The pad was acting weird again last night so I didn’t post then. It has regained its sanity. We had a gorgeous bus ride from Mindo to Quito yesterday, it passed through Andes covered with cloud forests. We wanted to get out and hike!
Quito is a beautiful city. It is set in the mountains at 9000 feet-thed highest capital in the world! Many peaks are visible from here,and there are colorful neighborhoods high on the slopes.
Today we took a city tour that led us to a an active crater where people farm on the bottom. It is spectacular. When I asked the guide why people choose to live there he laughed in a perplexed way, and mentioned that the soil is rich. People raise many crops,especially potatoes, and cattle graze. I would call it living on the edge though.
We also visited Mitad del Mundo, a place that celebrates the equator. You can stand with one for on each side of a yellow line that represents the equator- that only thing is that the actual equator is about 50 meters to the north. It sounds likes people thought this was the actual equator until more accurate measurements were made. It is touristy, but interesting- there are historic, scientific, and cultural exhibits. We had wonderful Columbian potato soup with avocado and a nut salad for dinner, followed by the best chocolate I have ever eaten. Hasta lleugo, mas manana.
The pad I am using was going nuts last night, so there was no post then.We are in Mindo, a peaceful and beautiful town in the Andes cloud forests north of Quito. We had an astounding hike today. This cloud forest is made of leaves of all shapes, especially ovals, diamonds, triangles, hearts. It abounds in bromeliads, plants that grow where organic matter has gathered on trees’ branches. Yellow, crimson, and white flowers show up where you don’t expect them, along with white and yellow mushrooms. The world here is made from bird songs and calls- “Tree tree tree tree”, ” oldmcDONald”, “doyourREsearch”, and more. You wouldn’t believe how many butterflies, including some with clear wings to make it hard for birds to see them. An armadillo scurried past us, and I am fairly sure I spotted a quickly moving monkey.
We also took an evening hike in a preserve that protects amphibians. Frogs were on the backs of large leaves, in holes, on tree trunks, and their calls were thunderous – especially the ones that sound like chickens. Yes they do! We will return to Quito tomorrow for the trip’s end Jan. 10. We planned to have much of the day here, leaving mid afternoon, but it is raining! Aarghh! It is nice in the cabin tonight, with loud frogs around us.
Today we worked with Clay, who works with Planet Drum Foundation to raise trees for food, to prevent erosion, and to create habitat. We built a compost pile with Clay and others.We talked about the difficulty of hope in today’s world. He said the earthquake was devastating, but confirmed that there is corruption in government and useless projects here. We shared a question of how Yanqui idealists are seen in the rest of the world. I mentioned Rural Community Tourism, which is a project of Costa Ricans, and said local efforts are effective. He talked about how Ecuador tries to make sure everybody can survive, but is in debt to Chinese oil and mining interests for these funds, and that drilling and mining in the Amazon are bad news. A sad but real conversation, there was a lot more, of course. I will try to leave you and me with a sense of hope.
Today we visited Isla de Corazon, a mangrove swamp that is administered and protected by a local community. They fish, raise shrimp, gather oysters and protect the mangrove forest, which shields the coast from storms and is a habitat for many critters. We saw frigate birds, pelicans, egrets, herons, ibises, cormorants, and more, and many of each species. Beautiful place! I have never seen a pelican in a tree, but there they were!
Our hostel manager, who is something of a libertarian and conspiracy theorist expat from the U. S. claims the rubble, etc. Were more a result of government boondoggles than the earthquake. I am skeptical, but we will learn more tomorrow.
Bahia de Caraquez has a reputation for sustainable development. Recycling and composting bins are everywhere, although some of the containers have been stolen. The taxis are bike taxis. Sad!y, a lot of this seems to have been lost since the earthquake two years ago. Streets and sidewalks are still buckled and cracked, rubble from fallen buildings remains. Many people have downcast, hurt expressions, maybe they lost many friends and relatives. As Kate says, “There is no FEEMA here.” This is true, whatever one thinks of that agency under Trump.
Still, there is a movement towards rebuilding. There are billboards saying. things like “We are not stopped, we are rising,” in Spanish, of course. There are beautiful new murals on birds, forests, and a woman becoming a butterfly. Today, 1/1/18, we passed a house where people danced at a New Year’s Party. Many others swam in the ocean and strolled on the beach. The coastal setting is beautiful, there is hope. We will learn more. Arriba, Bahia!
We are in the coastal town of Bahia de Caraquez, which is known as an eco town. Also, someone who works for Planet Drum Foundation, a group I’ve worked with, manages a sustainability project here. But this town was severely hit by an earthquake 2 years ago, there is still rubble. This is life in the developing world.We wonder if this impacted on eco projects. We will be here a few days, I will connect with my contact person. We will also hike. Feliz ano nuevo!
It is surprising how dry some parts of Ecuador are. If I am remembering right from geography and ecology classes, warm air rises at true equator, carrying moisture that starts to fall as rain over Central America and areas equally far south of the equator. So these areas are lush while equitoreal areas can be relatively dry. This frustrated me at first, I love Cental American forests, but these habitats have grabbed me! They are their unique selves, and seeingy them deepens my understanding of the earth.
This is a spectacular park north of Puerto Lopez. There are high mountains to the east. The coast is as rugged and rocky as California’s, with a different geologic history that I will try to look at. The plants are drought adapted, like California’s again, but they are different species, including cactuses. Pelicans and frigate birds swarm over the ocean, ha bird that we are fair unsure is a mockingbird sings loudly from the shrubs. Other hidden birds answer while lizards scurry everywhere. We met lots of hikers on the trails. Ecuadorians seem to love their parks!
Tomorrow we will head up the coast to Bahia de las Caracas for four nights. That is a different area, there are mangroves. Then we will be in a cloud forest for a few days. Hasta lluego!