Cloud Forest 26-sept-11
We take a trip to a cloud forest owned by a retired chap who wants to sell some of his primary forest as he only has a small pension to live on. He seems confused at to what people would want. Seems a shame as I am sure many would pay to visit his forest if he opened up a path to its heart. But it seems that the tourists he wants from Quito want a disco by the stream. Which is not what conservation tourists would want.
The trouble with all forest land is that the soil is poor. To grow anything after the trees have gone needs a lot of fertilizer. The trees grew in such a way to cope with the poor soil.
We find a frog sitting under the washing up on the sink, I call him Colin. We put him out and the big brown frog turns into a fine tree frog as he hangs from the railing outside. I look in the book and find that he is ‘Jordan’s casque-headed tree frog’ and my new favourite frog, such a cool looking amphibian.
Later Raul tells us that the frog lives here in the house and that he must now be quite sad to be living on the roof where I go and visit him every night. Colin was probably keeping the bugs and cockroaches down in the house!
I go and ‘help’ in several lessons at the school with a view to possibly teaching there. The children are young and are very nice. A lesson is quite disorganized with the children walking about and talking a lot but they do get on with their work and are not naughty or bad.
My ‘help’ is a little limited as at first my Spanish is non-existent. I do get better and there are only a few words needed to teach English. However I do need more Spanish if I am first of all to help the other volunteer teacher much before I could even think of teaching myself. Learning to trust the children was a good challenge, it is certainly something I never thought I would do!
At the house we have been learning to replant forest. It is also possible to plant produce like banana trees and cacao in order to produce a product from the forest.
Late October and in Puerto López helping to run the Itapoa Hostel part of the main Itapoa project. Here we give the guests the option to have the chocolate from the forest as a spread or drink. Also the coffee is produced by us. It is quite intense work serving the breakfasts. After this it is a matter of getting supplies from town for the hostel. After that talking to the guests and booking them in.
Usually at 4pm I water the gardens. Water is expensive here in the dry part of the country but one of the main appeals in the hostel is that it is set in green gardens. The investment is worth it was the hostel is a nice place to stay.
I visited the Isla de la Plata, the ‘poor mans Galapagos’ and saw blue footed boobies amongst some other special wildlife in the dry forest there.
November sees me back in Puerto Quito where a Norwegian family who were at the hostel have come to volunteer here. The others are in the Jungle and Raul is soon off to the USA to do some talks. Looks like I am in charge in Puerto Quito then. There are always plenty of jobs to do here. Checking the perimeter, checking to see the poachers are not back. Watering the new plants. Harvesting cacao and coffee. Oh and for me there is work to do on the Itapoa website. Adding pictures and streamlining the code, identifying wildlife and listing it with a picture on the website. I have also added a page for the Itapoa Hostel.
I show the family the ropes here and surprise myself with how much I have learnt.
Hummingbirds: what is quite incredible here are the hummingbirds. I never realized how small they are. But it is quite something to stand there and suddenly have a hummingbird looking at you. They look incredible with their colours and with their long beaks. They are very tame and will stop less than a meter from you.
Last few weeks here we have been working in the forest. With the usual harvesting of cacao and coffee. Also preparation of the same. There are always jobs to do and many I decide from my own initiative. I have been working on the Itapoa website a lot. I have also been doing my own writing in my spare time.
I have had a trip to Mindo just to see what the eco tours and forests were like there. They have the right idea and it is a very nice place. The balance seems to have been struck between resort and a way to save the natural landscape. Being on the Quito road helps a lot.
The bird life here is amazing. Today I took the time to sit on the tower at the top of the house. All around is the sound of birds. You can see kites, eagles, vultures in the distance and sometimes overhead, in groups or alone. Now and then a squawking burst of a group of parrots flying past. The sound of humming birds which I have come to recognise. Flycatchers sitting on branches. Lots of wren type birds scouring the undergrowth. Always as you look into the trees you see them alive with life of moving birds. Woodpeckers will happily speck away while you stand very close and watch. When there are no lorries full of gravel, stones or palm oil passing by the place falls so quiet and the pervading noise is the sound of birds. If you sit for long enough you see so many your head starts to swim, and swivels round and round like the Omen. If you think you have a lot of birds in your garden: you haven’t. And that is without even mentioning what we have named as the ‘Orgasm Bird’!
I agonised about coming to Ecuador on a plane and adding to my carbon footprint but I knew that the one thing that justified it was that I could spread the word of what is happening here from my writing and talks. I feel justified now as there is no way from home I could have appreciated the wholesale destruction of the forest and the endless miles and miles of palm oil plantations. There is only 7% of the jungle left and it looks hopeless but when you witness the bird life here and the way the place is always growing and mega-diverse it gives one hope. I could not have experienced this from home continuing with my mission to save the planet there. Also the efforts at Itapoa to return forest to something closer to primary after being cleared does give one hope when you see other forest that has returned after clearing as this forest is quite dank and close to dead. The Itapoa secondary forest is not like this and shows life and healthy plants through being bought back to life carefully. This also gives one hope for the future.
Raul does not like to feel the center of the Itapoa project and declines to have to much credit on his shoulders. What I like about Itapoa is that it is one man with the help of others doing his bit to try and save what should not be lost with his desire to spread the word through the internet and by giving talks around the world. Which is very much the same as me, just an individual trying to do his bit. I have learnt a lot at the project and am really pleased that I have helped to strengthen it with my work during my time here and further work I can do ‘remotely’ for Raul’s Itapoa project and other projects with which he may become involved.