We flew into Quito, which is perched in a high valley in the Andes. The descent was a little rough, probably from all the strange currents around the mountains. Seth joked that we'd be at a lower pressure when we landed than we were in the air—most jets are pressurized to 10,000 feet.
A driver from Bellavista lodge met us at the airport and drove us the two and a half hours off the high plateau of Quito and into the cloud forest to the north, which is less than a degree south of the equator. The main road, the Pan American Highway is in great shape, constructed just a few years ago, but about an hour into the journey we turned off of that road and drove 12 km on very rough dirt roads, which took up the rest of the two hours.
Bellavista is an ecotourism spot, and well named. The room we stayed in had 180° views of the valley below. In the afternoons the valley was filled with fog, but in the morning it was clear, except for a few small clouds hovering just above the treetops, and we could see the snow-capped peaks of the high Andes in the distance.
When we got there one of the guides took us into the cafeteria to get oriented, and she showed us a three-ring binder of photographs from the beginning of the project. The original building was begun in 1991, a four-storey geodesic dome that now houses the cafeteria and some living space. The other buildings are a little more traditional in shape—square—but are still designed to give beautiful views. They continually upgrade the place to make it more efficient, and we heard quite a bit about new black- and gray-water filtration systems.
After arriving in Quito, we headed directly out to the Bella Vista Cloud Forest reserve, our home for the next two nights.
Beautiful scenery awaited us, including the view from our bedroom window:
Also, thanks to the many feeders around the buildings, there were a lot of hummingbirds there.
Hummingbirds move very quickly. I took quite a number of pictures that could be titled "Branch where the hummingbird just was."
In addition to the hummingbirds there were many other species around, including the Hooded Mountain Tanager.
And a Toucan (way up in the tree, so very hard to actually get the photo to expose correctly and not look so shoddy).
More of the great view down in to the valley where we could watch as the clouds rolled back and forth across the trees.
This flower actually was growing upside down. Very strange, though I'm sure the hummingbirds took the challenge quite appropriately.