Hiking up Cotopaxi! April 9, 2012

30 07 2012

We met our driver, Lincoln at some ungodly early time in the morning and headed out from our hotel to start out on the “Avenue of the Volcanos” The idea was that if we left early enough, we might actually SEE some of them before the afternoon clouds came in.  We headed south from Quito and sure enough, the clouds had already covered the tops of many of the volcanos. That’s OK, the drive wasn’t too bad anyway.  We arrived at the base of the Cotopaxi National Park, and Lincoln registered the vehicle as entering.

Parque Nacional Cotopaxi

We drove up to a small building where we had a lot of the background of the volcano explained and a last chance to get some snacks, coca tea or water.   Our next stop was Laguna Limpiopungo.  There were some andean gulls flying around, but none of them close enough for a good picture.   We did see this one little lonely bird around 4200m though… Not sure what he is (Stout Billed Cincoldes, Cinclodes excelsior)

A lonely bird.

The parking area was at 4500m and the wind was whipping up a good chill.  It was NOT warm.  We got our gear on and began the hike up the side of the volcano.  Not much switchback stuff, just UP.  It was on loose, gravelly moraine so you basically gained 2 steps for every 3.   The going was tough.  It was my personal goal to hike 25 steps before stopping and sucking wind.   There were a couple of times that I just thought “Forget it.  I’ll meet them when they come down!”  But we all made it eventually!  4810m was the height of the shelter.

4810m Wow! We made it.

The Views, when the clouds lifted briefly were lovely!

Volcanic plains of Cotopaxi

It was a real surprise to run into a couple of nuns hiking up while we were heading down.

Hiking nuns

We did all make it down eventually, as the fog settled in and shortly before the hail started

Descending in the fog

After hiking the volcano, we headed towards Banos for the night.  We stopped at a lovely Hacienda for lunch

An old Hacienda turned guesthouse

The day’s pictures can all be found at:

Two days touring Cuenca, Ecuador

25 07 2012

We spent two days in Cuenca, Ecuador. The weather was "variable" and on a wet Easter Sunday double decker bus ride, we almost had our heads taken off by low hanging wires! Fun times.

Here are some of our shots:

1. Easter Parade

Easter Parade in Cuenca by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

2) Inside of the "New Cathedral"

Catedral de la Inmaculada Conception by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

3) Iglesia San Alfons (aka the Blue Church)

Iglesia de San Alfonso by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

4) Playing musical notes on the crosswalk

Musical Crossing by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

5) That’s a lotta strawberries!

Wheelbarrow FULL of strawberries! by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

6) The landmark New Cathedral domes

Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

7) Interesting Graffiti in town

Interesting graffiti in Cuenca by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

8) Getting caught in the middle of a Good Friday Procession near Ingapirca

A peacful mob? by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

I hope you enjoy your whirlwind visit to Cuenca via photos!!

If you want to see more, the entire Ecuador collection can be found at:

April 7th, 2012–A Day in Cuenca

22 07 2012

We spent the day wandering around old Cuenca on the 7th.  It was the day before Easter, so things were a bit quiet.  We got some good shots though:

Inside Iglesia de la Merced:
Iglesia de la Merced, Cuenca

The colonial spanish feel to the streets of the old town:
Classis spanish style along the roads in Cuenca 

The azure blue domes of the “New Cathedral”:
Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción 

They sure had some interesting graffiti in town!
Interesting graffiti in Cuenca

The death of Christ, portrayed in the “Old Cathedral”
The Death of Christ

Mrs Dragonspeed and a wheelbarrow full of strawberries!
Wheelbarrow FULL of strawberries!

I can still sell the warm goodness of the fresh baked buns.. They were delicious!
Fresh baked buns!

