Tag Archives: ecuador

Galápa-gosh – pt. 2: the maiden flight of a young albatross.

The albatross is one of the most astonishing birds in the world. It can fly for thousands of miles from the shore, it can actually live up in the air for years without landing, epic poems are written about it, epic songs are sung about it, it’s considered an omen, and generally there’s an air of mystery around the species. I mean, like, how did they learn to fly just soooo far? How do they sleep up in the sky? How do they sniff out smells of potential prey from miles away?.

The first time I saw some albatrosses was while sailing on a research vessel through the Drake Passage en route to Antarctica, as you do. They seemed to appear out of nowhere, soared so low over the ocean it looked like they were touching it, circled round the ship (just curious?), and then disappeared never to be seen again; and never once did we see them flap their wings! Like, really: zero times! Indeed, they can glide for hours (or is it days, weeks or months?) upon airstreams caused by large ocean waves and wind – both of which they need both to survive; calm, windless conditions are lethal to the albatross. No wind means it simply can’t fly off – not from water, not from land.

In fact, the species has gone so far down the evolutionary road that’s led to its extraordinary gliding abilities that their wings are hardly flappable like other birds’ wings any more. Instead, they have special retainers into which the bones of the wings stick into, fixing the two-or-three-meter-wide wings in place to resemble a glider plane – with no muscles being used at all and zero energy expenditure.

How do they sleep if they’re up in the sky for years (the first six years of their lives they never touch land once!)? Apparently it’s still not known. It might be that the two halves of their brains take it in turns to sleep and be awake, much like whales and dolphins’ do.

Great albatrosses are expert fishermen and fisherwomen. Much like the boobies, they’re super-fast divers, though they don’t go as far deep into the ocean as boobies. They can sniff out ‘food’ from miles away; they drink seawater (they have a special organ in their beaks (the little bumps with the holes thereon) that filters out the salt!!). They nest and breed only in one place – where they were born. That is, after several years and hundreds of thousands of kilometers of flying gliding they return right back to their birthplace.

Truly fantastic fowl.

Simply seeing an albatross would probably have been the main Ecuad-awe-someness of our second day on the Galápagos Islands. However, what made it even more incredible was that we saw the first ever flight of a young great albatross! But I’ll get to that in a bit…

Rewind! A new day – a new island. Next up: Española Island, which is the main breeding ground of the Galápagos Islands.

Read on…

Galápa-gosh – pt. 1: the dance of the boobies.

Hi folks!

Here we were – in the sunny Galápagos islands, after having flown in from the mainland and boarded the small ship we’d be on for the next seven days. And like I’ve already mentioned, on every one of those days we were treated to one large extraordinary Ecuad-awesomeness, plus several smaller ones. But let’s start with day one, whose main Ecuad-awesomeness was – the blue-footed booby!

Yes, I just wrote booby in a blogpost folks! Never thought I’d see that… But boobies with blue feet?! Ye gods!…

Before your imaginations get the better of you, here are the boobies:

Read on…

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And you thought there was just one equator?

Even if you know hardly any Spanish at all, it’s fairly easy to work out that the etymology of ‘Ecuador’ has something to do with the equator upon which the country sits. And you’d be right: ‘ecuador‘ is in fact the Spanish for the English word equator.

So it seemed obvious to me that we just had to visit said ecuador/equator. If we didn’t, it’d be like going all the way to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower, or to London and not snapping Big Ben and the Thames, or to Moscow and not seeing the Kremlin and Red Square, to Rome without the Colosseum, Sydney – the Opera House, Kamchatka – grizzly bears; New York – the Empire State Building, and so on and on and on… (now there’s a list that could go on forever:). So that’s just what we did – we went to visit the equator and the ‘equator museum’, both of which are in suburban Quito.

All righty. Off we pop to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo – the Middle of the World City. And here it is – the middle of the world – painted as a line in yellow:

Read on…

Three days on the Condor.

My pals and I love a spot of trekking in remote places around the globe. Just two or three days normally does the trick: enough to get in plenty of gawping at luscious landscapes, plenty of exercise, plenty of curiosity satisfaction, and of course plenty of pretty photography.

And our New Year trip to Ecuador proved no exception. With small rucksacks on our backs (and accompanied by horses carrying the larger items like tents and so on) we walked along a lengthy stretch of the Condor Trek.

Read on…

A qilometer inside Quilotoa.

As I’m sure you’ll know, Ecuador has plenty of volcanism. Right down the middle of the country from top to bottom there’s a section of the mountain range that goes be the name of the Andes, along which are not less than ~three dozen volcanoes, many of which are situated in the ‘Alley of the Volcanoes’ – a valley with mountain ridges and volcanic cones on each side.

Not only is the quantity of volcanoes very impressive; the quality is too: attractive though unusual; monumental and hypnotic, with lush (and perfectly round) lakes in considerable craters, sheer cliffs, and assorted other OMG panoramic views. The first one we inspected like that was Quilotoa:

This is how it looks from a satellite:

Read on…

New Year – even further from the center.

Hi folks!

A promised, herewith begin my tales from the Ecuadorian side. I’ve lots and lots to tell, and lots and lots of pics to show. So, as per tradition: popcorn, comfortably seated… off we go…

This mini-series on our trip will generally simply follow the route and the events that occurred on it in chronological order as they actually happened. But first I must tell you this:

How best to see in the New Year.

Some prefer taking it easy over the Christmas and New Year period (some even dread it!). Others – like moi and posse in recent years – don’t take it easy for one second, and instead jet off to a far-away hot clime for some untraditional festive celebrations of our own devices – further from the center. Once – further on Kilimanjaro, last year – in Indonesia. For our own devices have shown us how Christmas/New Year happiness and contentment doesn’t come from doing not much at all sat at home, but from bathing in the velvety hot waters of hot springs on the other side of the globe. And Ecuador happens to have velvety hot waters in its hot springs. It was a no brainer: off we zip to Ecuador!…

Read on…

Ecuadorian equatorial: warm-up.

Hi folks!

I think I’ve found myself the perfect avatar:

That’s just one of the zillion pics we took in Ecuador recently, one of the billion I’ll be uploading here to this here blog of mine over the next week or so.

Ecuador? Yes – Ecuador, which is where pals and I spent the New Year holidays. No armchair-based Christmas period – drinking too much (tea with honey and lemon, of course), eating too much, and watching telly too much at home. Noooo. Not us. Not our cup of sherry.

So, why Ecuador? Well, the weather in Moscow leaves a lot to be desired around New Year, as you probably know. So said pals and I, IMHO quite logically, like to jet off somewhere very hot and very sunny. But the hot and sunny place must have a few others features, preferably in abundance, including any of the following: mountains, volcanoes, hot springs, hot lakes, ocean, islands, beaches, altitude sickness (!), and a nearby equator. Last New Year it was Indonesia – which ticked practically all those boxes. This year: Ecuador and the nearby Ecuadorian Galápagos Islands, which apparently also pack in the just-listed; especially: beautiful indigenous birds, seals, and turtles, and of course much exquisite Ecuadorial-equatorial scenery.

Good time? Check.

Unforgettable impressions? Check.

Tales to tell? Check – coming right up in a mini-series on these here blog pages.

Photos to show you? Check, as mentioned.

On the photo-front, I was helped out tons by my frequent-fellow-traveler-and-photographer, DZ, who’s been kind enough – and efficient enough – to have edited his trillion pics already. I haven’t even started mine! So for your aperitif before your multi-course feast, here are some of the highlights – exactly 100 pics, btw! – from DZ’s Ecuadorian collection. Ready? Off we pop…

Read on…