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lorax
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[Photos] Ecuador

Hi all! I figured I'd share a pictorial tour of the country I live in. Ecuador is a tiny and all but forgotten country between Colombia and Peru; it sits astride the equator and contains the headwaters of the Amazon River. I, being from frigid Northern Canada originally, think it's paradise and plan to live here the rest of my life. :()

I'll keep adding sections to this thread as I find the time. I've been to most areas of the country (Galapagos being the notable exception) and will try to show them in a way that would make sense if you were on the busses with me.

The capital of Ecuador is Quito, which recently celebrated its bicentennial of Spanish foundation; the area has been inhabited continuously for more than 3,000 years. Quito's "Old Town" is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quito is also notable for being one of the longest cities on the planet - although it's only about 20 km wide, it's more than 100 km long. It's also one of the world's highest-altitude capitals; at 2,850 m (9,000') above sea level, it's only beaten by Lhasa (Tibet) and La Paz (Bolivia), and then by only a handful of meters.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/QuitofromthebalconyinElCondado.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Landscapes/MoonriseQuito.jpg[/img]

This view, up Calle Venezuela in the Old Town, shows Quito's Gran Basilica.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/People%20and%20Places/CalleVenezuela.jpg[/img]

The Basilica is a Gothic-style cathedral with a twist - it was carved by indigenous stonemasons, and they used local animals for the gargoyles and grotesques in place of the more traditional dragons. Hence, the nave tower is graced by condors.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/People%20and%20Places/BasilicaGargoyles.jpg[/img]

Quito is located at the top of the highland Avenue of Volcanoes; from various parts of the city, you can see:
Volcan Cayambe (active)
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Landscapes/Cayambe1.jpg[/img]

Volcan Pichincha (this photo was taken from a neighbouring town; Quito is built on the slopes of Pichincha; it's an active volcano)
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/Malchinguiinthehighlandsjustoutside.jpg[/img]

Volcan Antisana (dormant)
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/Antisana.jpg[/img]

and Volcan Cotopaxi (active)
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/CotopaxifromtheroofinQuito.jpg[/img]
Last edited by lorax on Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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lorax
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Part 2: Central Highlands

Now that you've seen Quito, which is truly a nifty place to visit but not to live (too big!), I'll show you the highlands further South.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Landscapes/RoadtoChimborazo.jpg[/img]

Travelling on the Pan-American Highway for about 2 hours gets you to Ambato, the geographical center of the country, and a major transport hub for goods from the Amazon and Coast. Ambato, due to a climate described as "eternal spring/summer" is Ecuador's fruit and veggie basket and carries the nickname "The Garden City." It's a city of about 300,000 (while Quito is closer to 4 million.)
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/800px-Ecuador_Ambato.jpg[/img]

Every Monday, Ambato's big farmer's market goes into overdrive for "feria libre" (literally, free-run festival of food) - this is when all of the small producers load up their trucks and come in to sell what they've harvested that week. Producers come from as far as the coast to sell at the Ambato market - both small volumes and wholesale lots are on offer, and this is where Ecuador's grocery stores and restaurants shop. It's also where I shop, because the prices are best and the food extraordinarily fresh.

To give an idea of scale, one of those huge roofs covers about a city block, and there are 15 roofs in the market interspersed with equally large open-air sections. The roof shown in the photo is the "local hard fruit and mandarins" section of the market - where apples, pears, plums, durazno, and mandarin oranges are sold by caselots.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/DSCN2686.jpg[/img]

Ambato is at the center of the Avenue of Volcanoes. From here on the rare perfectly clear day, you can see:
Cotopaxi (from the other side)
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Chimborazo/DSCN3308.jpg[/img]

Chimborazo (glaciated) and Carihuairazo (not); Chimborazo is Ecuador's tallest mountain - and the tallest in the world if you measure from the core to the peak. It's quite rare to see this pair of mountains, as they generate a lot of their own cloud. They're clear like this maybe 2-3 times a year.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/DSCN3315.jpg[/img]

And finally, Tungurahua, the "throat of fire" - this is currently active.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Bananas/DSCN2638.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/DSCN3070a.jpg[/img]

My highland garden and parttime house is in Ambato, on part of what used to be the Incan Royal Gardens; at 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) the altitude is a bit extreme for many of my more lowlander friends. However, since I spend a great deal of time here and have acclimated to the very rare air, when I go downhill to the jungles or coast, I feel like superwoman!

Some things grow very well for me - for example, tomatoes overproduce, and zucchini go great guns. However, the altitude has stunted my sweet corn back to 12" tall, where it is happily flowering and fruiting (something I didn't expect at all). I'm using the garden as a proving ground for Canadian short-cycle crops and bananas.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/DSCN3149.jpg[/img]

tedln
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I've always been interested in living either in Bolivia or Ecuador.

