The Mindo Cloud Forest is a forest area located on the pacific side of the western range of the Andes. It is at an altitude of 1,000 m (3,300 ft) to 1,500 m (4,920 ft). It is usually in the clouds that form along the Andes mountains from the moisture coming from the Pacific. When I went there, it was mostly cloud free, at least for the first part of my visit. The clouds later started to move in. Because of the constant cloud cover, there is lots of water in the cloud forest with streams and waterfalls everywhere. Part of my trip were visits to an orchid museum and a feeding station for hummingbirds.
There are lots of interesting plants in the cloud forest, many orchids, bromeliads, and heliconias. In one area, the road was surrounded by thousands of large orchids. It was quite a show. The most fascinating part was the hummingbird feeding station. I took some nice close-up pictures of the feeding hummingbirds. There were hundreds of them from many different species.
The trip to Cotopaxi showed a completely different flora than the cloud forest. We drove up the road into the Parque National Cotopaxi, all the way to the end of the road most of the way up the side of Cotopaxi. The end of the road is at an altitude of 4,600 m (15,090 ft). This was the highest elevation that I have been on land, slightly higher than Mauna Kea, Hawaii. I did not do anything there, just looked around from the car. Just getting out of the car would have been too much, since I was not accustomed to the thin air up there. Just 200 m (660 ft) lower, I had no problem with walking around to take pictures, but any extra effort rendered me breathless, not from awe about the scenery but from lack of air . Unfortunately we were in the clouds all the way to the highest point of the road, so I didn't see the mountain. I did see it during the flight from Quito to the Galápagos islands.
The drive up the road to Cotopaxi starts from the fertile central valley. Pretty soon we were above the tree line in the Andean páramo and saw the alpine type of vegetation characteristic of the higher Andes. The vegetation becomes more and more alpine. At the higher elevations plans with thick, leathery leaves start to dominate. At the very top only lichens are growing. One of the more impressive plants is the Flower of the Andes.
I didn't see many animals during the visit to Cotopaxi. In order to see wildlife, you have to be hiking, not driving. Hiking in the high Andes needs to be planned well, and cannot be done during a short, three day visit. You really need time to get used to the high altitudes.
If you know the name of any of the plants or animals for which I don't have a name, I would appreciate it if you would send me that name to email me
I have the bird pictures from the Quito area, together with bird pictures from other parts of Ecuador on a separate page:
Typical view of the Mindo Cloud Forest (without clouds though). The Silver Tree (Yaruma) (Cecropia palmata) really stands out. It has bright silvery leaves that makes it very conspicuous. (1261k) A waterfall in the cloud forest. Water is plentiful here. (1017k) A more typical view of the cloud forest with the clouds. (636k) In the cloud forest. (1261k) Bromeliads (Airplants) in a tree, Tillandsia sp. (german: Tillandsien), possibly (Tillandsia hamaleana). (965k) Bromeliads on a tree. (614k) A Rockcap Fern (Polypodium sp., german: Tüpfelfarne). (1091k) This Rockcap Fern (Polypodium sp., german: Tüpfelfarne) has spores on the underside of the leaves. (588k) A succulent plant. (875k) Plant. (750k) Tropical plant. (1051k) An old leaf of a plant called Pumamaqui, eaten away by insects. (983k) Agave sp. (german: Agaven). (1324k) Flower. (561k) Flowers. (601k) Flowers. (385k) Flowers. (480k) Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus, german: Feuerbohne, french: Haricot d'Espagne). (396k) Flowers. (926k) Pink Quill (Wallisia cyanea, french: Tillandsia raquette). It is endemic to Ecuador. (410k) Flower. (636k) Flower. (843k) Robust Elleanthus, a terrestrial Orchid (Elleanthus robustus). (552k) Flower. (470k) Back-scratcher Ginger (Tapeinochilos ananassae, french: Rose de Malaisie). (543k) Flower stand. (609k) Heliconia (Heliconia sp., german: Helikonien:Genus). (474k) Flower. (429k) Flower. (427k) Pitcairnia nigra (Pitcairnia nigra). It is endemic to Ecuador. (574k) A type of bromeliad (Guzmania melinonis). (472k) Orchids. (564k) Orchid (Cattleya sp.). (500k) Lady's Slippers (Paphiopedilum sp., german: Frauenschuhe). (477k) Masdevallia Orchid (Masdevallia sp.) or Dracula Orchid (Dracula sp.). (415k) Bonnet Orchid (Pleurothallis sp.). (479k) Orchid. (535k) Orchid. (450k) Bucket Orchid, probably Stanhopea sp. (531k) Heliconia flower. (612k) Banana flower and fruits. (668k) Butterfly (Lepidoptera fam., german: Schmetterlinge, french: Papillons). (554k) A little lizard. (497k)
Valley on the bottom flank of Cotopaxi. (717k) View of Cotopaxi through the clouds. (321k) View from Cotopaxi across the páramo, the high plain. The plain is at an altitude of about 3,000 m (9,800 ft). (467k) View of the páramo, the high plain north of Cotopaxi. (607k) Vegetation at around 4,000 m (13,100 ft) altitude on Cotopaxi. Mostly grass and some wildflowers grow here. (793k) Vegetation at around 4,600 m (15,090 ft) altitude on Cotopaxi. There is not much growing at that altitude. (562k) Cotopaxi from the air. (322k) Cotopaxi from the air. (348k) The second largest volcano, Cotacachi, from the ground. (676k) Cotacachi from the air, reaching above a cloud layer. (385k) Cotopaxi from the air, reaching above a cloud layer. (385k) Both Cotopaxi (on the right), and Cotacachi above the clouds. (443k) Trailing Lily (Bomarea multiflora). (522k) Shrub (Loricaria thuyoides). (442k) Wildflower. (372k) Chocho del Páramo, Lupine (Lupinus pubescens). (399k) Chocho del Páramo. (711k) Hercules' Club Puya (Puya clava-herculis). It is endemic to Ecuador. (1266k) Alpine plant. (1189k) Cacho de Venado, Deer's Antlers (Halenia weddelliana). (464k) Horsetail (Equisetum sp., german: Schachtelhalme). (568k) Alpine plant. (783k) Chikku Chikku or Cat's Ear (Hypochaeris sessiliflora). (538k) Alpine plant. (486k) Pajonales del páramo, Peruvian Feather Grass (Jarava ichu, french: Paja brava). This type of grass was used to cover the local huts. (961k) Flower (Castilleja fissifolia). (644k) Flower (Castilleja fissifolia). (394k) Flower (Bidens triplinervia, german: Zweizähne). (389k) Water Mattress (Plantago rigida). (908k) Alpine Plant (Lasiocephalus ovatus). (417k) Alpine Plant (Lasiocephalus ovatus). (502k) Alpine Plant (Lasiocephalus ovatus). (397k) Chuquiraga, Flower of the Andes (Chuquiraga jussieui). (458k) The Flower of the Andes (Chuquiraga jussieui). (573k) The Flower of the Andes (Chuquiraga jussieui). (444k) Lichens. (1249k) Alpine Plant (Senecio nivalis). (543k) Alpine wildflower. (474k) Club Moss (Phlegmariurus crassus). (611k) Fern. (640k)