The deep fried fish, on the other hand… not so appetizing:

An interesting artefact in the museum of anthropology in Cuenca:
Interesting artefact - Anthropological  Museum, Cuenca

Mrs Dragonspeed in the Panama hat factory:
Panama Hat Factory

It was an interesting (and hot) day of wandering around the old town of Cuenca.  The whole set of photos from the day can be found at my flickr site.


Ingapirca and Tiestos–A day around Cuenca

16 07 2012

The day started out with a great plan:  We were going to take the bus out to Ingapirca to see the Inca ruins, but after taking a crowded taxi to the bus station from our hostel, we learned that, being Good Friday, the bus company that goes more or less directly there was closed!  Uh oh!  Time for plan B.  We considered taking one of the buses that goes “close” which would require a transfer… Of course we all had visions of being robbed, left on the side of the road, etc. so that wasn’t going to work very well.  Plan C!  Mrs Dragonspeed suggested we ask a taxi how much. 

“Seriously?” I asked.

Well, long story short, we took a cab for the 2 hour ride to Ingapirca in a Hyundai designed to hold 5 people total.  Of course the challenge was we had 5 PASSENGERS, so I sat in the front with the driver while the 4 smaller people in our group sat in the space of 3 in the back.  It was, to say the least, a bit crowded.  We had negotiated to pay $60USD for the return trip and have the driver wait for about an hour while we wandered about the ruins. He was a really nice gentleman that kept trying to explain the various neighbourhoods to us as we went along.  I flipped pages in my Spanish/English Lonely Planet book as quickly as possible to keep up! 

The ruins were very interesting, but one of the really cool parts of the day was to pass a Good Friday procession on the way there, and then to be surrounded by one on the way back!

When we got back to Cuenca, we went for a “Lupper” to Tiesto’s as recommended by a friendly American tourist who said that it was the number 1 rated restaurant in Cuenca. We would have been fools if we didn’t go!  Juan Pablo, the Chef/Owner created a masterful meal for us, complete with desserts that weren’t even on the menu!  Five of us ate like kings for $100 total.  It was a pricey meal by Ecuadorian standards, but amazing value by North American standards!

Here are some of the pictures of the day.


Travelling on a good Friday has you passing some interesting scenes:
Travelling on a Good Friday has its drawbacks

A procession heading up to Ingpirca:
Good Friday Procession

Nothing like finding yourself in the MIDDLE of a Good Friday procession!
A peacful mob?

The five of us at the Ingapirca archeological complex:
In the foosteps of historry

The Temple of the Sun dominates the Ingapirca complex.
The Archeological complex of Ingapirca

Inca Face.  Natural? Man made?  Divine?  I dunno, but It’s cool that it has been in the side of the mountain for hundreds if not thousands of years.
The inca face - Ingapirca

Food at Tiesto’s.  Tenderloin in a Mushroom sauce.
Tiesto's in Cuenca

Meringue dessert made just for me.  Love the hand painted “syrup flowers” on the plate.
Tiesto's in Cuenca

The meals came with an assortment of side dishes.  You could have as much of these as you wanted, if you weren’t already satiated by the fantastic beef and prawns!
 Tiesto's in Cuenca

The full set of photos from the day can be seen at:

I hope you enjoy your virtual visit to Cuenca and Ingapirca!

Birds from our last day on the Galapagos Islands

16 07 2012

Our last morning in the Galapagos had us cruise around the islands of Daphne Major and Dapne Minor. One last chance to see a few more of the beautiful species in the Galapagos.

1) Next the tortoise, one of the iconic symbols of the Galapagos

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

2) Blue-Footed Booby on the wing

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

3) Brown Noddy – finally not hiding under a cliff!

Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

4) Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

5) Brown Noddies in the surf.

Brown Noddies fishing. by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

6) The island of Dapne Minor

The sheer cliffs of Daphne minor by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

7) And a big mechanical bird with Daphne Major (left) and Daphne Minor (right) in the background.

