The Cloud Forests of Ecuador

Trust me, you want to be here.

“Here” being  a)the cloud forests of Ecuador, and  b) Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve.

Often the best travel is to unplanned places; Bellavista was a true delight.  Somewhat on a whim, I visited their Quito office, and booked a 2 night stay.  Bellavista was started in 1991 by a British hippie (of course it was!) and has expanded greatly in size to include an excellent lodge and private, protected forest preserve.

Pickup 6am, 90 minute drive to the lodge.

Birding isn't really my thing, and I got tired of this group's complaining, so I wandered on my own and spent time photographing the small things. Happiness!

Watch the hummingbirds at the lodge, fabulous lunch, watch the hummingbirds again, and then an excellent hike to a waterfall.

My group was wonderfully adventurous.   I loved climbing up a waterfall with people in their 60’s and 70’s.

Our guide, Andrea, was excellent. I don't remember this guy's name, but I thoroughly enjoyed his company. I could happily travel with him and his wife. Charming, friendly, interesting, curious.

One of many things we learned about on the hike. And of course I wrote nothing down, so don't ask me what it is!

The oldest person in our group was well into his 70's. At 41, I was the youngest. Added a certain sense of adventure to climbing ropes and ladders up slippery slopes!

Wet, and getting wetter.

Probably the coolest flower. Ever.

The cloud forest is incredible.  It’s so primeval looking, you thoroughly expect a dinosaur to make an appearance.  Hundreds of bird and orchid species make a living there.  Since it’s at a moderate elevation in the mountains, the temperatures are mild.

4:30am brought an excursion to the Cock of the Rock lek (mating/courtship ground).  Afterwards I was invited on hike to another waterfall by a group from the U.S.  We got muddy, sweaty, wet… a great time was had by all.

On the hunt for dinosaurs and waterfalls.

During the hike our group saw something completely unexpected – a 3 foot worm being attacked by a 3 foot blind, legless salamander.   Check out this 1 minute video!  (also includes the cock-of-the-rock lek)

Dirty, wet, and thoroughly happy. Goal achieved - a great hike to a hidden waterfall.

If you are looking for Ecuadorian culture, this is not the place.  If instead you are looking for great birding, beautiful cloud forests, lovely temperatures, waterfalls, guided walks, good food, and for everything to be taken care of in a rustic yet still high-end lodge, this is the place.

And the price?  While high for Ecuador standards, still reasonable.  $280 for 2 nights deluxe lodging, 8 meals, round-trip transportation, 2 guided hikes each day, fantastic views and wildlife…. worth it.

BUTTERFLIES, BUTTERFLIES.  AND MORE BUTTERFLIES.

From Bellavista I caught a ride to the town of Mindo and my home for the next 2 nights, a farm turned lodge outside of town.  This was a tactical error as the lodge was not quite ready for business.  But it was quiet, and I enjoyed the solitude.  The husband & wife caretakers spoke no English, but were very patient with my halting Spanish.

Yeah, this rocked. The only disappointment was not sharing it with a friend!

Ziplining for an hour through the Ecuadorian cloud forest: priceless. Well, OK, $15. But worth it.

In Mindo I did a canopy tour, enjoyed the butterflies and orchids, went for walks, and… PANICKED.  I ended up with $5 when I owed $40 for my room and meals, and still needed $2 for bus fare back to Quito.

When traveling in rural areas in a developing country, always carry cash, because no one takes credit cards.  When you you forget your cash, always carry your ATM card.  When you forget your ATM card in Quito, it may not matter anyway because there is no ATM.  When that happens, start regretting that you never set up a PIN on your credit card!

Eventually I was able to make a collect call to my credit card and do a very expensive cash advance.  Lesson learned.

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