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Ecuador, South America
December 2007

    Itinerary:
    Quito
    Pañacocha
    Jatuncocha, Parque Nacional Yasuní
    Cocaya
    Lagartococha

Synopsis

EcuadorDecember 21st
    The next morning it was raining again so we had breakfast at the hotel.  Tor and I had to depart from Paola, Brock, and Brett at this point.  They would continue on their travels in Ecuador – down to the southern tip.  Tor and I had to head back to Quito to catch our flight back.
    We said our goodbyes at the Coca airport.  Our flight was delayed (again) so we didn’t get into Quito until around 1PM.  We checked into La Casa Sol, which was a nice enough hotel – cute with a lot of charm.  In Quito, we wandered around, the Marsical District, new town, or what we called Gringoville.  A lot of it was cleaned up and redone to accommodate the tourists.  There were also a lot of police in bulletproof vest on almost every street – perhaps to help keep crime down, though I’ve read that crime was worse in the new town area. 
    Wandering around Quito, we found a big store that was a combination clothes/food/decorations/stuff/etc store, so we could stock up on Noggy, Plops (candy) and Avena Oatmeal Drink, things that Paola introduced us to.
    We also walked to the Mercado near the Marsical District.  It was fun looking at what trinkets and clothes they were selling.  We picked up some souvenirs and gifts to take home.  There were also a lot of little girls begging for money – they’d basically stand in front of you or keep themselves in front of you, hold up their hand, and without looking at you repeatedly ask for money.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant near our hotel that served “Ecuadorian” food.  It was okay, but not nearly as good as the $2 meals at Pañacocha or our meals while camping.  We tried the Kuy or guinea pig.  I didn’t like it – it was super greasy meat with a weird after taste.  At least I tried something new.  And we got to have juice with our meal.

December 22nd
    We had one full day in Quito, so we decided to walk to old town and check out the churches.  It was a nice enough walk through town without many people out during the morning.  Once we reached the San Augustin church, the crowds of people seemed to show up.  There was a steady stream of people – we tried to figure out what they were doing – whether it was coming out of church, taking a Sunday walk, or doing some Christmas shopping, there were a lot of people in the streets.  There were many shows (of some entertaining variety) going on at most of the plazas.
    We walked around old town going to the Plaza Grande and Plaza San Francisco eventually making our way toward the Panecillo.  I had read about the Panecillo, which was a large Virgin Mary statue on top of a hill that provided a good lookout over all of Quito. I read that walking up the hill was a bad idea – since people would try to take advantage of any tourist as they panted and climbed their way to the top.  However, Tor wasn’t convinced when I told him and wanted to walk it anyway. 
As we walked up the first steps to the Panecillo, we saw a small girl scooting on her butt down the sloped sidewalk.  When she saw us, she got up and told us not to walk up the hill, pointing to Tor’s camera; instead she told us to take a taxi or a bus.  This was enough to change Tor’s mind, so after waving down a taxi, we get up to the top of the Panecillo.
    At the Panecillo, we can see over the city and a few of the mountains that are not covered by the clouds.  I could imagine it’s quite spectacular on a clear day.  Still we enjoy the view.  There were a few vendors set up on top of the hill, several people dressed up for the tourists: couple of people dressed as Santa, one dressed as Barney (the purple dinosaur), and a couple of dressed up Alpacas.  On a stage, there was another show of some sort going on.
    We decided to walk back down from the hill (I’ve read it’s better than walking up, since you won’t be tired), but we waited for an Ecuadorian woman with five kids to follow behind as our “cover.”  The stairs and path wandered through some questionable areas and behind houses.  A group of men were sitting where the stairs cross a street; we stuck close to the kids until they break away to play on a playground.  But we were close enough and made it safely down to the streets.
    Back on the streets, we made our way to the Basilica – a church that a lot of people deem ugly.  First we stopped at an Ecuadorian restaurant chain called Ceviche, where the ceviche was disappointedly bad, but at least we both got guanábana juice with our meal.
We continued to the Basilica, which was interesting to say the least – there were many gargoyles, but not of the typical nature.  There were gargoyles of alpacas, iguanas, boobies, peacocks, sheep, etc., a large menagerie of animals.  I could see why people don’t like it – one part of the church was built in the true gothic style, with real gargoyles and real stone, but the majority of it was built out of concrete and weird animals. 
    Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped in a park and browsed through the vendors and artists that were set up.  One of the things I liked about Quito was the many stores that were crammed into the first level of buildings – they looked like they should be garages, but it was an entire grocery, shoe, clothes store or restaurant. 
    For our second night in Quito, we had to switch hotels since the Casa Sol didn’t have room for us.  They sent us across the street to the Jardin del Sol, which was an adequate hostel, though didn’t have any charm or character. 
We had dinner at another restaurant down the street called Boca del Lobo (Mouth of the Wolf) and had good-enough food.

