The Mindo Cloud Forest

 

It’s just how it sounds. A forest in the clouds. But this is the dry season and we have been blessed with blue skies.

We have been birding and trekking through the mountainous forest. Words can not begin to describe the beauty of this place.

Here are a few of the birds I have seen and photographed.

 

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Stay Tuned. The Adventure Continues.

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Yes, It’s An Active Volcano

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The first day in Ecuador was very eventful. I saw an Andean Condor and went from the high Andean cloud forest down to a tropical rain forest valley. This is the most incredibly rugged place I have ever seen. Truly breathtaking. The mountains are huge and the canyons and ravines are as steep and deep as the mountains are high.

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Heading South at 37,000 ft.

Next stop Quito, Ecuador

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Why I’m Traveling To Ecuador (Part 4)

The Galapagos Islands:

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The Galapagos were born from volcanoes erupting violently out of the sea. Plant and animal species traversed 1000km of ocean to colonize the islands, leaving species isolated and evolving independently on different islands. Observing this had a resounding impact on the formations of Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Even though the Galapagos is on the Equator and is on the sea level, the climate on the Galapagos is not tropical. The Galapagos Geology makes the major islands have their own climate change, for example in Santa Cruz Island on the sea level it can be hot and sunny, and on the highlands can be cold and windy.

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The Fun Begins In 2 Days

 

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What To Eat????

While traveling to another country will always bring about new digestive experiences. It’s something every human does, eat. So instead of looking for the Euro/American food I plan to eat what I can from the locals. Here are a few of the treats Ecuador has to offer. Looks like Ecuador is like the Louisiana of South American with a wide range of food and flavors.

Drinks

Jugo natural – freshly squeezed juice.   Unbeatable.  
Unusual varieties include:
Tomate de arbol – literally tree tomato, similar in shape to a plum tomato, but much sweeter.
Naranjilla – bitter orange, too sour to eat in its solid form, but the thick green juice is delicious.
Mora con guanabana – blackberry mixed with a thick white juice reminiscent of pear. 
Mora – blackberry, usually nice and sweet
Canelazo – a brew of cinnamon and naranjilla, served hot, often with a shot of aguardiente poured in.
Cafe – Ecuador exports its best coffee, and Nescafe or a brew from beans that didn’t meet export standards is often served.   Café pasado is a thick coffee reduction, served with hot water or milk to dilute.
Oregano Tea – Good for upset stomachs.
 

Andean Specialities

Cuy – guinea pig, a typical dish of the Northern Sierra
Fritada – chunks of fried pork, typically served with a thick slice of avocado, fried sweet plantain, corn, hominy and llapingachos (see below).  
Carne colorado – translating as “colored meat,” the dish is chopped steak colored red with annato.   El Meson de las Flores in Cotacachi is reputed the birthplace.  
Hornado – literally means baked, usually refers to roast pork.
Llapingachos – cheese and potato patties, served throughout the Sierra, but Ambato claims to have the best.
Seco de chivo – literally goat stew, but oddly enough usually prepared with lamb, and served with yellow rice.
Locro – proving the adage of the sum being greater than the parts, the creamy potato and cheese soup is not to be missed. It is also sometimes served with avocado. 
Empanadas – both the fillings and the dough differ in composition than many of their South American counterparts (there are casual restaurants and food stands that specialize in the Chilean and Bolivian cousins).
Empanadas de verde –dough made of green plantains, typically filled with cheese.
Empanadas de morocho – dough made of white corn (morocho), typically stuffed with ground beef.
Empanadas de viento – an airy plate-sized empanada of white flour dough with a cheese filling and a dash of sugar sprinkled on top.
 

Seafood

Ceviche – a popular dish throughout Latin America, Ecuador’s version is soupier than in neighboring countries, and served with popcorn and corn nuts.   Tossing the popcorn in a bit at a time so it doesn’t get soggy, they provide a crunchy contrast to chewy seafood.
Unlike many other countries, Ecuadorian restaurants typically cook the seafood first – which may take a bit of the edge off the tasting adventure, but helps avoid any seafood revenge.  
Camaron – shrimp (Ecuador’s third-largest export industry).
Vuelva a La Vida – translating as “back to life,” and allegedly the cure for a hangover, this ceviche is typically a combination of shrimp, oysters and Shellfish 

Fruit

Fresh fruit is cheap, plentiful and delicious. There are good unusual local fruits and introduced fruits. Some include:
Pineapple
Guava
Melon
Passion Fruit – It’s worth trying as many types of passion fruit as possible in the local markets.
Bananas – Again try to find different varieties in the markets

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Why I’mTraveling To Ecuador (Part 3)

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The Amazon Jungle

Covering approximately 12’000,000 H., the major area of the Ecuadorian Amazon supports exuberant vegetation that is typical of humid tropical forests, its western limit is the Andes Mountain Range, Peru lies to the south and Colombia to the north.