Did you speak Spanish when you arrived in Ecuador or did you learn it from necessity after you arrived?

What is the political climate in Ecuador? How does it effect non native gringos?

In the United States, $1000.00 per month will only pay for a modest apartment. How will the same amount of money relate to a home, groceries, utilities, medical care, dental care, transportation, fuel, and other necessities in Ecuador?

How much of a typical day is spent performing routine tasks like shopping for food, washing the floor, traveling to and from work, receiving and sending mail, as compared to North America?

Are small necessities like the internet, telephone, television, easily available?

How do you acquire simple supplies for hobbies like gardening assuming you don't have a garden supply store right down the street?

Are foods common to the North American diet easily available or did you change your diet to coincide with Ecuadorian availability?

Ted

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Ozark Lady
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You beat me to my questions Ted, and then you thought of some that I hadn't.

I have a German national daughter in law, she speaks English good now, she used to struggle. But, you can tell by her sentence structure that english is her second language. I was amazed that Beth does not have that issue, and wondered if she grew up bi-lingual and therefore was fluent in both languages and the nuances of other languages.

Aren't you a bit uneasy living so close to active volcanoes?
I guess that is like asking me, don't tornadoes worry you. But, I can't see tornadoes until one just arrives in a storm. Does the ground shake or otherwise let you know the volcano is erupting or is it more a sight to see, than something that you feel?

Is Ecuador struggling with inflation, unemployment and political unrest like so many other nations of the world?

How does it feel in those large farmers markets? I mean is it, relaxed and fun, or a bit hectic, or even a heyday for thieves and you must be on guard? How does it feel? How do you get your products? Do you have to walk and carry them with you all day? Do you put your purchases in your car and then return to the sales area?

Sorry about all the questions, but it is how we learn!

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applestar
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Wow, this is great! I love the photos and the tour. Now Tedln and Ozark Lady have asked questions that I might've asked and some that I wouldn't even think of. :() (THANK YOU!!)

I did check Google Earth for the exact location, and Ecuador was NOT where I thought it would be (so much for my knowledge of Geography) :oops: Learning, learning, always learning.... 8) I think I have to do the 3-D earth jigsaw puzzle with my DDs again. :lol:

Sitting back and waiting for the followup :wink:

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lorax
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Did you speak Spanish when you arrived in Ecuador or did you learn it from necessity after you arrived?
I knew the basic basics - hello, please, thank you, pardon me, and my name is... Everything else I picked up while living here. I'm now completely fluent; I'd reccomend learning Spanish by forced immersion, because each Latin American country speaks it slightly differently and if you learn the language of the country where you're living, you end up with fewer misunderstandings due to differing vocabulary or pronunciation. Ecuadorean Spanish, in particular, is clearer and crisper than other Latin countries, and the vocabulary contains quite a few Quichua (Inca) words.
What is the political climate in Ecuador? How does it affect non native gringos?
You'd probably describe the politics here as left-leaning; there's a strong emphasis on social programs and public education and health, with less emphasis on military spending. Our current president, Rafael Correa, is widely regarded as one of the best presidents the country has had in a long time. Ecuador is democratically very active, and it's written into the constitution that if the people are really fed up with a president, they can peacefully oust him from office by calling a week of general strikes. And this does happen quite often - Correa is the first president in about 10 years to serve a full term (he was re-elected last year.) The political system is modeled on the US, and this will be his last term.

Gringo-wise, Ecuador is extremely open and tolerant. In the markets, people may try to overcharge you based on skin tone, but if you barter and haggle, the price comes down - it's part of the culture here that the haggling is part of almost every purchase; in fact it's more than half the fun of shopping. Ecuador is also one of the least racist countries I've ever visited.

Crime is almost nonexistant - the entire country has a lower crime rate than a single small Canadian city.
In the United States, $1000.00 per month will only pay for a modest apartment. How will the same amount of money relate to a home, groceries, utilities, medical care, dental care, transportation, fuel, and other necessities in Ecuador?
Wow, on $1000 a month, you can live quite well here. A good apartment costs about $150-200 a month for a one-bedroom, and $200-220 for a two-three bedroom. If this is in a building, the rent will often also include a 24-hour building guard.

For food, I'm hard-pressed to spend $100 a month for a family of 3, and we eat really well, better than we did in Canada.

Utilities are about $50 a month - electricity and phone being the most expensive. Most people cook with propane gas, which costs $2.50 for a 20 kg tank (and lasts about 2 months).

