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                            The Spectacled Bear Project
18/9-4/11 09

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 This is part four of my diary from the Bear Project.  It all starts in Part 1.

 25/10. Blue flowerThe bar/restaurant on the other side starts playing some religious program around six - real loud! It is still on when we leave at nine. Besides from that, we are having yet another perfect day with sun. Seems like I might be able to avoid the rainy season after all. I won't complain over having bought a rain poncho for nothing!Red orchid

 Today's walk is one of the beautiful ones: Sempre Verde; heading up the slopes through forest, reaching the high grazing areas. We manages to find Frida, and after a long and rather fast walk, we are back at the main road for the twelve bus. I continues to Apuela to check mails and up-load, but first I get two Pony Malta: Didn't get any water on the tour today due to the earliness of the bus. Checkout the Sunday market and get the one o'clock bus back to the bear hut.

Black snout beetle

  Roomers about a overnight tour to the Paramo makes me check my two sleeping bags. The little one claims it is good for -2C while the large one say 8-12C. Guess the big one is most correct! I would so much prefer to do it in one day; avoiding being packed as a mule and the freezing and long night.

 Lasange - with and without wieners. Jen, Darsie, Henriette, Julie and Anna.Sara leaves with the three bus, Angela is going to Cazarpamba for the week, and things quiets down. Dinner is a improvising over lasagne, and it have to wait to Julie and Henriette is back close to six. I make two tomato sauces; one vegetarian - my first vegetarian dish ever! Henriette make the béchamel sauce, and it is perfect!

 Meanwhile, Jenn and Darsey prepares a banana/pineapple crumple, which I personally look forwards to! Dine is finish at seven, bite later than I have thought and planned, but it takes more than half an hour just to get the water boiling for the pasta plates. Luckily, it is worth waiting for. I ought to make lasagne more often, just buying the béchamel.

 I have to admit: I am way better taking photos than to delete them! Spent the evening going through the selected photos once again, and end up deleting 250. That is only ten percent, and I guess there are still way to many. On the other hand: It might just been a very giving tour, and my skills as a photographer have improved: More motives, less bad images. Stops at eleven, way over my bedtime!

 Large and very green fly26. To day, we are ready for the bus at half pass eight, but it is just on time at nine. That gives me some time to photo the insects along the road, among them; a largeMany bromeliads in few trees and very green fly. It is starting to be rare for me to find new plants and animals.

 Jenn and Darsey do the Tabletuba with Alberto  while Julie, Anna and I do the Cazarpamba, but an extended version. We get a ride to the settlement, and continues over the high plateau. It is a beautiful grassing land with cows and lamas. It is a magnificent summer day with a light breeze and 33C.

Behing Cazapamba 180 degree view

 A few lamasThe view to the surrounding valleys are breathtaking, and the nature is - even though manmade - amazing. We follows a small path witch are accompanied by a dug creek. The Plumera-like fence poles are overfilled with bromeliads, and many of the bushes in the living fence are flowering to the benefit of various insects - and me.

 On the very ridge, which is vide, there are some square hills which I figure must be ancient grass pyramids. I have seen some in other parts of Ecuador, and the appearance are pretty alike. On top of that, the possession matches the compass.  I think it is a grass pyamid

 We find Frida a few times on this new addition to the trail, and returns. Not a single bear on the long walk home, where we arrival at one. As so many times before, the summer day ends at two, when the clods comes rolling in.  

 Evening in company with a new book while the others watch some volleyball game in Pucará. It is, as most other evenings; a bit to cold to be enjoyable on the porch - or any other place for that matter. I would so much love a fireplace in the house!

 27. Long and steepJenn, Darsey and I sets off at half pass seven to collect hair- and faces samples from a valley in the middle of our usual area. Here should be several bears, of which we only have a radio collar on Frida. The samples will be DNA tested sometime in the future, and a moreDonkey precise picture should reveal it selves.