Immense quantities of material flowing from the Andes have been washed down the rivers, forming strips of alluvial soils and terraces that are used for farming.

The annual average temperature falls between 25° and 25,5° F. Between 300 and 400 cm. of rainfall are distributed more or less equally throughout the year, although December through February are the drier months.

The principal attraction of the hilly forest is, of course, the trees, some soaring higher than 46 m. Common species are cinnamon, silkcotton, jacaranda and several leguminous trees. The alluvial plains, located on the terraces of the principal rives, support great concentrations of palm trees.

The principal Amazon artery for visitors is the Napo River, a major tributary of the main Amazon River. Its basin is 1400 Km. long and one to three miles wide. As a result of fluvial dynamics, the Napo’s 130 islands are covered by young forests, which provide refuge and nesting sites for a multitude of bird species, many of them migratory.

Along the length of the Napo, natives and settlers have established communities, intersperced occasionally with small hotels and lodges. Most of the shore is covered with tropical forest, and over thousands of years, riverbeds have formed many attractive lakes.

Historically, the indigenous communities have been able to maintain a productive subsistence within the existing ecosystems of vast forest preserve. The most representative are: the Siona­ Secoya, Cofan, Huaorani, Quichua, Shuar and Ashuar.

The Amazonas ecosystem, particularly its tropical rain forest, is considered to be one of the richest and most complex communities of plant and animal life in the world. The region is characterized by huge and diverse amounts of flora and fauna with extraordinary variations in their habitats and micro­ habitats.

In the jungles of the Upper Amazon 100 species of trees per acre habe been recorded. In Central America, only up to 40 species per acre have been discovered. In the temperate forests of North America and Europa, rarely more than 20 different species exist per acre.

The Amazon’s rivers, lakes, streams and marshlands support over 600 species of fish and more than 250 species of amphibians and reptiles. The lagoons of the Napo and Aguarico River basins are home to colonies of two species of caymans that grow to over 13 feet in length.

Typical South American mammals which live in Ecuador’s Amazon include armadillos, honey bears and sloths. Amazon bats form a cosmopolitan group numbering more than 60 species. Other mammals found in the tropical forest include tapirs, monkeys, and ocelots (or jaguars). On a walk through the forest, you will observe groups of monkeys, boars and large rodents; and in the lagoons there are manatees and caymans.

The Adventure Begins In 5 Days

 

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Have Camera Will Travel

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Yesterday I picked up my camera rig for the trip. I got an entry level Nikon D3100 and three lenses, 18-55mm, 55-200mm and a 70-300mm.

So I was up early this morning with nervous anticipation to try the new rig out. I went to the wilds of the Bonne Carre Spillway to see what I could find. I was looking forward to using the RAW picture format so I could take advantage of the digital darkroom software I have. I’m glad I did because I was plagued with low light conditions. I quikly found out that low light = high ISO’s, and slow shutter speeds. But this was great because it’s the kind of conditions I am going to encounter in the Andean Cloud Forest of Ecuador.

It was off to the races lierally as I was chased out of one location by an impassible road and an ominous thunderstorm. Then I raced the rain back to my next location. I spent two hours in the wilderness running from dog packs, dodging bullets, and snapping photos. I took 64 pictures in all.

Then it was back to the digital darkroom.

Birds Viewed: Red Wing Black Birds (Male and Female), White Ibis, White Heron, Great Blue Heron, Gray Kingbird (Added this one to the Life List), and a fly-by, by some ducks (Resident Mallards I think).

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Here are my locations from the Spot GPS

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Great Blue Heron

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Red Wing Blackbird (Male and Female)

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Gray Kingbird

Here is the link all the ones I proccesed in the digital darkroom.

or view all 18 items as a slideshow

The adventure begins in 7 days

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