We were up well before 6.00 and were at breakfast shortly afterwards. We abandoned two of our bags at the hotel and slightly early, our transport arrived to take us to Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge.
There were already two German ladies on the minibus and the driver said we had to pick up four more passengers. We drove out of the city centre into a residential area where the driver had great difficulty finding the correct address for the pick-up. Eventually, we found it and two Americans climbed into the minibus, one of whom then directed the driver to another address, where we waited for another American women to get in. From here, were went to yet another address for a fourth American. By now we had been in the bus for close to an hour and were running late.
As we headed north out of Quito one of the American women starting talking, loudly - she never stopped! We discovered in the space of the next 2 hours her entire life story, her family relations, every job she had ever done, boyfriends she'd had. She didn't like Quito, where she was teaching English and the air was too thin for her. She was so pleased we were descending so she could get more oxygen! I wanted to suggest that if she shut her mouth and stopped talking she might get more oxygen (and give us some peace).
North of the City, we crossed the Equator yet again, this time into the Northern Hemisphere. The Ecuadorians have built a sort of theme park on the Equator called 'La Mitad del Mundo' or 'The Middle of the World'. There is a large monument here to celebrate lattitude 00 degrees. I believe that in fact it has been found to be 7 seconds of a degree to the south of the line, about 240 metres away, but who cares!
From here our route took us over a low pass and then followed a very deep valley down through the foothills of the Andes. Eventually, after about 90 kilometres, we reached a dirt road turn off and started heading back up hill to the lodge. The road climbed for 14 kilometres on an unsurfaced road high up into the hills. About 30 minutes later we reached the lodge.
The lodge was built by an Englishman and his partner about 20 years ago on the site of an old cattle and horse farm. The vegetation is starting take over again which surrounds the hotch-potch of buildings all built from local woods. We were accommodated up a very narrow circular staircase in the Mirador Suite. The room had a lounge with a couple of sofas and large sliding windows, a small kitchenette, and bedroom with large sliding windows and a shower room. There were no curtains and there was nobody to overlook us!
All the rooms are different at the lodge, some in the main building, some in two houses a 100 metres away and some about the restaurant.
We had a second breakfast, and decided that whatever the Americans were doing, we would go in opposite directions as we were so fed up their constant gabbling - we'd never see any birds with them around.
Two guides offered to different walks in the cloud forest, the Americans elected to go to their rooms and the rest of us, some we had been on the Galapagos Voyager with, split into two small groups and set off into the forest. Lynn stayed at the lodge to do some static bird-watching and photography.
|Tutu flower - much loved by hummingbirds|
All the trails were very narrow, some quite steep and many very slippery. The cloud forest is very different to the Amazon basin forest as the trees are lower and more light reaches the forest floor, thus there is more vegetation. It felt very 'jungly'.
We were lucky and saw Toucans, fly-catchers, warblers and best of all Masked Trogon, a very bright red bird. After a couple of hours we returned to the lodge for break and lunch.
|A rather distant view of a Plate-billed Mountain Toucan|
The restaurant was built as a geodesic dome with the dining room and bar on the ground floor, 3 guest rooms up a spiral bamboo staircase on the first floor, a further 6 beds on the second floor reached by a ladder and three further beds even further up the ladder at the top of the building!
After lunch, some of our group from the Galapagos, were returning to Quito after their brief day visit to the lodge so we said goodbye to them before our small group headed down the road for another walk. we walked about a kilometre down the dirt road and then climbed back up 500 metres on a very steep, narrow track to the lodge. At first, the bird life was almost non-existant, but towards the end of the walk we saw lots, including Woodcreepers and Woodpeckers.
|Booted Racket-tail - a very small hummingbird|
Back at the lodge, we sat outside and watched the Hummingbirds on the feeders. There were at least 14 different species, some so small they were barely bigger than a bee. They are quite unworried about their audience and everyone was trying to get good photos of them. They are a difficult subject as their wings are beating so fast and they dart around so much.
|Violet-tailed Sylph - a spectacular hummingbird|
At dinner, the Americans seemed determined to drown out any conversation, the only people to attempt to compete with them were four German ladies! We headed back to our room to read, catch up with blogging and then went to bed.