Ecuador was my first stop in South America and, after some early apprehension, I was sad to leave. Quito is not a particularly attractive city and if it has a nice area of sidewalk cafés, restaurants and interesting shops, I was never able to find it. But the city is easily managed on foot and the people are very friendly and helpful. After several days, I became quite comfortable here. The local beer was certainly drinkable and (unlike some places I would later visit) they knew how to make a decent pizza. I also found some very good Italian restaurants
From Quito, I took a day trip to Cotopaxi, which I was told is the world's highest, active volcano. I am sorry to say I never really got a good view of it because of the clouds (which developed later into a torrential downpour). The trip up to the volcano, however, gave me my first glimpse of the Andean highlands and the stark beauty of the altiplano.
From Quito, I also went on two longer excursions: five days in the Amazon rain forest and a week in the Galápagos Islands. The rain forest, known as El Oriente in Ecuador, was certainly interesting and I am glad I saw it. I was in an area along the Rio Napo, which is a tributary of the great Amazon River. Unfortunately, photography was very difficult because of the wet conditions (it is a rain forest, after all) and the dense foliage (which filters out most of the light). Also, it was very difficult to actually see any wildlife other than butterflies and birds. Monkeys, when spotted, were usually far in the distance, well beyond the range of my 80-200mm zoom lens. Therefore, you won't see many photographs here from the rain forest.
The Galápagos Islands, on the other hand, were a photographer's dream. The animals have no fear whatsoever of humans. If one is not alert, it is possible to accidentally step on a bird, a sea lion or an iguana. If I had a problem with my zoom lens, it was that sometimes I was too close to focus! For many reasons, the Galápagos Islands were the highlight of the trip to Ecuador.
All in all, I came to like Ecuador very much. It is the least developed of the countries I visited, but it has much to see from the Andean highlands to the rain forest lowlands to the desert islands of the Galápagos. I hope to return someday and explore more of the mountainous backbone of the country, the "Avenue of the Volcanoes."
The photos in the slide show above offer some highlights of Ecuador. More photos and specific information about the areas I visited can be found on other pages, which can be reached from the drop-down list below.