Sunday, May 20, 2007

At the middle of the Earth

Quito, Ecuador -- This city lies along the volcanic spine of Ecuador at about 9,000 feet. At the moment it is a caldron of political activity as the new president, Rafael Correa, dismantles the congress and courts and other institutions to advance his agenda, which emulates that of Compañero Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. This was a demonstration by public employees.

Climbers like Cotopaxi volcano, which rises to about 19,000 feet. Its neighbor, Pichincha, looms right over Quito. Residents told us that a few years ago, the volcano rained ash on the city for eight days. Everything was covered with the grit. We went to the top of Pichincha to look down into the crater. Fog made just about everything invisible except for the plaques placed in memory of various tourists who got too close to the edge: "Aquí falleció Diego ....“, "Aquí falleció Humberto ....“, which is to say, “Here´s where Diego died...”, “Here´s where Humberto died...”

Bella Vista is a resort hideaway a couple hours outside of Quito, Ecuador, where we spent two days before heading off to the Galapagos Islands. It's in a cloud forest at about 7,000 feet. Iridescent hummingbirds with tails as long as a concert pianist's swarmed around the resort. They moved too fast for our digital camera's pokey processor to capture. We did see some Baltimore orioles, something we've never seen in Baltimore.

It's hard to see animals in the forest unless you have a guide along to help. The reptiles and mammals have camouflage and the birds hide. We were lucky later in our trip when we saw two caracara falcons sitting on fenceposts on the slopes of Pichincha.

One of the dancers in traditional dress performs at La Mitad del Mundo, the site that is supposed to mark the equator.

Cindy at Baños, which is famous for its active volcano, hot springs, waterfalls and streams.

The statue of the winged virgin overlooks Quito.

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