at Mindo.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

hummingbirds and flowers

Here are some more pictures from the Cloud Forest region, which is west of Quito and a tiny bit north. The elevation is about half way between the coast and Quito, making it warmer and more humid, but not bad. The parrot liked my earrings.

Banana flower above. Below, check out the super tail and the slippered feet of the Booted Racquet Tail Hummingbird.

Orchids grow wild here.

When I see Hummingbirds in the states they are usually so territorial they don't allow anyone else at the feeder. Here we have three varieties feeding at the same time.

Our lodgings in Mindo afforded great views of hundreds of hummingbirds representing some of the dozens which live in Ecuador. I saw 7 different varieties, maybe more although I need to check a guide book to make sure of the additional ones and varify that it is another species and not female or young of one I know I saw. Another treat was a Black and White Owl.
I have a few in flight which I will post later on.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


We spent two days in the rainforest near Mindo. It is an incredible place for birds and butterflies. I'll post photos for you to get an idea of what I saw. Check out the eye and snake head camoflage on the butterfly above.

In Spanish it is "mariposa." In English, these are called "butterflies," or as a childhood friend called them, "flutterbys."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quito, Ecuador

I arrived in Quito Sunday evening. My friends Ana Maria and Ted met me at the airport and took me to their home in the city. It is delightful. We are in a condominimum overlooking the city.

Quito is my base. I have been into town, and on a two day trip to Papallacta, a hot spring area, a couple hours from the city. The three of us stopped along the way at the country home Ana Maria sold only recently, a pleasant small home set amongst an avocado grove. We visited neighbors, and headed to the next town , Puembo, for lunch. But before we had a chance to get to the restaurant (a hacienda\inn\restaurant complex) Ted spotted hats bobbing behind a wall. He expected it to be school kids practicing dancing.

Well, it was dance practicing, but it was an event through the local senior citizen organization. The women were practicing for an upcoming exibition in another town. I was welcomed in to photograph and soon the young director of the community center asked me if I would do a group photo of all the women in the pretty town square. After two of the instructors changed from casual clothes into their dance dresses, off we all went.

I have made copies of some of the photos, and enough copies of the group photo, for each of the women. AnaMaria and Ted are delivering the photos to the town. There was one enlargment for them to display at the center.

We followed the photo session with a super lunch and then headed to the hot spring resort. The scenery was spectacular and we crossed a pass at about 12,000 feet in elevation. I took some photos but Ecuadorian roads don't have pullouts nor wide shoulders. We did find a pull out at a shrine at the top and Volcan Antisana was partially visible through the clouds. The next day it was clear and bright which Ana Maria tells me is a rare event. I feel most fortunate.
We soaked in the clear hot waters of Papallacta hot springs. There are similiarities to El Dorado Hot Springs in Arizona where I worked a couple of winters. The hot water is pumped up from a subterrainian source into pools. Like the hot waters in Arizona these are not sulferous, but do contain small amounts of lithium, silica, magnesium, and calcium. The waters are super clear, smooth and pleasant. I am not sure what the temperature is when it first comes out of the ground but one pool had reached 115 degrees F. and they were in the process of adding cold water.

We soaked. We wandered through the facilities, we soaked some more, ate dinner, rested and then Ted and I had a night soak. In the morning we soaked again before breakfast.

Ecuador has one of the largest numbers of hummingbird species in the world. I saw my first Giant Hummingbird. The body is about the size of a karge sparrow, definintely larger than any hummningbird I have ever seen.

We will spend a few days in Quito, attend a family birthday party for Ted and one of Ana Maria's sisters and then we head to Mindo and the Cloud Forest, an area of superb birdwatching. But more on that after that adventure.

Below is a view of Antisana, part of the volcanic chain through the Ecudorian Andes. This photo was taken on our return trip, the day the clouds parted enough to see all of the mountain's top.