I find that nature soothes my soul. In my area of Colombia, in the Valle del Cauca department, we have many birds, including over 30 species of hummingbirds just at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. Because of Earth Day I thought I would share some photos of my birds I photograph daily at my Villa. Colombia has the most species of birds in the entire world. We are a small country that is the most bio diverse in the world. Enjoy some of my favorite photos, and enjoy my absolute love of nature. The featured photo is a Blackburian Warbler. They migrate to my area of Colombia. A very tiny little bird and I love the colors, I am not sure why this bird is still here because it is migratory time for all hummingbirds and birds in Colombia. Some of the birds just stay and they are more than welcome at my home!
White shoulder Tanager, the very tiny white you see opens up to a lot of white when it flies
These are just a few of my many species of birds I see regularly, so why not come and sit awhile and see for yourself? I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the climate, the birds and the peace of Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
Some shots of faces in the crowd in the country of Colombia. Always an opportunity to show the lovely country I live in now as an ex-patriot. Beautiful biodiversity wherever I travel to, whether it is a small pueblo, the countryside, or a big city. Random snaps of the camera show a lot about my life here in Colombia.
Any photo taken spontaneously tells a story. Even the street art has a way of showing emotions of the people who paint it.
I never get tired of grabbing the opportunity of showing my life and adventures in Colombia. Come visit and see this beautiful country for yourself.
(Credit to the parade photo and the street art photo of the smiling face given to a guest here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. Thank you for allowing me to share.)
Oftentimes people wonder what exactly adventure travel is. According to Wikipedia “Adventure travel is a type of niche tourism, involving exploration or travel with a certain degree of risk (real or perceived), and which may require special skills and physical exertion. … Other rising forms of adventure travel include social and jungle tourism.”
This definition is true, but it can be modified to any age group wants and needs. At Villa Migelita we get such a variety who seek the excitement and experiences that are not found in many tourism spots in this world. We constantly look and find new places to bring our guests so they can see life in nature in the Valle del Cauca, Colombia.
Yesterday we took our guests into the jungle to look for parrots. They had specifically asked us for activities that were off the beaten path and different. Above you see the parrots that flock every single day over my Villa to go down to lower altitudes and then they return to the pine trees really high in the area called Hueco Frio in La Buitrera del Palmira. We entered the jungle in my truck a 4 x 4 Toyota that is very strong, and very adaptable to climbing the great heights we obtain here in the mountains of Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Take a look at the video of just one breed of the many we have in the mountains. It was magical and extremely fascinating to watch and hear the beautiful sounds they make as they fly overhead in the hundreds and roost in the pine trees for the evening. You have to arrive right at sunset to see these beautiful Macaws, or any of the other of the parrot species getting ready to sleep until they depart early the next day to go down and eat fruit off of our many fruit trees in Colombia.
We then climbed higher to see El Chalet a house built many years ago during the war but is now a wonderful place to view the Valle del Cauca and see many other species of birds. To get to the parrots you have to travel directly into the jungle and the road is narrow and not paved. We cross streams, and one side is a the view of the Valle del Cauca and the other side is the mountain that the road winds around. Quite steep, and you have to be ready for a bumpy ride.
In this photo at night you can see a peek of how the chalet had beautiful arches and great design once long ago before it became abandoned and now is a place to bring tourists for sightseeing. We were not disappointed: as we drove up there was a large Fawn breasted Tanager sitting on a fence post. For your information we were at an altitude of between 7000 to 8000 feet above sea level, or around 2.500 meters.
I could not get a good photo because it was getting dark, but we sure enjoyed the views and sounds of all the parrots and other night birds that call each other. Then off we went in the dark through the jungle back down the winding bumpy steep mountain trail.
