Ecuador (incidental photos)
Photography and Text by
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.
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
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.
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 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 on the edge of a precipice while
the bus driver negotiated his way around a washed out section of road.
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.
Mindo also has some nice hotel rooms, restaurants, and lots of other services.
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.