Galapagos Part 3: Every shade of blue


A juvenile sea lion awaits us on the dock of South Plaza’s Island, a small islet near the larger Isla Santa Cruz.

The Galapagos will always appear in shades of blue in my mind. While the drier island landscapes are painted in red and orange, or draped by lush, low forest canopies of green and yellow, those are simply accents against a pale blue sky, and deeper blue ocean. As the world here in the Northern Hemisphere gradually turns gold and red with autumn and a new school year is ramping up (well, ok, it’s been ramping up, and at this point, is going full speed ahead), I wanted to share one last set of Galapagos photos – shades of blue, some lush green forests, and quirky animals. Warm thoughts  and images to carry us through frigid days ahead (those of us who are winter-bound, anyway!) Continue reading

Galapagos Part 2: Bartolomé and North Seymour Islands


The colorful volcanic landscape of Isla Bartolomé in the Galapagos. The tall spire at the other end of the bay is ‘Pinnacle Rock’.

Imagine cruising into a tiny, protected bay, where the water laps gently on the rocks. Your vision is saturated with shades of blue, from the sky and the water, and shades of red, brown, grey and purple of volcanic cinder cone – you begin to feel like you’re on another planet. This is the small islet of Bartolomé in the Galapagos.

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Favorite Spots in Cuenca #5 – Quinta Balzay

For those of you wondering about my silence on this blog lately, I should let you know that I landed safely back in Colorado last weekend – I’m HOME! But I still have a lot to say about Ecuador, and many blog posts in the works, so stay tuned! Today I want to share a bit about another of my favorite places in Cuenca.

I’m one of those lucky people who, mostly, enjoys my job. Given how much time I spend working, that’s a good thing. So, for this installment of ‘Favorite Spots in Cuenca’, I felt I had to mention the place in Cuenca where I spent the most time (other than the house where I lived): The Quinta Balzay, a satellite campus of the University of Cuenca.2015_0721i Continue reading

Venturing into the Enchanted Forest of Podocarpus


Sunrise over the Bombuscaro River in Southern Ecuador. Situated on the eastern foothills of the Andes, this is one of Ecuador’s biodiversity hotspots.

The clouds here hang in thick patches on the sides of the hills. Sometimes they seem to rise right out of the trees, forming only a few feet above the canopy as water vapor from this steamy forest becomes too much for the air to handle. If my trip to Alausí gave me the impression of going back in time, my visit to the Bombuscaro River valley on the northern border of Parque Nacional Podocarpus took me even further back. Let’s just say that it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise to see a dinosaur come crashing through the underbrush.

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On the trail of the Incas

When you get away from the noise of the city, and climb winding roads through the clouds into the high Andes, this is when you can begin to imagine what life was like for the Incas. It amazes me how they were able to control such a large territory, from Chile, well into Ecuador, with a system of roads that probably would have made the ancient Romans nod in appreciation. Ecuador was in the northern reaches of the Incan Empire, and about an hour north of Cuenca sit the ruins of Ingapirca – the largest of the Incan ruins in Ecuador.


Classic Inca stonework at the ruins of Ingapirca.

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Life and times on the slopes of the Andes


If you’ve been following this blog, on thing you might notice here is the BLUE SKY. While I do post pictures of Cuenca with blue skies, those photos were taken in rare moments. You will also notice the color of the vegetation turns brown further down the slope – that is the desert at the base of this immense valley.

Living in the Andes has forced me to rethink everything I know about what drives weather and shapes climate. I come from a country where it’s always winter in December – no matter where you are. In Ecuador, people will change their minds about what season it is depending on what’s happening right outside their window. Also, there is such wide variation in ‘season’ and climate from one valley to the next, from the east slope of the Andes to the west. Two hours in a car, descending thousands of feet, can take you from a cool, cloudy mountain climate to a desert. Last week I visited the Yunguilla valley – an hour away from Cuenca – but another world entirely.

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Amaru: A day at the Cuenca Zoo!

I’ve been checking out the Trip Advisor reviews of Cuenca’s Amaru Zoo for the past couple of months. Most people love it. Some hate it. People who hate it tend to be of more advanced years, tend to have very young children, or have some very different expectations. How could a zoo NOT be a place for young children, you might wonder? Imagine a zoo built into the side of a mountain where you scramble up steep trails, over tree roots, then duck under chicken wire as monkeys, birds, and tigrillos (little tiger-like cats) threaten to poop on your head. If you like that kind of stuff, this is the place for you.

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Celebrating Colorful Cuenca


Cuencanos doing a Peruvian dance in one of the parades celebrating the foundation of the city.

I’m starting to lose track of the number of holidays and festivals I’ve experienced, seen, or heard of since I’ve been in Ecuador. I thought Carnaval was big. But last week we had the annual celebration of the ‘Foundation of Cuenca.’ And let me say, the Cuencanos go ALL OUT for this one. In fact, I’m not entirely sure on which day festivities began last week, and how long they lasted (there may still be things going on this week). Continue reading

Into the Misty Mountains

There is something about a windswept, lonely place that draws me in. It’s the escape from the bustling crowds and the diesel. Living in Ecuador’s third largest city is sometimes a challenge simply because it is a city. When I first arrived, I thought I was suffering from culture-shock. I think a lot of the shock was simply adjusting to city life. I’ve adapted, but I still need to escape regularly – to breathe fresh air and wipe the grime from my face.

New Zealand has the Middle Earth claim-to-fame. But the Andes could have easily played a starring role as the Misty Mountains in Lord of the Rings.


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