I am currently staying in an amazing lodge in a real rain forest, but lets get to this later.
We left Quito at around 9 AM. Quito is such a quaint little city. The Spanish and Incan influence can be seen all around. From the old provincial architecture to the locals selling food on the streets, this is a city that needs to be visited by everyone.
After leaving the cobblestone streets, we drove through little villages. We eventually passed the “Middle of the World”. There is a monument denoting where you pass the equatorial line and go from the Southern hemisphere to the Northern hemisphere. Latitude and longitude is zero. We were now back in the Northern hemisphere, but were told that we will pass the equatorial line numerous times during our trip. Eventually the road turned into dirt and stones. I have very rarely been on such a winding road. We were going down in altitude and could see how the vegetation changed as we through little villages. The road was very bumpy and got worse as we headed northwest towards our destination. The road turned more and more narrow and we could see some of the mudslides created. We are at the end of the wet season and the road has been badly damaged. We finally stopped for a pit stop at an archaeological site named “Tulipe”. Not much to see after you have recently seen the Aztec ruins of Mexico.
Finally, after around three hours of a serious winding and bumpy road, we arrived at our destination. Mashpi Lodge is built in the rain forest and has been designated by National Geographic as one of the great lodges of the world. After checking in, we had lunch. The highlight of lunch for me was some fantastic plantains. The nonalcoholic beverages are very unique. From herbal iced tea to a drink called a glass frog, they are very tasty and good.
It was then time to rest up and meet at 3:30 for an orientation and then a hike in the rain forest. After orientation we were all given high boots to wear and were told to dress in long pants and long sleeve shirts and bring our waterproof hats.
Our group of eight was broken up into two groups of four each. Andy headed the other group and I was with Lisa. We also had local guides from the Lodge. My group was going to hike down to a waterfall. The six of us got off the road and onto a muddy trail full of roots that were sticking out from the ground. The moss, large leaves and vegetation looked like Jurassic Park. The texture of some of the leaves was like something I had never seen before. With five minutes of the hike, it started to rain. Of course it rained. This is a rain forest and its supposed to do that. I had never seen a rain forest like this, except on the South Island of New Zealand. Our camera gear got heavier as we walked on a muddy narrow trail down to the bottom. After what seemed like forever, we finally reached the waterfall. My clothes were soaked and my muscles were hurting. We then set up our tripods and took some nice creamy photos of the waterfall. As I took picture after picture, I started to think of what effort it would take to go back up the same way. At about 6 PM and with the light fading, we started to climb backup. The rain was still coming down making the trail muddier as we climbed. We finally reached the main dirt road back to the Lodge. My clothes were drenched and I was exhausted, but still felt exhilarated in accomplishing this hike and seeing an amazing rain forest. I also realized that in order to take pictures of the creatures that call this place their home, you are going to have to explore and find them. That exploration and discovery starts tomorrow morning.
After a long shower, I drank a large pitcher of ice water and relaxed before dinner.
Dinner was so good. I had a local soup and then Goat Stew. The Goat Stew was amazing. So tender and cooked just right.
After dinner we had a session on our external flash units and triggers. We will going out the next two nights to find the elusive creatures that live here. I can imagine all the bugs we will encounter on these hikes at night.
Tomorrow morning we meet at 6:30 AM for some morning photography.