Medical and dental are of the highest standard (our health professionals train in the US and Europe) but inexpensive at the same time. I have a prepaid comprehensive medical plan that I pay $10 a month for, and when I need a dentist, a visit generally costs about $20-30. I have rarely required the hospital services here, but when I have they've been better than Canadian hospitals.

I don't have a vehicle and use a mix of public transport and taxis - if I don't leave Ambato, that's about $20 a month, and if I do, it varies according to where I go. Interprovincial busses charge $1 per hour of travel. Gasoline is $1.80 - $2.00 per gallon (extra or super), and diesel is just under $1. The highways are, in general, very well maintained. Cars and trucks of all major brands except Subaru (no idea why), as well as some you wouldn't recognize, are available and run from reasonably priced to exorbitantly expensive. Hybrids are really big here - we have the more common Toyota and Ford models, and the more obscure BYD, Geely and Great Wall ones as well. Chevrolet, Renault, Peugot, and Kia have factories here.

Other necessities are equally less expensive, but you have to know where to shop - the malls are as expensive as North America, but if you visit the smaller boutiques and ferias, the prices come right down. For example, I can buy really nice blue jeans for about $8-10. Lee Jeans are made in Ecuador, and you can buy them factory-direct for about $20.
How much of a typical day is spent performing routine tasks like shopping for food, washing the floor, traveling to and from work, receiving and sending mail, as compared to North America?
Probably less. I'd say I spend about 20 hours a week on this, but then again, I work from home so there's no commute. Food shopping probably takes a bit longer, but it's also a much more pleasant experience than it was in North Am. The pace of life here is slower - there's a lot less stress about anything, really, since we're not running to beat the winter. In most public workplaces, lunch is 2 hours long to allow a leisurely meal and short siesta.
Are small necessities like the internet, telephone, television, easily available?
LOL, of course! Ecuador is a very modern country in this respect. :() I have high-speed portable internet, and I could if I wished it have either cable or sattelite TV; phone service, both cellular and fixed-line, is widely and cheaply available. The country has a 3.5G quad-band GSM standard and three cellular providers. There are also numerous internet cafes (60-80 cents an hour) and telephone booth centers (no good descriptor exists in English for these - think of a shop filled with private phone booths.)
How do you acquire simple supplies for hobbies like gardening assuming you don't have a garden supply store right down the street?
Ah, but I do :() If you're interested in gardening, the supplies are available at almost any hardware store (ferreteria) - the key is to look for the ones with wheelbarrows or shovels on the sidewalk in front of the store. There is also Kywi, which is the equivalent of a Loew's or Home Depot, except that they don't sell lumber or bedding plants. Bedding plants come from small, family-run nurseries, of which in any given town there are two or three. The nature of small businesses here means that unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you've almost always got exactly what you need within a few blocks of where you live. I have no fewer than 5 small ferreterias and 6 corner stores within easy walking distance of my home, and my nearest nursery is about 10 blocks away.
Are foods common to the North American diet easily available or did you change your diet to coincide with Ecuadorian availability?
That would depend on how you'd define a North American diet.... Certainly, all of the fruits, veggies, and meats you'd recognize are eaten here, as well as many that you wouldn't recognize, and Ecuadoreans do things with pork that you wouldn't believe until you got here. However, I did adapt myself to the Ecuadorean approach to food - breakfast like a prince, lunch like a king, and dinner like a peasant. A typical lunch here has three courses - soup, main, and dessert, but a typical dinner is a breadroll and a cup of hot chocolate. I've also considerably increased the amount and types of fruit I eat, because it is both plentifully available and inexpensive.

Feel free, of course to ask me anything else! :()

tedln
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Thank you Beth! My first thought is "it sounds wonderful". Since I have never rented a home, I am curious about Ecuadorian policies regarding private property ownership by foreign nationals.

I have also never "not owned a private vehicle" in the past. How difficult is it to overcome the feeling of isolation when you can't go anywhere at any time you choose?

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lorax
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Ozark Lady: I was trilingual before I came here - English, French, and Cree. I have since lost the French to Spanish and the Cree to Quichua. But I think you're right - learning an additional language is likely easier if you've already got two.

As for the volcanoes: I lived through the Black Friday tornado in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada's strongest tornado on record) and I'd have to say, I'll take the volcano any day over more tornadoes. Why? The volcano doesn't move. I live 25 km away, which is the separation of two valley systems, and I'm uphill of the paths of flow, so basically what I get from living so close to an active volcano is a sound and light show, and occasional light ashfall when the wind is in the right direction (just enough to fertilize the garden). Before it begins a major eruptive period (the latest eruption started in June; before that there was a 3-month period of eruption that started in January) it usually produces a sound described in Ecuador as "bramido" - literally, "grumbly roaring" which is something that you both hear and feel in your bones. When an active eruption actually starts, you also get cannon-shot explosion sounds, again, both heard and felt - the Canonazos from this most recent eruption have been strong enough to rattle my windows. Paradoxically, when the volcano is really active, the incidence of earthquakes goes waaaay down.