 We meet up with Alberto on the Cazarpamba trail, follows it for some time, and head into the farmers field. It is a little used trail called Lomaredonda with a steep assent; an average of 45 degree. We are lucky with the sun: It is hidden behind some low clouds, and the temperature is durable for the climb.Huge bromeliads

 Just behind the farmers hut, a donkey and one of the tiny horses are found. Then we passes through one enclosure after an other with a few black and white milking cows and theirStrange, new orchid calves. The few remaining trees are covered with orchids and bromeliads. After a couple of hours, we reaches the forest. The assent continues through a dense vegetation with some bamboo areas in.

 We are folowering a well keep track, which continues to go up. We have been scanning for bears all the way - without any luck - and at eleven, we find the first bear traces. We collect around ten hairs form stems while we walk deeper and Finding ear hairsdeeper into the forest and up the mountain.

 We reaches the peak at noon, and start the descent on  the other side. The temperature have gone down to 15C, but we are at 2950 mos .I have seen a few new plants and insects when weOne frog turn around at one. The walk back is easier, when we passes the peak, although descents like this is tough on the knees.

 The temperature raises to 25C, but the sun have gone for today. I would say we have been very lucky with the weather, and it is the rainy season! We are back at the main road little after three,The canopy but have to walk all the way to the bear hut without a lift. Eight hours of real challenging walking for ten hairs!

 Oh-yes; lets not forget the 250 photos, which have to be sorted. 160 makes it through first rough sorting. 50 gets re-framed, and then they are divided into the respective groups.

 After dinner, which -surprise -surprise - was noodle/potato soup, I start packing for the Páramo tour. It have finally succeeded me to arrange a one day tour. Unfortunately, I will be going alone with Alberto, which means I have to carry the radio and his lunch along with my warm cloths. I newer bothers bringing lunch for my selves, just a slightly larger breakfast, and I'm fine. Alpine looking plant

 27. The half pass seven bus is on time, and Alberto jumps on by his house. We drive a little more than an hour towards Otavalo. When we are at the high pass, in 3000 mos, we jumps off at the Páramo. It is a brilliant day for the tour: Bright sun, clear sky and a slight breeze. The Páramo GateThe temperature have dropped to 17C, but that is fine for the steep assent.

 We crawl over a gate and are soon in the typical Páramo vegetation: Stiff, partly yellow grass. The first part are mixed with some low scares bushes and other vegetation, but only for half a kilometre or so. Some others have done the same tour in the past, but always with a overnight in the high altitude. Alberto is anxious to get back to his two kits in the hospital, and I'm fine with walking fast, if just I get time to photo.Also alpine looking plant

One single plant, high up It is a steep climb, we are going from 3000 to 4350 mos, and there are not many flat areas on the trail. Many small hills form large hills that forms mountains. All look the same: Soft, greenish-yellow, continuing to the sky. We are more or less following a ridge, and the views to the sides and back down are totally breath taking - or it might be the altitude. The air contains only a quarter of the oxygen I'm use to, and I'm working hard!

400 degree panorama of the Paramo

 I find quite a lot interesting plants underneath the grass, some with a significantly "alpine-look". I have to remember to The trailenjoy the gigantic views too; I can see for hundreds of kilometres! Besides form the gigantic mountains, there are a large lake; Laguna Cuicocha.Laguna Cuicocha

We stop several times to scan for bears, but we don't seem to be able to find any. Alberto do the scanning while I'm on all four, searching for new plants. I only see a few butterflies, and no other animals.

 At eleven, after only two short hours of walking, we reaches the camp-site. I am slightly surprised; I have thought it would have caused me way more effort to reach this high altitude point, and more time!Got to be there to grasp it I do a good search for plants and other interesting sights, Young pyahand we start the descent. While Alberto walks real fast, I either lie on my knees photoing, or I'm running. It is surprisingly easy to run, even though I'm in over 4000 metres height. I'll bet my diving buddy will be in less good shape than me, when we start diving in 14 days!

