Experiencing The Big Earthquake In Ecuador

I am actually writing this post 4 months after the actual earthquake which happened on 16 April 2016 but I remember it so vividly.  We were staying at the beautiful Cabanas San Isidro.  It was around 7pm and we had just sat down to dinner.  We had been joined by the very friendly manager, Alejandro and were talking about birds.  The cook had just brought our the first course, the soup and placed it in front of us.  Spoons in hand we were about to dig in when we felt the earth move.  The soup was sloshing around in the bowl and I was wondering what the hell was going on.  Alejandro said, “Earthquake”.  He was outwardly calm but I could tell he was nervous.  The kitchen staff were also putting on a brave face but they were also very nervous.  We all desperately wanted to know what was happening, where the earthquake was centered, how bad it was and if we were in danger but there was no wifi, tv or cell phone signal.

I was extremely nervous as we were on top of a mountain, it had been raining and I was afraid of mudslides.  Finally Alejandro got through to someone and told us the earthquake was in a small town (Pedernales) near the coast which I was not familiar with.  He no longer seemed nervous so I also relaxed a bit and we continued with dinner.  The staff had also relaxed and no longer seemed nervous.  We finished or dinner with no further news, the tv still wasn’t working.  After dinner, one of the staff walked us back to the cabin and stopped along the way to show us the owl.  It took me a while to get to sleep that night as I was afraid of aftershocks.

The next morning, the guide showed up early as agreed to take us birding and everything seemed normal so I kind of “forgot” there had been an earthquake.  The rest of the day was exactly as planned – birding, breakfast, ride to bus stop, bus to Guango Lodge, see hummingbirds, bus to Quito Airport and check in for flight.  The roads were all normal, no traffic jams and most flights were running on schedule.  We used Priority Pass to enter the lounge and get access to wifi.  Only then did I learn what a devastating earthquake it had been!  I Googled “Ecuador earthquake” and read in stunned disbelief of the horror and devastation it had wreaked upon the small towns near the epicenter.  It was a 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale and 661 people were killed and 27,732 people injured.  Here are some links to details and news coverage of the earthquake.

Wikipedia Article

CNN #1

CNN #2

This map shows where we were (purple dot), and the epicenter of the earthquake is highlighted.  I also showed the closest we had been to the epicenter when we were in Mindo.  I am not sure how bad it was there but if the earthquake had been a week earlier, we could have been caught a lot worse than we were.

earthquake map

Sitting there in the Quito airport lounge, I silently said some prayers for the people who had been killed, injured or lost their homes in the earthquake.  Guayaquil had felt it very badly and even had a bridge collapse.  We didn’t have long before the flight left so it took me awhile to get all the details.  I wouldn’t have wifi again until the hotel in Santa Marta, Colombia.

It’s a scary thing to think that we could get caught up in a natural disaster like an earthquake or hurricane while traveling.  At least with hurricanes you can avoid the season but earthquakes are completely unpredictable.  You are  more vulnerable when you are traveling too.  You don’t know the area, where to go for help and other people around will have their own families to worry about.  Since I got lucky this time, I can’t speak from experience what to do if you are caught in an earthquake while traveling but I did find a couple articles with some good advice.  If you will be traveling to a country that has a history of earthquakes, it’s a good idea to print them or save a copy to your hard drive as you may not have internet after an earthquake strikes.

BBC Travel

Peter Greenberg

The other thing I noticed is when I finally did get online, Facebook detected that I had logged in from a disaster area and had a button I could click to let friends and family know we were ok.

Staying Hydrated While Birding

Here in Australia the weather is heating up which reminds me how important it is to stay hydrated when you are hiking through a national park looking for birds.  There are many different ways to carry water with you.  You may elect to buy one mineral water bottle and just keep refilling it if you are in a place where water is safe to drink.  Or you can get a product like this collapsible water bottle which has the added feature of collapsing down so you can carry it past airport security empty, then fill it up at a water fountain.

 

If you are birding somewhere that doesn’t have safe tap water, most eco-lodges will supply boiled water for you to refill bottle such as these or if you are camping then you can boil your own water.  Whatever you do, stay hydrated and stay safe!

For those who have the Chase Freedom card, don’t forget that you get 5x from Oct – Dec 2015 on Amazon.com!

Why You Shouldn’t Check Bags, Especially In Africa

The video I found on YouTube shows exactly how easy it is for crims to get into your checked bags, steal what they want and make your bag look like it hasn’t been touched.  His friend was robbed but you don’t have to be!

Although the man making the video recommends a hard sided bag, my solution is far simpler – don’t check any bags at all!  Use carry-on bags/backpacks such as the E-Bags Motherlode and bring a Scottevest so you can put any heavier items in the pockets if your carry-on exceeds the weight limit.  Some airports do weigh carry-ons so be prepared!

