Sunday, March 14, 2010

Birds of Prey

Maya With a Small Hawk

Bald Eagle

La Casa Sol is built layer by layer up a steep hill, with each room facing the valley and the two volcanoes, Imbabura and Cotacachi. Every room has a balcony or a door to a garden. Our two llamas munch away in the grass outside our window. The rooms are spacious and simply decorated. Most importantly, the beds are comfortable and we all slept well. Maya slept in, which is unusual for her, and Deborah and I both were careful not to awaken her. The birds woke me up; they were singing loudly and insistently, but when I looked for them, they did not appear.


Breakfast was simple and delicious. Deborah wanted to go to the leather market in Cotacachi, but we decided to check out the 'Parque del Condor' first. We were told it was a clearly marked twenty minute walk up the hill behind the hotel. Maya was not pleased about walking uphill, and Deborah was keen on finding birds through her binoculars, but the birds stayed away. We did not find signs, and the road became steeper and steeper. We tried a shortcut up a field which was almost perpendicular, at the insistence of an elderly woman and her dogs. Finally, over an hour and a half later, we found the first sign announcing the entrance of the park.

The 'Condor Park' has four condors, two young ones and two magnificent adult ones, and a collection of birds of prey, mostly native to Ecuador. The organization rescues the birds and tries to return most of the rehabilitated ones to the wild. Only the birds who are unable to survive in the wild are kept and trained in the park. There are only forty condors left in Ecuador (now I understand why I have never seen them). They have been killed by the locals who fear (erroneously) that the birds will hurt their livestock or chickens. We were all fascinated by the birds and stayed all morning to admire them.

Harpy Eagle

Mottled Owl

Pacific Pygmy Owl

Maya was eager to visit the Cascadas after lunch, but Deborah was still interested in visiting Cotacachi and buying a leather coat. We had met a couple who were staying at the Casa Sol for a week. The woman had a fairtrade shop in northern New York State and was in Ecuador meeting local weavers and collecting goods for her store. She and her husband were planning to visit Cotocachi for the afternoon, so Deborah joined them while Maya and I walked to the waterfalls. We scrambled up to the top of the falls, but decided it was not warm enough to wade in as we had the last time. We were intrigued by a group of climbers who were setting up to rappel down the waterfall, but they took eons to prepare themselves, so missed the actual descent. Maya desperately wished to return to the pie shop for more pie (one piece there and then and another for the road) before we took the bus back to Quito. Deborah chose to stay an extra day or two at the Casa Sol (there is so much more to see and do in the area). The couple we had met were heading north to a small community where a group of women were knitting hats and scarves to sell at the New York shop. My impression is that the town was in Chota, which is a valley north of Otavalo inhabited by a community of descendents of African slaves. I have been hoping to visit the area, so am eager to hear Deborah's impressions.

Imbabura in the Clouds

Our ride back to Quito was uneventful, except that at the terminal in Carcelen, we were herded into an illegal taxi; when I asked for the fare and it was double what it should have been and I objected, we were booted out of the cab, and had to return to the terminal to find another taxi. We arrived home with all our belongings and relaxed and happy after a wonderful weekend in Otavalo.

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