This is what the side of the road looks like and you can see a peek of the full moon
As we slowly ventured back down we had our eyes peeled for the famous Barrenquero bird of this region. We were going very slow as they come out at night and often land right in front on the road to catch an insect. It was a full moon so we had light from the truck headlights and the beautiful moon. Then the truck just quit. No reason that we could think of because we keep the truck in tip-top shape. It had just been checked out by our wonderful local mechanic and was given a thumbs up just a week before. So there we are in the middle of the jungle, and stopped in darkness. No signal on my cell phone, my business associate did have data and was able to use Whatsapp. Then along comes our friend on his motorcycle and he quickly got in contact with our mechanic who would come up on his motorcycle. Remember, only motorcycles or 4 x 4 can travel here. As we waited I had looked at the time the truck stopped and until we would be fixed and on our way again. I was just curious as one of my last visits in the USA I had a rental car that did the same thing, and it took over 3 hours to get the help.
As we waited a truck came up with some older men. They stopped because that is how it is here in the mountains of Colombia. Everyone helps each other. They decided to try to jump-start the truck! Myself and my two lovely guests said “No, we are getting out!” Remember it is dark and we are going downhill on a bumpy road! This did not work, and the road was so narrow the jumper cables were not going to be able to be used. Meanwhile, more of my friends had been contacted including one of my dearest friends who does have a 4 x 4 also. Help was on the way! As those who are adventure travel enthusiasts know, this is all part of the experience. Also, everyone knows your car can break down anywhere in the world. But to break down in total darkness in the jungle was certainly exciting and also educational. Educational because many people think Colombia is dangerous. This story describes the actual reality of how Colombian people are wonderful, and the safety of Colombia should not be questioned now.
The local mechanic came with a new battery to replace my battery which I had just bought not even 3 months before. He determined it was the combination of the 4 x 4, the extra headlights I have in front between the headlights called explorers and the drag on the engine. We got the car up and running in 1 hour from the very beginning. Our mechanic followed us down to the local pueblo Arenillo where they were having a fun festival of the fish trout, called Feria de la trucha de Arenillo. We stopped and bought carne a la llanera a specialty of this area. We bought for all the people who helped us especially the family of my mechanic. They are really good people.
Then we went on our way after my guests toured the festival bit, and my mechanic waited and followed us. My best friend showed up with his truck and we said “thank you we are on our way, gracias a dios!” We just had a few more miles to get to at Villa Miglelita Ecolodge.
We were going to drive the truck down first thing in the morning to get the new battery back and go on another adventure. Aiyiyi. The moment we left and started to climb the truck died again. Armando came right back and they determined a belt was broken, and he brought a member of his family to take us up to my Villa. The truck stayed with him.
Now we get to the comedy of errors. It was ok up until now. We had adventure, we had my friends meeting my guests at Villa Migelita Ecolodge, we had not much inconvenience, just a little waiting. The car that came was so old and little, I have no idea what kind it was, but all cars are older here. It made it up to the steepest part and stopped. We had to get out and walk the rest of the way to Villa Miglelita. I am still laughing from this last part, although it was scary too.
He turned around and went down the mountain as our adventure continued. The full and very beautiful moon was as bright as any flashlight. We were almost to the Villa and in the road we see three cows, alas but one was a bull. Now I know I say how friendly the cattle are here. Well, this bull was in the middle of the road head down, ready to charge. Us women ran to the side of the road next to the cows. My business associate is yelling at the bull to leave, clapping hands and more. Then a motorcycle came by. The driver asked “este tauro es bravo?” I said very loudly “si bravo y necisito tu ajuda!” He turned around and with my business associate scared that bull back to the property it lives at. Someone had opened the gate, as a prank, but it was not funny!
We arrived home and just laughed and laughed at the events as they unfolded. This is life in Colombia, this is the life I live. This is what I enjoy. Even while we were looking at the mountain and trees to climb to get away from the angry bull.
My guests are still talking of the wonderful time they had even with the all the complications that arose. They said it was the time of their life. So now today we are off on a horseback riding adventure. Remember we give you what you ask for and sometimes more than you ask for at Villa Migelita Ecolodge!
