Thursday, 17 December 2009

Wednesday 16th December

Quite a bit of driving today from Cuenca with a brief stop in Saraguro down to Loja where we had lunch, then via the Cloud Forest to Vilcabamba.

Saraguro is a small town which was in the middle of a nativity celebration when we got there - the entire community gathered in the town square in front of the main church which was undergoing restoration; the occasional cloud of dust issuing forth as workmen dropped bags of cement etc. (HSE does not exist here) There was lots of traditional dress in evidence - the children were obviously enjoying themselves, even if Mary was rather serious.

Loja is really not worth talking about; nothing of note in the city. I think the guide book was a little optimistic when saying you would be bored after 1/2 a day.

We trekked through the cloud forest during the afternoon. To start with it more than lived up to its name, raining non-stop. Just before we reached the peak we were heading for at about 3200m it stopped raining and then the sun came out. It was spectacular - some of the pictures have come out well, but you still don't get the sense of the cloud swirling over the forest in the up-drafts. Ecuador is home to well over 3600 species of orchid & bromeliad - they litter every tree you walk past; Caroline is loving it, even if only a few of the small ones are in flower at the moment. On the way back down the mountain - having had a definite deficit of birds on the climb - we suddenly have a whole raft of them; toucans, penelopes, orracas (which are an incredible electric blue colour) & tangers. Really must get that telephoto lens.

We get to the hostel for the night to find that we are in the middle of the latest power outage, and we're the only people here; a little spooky. It's a really nice setting, complete with big room and swimming pool. Hopefully we'll get some photos when it's light tomorrow.

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