Lining up to Leave by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

The day’s photos can be seen here:


Our cruise through the Galapagos was 8D7N and took us to many interesting places. For sheer volume of birds, Genovesa was amazing with the breeding red-footed boobies and nazca boobies as well as Frigatebird colony and swallow-tail gulls.

I understand that some of the southern islands, if you time it right, you get to see the waved albatross, but we had to make SOME compromises. An amazing insight into this little group of volcanic islands that grew up away from the rest of us.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed the various photos I posted over the past month of the incredible birds on these islands.

Birds of Santiago and Rabida Islands

11 07 2012

Our last full day of time in the Galapagos was spent touring Santiago and Rabida Islands. Notable for the very bright red sand on one and dark black sand on the other, it was a day of contrasts.

1. Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

2. Frigatebird with fish

Battle Royale! by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

3. Dogfight!

Battle Royale! by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

4. Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

5. Seeing double?

Seeing double? by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

6. Blue-Footed Booby inflight

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) inflight by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

7. Going in!

Going in! by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

8. Galapagos Dove

Galápagos Dove (Zenaida galapagoensis) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

As usual, there are a lot of other pictures too.. many of seals and sealions. The full set of the day is:


Something a little more local…

9 07 2012

On Thursday, last week, I took some time and shot the Rufous Hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) at our back deck feeder.  The weather was a bit cool, so they really appreciated the food being out.

Rufous Hummingbird at the Feeder Rufous Hummingbird at the Feeder Rufous Hummingbird in Flight

Also – a short video of them in and out…

Hummingbirds coming and going from our back deck feeder.

Creatures of Isla Fernandina and Isla Isabela–Galapagos

4 07 2012

Day 16 of our trip to Ecuador had us checking out Isla Fernandina and Isla Isabela… Some interesting creatures along the way:

1. The Zombie Horde

Like something out of a bad horror movie by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

2. Getting a premium seat

Getting a premium seat by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

3. Watch your step!

Watch your step! by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

4. Not a car insurance salesman…

Galápagos Lava Lizard (Microlophus albemarlensis) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

5. Not something I’m used to seeing swim by shore.

Ray! by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

6. Mrs Dragonspeed and a Playful sealion

Posers by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

How do you keep your top clean? by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

One last one (not taken with the Canon – Fuji XP underwater camera)

Pacific green sea turtle. by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

More cool critters and birds available in the whole set from the day at:

Birds of Isla Fernandina and Isla Isabela

3 07 2012

Day 5 of our time on the Galapagos brought us to Isla Fernandina and the west coast of Isabela. The snorkeling was amazing (turtles, turtles, turtles!!) and it was our only chance to see a Galapagos Hawk.

Here are the birds of the day:

1. Galapagos Hawk:

Galapagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

2. The omnipresent Brown Pelican:

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

3. Wandering Tattler

Wandering Tattler (Tringa Incana) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

4. Flightless Cormorant (explaining to an Iguana why he can’g fly?)

Flightless Cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

5. Young Galapagos Penguin Molting

Young Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) molting. by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

6. Brown Noddy and chick

Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) with chick by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

7. Blue-footed Booby on the cliffs.

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) by DragonSpeed, on Flickr

The whole day’s set can be seen at:

Oh, and the turtle video from snorkeling is:

Ecuador – 2012-04-03 – Fernandina and Isabela

1 07 2012
Pacific green sea turtle.Sunrise over IsabelaSunrise over IsabelaMorning TurtleIsla FernandinaGalapagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis)
Galapagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis)Like something out of a bad horror movieA touch of colourGetting a premium seatMarine IguanaWatch your step!
Two pretty touristsDeath on the islandSun-bleached whale bonesHermit CrabGalápagos Lava Lizard (Microlophus albemarlensis)Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Ray!Hey - come on in!PosersLava CactusMuk Muk and Boxer Duck hang with the iguanasHow do you keep your top clean?

Lots of Marine Iguanas! Tonnes of them! Also some Blue-Footed Boobies and other cool stuff.

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