Here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge we have so many birds it is hard to feature all of them. Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world! At Villa Migelita Ecolodge we now have scientists coming to classify my birds and catalog them for my area of Valle del Cauca, Colombia. I would love to say these photos are mine but they are not, they are from the scientists that visit. So if you are a birder and haven’t visited Colombia, you should! These photos I am displaying were taken at my Villa by those trained in Ornithology.
They all glow. The cover photo is a Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris), there are many sub-species. They just call this one Un halcón de carretera azul, which means the blue falcon.
When I hear the word layered I think of my life. If I go back through time I can actually envision in my mind peeling the layers away as it unfolded. When I look at this photo of the mountains I think of each layer as representing portions of my life. The green foliage in the front portion is me starting to grow and move in different directions, as do the lines of the trees. Which way will shape my future, which path did I choose? The sun hitting the front row of trees points directly to a path of beauty and more sunshine. You can follow that path all around the picture and see the sun illuminates it. The right side shows the trees ending in a shadow, cut short from completion. The left side is cut off and we the observer’s are left without knowledge of where the trees end up.
When I think of all I have lived through, the good and the bad, one of the hardest parts of life is deciding to walk away or try harder. As we get older memories encompass us, thus making us question our choices and decisions in life. Normal thoughts because our younger selves think we will be young forever.
So which path is my life story ending? Am I going to walk the straight path that follows the mountain around bathing in the sunshine? Am I going to go to the left which leads me to an unknown future waiting to be discovered? Am I going to turn to the right that is in the shade and then just stop and stay forever in obscurity, questioning all the memories that find me, thinking about what could have been?
Maybe I will be the second photo where small storms enter but exit quickly. Sunshine appears again and I am happy for a while and then another downpour erupts which I deal with; then the sun comes out again. This scenario makes the most sense and is what most people encounter as we live our lives.
Hopefully, I won’t peel my layers back on life and find the last photo. Dark, disturbing clouds full and ready to burst with a torrential downpour. Because I am tired of the copious rain in my life. I have had these layers in my life before, when my daughter was murdered, when her murderer was let to go free. I have more resilience in all aspects of my life because of her death, I am wise like I never was before, I am forgiving and thoughtful about many things that happen to me.
Since I have moved to Colombia I have had these dark clouds appear and deluge me with situations that seem impossible, but I have been able to get my life back to the second photo that is just a quick storm passing through. In reality the first photo where the trees go off to the left and we don’t know where they will end up is probably my route. Preemptively the direction most of us take. Because as much as we want the passage through the mountains with all of the sunshine and the happiness this is not reality. It is the movie you watch that has the perfect ending.
So I will continue to peel those layers that are actually years in my life and let each day help me discover a new beginning. One that is the mountain path of sunshine, but I will accept those storms that trail me sometimes and I will conquer them.
I awoke this morning early to the sound of rain. I love to hear the soothing sound of the raindrops as I lay in bed. Then I remembered that my home state of Florida is being hit by monster storm Irma. So I am waiting along with the rest of the world for the aftermath. The storm has downgraded to a Cat 3, but you have that storm surge and the possibility of regaining strength as it heads back over the ocean to the Keys. Please get to a shelter and be safe! I am watching from Colombia in my Bed and Breakfast hotel Villa Migelita. I am here for anyone who is without a home after the storm. All you need is a passport, no Visa needed for up to 3 months. I am offering my place for just my costs to anyone who needs a place to stay while repairs to your home occur, or until the electric comes back on. We have temperatures in the 50’s at night and up to the high 70’s Fahrenheit at my Villa. We do not use air conditioning at Villa Migelita. No need. If you don’t want to live in that heat of Florida without power, you can get a flight to Cali, Colombia and stay here. I remember very well the after effects of hurricanes as a native Floridian. It is hell. Literally. Also I will give food and shelter at such a reasonable cost, home cooked meals, maid service, laundry and free wi-fi. Remember I am a direct flight to Miami from Cali. I am here, I am ready and I am waiting to help. Villa Migelita has the American flag flying and the Colombian flag beause we all support the USA in this terrible time of super storms hitting without normalcy
You can have a wonderful experience in a perfect climate without stress, and I will be here to support and help in any way I can. Michele
Like always, I am going to share some favorite photos I have taken in Colombia, my new home and country. As an ex-patriot, I enjoy my life in this country that is so full of color and beauty. With that I say: ENJOY. PS: We now offer camping at Villa Migelita.
