As the road drops down from the heights of the Papallacta pass heading towards the lower slopes of the East Andes, there is a small lodge marked by a large dark rock wall with a large painted with a sword-billed hummingbird and the word Guango. This is the Guango Lodge.
The word Guango comes from the Quichua language and has no simple translation into English. It describes a place where tumbling rivers meet on high mountain slopes covered in mystical cloud forest. The rivers scour the land and re-make the terrain every few years as floods come and go with the changing seasons.
At Guango Lodge, it is possible to hike the cloud forest and to meander the gravel shores of the fast moving river.
Guango Lodge is close to Quito, so close that a day trip is easily possible. We visited on the return from their sister lodge, Cabañas San Isidro in Cosanga. We arrived mid-morning and were able to get in a short hike along the river and through the lower lying cloud forest before lunch. Our guide pointed out the tiniest orchids nestled into tree trunks, found the skunky smelling Campanulasie flower after we asked what made such a pungent aroma, and led us to a forest filled with Masked Trogons.
We must have arrived for mating season because I have never seen so many Masked Trogons in a single day. In fact, a good day in the Cloud Forest might mean seeing a male and a female Masked Trogon at different times and at different places. Here at Guango, in the middle of June, we saw four females and two males, all perched in the same part of the forest. In fact, it was tough to decide which bird to follow for as one left a branch, another perched in a good location. None came very low, so all photos are taken from the ground looking up but considering this was a mid-morning hike and we had no bird blind to hide us, I am thrilled with the shots.
After the hike, we returned to the Lodge for a hearty lunch. But I couldn’t sit still for very long. The hummingbirds were calling. Immediately in front of the lodge is a hummingbird garden filled with dozens of feeders. They are placed at different heights and each attracts different species of birds. The most aggressive and numerous were the Buff-tailed Coronets and the most exciting were the Sword-billed Hummingbird with its 10-centimeter long beak and the Long-tailed Sylph, with its sweeping neon blue tail.
For $25 each, we enjoyed the excellent services of a local guide, access to the hiking trails and grounds, a hearty lunch, and hours of hummingbird watching. It was a deal and I can’t wait to return and stay the night. I can only imagine the birds I might see in the early hours of the morning.
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