December 23rd
    Our travel day back was long and tiring.  Luckily all our flights were on time.  There was plenty of time to reflect on the trip and think about our next venture to Ecuador.

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Pictures

Rio Napo was a lot higher with the rains.
End of the trip as the group, as Tor and I have to head back.
From Coca
To Quito
The Mercado near New Town
Shared sentiments...
Church of San Augustin
Plaza Grande
Busy streets of Old Town
Plaza de San Francisco
Panecillo
View from the Panecillo
The Basilica
Odd gargoyles of various animals are in pairs along the roof tops.
Armadillo gargoyles
Doors of the Basilica
This part of the Basilica was done in the traditional style - with real stone and real gargoyles.
                                      
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Bird List

common name scientific name place seen Comments
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus L large flocks on the lagoon
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga
Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi N, J, AC, L
Great Egret Ardea alba G, N, J, AC, L
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea Y, L
Snowy Egret Egretta thula N, J, L
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis N, J, L
Striated Heron Butorides striata N, P, J, Y, AC, L
Agami Heron Agamia agami AC 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax P, L
Rufescent Tiger-Heron Tigrisoma lineatum L, J
Wood Stork Mycteria americana L 1
Horned Screamer Anhima cornuta L (heard)
Muscovy Duck Cairina moschata J, L
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus everywhere
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura G
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture Cathartes melambrotus everywhere
Osprey Pandion haliaetus N, J, Y, L
Swallow-tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus P, Y
Plumbeous Kite Ictinia plumbea AC 2
Black-collared Hawk Busarellus nigricollis L 1
Yellow-headed Caracara Milvago chimachima NR
Bat Falcon Falco rufigularis L 1
Spix's Guan Penelope jacquacu P, L (heard) likes to call from the treetops
Hoatzin Opisthocomus hoazin P, J, AC, L
Sungrebe Heliornis fulica L 1
Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana J, L
Pied Lapwing Vanellus cayanus P, AC
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis L 2 flying around near the water 
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius N, AC
Yellow-billed Tern Sternula superciliaris N, J, L
Large-billed Tern Phaetusa simplex N
Rock Pigeon Columba livia G, Q
Plumbeous Pigeon Patagioenas plumbea P, J, L
Ruddy Pigeon Patagioenas subvinacea P, J, L
Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata Q
Blue-and-yellow Macaw Ara ararauna Y, L
Scarlet Macaw Ara macao L 2
Chestnut-fronted Macaw Ara severus P, J
White-eyed Parakeet Aratinga leucophthalma L
Blue-winged Parrotlet Forpus xanthopterygius L
Dusky-billed Parrotlet Forpus sclateri L
Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet Touit huetii L
Orange-cheeked Parrot Pionopsitta barrabandi L
Blue-headed Parrot Pionus menstruus J, L
Festive Parrot Amazona festiva L
Yellow-crowned Parrot Amazona ochrocephala J, L
Orange-winged Parrot Amazona amazonica J, L
Mealy Parrot Amazona farinosa J, L
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana L 1
Greater Ani Crotophaga major N, P, J, AC, L
Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani C, N
Tropical Screech-Owl Megascops choliba J, AC (heard only)
Common Potoo Nyctibius griseus AC, L (heard only)
Nacunda Nighthawk Podager nacunda P, J
Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis J, L
White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris P
Short-tailed Swift Chaetura brachyura AC building a mud nest on a log in the river
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift Tachornis squamata P, J, L
Rufous-breasted Hermit Glaucis hirsutus AC
White-necked Jacobin Florisuga mellivora J
Blue-chinned Sapphire Chlorostilbon notatus L
Ringed Kingfisher Ceryle torquatus N, P, J, AC, L
Amazon Kingfisher Chloroceryle amazona P, J, L
Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana L
American Pygmy Kingfisher Chloroceryle aenea P, L
Black-fronted Nunbird Monasa nigrifrons P, J, L
Swallow-winged Puffbird Chelidoptera tenebrosa N
Cuvier's Toucan Ramphastos cuvieri J, L
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker Melanerpes cruentatus P, Y
Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus L
Long-billed Woodcreeper Nasica longirostris AC 1
White-browed Purpletuft Iodopleura isabellae L 3
Screaming Piha Lipaugus vociferans Y, AC (heard only)
Bare-necked Fruitcrow Gymnoderus foetidus L
Blue-backed Manakin Chiroxiphia pareola J 1 female
White-lored Tyrannulet Ornithion inerme AC 1
Spotted Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum maculatum NR 1
Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus G
Drab Water-Tyrant Ochthornis littoralis N, P, AC usually in pairs along river side
Piratic Flycatcher Legatus leucophaius P
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis P, J, AC, L
Dusky-chested Flycatcher Myiozetetes luteiventris NR
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus C, N
Lesser Kiskadee Philohydor lictor N, P, J, AC, L common along water ways
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus G, C
Black-tailed Tityra Tityra cayana P, J, L
White-winged Swallow Tachycineta albiventer everywhere
Gray-breasted Martin Progne chalybea G, C
Brown-chested Martin Progne tapera L
White-banded Swallow Atticora fasciata P, AC
Southern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx ruficollis AC
Black-capped Donacobius Donacobius atricapilla P, L
House Wren Troglodytes aedon NR
Great Thrush Turdus fuscater Q
Black-billed Thrush Turdus ignobilis C, N, P, L
Violaceous Jay Cyanocorax violaceus P, L
Masked Crimson Tanager Ramphocelus nigrogularis Y, NR
Silver-beaked Tanager Ramphocelus carbo NR, Y
Blue-gray Tanager Thraupis episcopus NR, C, Y
Paradise Tanager Tangara chilensis Y
Chestnut-bellied Seedeater Sporophila castaneiventris NR
Band-tailed Seedeater Catamenia analis Q at the Panecillo
Red-capped Cardinal Paroaria gularis P, Y, AC, L usually in 2s or 3 along water ways
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis Q
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus G
Giant Cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus N traveling in large groups
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus cela everywhere
Olive Oropendola Psarocolius bifasciatus everywhere