Ecuador has terrible inflation (something like 30% yearly lately), but unemployment is almost nil, and political unrest is quite low with the current president (although if the people feel that the president is doing a really lousy job, there's historical precedent for bodily dragging him out of the presidential palace and either exiling or lynching him.) Think of Ecuador as South America's Canada, and you'll have a pretty good idea of the political climate. Politicians here are really quite colourful, and once you have a good grasp of the language there is very little as entertaining as going to a session of the congress at the Carondelet palace. The debates are teriffic theatre, not least because the politicians are allowed to drink beer while in session.

Additionally, Ecuador has never had a guerrilla problem, like neighbouring Colombia (FARC) and Peru (Shining Path) have. I'll chock this one up to the Ecuadorean attitude: everyone is my brother/sister, so why would I fight you?

In the large markets, the mood is fun and a bit hectic, especially close to national holidays (when the market may triple in size). I generally buy the week's groceries on Monday (the biggest market day), then hop in a cab and go home to put it all away. I usually take a backpack and two large converted rice bags to carry my food; on weeks when I buy gigantosquash (15-30 lbs of Kombucha or Zapallo), I take a blanket to sling it across my front. It helps that the Mayorista Market that's shown in those pictures is only about 15 blocks away from my home. It's very safe to shop there - what the picture doesn't show is the Market Police, who are there to ensure a calm and theft-free shopping experience.

Ted: any person, foreign or national, is entitled to hold property as long as they keep their papers in order (this involves making sure that your deeds are properly registered with the appropriate bodies.) Beyond that, no problems at all; in fact, extranjeros (that's us) can actually use a large land purchase to secure permanent residency in the country.

And what feeling of isolation? I can go pretty much anywhere anytime I choose using either taxis (for short distances) or the excellent interprovincial bus system I mentioned earlier (for long hauls), and I don't ever have to worry about parking. It's been really liberating, actually - I didn't realize how much I worried about my car until I left it behind. Public transport here isn't like Greyhound / Red Arrow in North America; there are close to 200 operators and a bus to wherever I want to go leaves about every 20-30 minutes at all hours, whether that be to the beach, the jungle, or Quito.

And Applestar, I just have to ask. Where did you think Ecuador was?

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Ozark Lady
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Thanks Beth, I really appreciate your in depth and thoughtful responses.

I find it so very fascinating to learn about other cultures and other styles, whether they are another country or another state!

I loved in Germany being invited into a German home and having tea with them, and then being taken to where the locals eat and go... not the tourist traps.

In Paris, I just mixed in with the folks walking along, it was awesome, the people and ways were much more interesting than the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. The quaint street pizza places with pictures on all the walls were awe inspiring.

And Amsterdam Holland won the best food of all (in my book) record! And I loved the open markets with produce on every street almost, and folks riding bicycles.

I have been to both Canada and Mexico, I couldn't tell where the USA ended and Canada began, except by the sign... Welcome to Canada basically, this was long before 9-11 when the borders were easy to cross.
Mexico where I visited was a tourist trap, so I don't feel that we got an honest view of the country. But, I have a good friend, online, who lives in Mexico City and have learned alot from her.

And now, I almost feel like I have walked with you for a day in Ecuador... thank you so very much...

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lorax
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Part Three: Upper Oriente (Amazon)

Descending the Andean slopes towards the East from Ambato will quite rapidly put you into the Oriente, Ecuador's slice of the Amazon. The capital of Ecuador's largest province, Pastaza, is Puyo, nestled in a crook of the Amazon tributary Pastaza River.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/TheRioPastazafromthehighwayaboveMer.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/LookingdowntheRioPastazafromthehigh.jpg[/img]

From Puyo, you're still close enough to the Andes to see volcanoes, most notably extinct El Altar.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Landscapes/DSCN1912.jpg[/img]

Amazon towns are quite sleepy (it's really hot and humid) and generall there's nothing taller than 2-storeys to avoid being blown over in strong tropical-forest storms.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/DSCN2059.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/Sunset2fromtheroofinPuyo.jpg[/img]

The forest I help tend is in Mera, a bit uphill of Puyo (about 15 minutes), and is accessed by foot or by asking a friendly local for a lift.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/StranglerFig.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/MomatTheRioChaguaryacu.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/Apurespringoutoftherock-thisisonone.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Landscapes/BlackVultures.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Landscapes/RioTena.jpg[/img]

This is my friend Carlos standing in front of a Matapalo (strangler fig) tree that's about 300 years old. Carlos isn't very tall, but the roots of this tree are taller than I am (6').
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Matapalo.jpg[/img]

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tomf
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Very interesting and it sounds like a good place to live even if it gets a bit hot. The lava coming from the volcano photo is wild. In some respects it reminds me of Washington and Oregon with the snow covered volcanos.

