Our travel plans have change numerous times in the last 24 hours. It has been crazy with updates on the coronavirus coming in hourly. Our original plan was to hunker down for a couple of weeks in an isolated rustic lodge in Junin. The village of Junin is actually about 1 KM away which consists of a few houses, a church, a store and an incredible orchid garden. We were looking forward to many days of bird watching and hiking. The lodge was empty and we would be cooking for ourselves. We spent 2 fantastic nights here and then read about the Increasing travel restrictions in Canada and Ecuador.
We talked about what the best thing to do was. As difficult decision as it was we decided to make our way home. Airlines were cancelling flights, borders were closing and it seemed it was only going to get worse. There were few choices but we managed to book a flight to Fort Lauderdale to at least get out of the country. Colombia had also closed its borders and we didn't think we'd be able to transit via Bogota to Toronto, and the Canadian consulate didn't know either. So within about 15 minutes of that decision we managed to secure a truck to ride to Nanegalito. We felt it was best to try to get to the airport as quickly as we could before things changed again. It was a 3 hour drive to Nanegalito.
We arrived in Nanegalito and asked at the police station about transportation to Quito. We were told that public transportation is restricted and there were no buses going to Quito. He also told us that all flights leaving and coming to Ecuador have been cancelled for the next 2 weeks. We looked at him and said "Que??" 😳. This announcement was made this afternoon during our drive here. Updates are happening hourly here as they are in every country.
As we were told this, a woman, Cheryl, walked by and asked us in English if we needed her help and we told her our predicament. Without hesitation she told us we could stay in her empty coffee farm guest house as long as we needed. Tourism is obviously one of the areas that is hugely impacted everywhere. The kindness in others during this trip has never ceased to amaze us. We took her up on her offer and we packed up our bags and bikes in the back of her pick up truck.
We drove for about 15 minutes and arrived at the most amazing guest house we have seen. It is much more than we need with 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, 2 decks on the upper floor with breathtaking views of the mountains, a garden that Jacklin is envious of and many birds to wake us up in the morning.
This coronavirus has inconvenienced our travel plans and that is just what it is, an inconvenience. We feel fortunate to be healthy, a place to stay and virus free when thousands around the world are reeling from the health and economic impact this is having. Our situation does not register with what is happening.
So that is where things stand at the moment but may change before I finish writing this blog.
Our last blog was in Otavalo and we headed into the cloud forest. A cloud forest is similar to a rain forest but at a higher elevation. The cloud and fog is almost a constant with 100% humidity. The flora and fauna is the most diverse and expansive as anywhere in the world.
We rode up to Laguna Cuicocha which is a volcanoe lake. We camped just outside the park entrance and were befriended by a dog who kept guard over us during the night. We managed to catch great views when the clouds lifted for short moments.
Our next stop was Apuela. The ride started in the fog and then it lifted and then it rained harder than any other time on our trip. The rain actually took our mind off the long steep hills we were climbing. As we were riding to a look out of Apuela the sun came out and the view of the town sunk low below massive cliffs was one of the most scenic we have seen. Words or photos can't capture the beauty. The last 5 KM into Apuela was a fun ride down the mountain side. We stayed for 2 nights and managed to be here for the Sunday Market.
We came across an office called DECOIN. Copper mining has been big here and incredibly destructive to the ecology of the area. DECOIN are a group that are fighting the mining companies, the government who provide acces to the mining companies and the courts who do not rule with impartially. It has been a long and dangerous fight but the people here are resilient. We talked with the group on what we, as foreigners, can do to help. We were encouraged to go to the small village called Junin to support their ecotouriam project...which we'll get to shortly.
From Apuela we doubled back up the mountain to make our way to a reserve known for its birds. We stayed at El Refugio, for 3 nights and the bird watching was incredible. We may have officially become bird watchers. Jacklin loved the numerous species of hummingbirds. We also spotted several Masked Trogans, tanagers and the weird looking Cock-of-the-Rock. Peter, the owner of the reserve spent so much time with us sharing his knowledge of the birds, flora and bugs.
We then took a couple of days to ride to Junin. Junin is the area where mining companies are trying to ravage the landscape and put species at risk of extinction. We spent 2 wonderful nights here watching Toucans, hummingbirds and other birds and orchids.
Jacklin learned the hard way that the caterpillars here aren't as cute and fuzzy as they look. Peter had told us a few a days ago that the ones with spikey looking hairs will hurt if you touch them. Jacklin was lying in a hammock when one fell on her neck & chest from the roof. She immediately felt the sting and flicked it off. Her skin blistered a bit and she forced herself not to touch and the swelling got better within a few hours but the area is still itchy.
So now we are here near Nanegalito but very content to enjoy our surroundings and help out with any projects in the farm.
The photos for this blog may be out of order from our travels. We can only put them in order from a computer and we will not be visiting an internet cafe anytime soon. As well, we have added 2 other photo albums for the Colombian and Ecuadorian birds we have managed to capture on film. We add to the Ecuador album as we find more birds.