Palabra del día: cascada
We wake up at 5:45am, a welcome respite from the last few early starts we have had. At 6:15 every morning, there is a guided morning walk around the lodge driveway, where many birds can be seen. Several pairs of masked trogons and turquoise jays flit around the signposts, gates, and woven lamps to capture the few moths who are too slow to move out of their havens with the sunrise.
We have breakfast before discussing whether we want to walk up the road to bird for tanagers or hike to one of the large waterfalls in the area. After only a brief moment, we decide to forsake the birds to go play in the mountain waters with a group of women who have just come from a trip to Peru. The hike is wonderfully invigorating, though I am the only one to have the guide cut me a bamboo walking stick from the invasive plant which threatens to overgrow several of the trails.
As we begin our trip, I tell our guide that our goal for the day is to find a reptile, preferably a snake. He laughs, describing how unlikely it is to see reptiles in only a few days on the reserve.
Not ten meters around the bend, we spy a lithe form stretched across part of the road. The small creature is a spotted genuine snake, a locally common terrestrial snake which inhabits the northwest slope of the Andes. Like most of the cloud forest’s inhabitants, this snake has jewel tones which highlight its sleek form.
Immediately after leaving the snake, I cross my fingers and state our next goal for the day is to see a rare black-and-chestnut eagle or Andean condor. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this time. To reach the falls, we continue on the road for a short way before descending into a wooded cow pasture with abundant small frogs.
We hear numerous birds along the way, though since it’s not a priority, we only try to sight them briefly before continuing. We reach a small brook and begin traversing it in our galoshes. The Other Half quickly realizes his boot has a hole in it as his shoe fills with icy water. I help him pick out the shallow spots for the rest of the trip, though a brief misstep into a deep pool results in my also joining the Wet Foot Club. After climbing a rickety rope-and-ladder contraption and traversing large fallen logs, we reach the falls.
It is beautiful, and we pause to briefly appreciate the waters before taking the steep path back up. About 2/3 of the way along, I beg a stop for a few moments (mostly because I am in a constant state of hunger, and it is nearing lunchtime). It is at this time that I realize that if you are the only two in a group of 6 who brought snacks and water with you on your hike, Oreos become a very hot commodity. Luckily we have enough to share around with anyone who needs a brief sugar-induced energy surge.
After a brilliant 4-hour hike (which we were told was only going to be a 3-hour tour), we arrive to the lodge. I can’t get enough of the lodge hummingbirds, so before our next hike, I spend quality time with several field guides and natural history textbooks next to the hummingbird feeders.
It is only a short time later that we regroup to hike up the road again. As seems to be the rule, by mid-afternoon, the clouds roll in, swiftly coating the mountainsides in a white so thick it seems like you could just reach out and touch the edge of the universe. Brief, swirling eddies bring glimpses of cycad trees and tanagers.
After our walk, we retire to our room to make some hot tea before dinner. We have an international texting plan, so we catch the family up on our current status before heading to dinner and then to another sitting with the olinguitos.