<-- View from our porch, watching my rainpants dry. Note the ubiquitous Ecuadorian concrete and rebar skyline.
It’s also a country where the climate varies by the valley. One ‘Cuenca’ (watershed) can be a dry, floral sort of place… while the next one over can evoke the Hound of the Baskervilles or ‘American Werewolf in London’.
I first encountered the páramo in 2007. My wife and I hacked up a mountain with a good friend named Rodrigo. Halfway up, we encountered the dismembered landing gear from a Boeing 727. It was that kind of place- veiled, precipitous… a place where a plane could easily wander off course and disappear. A vertical Bermuda Triangle.
Not all people like wet, austere places… but I’ve always loved them. The páramo reminds me of Glencoe or Skye in Scotland… except for the primordial looking Puyas that cut through the soils at intervals.
Note the lovely, Puya-laden scat in the photo on the right!
It’s also a garden, with a profusion of orchids, bromeliads, dwarf, bonsai-style shrubs, ferns and mosses. It’s like the Alaskan muskeg mated with a Jurrasic era wetland.
It’s also highly vulnerable. Surprise.
The Ecuadorian páramo- due to its cataclysmic weather and jagged geography, is not as endangered as some Neotropical ecotypes. However, this is starting to change. People are building roads and running ever-larger herds of cattle. The government plants water-sucking Scotch pine trees (see- there’s the Scotland reference again).
The profusion of Puyas, endemic shrubs, orchids… and all the life that they support… these things are support atop inches of viable soil. The area can’t handle changes… this picture from an area near Quito demonstrates what’s at stake.
Still- it’s a region of rough beauty and profound importance… and I’m glad to be able to squelch the eco-alarmism at times, and just slide my rear down a mountainside or two.