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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Arriving in Ecuador

August 19th, 2012 · 1 Comment

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Getting to Ecuador takes time when you live in Colorado. I left my Boulder apartment at 4 a.m. on July 27 in order to get to Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, by midnight. I had a long layover in Miami, but the trip went without a hitch, and at the Quito airport I met the five of the seven other people on our tour of the Galapagos Islands.

On the tour bus ride from the airport to the hotel the first person I talked with turned out to be a retired professor of medicine who specialized in diabetes at the University of Rochester, Dr. John (Jack) Gerich. When he mentioned Rochester, something clicked in my mind, and I remembered that 13 years ago I had interviewed him by phone for an article I wrote about the development of what became the biggest selling insulin.

Jack was traveling his partner, Carol, and their friends, Art and Joanna McMorris. Art is the birder in that group. After retiring from medical research, he is now the Peregrine Falcon coordinator working for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. All four of them have doctor’s degrees. One of them said that three of them have Ph.D.’s while Jack “only has an M.D.” degree.

When we got to the hotel, I met Sarah, who came from Ohio for her first trip out the the country. She turned 18 two days later. Sarah and I were the only members of the group who didn’t come from Pennsylvania, but she is a much more knowledgeable birder than I am. There was also where I met Keith, who was to be my most congenial roommate in the hotel and later on the yacht. He is a school teacher who has known the tour leader for years.

The tour leader, Kevin Loughlin, greeted us at the hotel, the Hilton Colon Quito, perhaps the best hotel in the city. Kevin is the president of Wildside Nature Tours. I went on his company’s tour of Belize last November. That was such a great tour that I chose to take his tour to the Galapagos. Kevin is both an accomplished and experienced photographer and birder.

I was delighted with the members of the tour group and the fact that we numbered only eight. To travel around the Galapagos will we have four of the yacht’s cabins.

We toured Quito and the surrounding area the next day rather than rushing off to the islands. Quito sits at 9,350 feet, the highest capital city in the world housing administrative, legislative, and judicial functions. It is more than 1,000 years old, but in 1534 the Spanish invaders re-founded the city after the Inca commander razed Quito just before the Spanish conquest. About 2.5 million people now live in this city, which manages to preserve its history and yet be modern.

A View of a Small Part of Quito (Canon 50D with 18-200mm lens at 28mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO 400)

A View of a Small Part of Quito (Canon 50D with 18-200mm lens at 28mm, f/8, 1/500, ISO 400)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

We Toured Quito's Old City, including the Plaza de la Independencia where this Arupo Tree was in Bloom (Canon 50D with 18-200mm lens at 20m, f/8, 1/3200, ISO 400)

We Toured Quito's Old City, including the Plaza de la Independencia where this Arupo Tree was in Bloom (Canon 50D with 18-200mm lens at 20m, f/8, 1/3200, ISO 400)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

In the photo below nothing could more appropriately rest on top of the monument than the globe there. This is Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world in English), which symbolizes the equator after which Ecuador takes its name. The 100-foot monument is just 12 miles north of Quito. While this 100 foot monument purports to mark the equator, it doesn’t. It’s actually 787 feet too far south, according to modern measurements. Still, it remains a big attraction with both locals and tourists.

The Mitad del Mundo Purports to Mark the Equator after which Ecuador Takes its Name (Canon 50D with 18-200mm lens at 35mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO 400)

The Mitad del Mundo Purports to Mark the Equator after which Ecuador Takes its Name (Canon 50D with 18-200mm lens at 35mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO 400)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Then we went to the nearby Inti Nan Museum, which claims to be right on the equator, but may also be a little off that imaginary line. This private attraction is a kind of amusement for credulous tourists. Its tour guides perform demonstrations that ostensibly show that only on the equator will water flow both clockwise and counter-clockwise down a drain supposedly due to the Coriolis effect. They also tried to show us that we could balance a raw egg on the equator. Sarah tried.

When She Was Still 17, Sarah Attempted to Balance a Raw Egg on the Equator (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 100mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 1600)

When She Was Still 17, Sarah Attempted to Balance a Raw Egg on the Equator (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 100mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 1600)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Of course, we also saw birds. This one was the most colorful one that I saw on our first day in Ecuador.

A Southern Yellow Grosbeak (Pheucticus chrysogaster) in the Museum Gardens (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 135mm, f/8, 1/180, ISO 800)

A Southern Yellow Grosbeak (Pheucticus chrysogaster) in the Museum Gardens (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 135mm, f/8, 1/180, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

But the shot of the day was of this Red-backed Sub-species of the Variable Hawk. We saw it flying over the restaurant where we had stopped for lunch overlooking the Pululahua Crater.

This Red-Backed Subspecies of the Variable Hawk (Buteo Polyosoma) Flies over Pululahua Crater (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/750, ISO 1600)

This Red-Backed Subspecies of the Variable Hawk (Buteo Polyosoma) Flies over Pululahua Crater (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8, 1/750, ISO 1600)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

We were off to a great start. And we hadn’t even come close to our destination yet.

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Posted in: Ecuador

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Fran Stearns // Sep 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    The Southern Yellow Grosbeak is a stunning bird. A seedeater for sure.

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