 We reaches the main road after 45 minutes, and Alberto get to eat the lunch I have brought for him, before we are picked up by a large truck. While we sit there, I see the (shadow) of the first lizard/iguana I have seen on this tour. The clouds are coming, and the tour back is in partly cloudy conditions, but with some fantastic views of this unknown road. A slightly used Alberto jumps off at home, I continues to Apuela, with the truck, to upload diary and check mails. 

410 degree panorama of the Paramo

 It is waste!Back at the bear hut little to four, where Anna is alone. Jenn and Darsey are on a camp-tour, Julia and Henriette have left for the rest of their tour, Angela are still in Cazarpamba, and it is quiet! New volunteers will come on Monday, until that, I'm the (only) one! I claim Anna is having a real easy job as volunteer coordinator, considered how coordinated I am by my selves!Cotopaxi behind the kitchen

 The 250 photos of the day are sorted (175 survived), and due to the really special habitat, they are given their own section: Páramo Highlights, Páramo Plants and The Lot (except plants). Somehow, this take all evening, but I am real glad I got to go on the High Páramo!

 29. Alberto wants to stay close to home, so I do the Sempre Verde tour with him. I doubt we find any bears, but it is a nice walk. Anna stay back at the bear hut with my computer, working on her job applications.Just so many bromeliads on this trail

 We starts at Albert's house, leaving some posters, getting two dogs. We all keep a good pace, and reach the end of the trail after an hour and a half. No bears, but I do find some new, small flowers. Armando passes bye - in about 3000 feats height - in a helicopter. He have gotten it sponsored, and now he  tries to find the missing GPS collars (he didn't). Alberto's dog Simba

 The way back is downhill and faster, especially when we hear an ambulance in the distance! (it was Celica's daughter giving birth). We are down in one hour, and I say goodbye to Alberto, who live round the corner. There are no busses on this time of day, and I end up walking all the way back to the bear hut; almost two hours, mainly uphill. That means I finally get a picture of a farmers hut which have begun growing.Growing house

 There are no one at the hut, and I decides I have a well deserved lunch. A couple of reheated bread roles, one with honey and peanut butter - which actually tastes all right, and one with a fried egg. There have not been boiled water for drinking, but besides from that, Cecilia's "job" are doing it selves without herThe ever green Sempre Verde.

This was the forth day in a row with a real demanding tour: I will need to cut back on all this psychical challenges before I get home!  I sure hope the new trail; Ambuenola we are going to try tomorrow turns out to be more easy. Should be from Pucará to Apuela, but by the never used back-trail, leading fast down to the valley.

 At five, I torch some milk powder, water, cream cheese, flower, pepper, vegetable bouillon and a dash of oregano in on pot, some tuna in a frying-pan and some pasta in a pot of boiling water. Served with fresh plucked lime fruits and parmesan cheese, it end up quite a delicious dish. Evening spent with a book in a hammock, although I might start packing.

 30. Anna uses my computer in the early morning, and I start packing. Have to make a small bag with my Quito and Atlanta cloth and stuff. Due to the Wellingtons and cloth I have bought here, the bag is starting to be full - and heavy! ISteep farming doubt I can keep it under 23 kg, but I bought my ticket two days before Delta Airlines changed the amount of suitcases from two to one, and I should get away with two bags. Then again; they have altered my flight twice, and will probably claim it is a new ticket. Wild river

 We finish our jobs, and I sets off at nine, pass Pucará and down a small trail, leading down the valley. The dog; Lucky, which came back last night, follows us. We pass the fields of the local farmers, which turn steeper and steeper. At one point, you simply can't see the button of the yucca field. It is around 55 degree, and I can't figure how he get up again?

 The small path offers some breathtaking views through the valley and down to the river. We do some scannings for bears, but no luck. Instead, we enjoy the awesome nature between the fields. Once, we passes through a ravine with giant spider webs on the sides, spun between the skeleton-like roots. Other times, Water cooled dogwe are out in the open on a small ridge, and can see to Apuela and Santa Rosa - well, kind of. Narrow brigde

 We reach the white river after a very long descent, and find the path are folowering it. So do we. The nature is quite different to what we else have seen on our trails. I have only seen a few of the many butterflies this area hosts. Here are also some new plants, and it is a really enjoyable area, so close to the bear hut.