I am told that bananas that ripen on the tree are very good, we get green ones in the US. Also I know that there are a lot of kinds that we never see.

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applestar
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There is a strong association in my mind between Amazon and Brazil. So when you said Amazon headlands (or source of Amazon), I looked to the interior of South America, even though I kept thinking, but Peru is this way. You mentioned Incans too, so I was casting around the map of the world in my mind where I thought the associated region ought to be.

What I didn't expect was to find Ecuador on the Pacific side of Panama, even though I was thinking, no, along the Northeast coast is Venezuela and Guatemala....

Anyway, I found it. :wink: I should try clicking the <directions> button and see how many hours the app tells me it'll take to drive there. I did this by accident with San Juan Island, Washington State. The result was quite funny. :lol:

tedln
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Beth,

In the last photo, is the original tree the strangler fig grew up as a vine still living or long gone? I can't tell from the photo. Does the strangler fig produce edible fruit. I think my primary interest in a southern hemisphere rain forest would be edible fruits of the forest. I would think many varieties exist which are quite good, but are not easily grown in an agricultural setting.

Ted

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lorax
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The original fig grew downwards from the canopy as a vine, then sent more vine upwards once it hit the soil. The original tree in that photo is what we call Black Cinnamonwood, although it's actually a type of fragrant Mahogany; it's still in there and still alive. The big buttress, though, belongs to the fig.

And yes, you can eat the figs off a Matapalo. There are about 50 jungle fruits that don't make it to export and don't grow well commercially. My personal favourite is probably Borojo, although Arazaa runs a close second. There is also an absolute myriad of edible palm fruit.

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Ozark Lady
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Beautiful, now this is woods! And those are trees!
Makes the hardwood forest here look like a weed patch!

Amazon, hmm, conjures up images of alligators, piranha, and anacondas.
I think Panama and I think the same but also malaria, from the bugs.

How do you tend to the forest there? Avoid deadly animals while doing it?
Is this section of rain forest very large, or actually pretty small is it endangered of being annexed into a city etc.?

What kinds of animals do you see in the rain forest? As in, what are common sights and what are animals that you only sometimes catch a glimpse of. Isn't South America where they have those poisonous frogs?

I think that I envy you the forest, the trees, and most wild life, but not the deadly ones, and not some of the bugs!

tedln
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Beth, can you provide some map coordinates of the forest you are working in? I would like to use Google Earth and see how farming and timber interests are encroaching on the forest. I assume very little of the timber is lost to charcoal manufacturing since propane is available. Do you eat cuy?

Ted

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It is things like this that make me glad I live in the era I do despite all the other issues. I would love to travel the world and see things that we don't have here in the midwest, but alas I am not that wealthy. Instead I can read and see beautiful pictures and conjure up mental images because of other peoples fantastically written descriptions..
Equador looks and sounds like an amazing and beautiful place. Let me know what you charge for vacations and tours :lol:

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lorax
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Location: Ecuador, USDA Zone 13, at 10,000' of altitude

Ted, try S01 23.854' W78 03.556' - that's the end of the uproad that accesses the forest - there's another 2 hours on foot after that and sattelite reception is dodgy under the canopy - from those points, the forest is roughly 6 km north by northwest. The Google Earth resolution in that sector is pretty crappy, though - gotta warn you. I think they just did one basic pass to get topography and that was that.

The area is really in no danger of being encroached by the town of Mera - the larger threat is really from illegal poaching of the timber trees not for charcoal, but for export timber. :evil: The land has quite large stands of Cedron - tropical red cedar - which is known in the timber industry as Red Gold; we've also got Ahuano (black mahogany), the three types of Canelo mahogany, black laurel, caoba, guabo, and ishpingo, all of which are very valuable in the hardwood trade. Mostly my job involves making sure that the most accessible of these trees stays in the ground - my forest is primary, not secondary or tertiary, and some of the trees are more than 500 years old. I am not averse to blowing stun-darts into the hides of tree poachers and dragging them off the land; I usually leave a little note pinned to them saying "You were lucky this time. Continue to poach trees and I'll feed you to the pumas." - which is pretty good deterrent. I only have to do it once every couple of months, and always to different poachers - they don't seem to repeat. Most Ecuadoreans are terrified of the big cats.

