Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ecuador: Western Andean Slopes (Mindo)

Ecuador - Mindo Cloud Forests

Click above for all the photos.

The last place we visited in Ecuador was the town of Mindo, about a 2-hour drive north of Quito. We spent three nights at the Mindo Gardens lodge, which itself was a 45-minute walk from the center of the very small town of Mindo. Mindo is a one-street town with loads of eco-lodges, but little in the way of food. What the area does have going for it is extensive bird activity and zip-lines through the canopy of these high-altitude "cloud forests." Mindo is especially famous for one resident, the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Each morning (in secret places only the $100-per-person guides know about) dozens of the male COTRs gather to court lady birds. Rarely do the ladies show up, but it's supposed to be quite the spectacle. However, due to a lack of sufficient funding, we didn't get to see real live Cock-of-the-Rock. We did see lots of other great animals, though, which you can see by clicking through the album.

From Ecuador - Mindo Cloud Forests

From Ecuador - Mindo Cloud Forests

We also engaged in Mindo's other two activities: visiting the butterflies

From Ecuador - Mindo Cloud Forests

... and hurtling through the canopy on what I'm sure are very safe metal cables

From Ecuador - Mindo Cloud Forests

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ecuador: Parque Nacional Cajas

Photos here.

In our second week in Ecuador, we flew south from Quito to the lovely town of Cuenca (we'll have a separate post about that city some day). From Cuenca, we booked a tour to Parque Nacional Cajas, a highlands park notable for it's glacier-formed valleys, hundreds of lakes, and ancient "polylepis" forests.

We saw many cool birds, a bunny, hiked several the lagoons, and walked up to the second-highest point in the park, known as "Tres Cruces," where there is a memorial to the many Spaniards who died while trying to cross the Andes (elevation 13,670 ft.). Interestingly, Tres Cruces is also on the continental divide; which means every drop of water on one side of Tres Cruces flows toward the Pacific, while every drop that falls on the east side goes into the Amazonian basin (and then the south Atlantic).

Cajas' terrain is known as a "paramo" ... basically, high-elevation plains and bogs. It's actually quite similar to some of the terrain we saw above the tree line on the South Island of New Zealand:

From 28Mar07

Compare with Ecuador:

Pretty cool...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ecuador: Cotopaxi

All the photos here.

We took a guided day trip from Quito to the nearby national park around the Cotopaxi volcano. The tour company drove us and a few others out to the park, where we would stop below the volcano, at the park's very small museum, and finally, part way up the volcano. From about 3900 m, we would begin a 2 hour walk up to the edge of the glacier at about 5000 m (16,400 ft)... this is probably the highest altitude we've ever hiked to! There is a hut/refuge about half way up the trail to the glacier, where you can get outfitted to do the actual ice climbing to the summit after the sun goes down. We stopped here for lunch on the way down, but the food was bad and there wasn't enough for vegetarians. After lunch, we walked back to the bus and took an 11 km (almost 7 mile) mountain bike ride down the volcano to a lagoon near the park entrance. We also saw an Andean wolf (which is really a fox) and milked a cow! All in all, a very fun tour.

Interesting after story: On another day, we ran in to a woman who recently quit from the tour company we used to go to Cotopaxi. She complained that they underpaid their guides, skimped on food, and treated her terribly. So.... for those of you looking for a particular tour company to use if for Cotopaxi, we can't really recommend one, even though we had a good trip with ours.

Friday, October 29, 2010

More like this to come...

We are back in America now, and sometime this weekend, probably between World Series games 3 and 4, we'll have a more complete update with stories and pictures. Until then, let this whet your appetite. :)
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

An old photo from Quito

This is from our first night in Ecuador, when we met up with our friend who now lives in Berlin. We had dinner at El Arabe, a medeteranean place in the new part of Quito. Actually, this was one of the best meals we had here in Ecuador.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

cafe austria en cuenca, ecuador

Hanging with coffee and wireless at a very touristy place on a sunday morning...

graffitti (?) en cuenca, ecuador

More Ecuador

Still unable to post photos, but will do so quickly after returning to the States. Yesterday, we went to a high altitude national park in the Andes, Parque Nacional Cajas. It looked a lot like some of the alpine regions of New Zealand, but different in many ways, too. Today, we are going to a cloud forest in the north of the country.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quito, Ecuador

Blogging from Justine's Droid... so I appologize for the brevity. Also watching game 5.

Yesterday we went to the CENTER OF THE EARTH, also known as the location some guy first identified the equatorial position. Today, we climbed most of the way up the glaciated volcano, Cotopaxi (we peaked at 5000 meters... about 17000 feet), then rode mountain bikes down. Freakin awesome. We also milked a cow today. Squirt.

Food is lacking, but sights, scenery are great.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Yosemite National Park

We went to Yosemite National Park over the weekend... nothing big, just some car camping at Hodgdon Meadow near the Big Oak Flat entrance. We hiked part of the way up Yosemite Falls, but got a late start so we didn't finish. We also hiked down into Merced Grove, a small cluster of Sequoias that doesn't receive nearly the attention it probably deserves (though with bigger, more tourist-friendly areas like Mariposa Grove, I guess it's understandable). Anyway, here's some photos of our trip, including two amazing sunsets (I guess every sunset in Yosemite is amazing), and plenty of cute critters. Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Two Sierra summits in one day... We love California!

Yesterday, Justine and I went on a relatively short day hike from Donner Pass to the tops of Mt. Donner (where we ate lunch) and Mt. Judah. The Judah trail is supposed to be a loop, but the South side of the trail was snowed in, so we walked out the same way we walked in. One of the coolest things was actually this back tracking, since the afternoon heat significantly increased the flow of the snow melt, causing trails to turn into gushing slides and tiny trickles into full on water features! Click HERE for the pics.

Enjoy, and hope you all had a great 4th!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daylight savings ends.
How did my cats learn of this?
They let me sleep in.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010