Masked Trogon, Guango Lodge

Guango Lodge SignAs the road drops down from the heights of the Papallacta pass heading towards the lower slopes of the East Andes, there is a small lodge marked by a large dark rock wall with a large painted with a sword-billed hummingbird and the word Guango. This is the Guango Lodge.

The word Guango comes from the Quichua language and has no simple translation into English. It describes a place where tumbling rivers meet on high mountain slopes covered in mystical cloud forest. The rivers scour the land and re-make the terrain every few years as floods come and go with the changing seasons. At Guango Lodge, it is possible to hike the cloud forest and to meander the gravel shores of the fast moving river.

Trails, Guango Lodge

Orchid, Guango LodgeGuango Lodge is close to Quito, so close that a day trip is easily possible. We visited on the return from their sister lodge, Cabañas San Isidro in Cosanga. We arrived mid-morning and were able to get in a short hike along the river and through the lower lying cloud forest before lunch. Our guide pointed out the tiniest orchids nestled into tree trunks, found the skunky smelling Campanulasie flower after we asked what made such a pungent aroma, and led us to a forest filled with Masked Trogons.

Secondary Forest, Guango Lodge

Masked Trogon, Guango LodgeWe must have arrived for mating season because I have never seen so many Masked Trogons in a single day. In fact, a good day in the Cloud Forest might mean seeing a male and a female Masked Trogon at different times and at different places. Here at Guango, in the middle of June, we saw four females and two males, all perched in the same part of the forest. In fact, it was tough to decide which bird to follow for as one left a branch, another perched in a good location. None came very low, so all photos are taken from the ground looking up but considering this was a mid-morning hike and we had no bird blind to hide us, I am thrilled with the shots.

Masked Trogon, Guango Lodge

After the hike, we returned to the Lodge for a hearty lunch. But I couldn’t sit still for very long. The hummingbirds were calling. Immediately in front of the lodge is a hummingbird garden filled with dozens of feeders. They are placed at different heights and each attracts different species of birds. The most aggressive and numerous were the Buff-tailed Coronets and the most exciting were the Sword-billed Hummingbird with its 10-centimeter long beak and the Long-tailed Sylph, with its sweeping neon blue tail.

For $25 each, we enjoyed the excellent services of a local guide, access to the hiking trails and grounds, a hearty lunch, and hours of hummingbird watching. It was a deal and I can’t wait to return and stay the night. I can only imagine the birds I might see in the early hours of the morning.

Contact Guango Lodge

  • by phone – 593-2-2891880 or 2891883
  • by email – info@guangolodge.com
  • offices at Avenida Siena 318 y Calle A, Edificio MDX, oficina 310, La Primavera in Cumbaya
Loja Province, Saraguro

On my first visit to the Loja Province, Saraguro, I stayed at a small, family-run hostel just down the road from a friend’s childhood home. It was an adventure that introduced me to a new Andean culture, Saraguro.

I spent a week hiking local trails and heading into town to watch the Independence Day. I roamed city streets, ate Andean food, and photographed hundreds of people in local costume. I enjoyed collecting pictures of the iconic wool hats painted in black and white, of short dark pants protected by off-white muslin covers, of long dark wrap-around skirts, and of brightly embroidered blouses. But most of all, I enjoyed collecting smiles.

The people of Saraguro are proud of their heritage and the costumes I saw during the parade were also on display, if in a more sedate form, throughout the week. Saraguros are not unused to tourists or photographers but the entire process of taking photos of the population is certainly made easier when a parade is taking place.

I highly recommend staying in a single location in a smaller town in the Andes, especially if you are hoping for pictures that capture the culture. Saraguro is not high on the list for luxury tourists, but for those of you with a little patience, a spattering of Spanish, and a desire to explore, it has a lot to offer.

There are many articles to come about my time spent in the South of Ecuador. In the meantime, please enjoy these photos. They barely scratch the surface of this beautiful place.

Click on any photo to open a slideshow with further descriptions of each photo.

Ecuador Por Mis Ojos

Recently, the Instituto Geografico Militar of Ecuador and I released a book of photography, Ecuador Por Mis Ojos. This post shares photos from that book.

If you would like to see other photos from the book, please check out:

Imbabura Province, Ibarra

The Imbabura Province around Ibarra, the White City, is an area I hope to explore more deeply. We have visited for the famous Cacería del Zorro, a horse race named for the English practice of hunting foxes with a unique twist all its own. We have watched the grand parade that takes place along the city streets of Ibarra on the morning of the race. This single event is a great way to get to know the culture of Ibarra because it shows the blending of cultures that so define the area. There are grand horses and riders, in European-style riding gear, and small ponies mounted by chagras, local cowboys. The parade includes the youngest citizens, often toddlers sitting on the saddles in front of their parents, and the oldest, proudly smiling while astride their lovely horses. Everyone wears their finest gear, whether it is the latest polo shirt of their club, the traje típico of their native culture, or fine dresses and long coats of old.

