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Ecuador 2017 – December 24, 2017

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Our last day in Ecuador. Sigh. Today’s tour takes us out to hopefully see condors. There are only 55 in the wild in Ecuador, and the tour takes us to a National Park area where the condors nest.

Our pickup is at 7:00 but this time breakfast is included with the tour. On the way to breakfast, we stop at a location in hopes of spotting a few condors. We did see a few birds, but they were too far away to identify. We take binoculars and scan the cliffs across the river where there is white bird poop marking various outcroppings. Why was I thinking that a condor’s nest would be something easier to observe? Breakfast consisted of eggs, bread, fresh fruit, coffee, and mystery fruit juice; there are a number of mystery fruits here is Ecuador.

While at breakfast, we spotted a few condors, still far away, but identifiable by their flight pattern. After breakfast we drove to a nearby extinct volcano and went on a nice hike. Here we again spotted distant condors, eagles feeding on a fresh kill, a young deer hiding in the bushes, a herd of wild horses, as well as rabbits and finches.
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike - eagles
Hike - eagles
Hike - deer
Hike - deer
Hike - deer
Hike - deer
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike
Hike
The guide asks “Have you been to Banos?” I had just stepped off the trail to take a little break, which was obvious in nature, or so I thought. So I say “Yes, banos”. The group turns and Vicky says, “We haven’t been to Banos.” Confused why everyone is looking my way, when banos is sort of a private deed, I finally realize the Banos must be the name of a town somewhere. Why the heck would they name a town Banos? So instead of going banos with everyone looking I engage in a short conversation with the guide to learn that Banos is a Hot Springs area – I’ll slip away behind the next available bush, thank you.

When we reach the top of the trail we are slightly over 14,000 feet high. There is an awesome view over the lake below us and to the snow capped volcano in the distance. Clouds are continually flowing around the peak with occasional breaks to offer a view of the summit.

After walking down from the hilltop to the parking lot our driver takes us to a high spot in the road where we prepared for a downhill bike ride. Donning our bicycle helmets and getting instruction on the brakes, we were all set. Being practically all downhill there is very little need to pedal. The parts that we did have to pedal were challenging only because of the altitude and lack of oxygen – we are at around 13,000 feet. I am really glad that we did not choose the optional uphill ride to start the trek.

Our bike ride finishes at the restaurant where we had breakfast. Hungry for lunch, we are served chicken with rice and potatoes – they sure do like their starches!
Bike ride
Bike ride
Our driver takes us to the Zaysant Ecolodge – this is the same place where we stayed the first night. The place is family owned and super friendly. In fact, the owners live on the premises and are hosting their family for the Christmas Eve celebrations. As far as I can tell, we are the only “guests”. But the owner goes out of his way to make sure that we feel welcome and have everything we need. He even invites us to join the party but that feels a bit weird.

At dinner it sounds like they are warming up the karaoke machine. They invite us again to join the party telling us that there will be dancing, singing, and drinking as the host is pulling out a large bottle of rum. Coffee is also brewing on the stove, so it seems like it will be an energetic event, but we have to get up at 4:30am to catch our flight in the morning, and my days of staying up all night have long gone. We all decide it would be best to retire to our rooms and get as much sleep as possible. It sounded like the party went on until at least 1:00 am as I was periodically awoken by the dogs barking and wrestling out on the lawn, and I could hear distant music.
Zaysant Ecolodge
Zaysant Ecolodge
4:30 comes way to soon. Coffee is prepared by our friendly hosts who couldn’t have gotten more than a few hours sleep. Promptly at 5:30 our driver arrives to take us to the airport. Another vacation comes to a close. This trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands definitely ranks as one of the best vacations. Where will our journeys take us next year?

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