After the Galapagos excursion we spent some time on the Ecuador mainland. Before visiting our long time friends in Peguche we spent a couple days at an Ecolodge in the Amazon basin. This was a friend of a friend kind of thing where we visited a place hoping to check it out as an option for other people. It worked out okay but staffing was weird and people seemed distracted and we didn’t get consistent service so rather than provide a review I will leave out the details of where we went. It was a kind of place where when the boss was around everything was okay but when the boss was gone we were treated like intruders. Here, for once, I am applying the adage of it’s better to say nothing if you don’t have good to say.
At the jungle local we did stumble across a handful of exotic birds. There was a sunbittern. Check out this link for an eyeful of this spectacular and hard to find bird. The sunbittern’s open wings resemble two giant red eyes. This defensive tactic seems to prove dragons once roamed the earth. I can’t think of any currently alive animal with eyes so big or so red. Then I saw the flying penis of the south: Cock of the rock. It might seem hard to miss a parrot sized, flame-orange, flying penis, but these birds can also be hard to see. They are shy and keep to dense foliage. In fact, Burt missed the one that flew over my head. It was a lucky and brief but easily made identification for me. Kudos to whoever named this bird.
There was also a shimmer or bouquet of hummingbirds. Ecuador is home to over 100 species of hummingbirds. So many hummingbirds live in the South America that they aren’t even called hummingbirds. They have names like train-bearer, sylph, woodstar, thornbill and sun angel. These names, while lovely, made it hard to identify the birds using the guide book. I had no idea if I what I was trying to find. Here’s one to check out: the booted racket tail. That’s a little bird with a lot of gadgets. We saw this raquet-dragging wee thingy flying around in its Uggs. It sure was cute.
After the ecolodge we drove up and over the Andean divide and north to Peguche. On our way we tried to spot some Andean condors but had no luck. The back road through the national park required permission to use and we didn’t have permission. This was a spur of the moment idea. Sometimes you win sometimes you lose. This day we lost. If you plan on visiting the national parks of Ecuador check them out on line first. Some of them require permits to enter. Others are open and free.
The Lema family was right where we left them in November but this time we were arriving at the end of a week of festival. School was out and there was time for everyone to play together. Burt and I rented a car just so we could carry everyone around and that’s what we did. After a long stint as a successful business man selling Ecuadorna crafts in the US and Europe Fabian’s economic trends are in a down turn. He was evicted from the US a while ago for selling sweaters and playing music when his visa only allowed him to play music. He and other members of his family were regulars at the Helena Christmas fair in the Capitol Hill Mall for many years. Because of this loss of his way of life Fabian’s family only has a pickup truck. Since 6 people cannot get around safely in a small pickup we brought a car to the party.
With our car we were able to drive an hour and a half away to a hot spring with everyone. We spent a morning soaking and swimming because it was Shadé’s birthday and that’s what she wanted to do. We also drove over to the raptor center and watched the free fling raptor show and we spent a morning driving north to a pretty lake for a lakeside tilapia lunch.
On another day we spent some time with Elsi at the Poncho Plaza watching her work her sales magic on the locals. She sold three parkas while we watched. It was an arduous process of back and forth but every person that expressed an interest left with a coat. The negotiations were all done in the local kichwa language, except the pricing. The prices were back and forth in Spanish. Nobody would tell me why but they laughed when I noticed.