And of course I eat Cuy! They're delicious, with those little new potatoes and ullcus in peanut gravy.... mmmM! I know what I'm having for lunch now, even if I have to go across town to the best cuy roaster to get it.

And yes, OL, I try to avoid the more dangerous animals while doing the whole forest patrol thing. One one occasion only I've interrupted a Spectacled Bear who was munching out in a bamboo patch upslope - it was very much a lesson in the power of nature. Spectacled Bears aren't as dangerous as many other bears (although I considered them to be for a long time - comes of growing up in Grizzly territory) - what it came down to was that I froze, the bear gave me a good sniff, and went on its way. I've met pumas in the forest too (much more dangerous), but I find that if you can adopt an overall feeling of intense, fearless curiousity, big cats will assume you're on their level and leave you alone - I learned this the really hard way at a friend's place deeper in the jungle, when I met a jaguar face to face. After the initial first-time shock of "omigod, that's a really big cat and it could easily eat me for lunch" it gets easier to become curious. Obviously, I don't have pictures of these encounters - the fastest way to be perceived as prey is to act like a "normal" human.

The amount of forest that I protect is about 25 acres, which in the grand scheme of the surrounding forest is really not that much at all. I'm working on an application to the Ministry of the environment to add about 750 acres more and bring our preserve right up to the borders of the Llanganates National Park - we'll see how that goes, because the Ministry may choose to simply give us all of the unused and unclaimed forest in the top corner of the province, which would be much better in terms of what we're trying to do with the Mountain Tapir and Spectacled Bear preservation projects.

Malaria is present in Ecuador, but primarily much further downriver, and Ecuador is also the home of Quinine trees so it doesn't really kill all that many people; bugnets are mandatory for sleeping, though. The forest I tend contains the mountain spring, the Quebrada Alpayacu (the name is Kichua, and means "First Waters"), that is the true source of the Amazon, but it's a pleasant babbling stream where I am, not a mighty juggernaut of a river like at the point where the Rio Alpayacu becomes the Rio Napo, about 3 days walk downstream.

The most common thing I see in the forests are probably butterflies and other insects - there are absolutely fantastic beetles here; we do indeed have poison dart frogs (like the Ruby Poison Dart Frog in the photo below) although you hear them much more often than you see them.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Wildlife/RubyPoisonDartFrog.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Wildlife/DSCN2367.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Wildlife/Cricket.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Wildlife/Grasshopper.jpg[/img]

Alligators, we don't get. Caiman, we do, but further downriver in Napo and Orellana provinces, and deep on the Bobonaza and Pastaza in Pastaza province. Anaconda, further downriver still, closer to the Peru border and on the lower Rio Bobonaza. As for Piranha, those are good eatin'! :() They mostly occur well out of my forest system and into the true Amazon. Lago Limoncocha, a lime-green Amazon lake two provinces away from me, is famous for its black piranhas.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Wildlife/Spectacledcaiman.jpg[/img]

More rarely, I see various kinds of monkey and tamarin, the smallest probably being the Golden Lion Tamarin (which are notoriously camera-shy), and the largest being wooly monkeys, of which the pictured is a baby - they're very trusting, and also very clumsy when they're young.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Wildlife/BabyWooleyMonkey.jpg[/img]
The smallest monkey in the largest groups award goes to Squirrel Monkeys, which run in troops of 50-300. These are the destroyers of gardens and robbers of banana trees. They're probably the most commonly seen primate in our forests, and you know they're up there because they throw down bromeliad hearts with the tasty part chewed out.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Wildlife/SquirrelMonkeyandbaby.jpg[/img]
There are also Howler Monkeys (heard and not seen) and Spider Monkeys (which may choose to bomb you with half-eaten fruit, although you won't see them in the open very often).

Things that you only rarely see are the larger animals - Tapir, the bears, Puma, Ocelot, Jaguarundi, and Jaguar. There are also tropical tree-porcupines, and larger rodents like Agouti and Guanta, and also the wild pigs, Javelina and Peccary.

In birds, there are everything from sparrows right through to blue and scarlet Macaws, called Papagallo here (father chicken), and in Morete swamps (which I don't have - I'm too high up) there are also Military and Hyacinth Macaws. The blue Macaw in this photo is a resident of Tena, a jungle city about 2 hours from Puyo by bus.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Wildlife/Papagallo.jpg[/img]
I've been divebombed by Trogons and Quetzals, there are noisy flocks of parrotlets and parrots, more tanagers and other songbirds than you can shake a stick at, the massive black vultures, and when you're lucky and close to water, Hoatzin, which are massive prehistoric-looking stinky "turkeys".
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Hoatzn.jpg[/img]

Although I fuss about them, I rarely see any of the resident snakes - I have on several occasions trodden on Corals hiding in the leaf mulch, which are the calmest poisonous snakes I've ever met, and which can be safely moved off the path using a stick to pull them up and toss them. I've encountered Ekis (Fer-de-lance) on three separate occasions, all of which ended with me eating them for dinner. Once upset (and they upset rather easily), an Ekis will follow you and strike you when you least expect it to, and there is no good antivenin so the safest thing to do is behead one when you see it.

