Unblinking Eye


Ecuador (incidental photos)

Photography and Text by
Graham Braun

In the old city--breathtaking hills and stunning architecture.in·ci·den·tal: adjective: 1: being likely to ensue as a chance or minor consequence, or 2: occurring merely by chance or without intention or calculation

I subtitled this page with the the word incidental for a couple of reasons. First, I went to Ecuador to be at my sister Alison's wedding, borrowed camera in hand, taking the occasional snapshot to document the stay, but generally goofing off. Secondly, Alison's pictures of Ecuador are beautiful, and if I can convince her to write up some text and scan the negs, you'll probably never read my page again.

A pedestrian market in the old city, with mountains rising in the background.In February of 1999, we had a party to go to in Mindo, a couple of hours from Ecuador's capital, Quito. Considering there was no time zone shift (flying from Montréal) the biggest physical hit came from one thing: altitude. At 2879 meters (almost 10,000 feet) Quito is defined by medical guides as high altitude, and some acclimatization is necessary (for example note that Denver sits at about 5,000 feet). Although not victim to headaches or severe strains, we found ourselves puffing with our bags at the top of a flight of stairs, or a little lightheaded when standing up quickly and such. A couple of days saw as well-adjusted though, and it would have been worth a lot more hardship to be able to be transported into the middle of a thriving city proud of its mountain culture

...waiting...Weather wise, that altitude can account for some cool temperatures. Although we were practically sitting on the equator we were wearing heavy sweaters at night, and light jackets by day.

Nestled in among peaks on all sides, Quito is a long, narrow, sometimes hilly, and generally breathtaking, city. Gaining views from above are worth the trouble by cab or on foot, and the old city is stunning. According to UNESCO, "the capital of Ecuador has, despite the 1917 earthquake, the best preserved and least modified historic centre in Latin America." The architecture is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.

Steve & Pop in the capital.Here you can find an interesting article on Acclimatization and Illnesses associated with high altitudes.

Quito for the tourist is quite accommodating, with a restaurant district boasting everything from burgers and beers (and internet cafés) to different vegetarian menus and gourmet Italian.

You can get where you need to Approaching Mindo.go on foot, or by public transportation, and owing to the layout of the city it's tough to get lost with a basic map in your hand.

We left Quito on a slightly beat-up bus to take a two hour trip down to Mindo. The fact that it was daylight was a love/hate thing for me. I loved the views afforded by a truly winding road descending at the constant edge of a precipice. I hated being A quiet stream in the subtropical forest.on the edge of a precipice while the bus driver negotiated his way around a washed out section of road.

Heliconica flower, just off the trail.Mindo represents ecotourism opportunities for Ecuadorians and foreigners alike, with several unique attributes. Its altitude places three forest ecosystems within walking distance: Andean forest, subtropical forest, and cloud forest. The birds, bugs and flowers are in such huge visible variety that you might boggle.

The Ecological Corporation "Amigos de la Naturaleza de Mindo" (CEANM) is responsible for the protection of the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest, 19,200 hectares designated by the government in 1988. CEANM offers excellent rustic accommodations and volunteer programs and can be found here.

Butterfly in profile.Mindo also has some nice hotel rooms, restaurants, and lots of other services.

Clustered butterflies.These two pictures were taken at the Caligo Butterfly farm on the outskirts of town as we walked up to CEANM. Butterflies will land on you as the guide explains what you're seeing.


Oh, and the party? A huge success (and fairly beautiful as it was held in CEANM's Environmental Education Center...) but I'll leave that story for another time.

Contact Graham by email at graham@studiobraun.com
or visit his travel page at www.studiobraun.com/travel



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