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Where I stayed
Our wooden lodge was in the middle of a 70 hectare reserve, much of which used to be used for cattle grazing before being bought and left to return to forest. It's a magical place, with our small room made from bamboo high up in the trees like the treehouse of every child's dreams. Around the reserve are many others, miles of forest as far as the eye can see. Just a month before we arrived they found a new species of mammal here, a bit like a lemur we're told.
But mainly this place is about the birds. The feeders at the lodge were filled with sugar water and were constantly buzzing (literally - they sound like mini motor bikes) with glorious humming birds beating their wings at an incredible 80 times per second. We spent our free time sat watching them trying to tick off the different species we could see. Mesmerising.
The reserve had loads of different treks to do, either with a guide or independently. The guides were amazing, sharing their knowledge of the plants and birds, recognising the birds from their calls and imitating them to try to get us a better view. The highlight was getting up at 4.30am to go to a neighbouring reserve and watch the mating ritual of the Peruvian national bird, the Andean Cock of the Rock. We sat for an hour whilst one poor, dull coloured female was surrounded by close to 20 bright red, white and black males all screeching at her and shaking their booties. The females choose the best dancers and the ones with not a single feather out of place. So vain. The noise was incredible but it looked like these males failed to impress!
And that would be it for our short stay in Ecuador. We hadn't had time to see the Amazon jungle here (we will save that for Brazil) or hike up the volcanoes (one of which is the furthest point away from the centre of the earth due to the bulge around the equator), or relax next to beautiful crater lakes. But from the Galapagos to the cloud forest we fitted in plenty and came away loving this relatively small but beautiful, friendly and amazingly naturally diverse country. We would highly recommend it for a three to four week holiday from the UK should anyone be thinking about it!