Perfect order of flowers growing on a roof in a Colombian park
Edges are found everywhere in my nature photos. I focus on nature and animals. I have a Villa that frames my photos with edges in all my pictures. The cover photo is an example of Colombian life.The line of the walls, the roof, the beam and the walls frame the backdrop of the mountains and banana trees. Even the line of the coat rack that holds the hats exemplify life in Colombia
The edge in the photo above is the bamboo fence which is part of Colombian life. We use a lot of bamboo…you also can see the piece of metal with a frayed edge. We had a hole and we fixed it temporarily with a piece of sheet metal.
I love the photo above because it shows so many edges, again the fence is in the background, along with my stairs that go to my upper floors. the backdrop of nature shows what I see every single day when the sun rises. A perfect life.
The line of the swing in this photo of my old dog Colleen adds a bit of sweetness to a sad photo of my dog who had not long to live. This photo captures all that is good about her and her life with me. She could not walk well by this time, the angle of her front legs show this. Her eyes show all the kindness of her soul.
This photo encompasses a lifetime friendship of two animals that grew up together. They are both deceased now. I brought them with me to Colombia. They enjoyed their last years in Paradise.
A view from my Villa in the morning with cloud formations.
I am surrounded by nature. I never know what is going to show up around me. It is a delightful way to live. I come from South Florida. I remember growing up in a middle class neighborhood with a lot of empty lots that all of us neighborhood kids would explore. Many a time we would come home with scrapes, bites or bloody knees. I love to reminisce about my times in the Smoky Mountains with my children every summer. I am a nature gal. I started young and I have never lost the wonder I feel when I see some new insect, bird, flower, views of the mountains, anything related to nature.
There is so much to be seen when you are looking for good photos. I am no longer the person who finds spiders creepy, bees scary, and insects gross. I find them all to be a much-needed part of our ecosystem. I respect all life. I wrote about my new rescue here at Villa Migelita in my last blog; a hummingbird who has a hurt wing. He is still with me after three weeks and that in of itself is rare. Hummingbirds need protein, which I hopefully am supplying by crushing insects into his sugar-water. It must be working because he is still alive. His wing is still unhealthy as you can see. But he is a fighter.
This spider is a common Cross Garden species..but I love this photo. He looks so intimidating.
What about the birds I see daily? Sometimes I am lucky enough to get a good shot. The wonder I feel when I see a rare Toucan still keeps me captivated. I never have my camera when I need it, but I get to enjoy rare sightings of many birds every single day.
Colombia has the most species of birds in the world and is the second most bio-diverse country in the world. I have settled in the perfect place to satisfy my nature needs.
Rare in nature can be completely defined by this one butterfly: Diaethria neglecta, a very rare phenomenon of nature.
When you visit Colombia, you never know what will show up. A Preying Mantis, an insect I have no idea what the name is but it is a flying leaf!
I no longer am afraid, I just wish I knew what they all did to help our planet. Because they are all part of a very intricate ecosystem called our world. We need to protect and defend each one in any way that we can.
One of the most amazing natural details I have ever seen is this leaf. It is called Christ’s Tears or Las lágrimas de Cristo in Spanish.
A phenomenon of natural beauty and elegance that surprises with the intricate detail that is on the leaf.
Animals can show us so much detail with their simplicity and kindness. The eyes have it all.
Raindrops on a rose. Detail that is lovely and calming at the same time.
With all that happens in our lives, we need to take a moment to look at the essence of the familiar that surrounds us. We need to embrace the beauty of normalcy. We need to let ourselves find joy wherever we can.
When I hike I see so much I can never capture in a photograph. I try. But the reality is you need to get outside and just look around. Let the moment you see something incredible stop you in your tracks. Take that moment and live it. Stamp it in your memory. Then you will understand the details of life.