November 19, 2011

Funny Things We See Sold

There's a new level of street vendors here in Quito - literally "in the street" vendors and guys who get on the buses. These are the people who go from car to car when traffic has stopped or they climb aboard even packed buses to shout out what awesome item they have to sell. Some of what they sell makes sense, but some is very odd. Here is a list of what we've seen sold on the street so far:

  • Balsa wood toy ships (already created)
  • Clementines and other fruit
  • TV antennas 
  • Car accessories such as steering wheel grip enhancers and rubber mats for the floor of the car
  • Refilled bottles of strange colored liquid 
  • Tea towels
  • Pastry items such as palmitas and bizcochos
  • Potato chips and banana chips ("chifles" as they are called here)
  • Newspapers
  • Hard candies of different varieties
  • Big paintings (3 ft. by 5 ft. painting - and he only had one!)
  • Fake DVDs and CDs
  • Puppies and kitties (we haven't seen them sold on the street exactly, but usually they're on the sidewalk or in the middle area of a busy boulevard so theoretically if someone in a car wanted one...)
  • Bags of chopped up yuca (I still don't know what people do with this)
  • Sandwiches (usually sold by a kid who has smushed it beyond recognition)
I'll update Facebook when I see something new or interesting being sold on the street so you guys can join in our amazement.

November 9, 2011

Birds of Paradise

 What are you looking at?
Collared Trogon

Well, there were birds that looked familiar. 
White-edged Oriole 

 And lots of bird watching posturing going on.
Greg and Hannah
 We spotted the endemic and threatened.
Baudo Guan
 There were plenty of toucan sightings.
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
 And a lucky find in a cliff upon the advice of a local.
Female Cock of the Rocks
 Can you even find this one?
Lineated Woodpecker
 Even Ayelet was excited about this adventure. I knew she always liked birding deep down.
Topical Kingbird
This is a short list of all the birds that we saw in Mindo over our 3rd anniversary get away. Ayelet and I saw so many birds during our visit that we could not possibly have had the camera ready enough. For all of you amateur photographers, a short word of advice. We were able to capture all of these close ups by taking pictures through the spotting scope of our bird guide. I learned the technique in science class by taking pictures through the microscope. It was a great way to capture everything that didn't fly away after a few seconds. This morning of birding has motivated me to go out more for this old favorite leisure activity of mine. You have not seen the end of the birds in Ecuador.

November 6, 2011

Lovely Mindo

Mindo valley
This last week we had two holidays - November 2nd was All Saints Day and November 3rd was Cuenca Independence Day - so luckily, we had some days to travel outside of Quito. Our first overnight daytrip was to Mindo, a town set in the cloudforest about 2.5 hours north of Quito.

Mindo has tons of things to do for people who're active - canyoning, ziplining, hiking to waterfalls, tubing and bird-watching. It was this last one that Greg was most excited about. I'm sure he'll write a post all about the cool birds we saw with our guide, Irman, and two friends. They were pretty awesome!

On the first day, we headed to check out a little butterfly garden that also had hummingbirds and tropical plants. Our favorite part was the hummingbird area had a porch with hammocks strung about. You could watch the hummingbirds and revel in the quiet from your own personal hammock! We topped off the afternoon with a brownie and drinks at a local cafe where they make their own chocolate.

Greg chilling with the hummingbirds
That evening, we headed to the frog concert, which really wasn't a frog concert but more of a nature walk at night in search of creepy crawlies. Our guide found plenty of them and some cute little frogs too. I tried to tune out and avoid looking when he pointed out spiders. It was a cool tour, but not for the squeamish!

The next morning, we woke up early for our bird tour because the best time to go is at dawn. After the 7km hike up, we went down to a waterfall and dipped our feet in the freezing water. It felt so good after the long morning. After a good long nap, showers and long lunch at the local Italian place, we tried to go owl spotting with our guide, but they were not showing up for us so we headed in for the night. Maybe next time!

Mindo was great for the active type, but also for us lazier folks who just are looking for a quiet corner to relax with a book or watch the hummingbirds that land on the feeder next to us. I highly recommend it!

November 3, 2011

Biodiversity in Ecuador

Ecuador is often one of the first places mentioned when people talk about biodiversity. Naturally, as a person of science, I was extremely excited to witness this plethora of life first hand. After arriving in Quito I found myself constantly amazed by all variety of trees that I can see from my window. And as I ask Ayelet the same question she says (in a monotone voice), "Yeah, it's pretty cool." It is kind of like Dr. Seuss had once visited here with the range of what I often refer to as "Truffula Trees," thanks to The Lorax.

So, here is a short example of my recent observations during the hike up Pichincha. I kept wondering how so many different plants were able to survive on this rough landscape in such a healthy amount.

November 1, 2011

Check out this fun online game. You could win a trip to Ecuador.