Places
G = Guayaquil airport
C = Coca
N = Rio Napo: river, lowland rainforest
P = Pañacocha: lowland rainforest
NR = Nuevo Rocafuerte: small town surrounded by rainforest
J = Jatuncocha, Parque Nacional Yasuní: lagoon, lowland rainforest
Y = Parque Nacional Yasuní
C = Rio Aguarico, Rio Cocaya: cursed flooded lowland rainforest
L = Lagartococha, Ecuador/Peru: lagoons, lowland rainforest
Q = Quito: big city, parks


Critter List

Capybara  Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris Y
smell of peccari Y
night monkey ? P
Olingo  Bassaricyon gabbii J
Red Howler Monkey  Alouatta seniculus P
Common Squirrel Monkey Saimiri sciureus L
White-bellied Spider Monkey  Ateles belzebuth L
Equatorial Saki  Pithecia aequatorialis L
Giant Otter  Pteronura brasiliensis J
Gray Dolphin (tucuxi)  Sotalia fluviatilis J
Pink Dolphin (boutu)  Inia geoffrensis J, L
bats - everywhere big and small
Amazon River Turtle Podocnemis unifilis N, J
Black Caiman Caiman niger J, L
Green Parrot Snake Leptophis ahaetulla Y
Fer-de-Lance Bothrops atrox C, L
Rocket Frog Alobates sp. L
Frog Hypsiboas calcaratus P
Toad Dendrophryniscus minutus P, C
Anole Plica sp. C
Tree Frog Osteocephalus taurinus L
Marine Toad Rhinella marinus L
Map Tree Frog Hypsiboas geographicus L
Spotted Leaf Mimic Toad Rhinella dapsilis L

Information

La Casa Sol, hostel in Quito, quaint, charming, located in New Town
Hostal Jardin del Sol, hostel in Quito, sufficent, located in New Town
Amazonas Hosteria, hostel in Coca, sufficent, cheap
Pañacocha, a small river that feeds into the Rio Napo
Jatuncocha, the largest lake in the Parque Nacional Yasuní
Rio Cocaya, a small river that feeds into the Rio Aguarico
Lagartococha, river that feeds into the Rio Aguarico

There's not a lot of offical (or unoffical) information on the internet about these place that we've traveled to.

These pages are dedicated to Brock, Brett, and of course Paola.  Without them, this trip would literally be impossible.  We are forever thankful for this opportunity of a life time.

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page updated: 3/18/08