There And Back Again – Hummingbirds of Mindo

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit

Well , our trip, like Bilbo’s, has come to an end.  This does not mean that there are not thousands of photos waiting to be posted (and never will, I promise you, that).  But there are a few from our last few days in dear old Ecuador that deserve showing.

abo-museo-old-man-shrunkenThis is an “old man” according to the Aborigine Museum down the street from us on Calle Larga.  We went back a couple times – second with Chris and I wound up giving away a second Obama 08 button to the young lady taking tickets.  She was ecstatic and said her mother was a big Obama fan.  They’re all over the place apparently.

chris-photographs-shrunken-head-abo-museum-shrunkenHere’s Chris taking a photo.  What was he so intent upon photographing?  This…shrunken-head-abo-museum-shrunkenA genuine shrunken head.  It turns out that the Shuar people of eastern Ecuador were turning their enemies into miniatures a hundred years ago or so.  In the Banco National museum just down the street, taking photos of their collection of shrunken heads is forbidden.

After this  museum and its wonderful pottery (and macabre head) we toddled off to the “old cathedral” dating from the 16th century.  It was decommisioned as a church in 1985 but is still it’s own museum.  Quite pretty inside, small and done in faux marble, faux fabrics, and faux other stuff.  Photography was likewise forbidden inside.

new-cathedral-inside-shrunkenHow was this  photo taken, then?  Don’t ask, don’t tell.

The outside is a masterpiece of detail and proportion, IMO.  Much prettier than the new cathedral, massive with its blue domes and gold leaf (photography permitted).  This is the front corner of the old cathedral in which the party of french scientists lay in the 18th century, trying to measure the diameter of the earth with astounding persistence (they spent years in Ecuador) and equally astoundingly primitive instruments.  Starting in Quito some 180 miles to the north the party of Charles Marie de la Condamine marched southward over hill (and there are some lulus on the way) and dale measuring the distance traversed with chains, levels and sighting devices.

When they arrived in Cuenca they needed a place to make measurements to see if the earth was larger in diameter around the equator (it is) or from pole to pole as had been claimed (it isn’t). They chose the old cathedral and lay nights under the stars in the upper reaches of the church under other sighting devices to see how far south they had gotten.  This story is told in wonderful detail including murder, revenge, romance, 20 year separation of La Condamine and his teenage wife, disease, povertry, and a tramp across the Amazon rain forest from Ecuador to Brazil (!) by the then 38 year old wife of La Condamine, Isabel Grameson.

Astonishingly, Isabel alone of her large party survives and their bittersweet reuniting makes for a fine read.  Robert Whitaker’s “The Mapmaker’s Wife” tells the story if you are in the market for a good read.

new-cathdral-architec-detail-2-reducedAnd the outside complete…


After Chris took off for home in California and work, work, work, Chiyemi and I piled into the local bus from the terminal terrestre in Quito and for $2.50 were deposited just down the road from Sachatamia Lodge.

sachatamia-lodge-front-shrunkenThis was the spendiest place ($90/night including breakfast) we stayed in Ecuador and pretty much not a “budget expat” kind of feeling.  Our cabana looked like this and that’s Chiyemi putting on rubber boots because the Pacific slope in Ecuador rains a good deal although out of the 8+ weeks there, we were actually rained out of very little.  That is, it didn’t keep us from doing anything even if we got wet occasionally.

cabana-9-sachatamia-lodge-shrunkenHot water, private bath, quiet and 100 yards from the lodge where we ate.

Harry F. whose idea Sachatamia lodge was and whose wordpress.com recommended blog you are reading put us onto is to be thanked for telling us about the very friendly and consumately helpful staff made our 3 days there a pleasure.

The real reason to come to Mindo in general and Sachatamia in particular are the birds.  Here are a few with little comment from me and none needed.  Well, one might mention that Ecuador has about 15% of all bird species on earth in a country the size of Colorado.


Velvet Purple Coronet

Among the most beautiful and agressive of the hummingbirds we saw at Sachatamia.  The hummers came for the feeders which were set out fresh each morning and numbered eight in the primary row, just outside the dining room so you could watch the jousting, fly-bys, chases, threat displays and all.sharing-feeder-with-a-bee-shrunkenNot only threats from other hummingbirds, but bees too!

sachatamia-raquet-tailed-puff-leg-natural-shrunkenA Raquet tailed puff leg (I am NOT making these names up!)

violet-tailed-sylph-feeding-shrunkenThe Violet tailed sylph (who does get to name these critters?)

violet-tailed-sylph-shrunkenThe Violet Tailed Sylph Again

These amazingly beautiful tails are not just for looks.  A couple pictures show the tails deforming in flight, used for steering and manuvering.

two-hummers-sitting-nice-shrunkenHere a Brown Violet Ear flares his “violet ears” showing Mr. Violet Tailed Sylph that he’d better watch his step!

two-hoary-puff-legs-flying-shrunkenNotes say these are Hoary Puff Legs – Maybe They Are

andean-emerald-pert-shrunkenAn Andean Emerald Checks The Action Between Sips

rufous-tailed-check-species-shrunkenRufous Tailed (I think)

velvet-purple-coronet-wing-display-shrunken1Characteristic wing-flare of the Velvet Purple Coronet

Well, enough already.  I took over 300 shots of the hummers from as close as 3 feet and had a large choice of birds to shoot at at any given moment.  Check below to see what the action at the feeder typically was…

feeder-scene-5-hummers-shrunkenFive birds and it was easy to see more hovering or perched nearby.  This  may or may not be the end of the Ecuador Budget Expat.  Seems we’ve wandered far afield from the original idea but then there are so many more beautiful butterfly, orchid, forest scenery and miscellaneous photos that are crying out in their creaky little digital voices, “Let me out of here, dammit”!  We’ll see…

2 Responses to “There And Back Again – Hummingbirds of Mindo”

  1. August 2, 2009 at 11:37 pm


    Your fotos are amazing! I’ve suggested them to several friends who are ardent bird-watchers. They’ll love them! Thanks for sharing these beautiful beings with so many through this site.

    Donna Tabor,
    Granada, Nicaragua

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