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Trip Report Glover's just back from Ecuador & Peru - Part 1 Ecuador

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So, Ok, we didn't go to the Galapagos this time around, maybe next. Still we had a great time two weeks in Ecuador, where we focused on nature.

June 30: Got what we thought was great price on TACA for open jaw flight from DC to stopover in Quito to Lima and back to DC. Under $600 per person. TACA was great in every way. Efficient and they still have food on flights! Not bad food either.

Used Hostal Santa Barbara in Quito as our base. A great, charming, reasonably priced little hotel near New City in Quito. It's an old estate and lovely. We spent just one whole day in the old part of Quito, so my memory is fading, but lots of lovely old colonial buildings and churches. And a few small interesting museums. We managed to get "high" several times. Had lunch at PIMs at El Penecillo (mirador and statue) near by. Lovely view, nice restaurant with decent typico food. Took taxi there (through crummy neighborhood) and walked back down to centro from other side (though surprised a couple of our later guides who thought this area rather dicey). What we didn't know didn't hurt us. .. Also rode the teleferico - cable car that climbs up nearby mountain. Fun - with fantastic views of the city - and then some interesting paraimo to explore once there (though take care with your reaction to altitude). Had a really nice dinner at restaurant called La Mosaico on side of yet another mountain next to Quito. Even more beautiful view looking down on lighted Quito. Cute place, balcony, nice food. Another memorable meal was at the very tiny and very casual Chandani Tandoori in New town, recommended in Lonely Planet book. We had great Indian food soup to nuts and 2 giant beers for $14.10 for 2!!

July 3 - took taxi to the VIP airport for transport from Quito to Coca. Were met by our Napo Wildlife Center guide Roberto Cedeno and other folks going our way. Quick and smooth flight to the oil town of Coca and then a short ride on an old open bus to boat dock. About 12 or so us take a motorized canopy boat down the Napo River about 2 hours to a side creek. The wildlife center has its "warehouse" on the creek. There we changed to several dugout canoes and smaller groups. 4 of us birdwatchers took our time with the excellent Roberto being paddled down the creek another couple hours. Fabulous! Even the little sudden shower we got on the way.

Creek eventually takes us to lovely isolated oxbow lake where the wildlife center is located. It's a dock, about a dozen cabanas, a dining room and some staff quarters.

We loved this place, which is now totally community owned and managed.
Activities were well coordinated and efficiently run and we felt very well taken care of/tended to.
Food was simple, local, and tasty.
We did a 4 night stay. Had a comfy cabin with high thatched roof, porch,and view of lake. Nice comfy bed with mosquito net (though no probs there with mosquitos). Every day we went out twice - early in am and later in pm with Roberto - either hiking or in canoe or both. Visited two clay licks to see parrots. So interesting and saw lots. Spent some time on platform in canopy on NWC's property. Way up!! Saw the most beautiful bird there: a paradise tanager. Glided through the jungle in canoe in the dark. Across lake under fabulous clear skies. Saw an anaconda on a tree near the creek. Saw a tarantula in a tree hole at night. 5 kinds of monkeys (including beautiful golden manteled tamarins), 100s of bird species - including zillions of that remarkable bird the hoatzin.

Wow- it was hard to leave that place but we had 3 great weeks still to look forward to - and another nice paddle/power boat trip back to Coca. Though we did end up cooling our heels a few hours when our flight out of there was delayed. . oh well.

Back to Quito and Santa Barbara. Had a nice dinner at La Choza down the street. A place clearly geared to guests of surrounding hotels. Huge, but pretty, and food was good. Great live music. "Silbo" music - an amazing whistler - a hard and a guitar. We bought the CD.

Next day we were picked up by driver to take us to our next destination the El Monte lodge in Mindo in cloudforest. We stopped at the Mitad del Mundo (equator) on way. Nice drive to Mindo. Arrived mid afternoon and met by our guide Javier. He puts us on the pulley swing and sends us across narrow rushing river. Then points us to our cabin. We loved the way this property was laid out. Maybe 6 or so cabins here - all along the river more or less. Behind them is a huge garden - interesting in itself and then a really beautiful large open lounge and dining area and kitchen. The owners live above the lounge area. From our earlier correspondence with them we figured they'd be out front meeting and greeting - but as it turned out we caught only a fleeting glimpse of one of them. So, at least while we were there, this place was much more laid back and casual in its organization/orientation than Napo. But that was ok. And not very many people here. Maybe a dozen of us at dinner one night and only 3 of us guests our last night. The food here was wonderful - focus on vegetarian/whole grains/etc. They have only solar electricity. No refrigeration. So only fresh food, and room temp beer. Next to the river they've channeled river water into a pool and also a hot tub. We never got around to getting in - figuring that pool water was going to be pretty cold. .. but it was lovely. It's just a really lovely, nicely thought out property. Our young local guide Javier was our companion during our stay. We went out with him each day on different hikes. He had no scope or anything and is still studying birds etc, but he was very good at spotting things and by the end of our stay we'd seen 200 bird species. Also from El Monte we went one day -REEALLY early - to a nearby farm property to see the cock of the rock birds (which we did). The owner/family has developed ability to "call" the several species of antbirds that inhabit the property. This was very fun: "willy, willy, willy. Venga, Maria." we saw several. The rolling farm property is gorgeous. They have 6 hummingbird feeders that were just a constant buzz . ..

Ok, I'll continue this later. . .

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