Dixana, Ecuador is cheaper than almost any other holiday destination, and you can get here for around $1000 return, sometimes even less (if you flee the northern winter, you'll get here in low season, and everything will be cheaper) - I think Continental had the cheapest airfare last time I looked, but Delta, American, Avianca, LAN (not reccomended), AeroGal (excellent), and TAME all fly here. Once you're here, you'll be hard-pressed to spend $1000 in a month as long as you're willing to forgo the Galapagos islands - they're the most expensive thing to do in the country. I'm a very reasonably-priced tour guide. We're on the US Dollar, so you don't even have to worry about exchange rates.

Dixana
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Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 11:58 pm
Location: zone 4

Beth did you take all those pictures? They're amazing and if they are yours you could make a small fortune posting them for stock photography.

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lorax
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Location: Ecuador, USDA Zone 13, at 10,000' of altitude

Everything except the aereal view of Ambato on Page 1 is mine. I have no idea where I'd even go to get started with stock photography - if you could help me out, I'd be much obliged!

I'm not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination - I'm just fascinated by the natural world. I wouldn't even consider many of the photos I've posted to be my "best" because I'm most interested in botanical macro photography and it's flowers that have been my most amazing subjects.

tedln
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Location: North Texas

I would love to try cuy but I've never heard of anyone cooking it in the states or Canada. My brother spent a couple of years in Ecuador supervising the construction of a gas pipeline many years ago. He told me there were many little roadside stands serving cuy. He liked it.

I've never been afraid of snakes, but the Fer-de-lance is one which would make me pause and look around before I take that next step. I have snake boots which go to my knees, but I would still be concerned about the Fer-de-lance. I don't know why, but the pit vipers always seem to have the sour attitude. The coral snake is one of the most beautiful snakes I've ever seen. It does seem to have a relaxed attitude. Snake is also pretty good eating. In the West Texas area I grew up in, rattlesnake was commonly eaten. In the Army, we had to capture and eat snake as part of our survival training, but that was a lot of years ago.

Ted

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Ozark Lady
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Location: NW Arkansas, USA zone 7A elevation 1561 feet

Awesome photos and great information! I love it!
Beth, we have a flower thread, started by MrsGreenthumb, on here some where, I think it was a game, but it was for flowers.

Dixanna, get a jar, decorate it, and name it... world travel... now put your pennies in it, only your pennies. You will be surprised how it will grow.
And you don't have to be "young" to enjoy seeing the world, you have time! The first thing is: Get your passport!

Wow, I love the great outdoors, I could literally sit at your feet and listen to stories of the forest all day long! And you tell things so very well.

What can you tell us of the Incas? I remember that you mentioned them. Is there alot of history all around you? My husband has been studying the Inca calendar, of course, through an interpreter etc.
His high school spanish, just doesn't work for reading Inca information.

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lorax
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Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:48 pm
Location: Ecuador, USDA Zone 13, at 10,000' of altitude

The Inca culture is alive and well here, both the language and many of the traditions. What most people don't realize is that "Inca" is simply the Quichua term for the ruling class; the actual people are called Quichua or Kichua (pronunciation is the same; the former is the Spanish spelling and the later the Kichua one). Like other first nations, the Quichua people are divided by tribes, for example the Otavalos, in the north, are skilled weavers and spinners of alpaca yarns; the Salasakas, in the central highlands (with the tribal seat about 20 minutes from where I live) are famed for their rugmaking and skills as cuy farmers and roasters, while the Saraguros, in the south, are famed for their skills as cheesemakers. The language is common, and called Quichua, and has regional variations that allow you to tell where the speaker is from, especially clear between the highland people and those of the jungle.

The first chapter of the constitution of Ecuador actually enshrines the original Inca constitution: Ama killa, ama llulla, ama shua. This translates as "Do not be lazy, do not lie, and do not steal."

