Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday July 31, 2015 Return

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Friday July 31, 2015
Last night we got another surprise when we got a call from Natalia that they were going to drive me to the Cali airport because Natalia had a doctor's appointment there at 2 pm anyway!  Then Cristina was also going to accompany me to the airport as well so it was a happy and sad morning as I had to say good bye to all of these wonderful people.
The airport in Cali is small but at least people don't have to walk out to the planes and climb the steps.  
Esmereldas is a tiny airport and, even though we were to leave within the hour, on the same plane, in the same seat, we had to crawl out of the plane and go through immigration in the terminal, then wait to board again.  It was 80F and really muggy.  To add insult to injury it poured rain exactly when we had to cross the tarmac and wait in line on the steps while idiots farted around blocking the aisle.  It was only an hour's flight, and the little air nozzle was refreshing, but we were still soaked by the time we landed in Quito.
Just before getting to Quito we could see this magnificent peak sticking up above the clouds, no doubt Chimborazo, the mountain that is closest to the sun and furthest from the earth's center.
Now remember that this is a brand-new International Airport in our nation's capital, and we have to crawl down steps and board buses to get to the terminal... sheesh...  I must admit that the terminal is nice and I was especially enamored with the Airport Center building across the way with a reasonable food court.  The weather was gorgeous as I sat outside on the patio and enjoyed some KFC.
LAN airlines made me go through the same ridiculous exercise of putting half of my stuff from my carry-on into a bag so that I didn't have more than 8 Kg in either one.  Trying to explain that, if we are allowed two carry-on items at 8 Kg maximum, isn't one carry-on at 15 Kg preferable, for space and weight???  I just get a blank stare from kids who can't add anything without their cel phone now...
Cuenca's airport is also a one-horse effort with the need to walk across the tarmac from the plane.  The place was just crawling with people waiting for arrivals.   I got out of there as fast as I could and caught a taxi.   I was surprised that he could now shoot right up Avenida Espana and get me home quickly via Los Andes.  However, this is Cuenca, Ecuador and the road was blocked off at the far end so we had to come all the way back and dipsy-doodle to come around the west end of the airport.
I am glad to be home to my comfortable bed.
I have simply batch-edited the photos because I am too tired to do much else right now.
I hope you enjoy the photos.  That was the day's excitement,   Cheers, Al 

Leaving Cali airport

We had to wait for an arriving flight

Colombia is very green

Big puffy white clouds make you sleepy

Coming in over the ocean into Esmereldas

This is the plane we came in on, and the one we would leave on

Soaking wet as we leave

Back above the white fluffy stuff

I am pretty sure that this is Chimborazo

Hard to shoot through a dirty porthole

I am surprised that I got a decent shot...

And another

OK, I got 3 decent ones

Coming down close to Quito airport

The Andes look pretty spectacular from the air - sideways, sorry

Drat, this one is sideways too...  My apologies

This is better

Earthquake country...

Cloud and smoke add to the mix

Lots of turbulence prior to landing

Quito airport

I was shocked that we had to bus it from the plane..

Lots of activity here

Gorgeous backdrops for this airport

A corner of the main terminal

Across the way a person can get reasonable food

Nice views from the airport

This gal was doing some kind of news report I think

Did I mention the nice food area....  This is only a small part

Another scenic view.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wednesday July 29, 2015 Colombia Day 13

