Today was a bonus day, and it was certainly that. As we were all staying an extra night in Quito, Jess & Chris organised an outing to an area in the mountains that surround Quito called the Cloud Forest. It is a beautiful area of deep valleys and mist-shrouded hills covered in dense rainforest.
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel we were picked up by bus at 8.30. Our guide Oscar was a charming young man who entertained us with stories of life in Ecuador as we drove to the Cloud Forest. Our first stop was a service station for a refueling stop – for the bus and for us. He had told us that Ecuador makes the best chocolate in the world, so we were keen to try some – but all they had were Hershey Bars and the like.
The drive was longish (well over an hour) and I’m afraid I dozed for some of it. It was interesting driving though the city and suburbs of Quito, and then along a winding road through the hills. We arrived at our first destination which was a walk to a pretty waterfall, through an area of native orchids. It was very pretty and we loved being in the rainforest and taking photos of flowers, frogs, lizards and the waterfall. Oscar had to chase us out of the forest and back onto the bus or we would have stayed there all day.
We arrived at Bella Vista Lodge in time for lunch. Bella Vista is an ecolodge deep in the forest, where we stopped for lunch but also to photograph hummingbirds. There are many endemic hummingbirds in the Cloud Forest, and Bella Vista has a number of feeders which attract them. We spent a happy couple of hours trying to get the perfect photograph – tricky, considering how fast those tiny birds fly! I dread to count how many photos I took but I actually filled 2 memory cards. Amongst those there are lots of shots of empty branches! Some of the group (including Keith) also went for a rather strenuous walk through the forest, which is a magical place. They saw toucans and woodpeckers, but couldn’t get any photos of them. There were however lots of opportunities for macro shots of flowers, berries, mushrooms and a tiny frog.
It was quite a long drive back, and we encountered a bit of traffic, so we were glad to get to the hotel at about 6.30. We went straight out for dinner at TGI Fridays, which is apparently a North American restaurant – tasty food, huge servings. The menu was amusing – the names of the dishes were all in English, but the descriptions in Spanish, and the waitress seemed to struggle with the English names. Keith & I played it safe after last night and both had steak.
Half the group are leaving tomorrow, either to go home or on to further adventures. It was sad to say goodbye but we will keep in touch. I am glad we still have some holiday ahead of us!