November 10, 2007

Overnight it had been cold and rainy, but the dormitory beds were well supplied with quilts so we slept well, despite the hard mattress and pillow. Paul got up before 7 am and knocked on the door of the women’s dormitory, then wandered around the hotel grounds looking at the birds. Soon Rosemary came out too, and then we went down to breakfast at the restaurant. Both of us had cereal, toast, fresh orange juice, and a plate of local fresh fruit—mango, pineapple, watermelon, and papaya.

After breakfast we encountered one of the guides and discussed the options for the morning’s guided walk. Eventually we agreed on a destination, then headed up to the dormitories to pack our bags in preparation for moving up to one of the mountain cabins. But then Carlos called us on the phone in the dormitory to suggest an alternative. Instead of going on the originally planned guided walk, we would organize our food and get a ride up to the mountain cabin, and do the guided walk from there. And we could buy our food at cost from the lodge’s kitchen rather than going to the market. All in all this seemed like the best option, so we met with the chef in the kitchen and she helped organize and pack the food.

Once this was done we got into the lodge’s Land Cruiser and headed up the hill. The drive to the cabin was over a rough rocky track and took almost half an hour. Originally we had booked the top floor of cabin #1, but when we got there our guide and driver, Abel, said to us that cabin #2, higher up the mountain, was in a much nicer setting and that we could stay there for the same price as #1. So up the hill we went. Cabin #2 sits on the edge of the river canyon and has a spectacular view. Abel unloaded the truck and we walked along a trail for about two minutes to get to the cabin.

The cabin was very lovely, made entirely of wood with windows on all seven sides. The main floor had a kitchen, sitting area, toilet, and shower room, and the upstairs was a bedroom loft overlooking the sitting area with a door to a balcony that went almost the entire circumference of the building. Abel showed us how to use the wood stove and light the propane lamps, and also made sure the hot water heater was working. Outside the door of the cabin were two hummingbird feeders and some feeders for other birds. There were dozens of hummingbirds of several species buzzing around those feeders.

We went over to cabin #3 and put on waterproof jackets that were stored there, then went back down the trail to where the truck was parked. From there we headed up the trail with Abel in the lead. There weren’t many birds to be seen, but Abel was knowledgeable and easily identified the ones we did see. Our trail continued uphill, sometimes muddy in spots. Along the way there were a few flowers in bloom, including impatiens and bromeliads, and Abel pointed out a three-toed sloth sleeping high up in a tree. Our turn-around spot was at a lovely cascade in the river we had been following.

The walk took about two hours to complete, and most of the time it was raining, so we were glad to be back at the cabin. The lodge had provided us with a thermos of tea, so while Abel started the fire we got out our cookies and we all had tea. Abel showed us where everything was and then left us to ourselves. By now it was noon, so we got out the lunch food, which was freshly-made bread, tuna, and lettuce. We made our lunch and settled down to watch the birds at the feeders. The big Violet Sabrewings were in charge, but there were four other species of hummingbird also taking their turns. Out on the patio Yellow-thighed Finches popped out of the bushes from time to time, eating the seeds that were scattered there.

The afternoon rain had started; at some points the sun tried to come through, but with little success. The temperature was 14° C, which is the typical daily high here, so we started the fire in the big oil-drum stove. The wood was damp and the stove was far from efficient, so it didn’t warm the cabin much, but we started to dry our wet trousers at its door. Rosemary walked over to cabin #3 to look around and spent quite some time photographing hummingbirds at its feeders. Outside our cabin there was a squirrel who dropped in occasionally for the seeds, and surprisingly a small flock of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks showed up for a few minutes.

About 4:30 Abel arrived with a large bouquet of fresh flowers for the cabin. He lit the propane lights for us, then went out to the woodshed to get more small dry pieces of wood. The stove worked much better with that as fuel. We arranged for him to come back tomorrow at 1 pm to pick us up, and off he went back down the mountain.

After a while we decided to cook our dinner on the gas stove. We were having chicken with vegetables. The chicken breasts were quite large but we cooked both of them anyway, smothering them with garlic paste and browning them in oil. We had lots of onion, green and red peppers, beans, carrots, and broccoli so we threw most of that into the pot and simmered it all until the chicken was thoroughly cooked. Our dinner turned out really well. For dessert we had some of the Kendal Mint Cake we had bought in England in the summer, followed by tea and coffee.

The hummingbirds were still zooming around the feeders and the Yellow-thighed Finches and the Chestnut-naped Brush-Finches came out again for a late afternoon snack. By 6:30 pm it was dark so we went out on the balcony to watch the bats zipping back and forth between the feeders. We spent some time writing journals and tending the fire, then out of boredom decided to wash and dry the dishes. Outside we could hear some frogs, or some frog-like sounds, and we thought we saw a few fireflies out in the darkness.

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