 A few small and very narrow hanging bridges crosses the furious river, and after we have reached a ridge that ends out in the river, we head back, and crosses by one of them. It take some prevention to lure Lucky over - no wonder!

 On  the other side, a gravel road follows the river, all the way to Apuela. We are walking right underneath the giant "face" and the Small iguanavertical wall behind Apuela. We find a real flat snake, and agree it takes not only stupidity but also patience to be road-killed around here!

 A small iguana runs into the bushes, but I manages to get a blurry picture of it. The first lizard-like creature I actually manages to shot! I have to admit; it is so much easier to photo plants than reptiles and birds! Especially when I do it in habitat, not cooled down, and in a box.500 meter steep wall

 We reaches Apuela little over eleven, and head straight for the internet. I finish fast, and get a ride back to the bear hut with a school truck. Haven't done it before, and will never again: The buy some huge Fabaceae fruits, eat the cotton-like sweet material around the big, black seed, and throw the seed at the girls - or whatever they hits.

 I spent the nice afternoon getting a bit of sun, fine-tuning my huge bag and reading. Anna and then the Jenn and Darsey returns from their camping tour. They haven't been able to find a bear either, but they have had a great tour out in the wild.

 Real big seedpod from a Fabaceae - I thinkWe start cooking the few things we have. Anna finds some yucca which she first boils, then fries. I make some of my white sauce, chop some wieners in slices and fries them. Same goes with some vegetables and a pot of pasta completes the cause. Sorry to say it Cecelia; We like our own food so much more than your noodle-potato soup! While we are cooking, Ali; a re-cycled volunteer arrives, and Anna won't be alone when we leave tomorrow morning.

 While the others go in to Pucará to play volleyball, I sit in a hammock and read while I am enjoying the rather warm evening. So fare, the rainy season have been good to the bear project. How the future will be - can't really concern me. I'll be in Quito the next two days, then Atlanta and the week after; Indonesia. It is the week in Denmark that concerns me: The forecast predicts 2-8 degrees, quite some rain and wind too! Not exactly what I'm build for!

 31. Jenn and Darsey leaves with the seven bus while I take it easy and wait for the bus at nine. I'm not really feeling well on the two and a half hour drive to Otavalo, and try to sleep all the way. The last quarter is on sealed road, and that works much better, and I decide to continue right away. Five minutes to shift bus and visit the Banős, and I'm off again.

 It have started to rain, and the views are not worth the effort, so I sleep again. Once again, it is a two and a half hour ride, and then; I'm at the Grand Terminal Norte in Quito, where the rain continues. I'm glad I don't have any plans to play tourist in Quito - except going out to Mida del Mondo.

 Back in Quito, I take a local bus to the Terminal Central, but then my patience Small, but real cosy roomwith public transport runs out. I might be able to save three dollars by taking a trolley, a bus and then a taxi, but I spent five dollars and take a taxi straight to the Hostel Secret Garden, where I have a reservation. The huge and heavy bag and the rain does it. Even though I still don't speak Spanish, it is so easy due to the map I prepared from home.

 Halloween EveI reach the hostel at three, and are meet by the great Indian guy; Rafael. I get a real nice private room, and two large mugs of their own grained coffee - the first real coffee for six weeks! The rain still pores down, and I retire toI took some photos my room to write on the diary. The internet is down at the hostel, but after a bit of tingling; I get to plan my visit in the US.

 Dinner at the roof restaurant, and then back to the internet room to up-load photos. Somehow, I have missed it is Halloween Eve, and most of the residents of the hostel turns up in costumes. Real cosy evening in British/Australian/Irish company along with Ecuadorian rum.

 1. November. It is a greyish and rather cold morning, and I decides there are nothing that important in Quito, to drag me outside. I got plenty of work to do on my site, tagging photos with contense and author, making slideshows and upload them. Forgot to do the tagging last night, and it is all over again plus those I didn't accomplice.