On these visits, we have walked around the city center eating helado de paila, an ice cream dish sometimes compared to American sherbert. We have explored the church, the central plaza, and some of the smaller shops dotting the center of town.

I have a wish list of places and events I still want to see like the Paseo del Chagra which takes place in May every year. The small community of Zuleta is famous for its embroidery and the road to take us there lies just outside Ibarra. There are high mountain lakes, hiking trails galore, and a hacienda or two that just beg for our attention. If you have a favorite place in Ibarra that you would like us to see, please let us know in the comments below!

We know these photos barely scratch the surface of this beautiful province.

Click on any photo to open a slideshow with further descriptions of each photo.

More Articles about the Imbabura Province, Ibarra

If you would like to read more about the Imbabura Province, near Ibarra, check out these articles:

Ecuador Por Mis Ojos

Recently, the Instituto Geografico Militar of Ecuador and I released a book of photography, Ecuador Por Mis Ojos. This post shares photos from that book.

If you would like to see other photos from the book, please check out:

Pichincha Province, Tandayapa

I have a love affair with the Tandayapa Valley. It was the first place we visited after moving to Quito, Ecuador. It was a magical experience, leaving the big city, driving through the dry and dusty valley of Mitad del Mundo, and then winding through mountains thickly covered with cloud forest. The high mountain slopes are a stunning dark green with an occasional bright spot of purple flowers growing on a vine or the flashing silver of the leaves on a cecropia tree.
Read More

Imbabura Province - Otavalo

The Imbabura Province is best known by tourists for the market town of Otavalo. Visit on a Saturday to visit two completely different style markets. One is the Feria de Animales where farmers come to buy and sell animals. Locals can buy everything from a well-trained horse to an edible guinea pig, from a fighting rooster to a cuddly puppy, and everything and anything needed for the farm. The second is the market that takes over the city streets of Otavalo. It is part tourist market with vendors selling local blankets, instruments, and artwork. And it is part practical, with vendors selling shoes and clothes for school kids, underwear and socks for all, chains of golden beads, embroidered blouses, and long black skirts, all worn by local women.
Read More

The Wild Horses of Cotopaxi are one of the best reasons to visit this national park just outside of Quito, Ecuador.

The History of the Wild Horses of Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador Por Mis OjosBefore the arrival of horses to South America, native tribes walked everywhere and used pack animals like llamas and alpacas to carry heavy loads. Horses arrived with Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, precipitating a change in culture. Part of that change included the creation of large haciendas which covered huge expanses of land. The land supported large herds of cattle which grazed on mountain pastures for most of the year. The haciendas needed horses to herd and corral these heads of cattle.
Read More

Día de los Difuntos, Otavalo

On the days of November 1 and 2 throughout the Ecuadorian Sierra, families and friends will gather to celebrate Día de los Difuntos or the Day of the Deceased. Although the celebration is reminiscent of the Day of the Dead festivities found in Mexican and Mexican-American communities, it has a flavor all its own.
Read More

Cañar Province, Cojitambo

The Cañar Province of Ecuador is most famous for the Cañari-Incan Ruins of Ingapirca. They are the best preserved Incan ruins in Ecuador. These ruins originated with local people, the Cañari, and the Inca built on top of them during their short occupation in Southern Ecuador.

Few visitors know that other ruins are dotted across the Cañar Province and that a tourist could spend several days exploring the area.
Read More

Puerto Chino, Sea Lion

When we visited Puerto Chino, we weren’t sure what to expect. I imagined a small port and evidence of a long-gone fishing village, probably founded by the Chinese. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Hike Puerto Chino

Heaven knows why I didn’t read up on Puerto Chino before we went. There was an unexpected hike, for which we came unprepared. The trail is in the full sun. Water is a necessity for this trail, especially in hot weather.

But the trail is great for seeing birds like Galapagos Finches, Mockingbirds, and Yellow Warblers. And the hot sun encourages Lava Lizards to sun on rocks directly along the trail.

Read More

Pichincha Province, Yanacocha

The Yanacocha Reserve is a real treasure of the Pichincha province and deserves to be recognized on its own.

I have probably visited the Yanacocha Reserve more than any other place in and around Quito. Part of me just loved the drive – a graveled road in fair shape that meanders through high altitude farmland and provides views of the Andes, chain after mountain chain. And part of me just wanted to walk the path through this high altitude cloud forest to see the small hummingbird garden about an hours hike in. Every visit was an escape from big city life.
Read More

%d bloggers like this: