Wow, it´s a good thing not too much happens during the week, ´cause I have a lot of weekend catching up to do . . .
So we drove up to Cotopaxi National Park on roads that make the Main Hill road look like a great place to start your teenager driving. Quito is at about 9,000 ft, so we were climbing pretty high just to get up there. Wow, I realize how bad my English sounds and it would actually be kinda funny if my Spanish was better . . .
Right at the bottom of the Cotopaxi volcano itself is a eucalyptus plantation. Eucalyptus is everywhere, and is not native. It was brought from - guess where? - as a fast-growing, straight tree for construction. Its fragrant smell is actually a chemical that inhibits the growth of other plants. This makes for virtually no understory, a change in the overall soil chemistry over time, and there aren´t even koalas for compensation . . .
I realize this is a diverse audience, but for those of you who doubt that I am doing sicence;
We did a few little excercises with (plant) species diversity in the area, and averaged about ten - from the Eucalyptos themselves and the few mosses that cling to them, to the hardiest grass that can somehow tolerate growing in cough-drop-flavored dirt.
We continued on for another 20 min to the museum that every park is obligated to have.
The tiny, dated exhibit showcased (in the form of taxidermy and washed-out 80´s photos) a bit of what we were about to see in the Andean highlands - not much, but a few cool things including a small deer, a few hawks, a rabbit that looks a lot like a pika (the general rule is that your extermities, ears inlcuded, get smaller as the temperature drops), and the Andean Wolf. It looks like a coyote, lives like a fox (solitary) and is genetically a wolf.
here was also a stuffed condor, young, but still huge. It´s actually the heaviest bird that can still fly, and the national symbol of Ecuador. I think I like the eagle better. I´d even go for the wild turkey. But I guess there is something impressive about a vulture with a ten-foot wind span . . .
But we came to see plants in the Paramo (PAHR - uh -mo), and nobody goes to a museum to learn about plants, so after partaking of the 25-cent empanadas, we piled back into the bus to continue our ascent.
More tomorrow . . .