 It takes more than one day, due to the rather slow internet connection, but I read and chat with other travellers meanwhile. It is a surprisingly skinny library the hostel have: One Japanese, one Greek and two Spanish books PLUS: One Danish I haven't read! Dinner at the hostel again; fast, convenient and tasty. Guess I could find it cheaper, but don't bother. Continues the up-loading until midnight, and quit, although I still miss al the photos from Toisán.

 2. It seems to be a nice day, and I set my plan in action: Go to Midta del Mondo to take a photo - after breakfast. Some walking through town, then a but to a terminal and an other out to the large and very touristed area - with very few tourists. Self-portrait: Me on Equator 1997Me on Equator in 2009

 I find the place I took a photo twelve years ago, and change into shorts to get it again. Walk amount the numerous souvenir shops and restaurants to find a small bear for souvenir, but the only one I can find is pandas!

 Then I remember my hunt for guinea pig; Cuy. There are actually a restaurant that offers it. Three times the price on their other courses, but I figure it is now or never!

 After a bit of waiting, I get a whole grilled animal with sauce, potatoes and salad. Unfortunately, the meat is slightly tough, but the taste is great; something like rabbit, porcupine and rat. There are not much meat on, especially when it is not cooked enough. I have a chat with the cook, who tells me it have been pre-cooked for 25 minutes. I suggest he do it for an hour next time.Concrete cathedralFried guinea pig

 Find a bus going back to Centrum, and head for the cathedral. Sounds like someone is shouting my name; then again. There is: Julie from the bear project. She is on her way for the cathedral as well, and we joins. It was made in the 1859, but the main construction I see if from around the thirties; made in enforced concrete.

For a catholic church, it is rather sparse decorated inside the neoclassic walls. The real showcase is the many and large colourful windows. Unfortunately, they are only restored by gluing on some transparent glass over the holes. The concrete is  warn out as well. Several spear-formed decorations have fallen down, and the enforcement iron are visible many places.

 Plenty of real fine glass workThere are catacombs below it, and the towers can be claimed by thin metal ladders. It is rewarded with a fantastic view of the city, spreading out more than ten kilometres to both sides.Sparce for a catolic church Rain clouds roles in over the mountains, and soon; it starts to rain. The towers closes, and we are head down town. I being chilled, and head for my (former) hostel.

 Get there at five, and start working on diary, pictures and mails. Dinner at 18.30 precise, and then a bit more computer-time. A fast shower, and I'm off to the airport to fly to Atlanta to spend a day. Step  outside the hostel at nine, and are picked up fast by the taxi driver who must  have been the inspiration for the French movie. We reach 140 km/h by zigzagging through the traffic in central Quito!

 The airport is efficient as well: I sit checked, cleared, controlled and scanned at the gate quarter to ten. Unfortunately, the last café have just closed, even though there still are three airplanes this evening. On the positive side, the internet is not only rather good, it is for free. I upload some more photos while I wait.

 It have, all in all, been a great holiday, and defiantly every dollar worth! The scientific and conservation work have been less impressive than I have thought, but the nature and the lovely and always smiling locals makes up for that big time. 

Continues in Atlanta



    €        US$
Flight  6671 895 1247
Contribution to the Project, 1˝  month 4815 645 900
Insurance (in combination with Sulawesi) 684 92 128
New useful gear (Shoe-shine3, pans32, T-shirts12, Wellingtons8, 12 beers for tent10) 347 47 65
New unused gear (Sleeping bag37, knife8, socks13, locks18, DEET8, rain poncho10, spare camera 112$) 1102 148 206
Transit hostel in Quito, 3+2 nights 535 72 100
Local transport, Quito (31) and project (26$) 305 41 57
Additional food and beverages, Quito (95) and project (32$) 680 91 127
The rest (Internet8, help to burned child5, entrees12,5+ i.e.15, airport tax 40) 365 52 71
TOTAL: 15500   2080  2900