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Wednesday July 29, 2015
Cristina's family continues to spoil me as they listen to my wishes and do their best to accommodate me, partly to relieve their days of boredom as well.  I guess this is called a win-win situation.
I kept telling Cristina that Colombia was/is much too hot for me so she suggested that I check out Armenia, about 1.5 hours to the north, in the mountains, just like Cuenca at a similar altitude.  One mention yesterday to Miguel and Natalia and the trip was planned, with possible fishing if we found the time.
The drive is picturesque with greenery and happy Brahma cows everywhere and the mountains rise as we travel on brand-new highways.  Armenia is called the "Miracle City" for its great recovery from a devastating 1999 earthquake, and also "City Of Skyscrapers" because they do indeed have a lot of tall buildings.  It reminds me a lot of Quito, but on a much smaller scale.
As we were driving inside Armenia I look down and see a holstered gun that Miguel has brought for protection.  As they did in Tulua the day before, they warn me to be aware of possible kidnapping attempts.  I joke that I am too big for kidnappers to lift me but, on the other hand, I decide that I don't want to live in any place where such warnings, or guns, are needed.  Nice place, but I don't want to live there.  Something in the back of my mind tells me that my friend Luz came from this city, and fled because of the violence 14 years ago.
Natalia is an aficionado of insects, bugs and all things creepy-crawly.  So we went to a neighbouring town where they have a Jardin Botanico Del Quindio (a botanical garden with butterfly conservatory).  We went on this long nature walk, crossing a few suspension bridges and seeing a lot of plants and birds.  One of the stops is a glassed-in observation room where we can see many different varieties of birds outside come to feed at feeders stocked with bananas.  From yellow finches to buzzards, it was neat to be so close.
They have a small maze and most people took part in that, including Natalia and a Polish couple with 2 blond-haired children that garnered a lot of attention.
Natalia had my small camera and took some pretty good shots, especially of a glass-winged butterfly that I did not see, so we have a lot of photos today.
Oh, and we did not have time to go fishing... drat!
I hope you enjoy the photos.  That was the day's excitement,   Cheers, Al 

The drive is picturesque with mountains cloaked in mist and cloud

Lush green valleys are great pasture for the animals

The Brahma cattle have shiny coats from such great vegetation

I was shocked to see this right next to me.  I do not wish to live in fear.

Armenia is a bustling city

One of the major churches and the obligatory town square

More lushness as we head to Quindio

The buzzards are still waiting for me to drop

These two came in for a closer look

This is probably a lot of newer construction since the earthquake

Miguel and Natalia have been super

Very unusual plants

Starting the trek on the tour

One of the suspension bridges, pretty solid construction

A huge relief map of the area

The short maze

Yup, it is very short says Natalia

Some birds that we might expect to see

Hummers here, but I saw a bright blue one...

I had glass between me and him...

Colourful specimen

Close-up of my tormentor

Different species sharing somewhat peaceably

He is getting impatient with me....

Cute little guy

Gorgeous colours

More unusual plants

One of the Polish kids

Natalia with really unusual plants

Gorgeous and colourful

They had several ponds of water lilies and lily pads

Pretty or what?

This plant is from a sci-fi movie

Maybe this is what they look like after losing their sight??

Breathtaking yellow lily

Dragonfly on an arrowhead plant

I cheated.  Photo of a photo...  I wanted to see snow-capped mountains

Butterflies of the world (missing quite a few)

Orange & black

Another amazing flower

The back side of these wings are luminescent

Tough to get a shot of the backside because they usually hold them together

Spotted one

This is the underside of those big butterflies

Black and green

Close-up at a feeding station

Gorgeous yellow specimen

Striking hibiscus

Different varieties abound here

Bright orange dude

Great marking on this guy

These guys must get picked on a lot...

Turtle in a pond

Unusual orchids look like birds

Lovely area in which to live

Still looking at carriers for the scooter

Spectacular mountain view #1 from the city

Spectacular mountain view #2 from the city

Spectacular mountain view #3 from the city

This made me thing of Cat Ballou

A typical view in Armenia

$5 steak (tough) lunch

Mountain view on the way home.

The following photos were all taken by Natalia with my small Samsung camera.  Good job Natalia!
She always has to get a photo of me...  

The buzzard was waiting for me

Something distracted them....

We saw lots of birds in just a few minutes

Bright little guy

He must be popular with the ladies

A spotted orange fly ?????

Natalia with a creepy-crawly thing - yuk

She found a chrysalis

We wonder what kind of butterfly will erupt from this?

The Polish lasses

Glass-wing butterflies look so delicate

Phenomenal shot by Natalia

And another...  I wish that I had seen him too.

A huge model of a grasshopper

Very unusual plant life.

Huge antennae on this one

Natalia and the big guy

A chance view of both the underside and backside of this amazing one

A battle-weary specimen

Nice detail in this shot