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In honor of the anniversary of the trip, and because it is fairly miserable outside, I have made time to get this email out.

 

One year ago Susan Eaton and I participated in a birding tour of Southern Ecuador run by Tropical Birding and guided by the amazing Jose Illanes.  We started and ended in Guayaquil.  As is our custom we went a day early to avoid travel problems and so that we had a day to see some of Guayaquil.  We went to Parque Seminario (directly across from our hotel) in the morning and then we walked to their beautiful Riverwalk area and saw many birds and people living together. 

 

I would title the trip, “Birds, Birthdays and Landslides” as we had all three.  On the morning of Jan 19, we checked out of our hotel in Vilcabamba and headed up Cerro Toledo for some high altitude birds.  After a couple of hours in rain and strong winds we decided to start the drive back down the mountain only to encounter a landslide completely blocking the only road down.  Our guide headed down the mountain on foot to call for help, leaving the rest of us at about 10,000ft.  It was a good five hours before he returned with a work crew in a small pickup truck.  They deemed the landslide too large to clear by hand so half of our group and much luggage were loaded into the pickup with the plan of taking them down and passing them off to somebody else to take the to the next lodge and the truck returning for us.  As dark began to grow four of us were still in the van and we decided to start walking down as we didn’t want to spend the night on the mountain in the cold.  Just we started the pickup returned and we got to ride down and were taken to a house were the rest of the group was.  Seems the main highway was blocked by more landslides.  So rather than going on to Tapichalaca we had to return to Vilcabamba.

 

The next morning we had a new van as the original was still trapped on Cerro Toledo.  We started up the main highway to Tapichalaca and were shortly stopped by a rockslide.  We abandoned our second van and luggage and birded our way up to the next, massive landslide.  Our guide crossed that and found somebody willing to drive us to the next lodge so he returned and walked us across that muddy, tree-filled mess one at a time.  Note that small landslides continued to occur as we were crossing the debris field.  But by the end of the day the rods were cleared and the van with our luggage arrived then later that night our original van and driver arrived.  He had also taken that van into town to get the air conditioning repaired.  We also encountered a landslide on the trail at Tapichalaca and another closed the mountain where we were to go for the Blue-throated Hillstar.

 

Slideshow at:

 

https://mikecurlew.smugmug.com/Ecuador-2020/

 

Play button a bit to the left of the buy photo button.  If you run the slideshow there are captions on the pictures.

 

Trip description at:

 

http://www.tropicalbirding.com/central-south-america-birding/ecuador/southern-ecuador-tumbesian-rarities-and-highland-endemics/

 

Trip report at:

 

http://www.tropicalbirding.com/2020/04/07/trip-report-southern-ecuador-jan-2020/

 

It was an experience!

 

Mike Grant

Chesterfield, MO

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