Staying Safe & Healthy On Safari In South Africa – Videos

Sometimes it’s just hard to describe what it is really like in South Africa.  People hear all kinds of stories about getting robbed, charged by elephants and eaten by lions.  Fortunately, these things are extreme cases and can be avoided if you use common sense and take the necessary precautions.  Eco-tourists don’t want to be hanging around cities and tend to head straight for the game parks anyways but sometimes airline schedules can force an overnight stay in Johannesburg.  You also need to follow a few simple health precautions.  Most people will have safe and enjoyable visits to South Africa, here’s a few tips to help you do the same.

IS IT SAFE TO GO?

Government advisories are a good place to start when determining what dangers you need to avoid.  Here’s a list of the English speaking ones.  I do read them but I consider them to err on the side of caution so I like to get recent experiences from people who are actually traveling in South Africa on forums such as Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree.  I personally would never go out at night in any city but I am not a nightlife kind of person anyway.  Just use common sense, have your hotel point out where you can walk safely and where you can’t.  Keep your possessions locked in the the trunk of your car out of sight.  If you do get robbed, don’t argue, just give them what they want, but best to avoid putting yourself in a situation where you could be robbed.

Better yet, just get out of the city asap and get into the parks!

SAFETY ON SAFARI

SANPARKS has very strict rules and regulation to protect both you and the animals.  This video has no sound but it’s easy to understand.

 

WHAT NOT TO DO ON A SAFARI!

STAYING HEALTHY IN SOUTH AFRICA

The CDC has some great advice.

Check the vaccines and medicines list and visit your doctor (ideally, 4-6 weeks) before your trip to get vaccines or medicines you may need.  You may need a yellow fever shot to show other border officials if you have any African stamps in your passport.  Malaria is present in some South African parks.  We didn’t encounter a lot of mosquitoes while we were there but we did have the mozzie spray on hand and we took Doxycycline for malaria protection.  Thankfully as of this writing, South Africa is free of Ebola.

Since I don’t shoot video, I’ll leave you with this video from a man on YouTube who shows what a typical day on safari is really like.

The Coolest In-Flight Safety Video Ever!

Experienced & frequent fliers are often guilty of ignoring the usual boring safety videos shown on board before take-off.  Yes, we’ve seen and heard it all before.  You really should pay attention but most people just keep on reading or dozing.  Well this is one safety video that people will take notice of!  95,000 YouTube hits can’t be wrong!

EEEK, You’ve Wandered Off From Your Birding Group!

You just had to get a better shot of that gorgeous rare bird so you headed off the trail to get closer.  The bird flew a bit further, you followed.  Rinse and repeat.  Hey, where did the rest of the group go?  They were just there a minute ago!

No worries, a few loud, sharp tweets on this survival whistle and your guide will be able to locate you and bring you back to the group!

*Disclaimer:  The link above contains an affiliate link and I will receive a small commission if you buy this or any other product on Amazon.com after clicking it.  As always, I appreciate your support, thank you!

 

OK, So You WILL Look Ridiculous, But………………..

…………………………when was the last time you tried to focus a heavy DSLR on a swiftly flying bird with flies and mosquitoes buzzing around your head?  This product just might help you at least stand still and stop fidgeting long enough to focus!

Another model

*Disclaimer:  The link above contains an affiliate link and I will receive a small commission if you buy this or any other product on Amazon.com after clicking it.  As always, I appreciate your support, thank you!

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

You never know when you may be out on a birding hike and run out of water.  There may be streams or rivers nearby but they may not be safe to drink.  This product can help!

  • Removes a minimum of 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria per manufacturer.(>LOG 6 reduction)
  • LifeStraw® offers easy access to clean and safe drinking water away from home!
  • Filters up to 1000L of contaminated water per the manufacturer.
  • Removes a minimum of 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites per manufacturer.
  • Reduces water turbidity by filtering particles of approximately 0.2 microns.

*Disclaimer:  The link above contains an affiliate link and I will receive a small commission if you buy this or any other product on Amazon.com after clicking it.  As always, I appreciate your support, thank you!

Mozzies, Don’t Bite Me!

If your birding adventure brings you into the rainforest and you will be camping out, you need protection!  Mosquitoes love foreign tourists and unfortunately their feast can cause you to get malaria or dengue fever.  It might be worthwhile bringing a mosquito net along just to be prepared!

*Disclaimer:  The link above contains an affiliate link and I will receive a small commission if you buy this or any other product on Amazon.com after clicking it.  As always, I appreciate your support, thank you!