A private driver picked us up from our friend's house for an early morning drive to Mashpi Lodge. Mashpi has ushered in a new level of tourism in Ecuador. It's an extremely high-end ecolodge hidden in an amazing cloud forest northwest of Quito.
On the drive there we crossed the equator twice and enjoyed the lush countryside.
We drove past fields of sugar cane and through tiny villages for a couple of hours before heading down a narrow, bumpy dirt road for another forty five minutes. Where exactly was this place?
A short distance from the last village we entered the cloud forest, and instantly the air became misty and cooler. It looked, felt, and even smelled different. The surroundings felt primitive, like we were entering the world of Avatar or Jurassic Park.
Finally the clouds thinned and we arrived at the gate. As it opened we expected to find ourselves at the lodge, but, no, there were another twenty minutes of excitement and anticipation as we wound our way past waterfalls and increasingly dense vegetation. Then at last we rounded a curve and there was Mashpi Lodge, our sleek, ultramodern home for the next three days.
The interior is stunning, with wide open vistas of the forest in every direction.
And talk about a room with a view--WOW!
After getting settled and eating lunch we were hooked up with two lovely couples visiting from Canada.
We hiked to the Life Center, where native butterflies are studied.
We saw beautiful scenery
and even a baby ocelot along the way.
This is an orphan they are hoping to reintroduce into the wild, but without parents to teach it to hunt the task will be difficult.
Inside the Life Center we observed many species of awesome butterflies.
We were told that sunny days are unusual, so we felt fortunate to see a stunning sunset before heading back to the lodge.
The next morning required early rising for bird watching from the lodge's observation deck.
This is a good example of why the area is called a cloud forest.
I must admit I heard about 1000 birds and actually saw about five of them. Maybe I didn't consume enough coffee to sharpen my vision. Then we were off on another hike, this time a long one to a waterfall. There's Mashpi in the distance as we trekked through the forest.
After about two hours we heard the roar of the waterfall and soon arrived.
Some of the group chose to cool off in the water. The temps were a bit too nippy for us.
The challenge of a long hike is when you get where you're going you still have to go back. We were pooped, so after lunch a nap plus a bottle of wine and a trip to the Jacuzzi formed the rest of our afternoon agenda.
On our final morning we packed in the activities before heading to the airport. First we climbed up, up, up the observation tower
for a breathtaking look at our surroundings.
Then, we climbed into a bicycle-like contraption for a treetop cable ride across a long valley.
Across the sky we soared, feeling just like Elliott and ET.
I must say ET looks a lot more gorgeous than I remember from the movie.
Everything looked much different from our unique vantage point.
After that adventure we had one more memorable treat in store. We stopped near the front gate at a hummingbird observation spot. Thirty one different species have thus far been identified at Mashpi, and many of them were strutting their stuff for us.
A most remarkable thing happened just before we left. As our departure was on Valentine's Day, Mashpi's staff had given both of us roses when we checked out. These are of course not indigenous in a cloud forest, but we were curious to see if the hummingbirds would react to the flowers' red color. Indeed they did.
So we decided to take our little experiment a step further, and Cynthia received a Valentine's present she'll never forget!
Did we have a fabulous time at Mashpi Lodge? What do you think?
3 days ago