The two largest festivals in the Inca calendar here are Inti Raymi (the sun festival, held on the summer solstice), and Yamor (the corn beer festival, held in late September to early October, depending on the harvest), although the traditional celebrations that occur alongside the Catholic holidays are celebrated as well as a blend of the traditional and Catholic beliefs. To study the calendar well, you really need three things: the Quichua language, time to spend in Ecuador at the zero line, and a shaman versed in the calendar who is willing to teach you about how the astronomy works (and most are, in the interest of keeping the knowledge alive). Celebrating Inti Raymi away from the zero line of the equator is very different from celebrating it at the original monuments on the zero line, because the starting point of the festivity is based on when you can see no shadow at all below your feet under the sun, and all of the constellations of the sky under the moon. Equally, celebrating Yamor is much richer when you know about chicha, the laws of hospitality, the laws of giving thanks, and how the harvest is timed (by the appearance of the moon in a new part of the sky overtop of the Cayambe volcano as seen from the zero line, which signals the autumnal equinox). These festivals, although common to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru, are celebrated differently depending on the solar/lunar observatories where the calendar is judged. The royal, or standard, calendar of Atahualpa is judged in Ecuador at Quitsatu (the center of the world), just outside of the modern town of Cayambe, and is regarded as the most accurate of the calendars because the largest portion of the night sky can be seen there. The Huascar calendar is judged at Cuzco (originally at Macchu Picchu), and the Bolivian calendar is judged from Lake Poopoo.

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lorax
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Location: Ecuador, USDA Zone 13, at 10,000' of altitude

Part Four: The Beaches

I'm at great fault if I don't show you the country's beaches. Ecuador has a rather unique situation - we're situated where the cold Humboldt current from Antarctica meets the warm Nino current from the north. This means that we've got some rather terrific variety on our beaches; the southern ones have cooler water and are more likely to have sea lions, while the northern ones have warmer water and humpback whales.

I have two personal-favourite beaches. The first, at Olon in the southern Santa Elena province, is a pristine, all but deserted white sand beach that is ignored because just around the point is what is considered Ecuador's best surfing spot. The break at Olon is equally good (mostly lefts and point breaks) but hasn't been overhyped.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Best%20Photography/Landscapes/SunsetOlon.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/LookingouttoOlonfromthehillsaboveit.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/ThepointatOlon.jpg[/img]

Just a few minutes south of Olon is the very best place to eat Langostino - baby lobsters. This is a white-sand cove called Ayangue. While I was too busy stuffing my face at the seaside Langostino shack to take pictures of the food, I did get pictures of the point while taking my digestive walk afterwards. The sea is an impossible teal green here, and sea-lions are common in the winter months.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/ThebayofAyangue.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/PuntoAyangue.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/TheseaatMontanita.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/PelicansatAyangue.jpg[/img]

The area around this beach is coastal dry grassland.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/2008-2009%20In%20Pictures/ThelandaroundSanVicente.jpg[/img]

My other favourite beach is in the northern province of Manabi, and it's a black-sand beach in the fishing village of Canoa. The second-best surfing in the country is found here, and unlike the south beaches, there's a sand floor so it doesn't hurt as badly when you wipe out. The really interesting thing here is that the sand comes out of the ocean black and bleaches out to gold in the sunlight.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2270.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2231.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2303.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2257.jpg[/img]

Canoa's beach is bracketed by massive lava cliffs leftover from a prehistoric eruption of Volcan Cotopaxi - the decay of the lava is what's responsable for the black sand. It also gives the points of the beach a wierd, otherworldly look.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2259-1.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2258-1.jpg[/img]

Jose and Edison catching tonight's dinner off the points - it's small tunafish.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2267.jpg[/img]
And here are some of the village fishermen putting their boat in at lunchtime. Traditional hand-tied small cast nets and single-hook angling lines are the tools of these fishermen's trade.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2301.jpg[/img]
And here's a fisherman net-casting for shrimp in an estuary.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/RSCN2299.jpg[/img]

The hotel we stay at in Canoa is the home of Pancho the Booby (he's one of Ecuador's famous blue-footed boobies) - he turned up shipwrecked and with one wing broken at their front door about three years ago following a violent storm, and they took him in and nursed him back to health. Now he lives there - he hasn't wanted to leave.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2288.jpg[/img]

Sunsets at Canoa are about the best in Ecuador.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2324.jpg[/img]

Canoa is surrounded by the otherworldly Dry Ceibo Forest - in the winter (when we last went) it was the dry season, and the trees were standing sentinel in bleached scrub. It was like discovering the Entwives.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2332.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/DSCN2341.jpg[/img]

Manta, the capital of Manabi, is a bustling port. Here, a family of artesanal shark fisherman bring in the day's catch - this boy, about 12, is actually smaller than the Mako shark he's bringing in from the boat. Unlike other shark fisheries, in Ecuador, none of the meat goes to waste.
[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh196/HabloPorArboles/Canoa/RSCN2360.jpg[/img]



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