Saturday, November 3, 2007

Random Monkey Bonus

Welcome to Ecuador - land of beautiful surprises, amazing vistas and random monkey bonuses. After a late arrival in Guayaquil, Ecuador last night, Ma-Le picked me up at the airport and brought me back for dinner with the family. They were nice enough to wait until 11:30 pm to eat. I was nice enough to not fall asleep in my dinner as well as having the stomach to eat again. That is if you can count eating on the plane. I do. It's exciting and I can never fall asleep until after the chicken and rice served in a soap dish is placed in front of me God forbid I miss a meal. (and Walnut Shortbread Cookies? - sounds gross - quite good. Maybe it's the euphoric amount of oxygen pumped throughout the cabin that provides this assessment). But I digress. NO PHOTOS PLEASE! (The Ecuador paparazzi pestering already.) I hadn't been in the country for 12 hours when we were lucky enough to get a glimpse (albeit at a great distance) of our first monkey. We traveled south to a park called Cerro Blanco (White Hill) and hiked the mountainous terrain in search of mostly birds and lizards but this little scene played out much to my delirium. These photos were taken well over 1/2 a mile away, but you can see the Red Howler monkey, hanging by a prehensile tail and swinging out to a very large flower. The leaves have fallen and most seeds and flowers are prominently displayed for seed dispersers like monkeys, squirrels and birds to find.

A few discarded petals and the lettuce head-sized flower is gone.
On to the next flower....I was lucky enough to see one up close. They are huge! The pollen covered stamens are bent inward, requiring pollinators like bees to crawl inside for the nectar and covering themselves with the pollen which they then bring to the next flower to cross pollinate. I learned this after leaning in to take a giant whiff of the pungent flower and a pollen encrusted bee zipped out.

I had forgotten what it's like to climb mountains. The highest point we reached today was near 1200 feet above sea level and that's about 1190 feet higher than I have gotten used to this year.As we left the park, Ma-Le recognized a friend who is a biologist and vet at the park and although my Spanish is terrible, I distinctly overheard them talking about a mark on his throat and I understood the words "Ocelot" and "Attacked". We headed back to his clinic where he brought out this little guy. Turns out this baby Ocelot had only been nursing on David's neck which left the mark. This 2 month old cat had been taken from the wild to be sold as a pet. It's mother was killed to get it and when the poachers were nabbed for this crime, the police brought the kitten to the refuge where it will now live.
They are carnivores, but at this size, their teeth and jaws can't do too much damage to me. Ma-Le's brother Juan Jose was still cautious, afraid the cute fluffy little thing might rip his face off.
I'm off to the Jungle for the next 9 days!


  1. Great post, Pete. I'm glad you made it safely and I look forward to seeing more of your adventure. Stay safe!

  2. That's super cool! Monkeys and attack kitties what a day! What are you eating? Do they have tasty snacks that they don't have here in the states?

    l'il sister

  3. aaawww... I want the kitty....have are so lucky...south american food..ummmmmm

    ..sent me a postcard..pleasssssseee.... say hi to your amor for me.. dile q me invite la proxima... jeje.... migth go to Peru in december.... YEIIIIIIHH

  4. Aw, alouatta! And orphaned ocelot!
    Baby ocelot hickeys = the best.

  5. I would have gone with corn dogs = the best - but I've never been hickeyed by an ocelot.