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No more orchids in-situ?

Well, at least that’s what it feels like…we haven’t been seeing as many orchids these past few days as “normally”. But writing this blog, we realize we’ve actually seen plenty! Day 13 will be more relevant than you can imagine when we say: no more orchids in-situ…

Day 11 – Amaluza to El Pangui

A 5 hour drive with only 1 stop for orchids. You wouldn’t expect us to have much to tell now would you? That’s where you’re wrong, everything amazes us 😊

First, cows on the road. Pretty basic, but what a weird-looking cow! Notice again the difference in climates here compared to what we’ve been seeing (and where we’re going to)

Not the best shot (phone shot in a moving car through glass), but a tree literally filled with Cattleya maxima. This must look amazing when it flowers in October.

Our only in-situ orchid stop of the day: HUGE Epidendrum lacustre, little Utricularia sp., Pleurothallis portillae, and another wonderful Pleurothallis canalijera. Last but not least, our first Octomeria sp. What a cutie!

Tourist-stop! Another cascade, beautiful.

Highlight of the day: visit to Mundiflora Farm greenhouse in El Pangui. Not a lot of miniatures so not a lot of plant pictures from our side. But a lot of very interesting tropical plants! Begonia, Philodendron, Anthurium, and many more.

And a frog! It wasn’t in any mood to move, so here’s a nice close-up.

Last one of the day: another HUGE Phildendron gloriosum growing underneath the trees on the grounds of Mundiflora Farm.

Day 12 – El Pangui to Cordillera del Condor

This day started out…very grey! Didn’t feel much like going outside, but we’re here for a reason.

Going all the way up in the Cordillera, we were met by a rather unusual obstacle…a military camp. The guys were really nice, but didn’t let us through unfortunately as there is a minefield beyond the camp. OK so that’s a no-go.

So we decided to head into the jungle a bit more below and guess what…orchids! Beautiful leaves on this big Lepanthes sp.

First one for us, closely resembling Zootrophion, this is Ophidium sp.

Later on, we encountered this Pleurothallis sp. and Lepanthes sp.

Time for some food, having lunch with this view just makes life so much better.

So as you know, we like butterflies. And while having lunch, we discovered I am actually a butterfly-whisperer. Yes, it’s a thing. Well, my wet shoes and sweaty cap are at least…but I managed to trick one into getting on my finger! How happy can you get? I sure was.

And a little movie

More congregations of these butterflies, we love them.

And now for a nice find, Lepanthes dictydion in-situ! Even with the flowers closed, we’re pretty sure that’s it.

Into the jungle again, for some more Epidendrum sp., Stelis sp., and a beautiful Philodendron verrucosum.

Fern-time! The new shoots of tree ferns can be quite…disgusting.

But look how big they can get here! I definitely want one, but Davina is using logic again, saying things like: “it won’t even fit in the greenhouse”. Pfffft.

And some more…buddies!

Day 13 – El Pangui to El Quimi (aborted)

So this day started out really well, going to the Parque Runahurco to find Lepanthes caloura in-situ. Score! We found it, but also Lepanthes aculeata, a Lepanthes sp. and a nice big Pleurothallis sp. Good day so far? I think so.

Afterwards, we decided to go back to El Quimi to spot some orchids, but…apparently a huge tract of land is now private property of a Chinese company looking to mine gold and copper from the Cordillera del Condor. So this is what we saw when entering the grounds, disgusting to say the least:

As you can see below as well, the forest is being systematically destroyed in order to probe the land for ores and it is forbidden to collect anything. So there is no way to save any of it, as it’s private property. Even with a permit from the government, the Chinese company can simply deny you entry and that’s that.

In 10 years time, thousands of hectares (bought at $500 per hectare!) will be ruined similarly and this part of the Cordillera will simply be a big yellow patch of empty dead land. Of course, no need to be blind to the fact that this brings a lot of money, employment and development for the town and its people, but it still hurts seeing such systematic destruction of this habitat.

Go there while you still can people…

So we decided to move our schedule ahead and go directly to Cuenca for the rest of our journey. And on a happier note, this is what we saw along the way: Phragmipedium bessae.

A lot of people go crazy for this orchid, but we just took a picture for the sake of it. Not that impressive if you compare it to some of the miniatures we’ve seen along the way. But that’s just us 😊

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