Canoa, Ecuadorian Fishing Village bound to the Power of Nature

During the last three days, I have meandered through this incredible little fishing town. Situated on the pacific coast of Ecuador, the scenery with its extra-stretched beach of many kilometers and an omnipresent sun makes it a place from heaven where time would stop. Thus making us enjoy the present towards happiness.

With its 2000 inhabitants, the vibe is gorgeously “tranquilo” (laid-back).  I have met so many wonderful people with a big heart. Their way of living is at the opposite of the stressful urban jungle. They are truely authentic people from which we can draw life lesson. It goes without saying that the meal I found there is also terribly delicious.

One year ago, this village got struck by a huge earthquake (magnitude 7.8). This got in the news all around the world. 100 people lost their lives and 90% of the buildings were destroyed.
This is a terrible reality, however people don’t like to talk about it too much. They already turned the page. Daily life has taken its place back. People are successfully dealing with what they have, and what they can do, healing wounds. Many building already got rebuilt. Tourists are back even if they are in low numbers. Kids are playing in the rumbles, the roosters are crowning, the shops are opening again. All along the beach, restaurants, bars, cevicheria are sprawling back again. In fact life is buzzing again with this unmistaken latino feel.

Every afternoon, the ocean gets more agitated and the waves gets more powerful as the tide gets higher and the wind blows stronger.
The sound of the sea thus shifts towards a more bassy constant roar.
At these times, the natural elements just recall us how powerful they can be.
Therefore reflecting how Nature goes beyond the human scale as could be earthquakes.

After my 3 days recording sea and ambiences, I just felt how connected this village was with nature, from the sea they got fish, water, tourists. From the land, plants, stone, and roads.
They are more than any other place I have seen intertwined with the mother nature (for its good and its bad humor).

Recording the Pacific Ocean on Sunset

Today is a little update from the coast on Canoa, Ecuador. I set up my gear gazing at the sea under the sunset. What a wonderful postcard moment.

A magical time where mother nature give us its harmonious show!

One of the time I use the Sanken CO-100K in combination with a MKH-418S and an ORTF pair of MKH 8090.

Funny Guy however not really Sounding


I have been across an Alpaca farm. These are funny animals although they aren’t really noisy. I couldn’t capture any particular sound as they were more preoccupied on chewing their meal. I found them so hilarious though I couldn’t resist to take a little snapshot of their munchy faces. This made my day even though it remained silent.

Recording Roomtones of a Traditional Andean Housing

Traditionnal Andean Roomtone

I have been blessed to find a traditional quechua family near the town of Cotacachi in the Andes of Ecuador. They were so nice, prepared meals and having a bed in their farm. I could record great room tones of the place. I setup my beloved quad mic config, a double ORTF, and got some nice quiet sounds.

 

Roomtones in traditional quechua house

This Morning Dawn Chorus in an Andean farm near Cotacachi Village

dawn in cotacachi

Early this morning I got waken up by incredibly wonderful bird songs along with some roosters around the farm.
I found it so a magical time, I was just opening my ears to the world and laid down still just enjoying this soundscape.
dawn in the farm

Then I thought: I couldn’t I record this and share it to others? I thus jumped out of the bed and in a hurry grab two microphones that I hung out of the window where the sound were coming from.

morning chorus from the window

It was difficult to access the place from outside directly as a hill was standing just in front of the wall. However the ambience was also great from the window.
I am sharing here a little sample from this little special morning at Cotacachi’s country in Ecuador:

Along with the birds, we can hear from far distance the village waking up with its church bells and some dogs.

 

From the village rooftop

Rooftop recording

At noon, I took a little time spent on top of the roof of the hostel at Cotacachi. Allowing to capture compelling and authentic Ecuadorian ambience.
From distance I can hear announcing trucks, those truck that have speakers and navigate around the village to announce whatever they try to sale.
I found them really typical and they sound great from up here, bouncing all over the houses walls and mountains. Also the view is really nice here. Could spend the day on the roof! But more adventures await me…

rooftop ambience ecuador

rooftop sound

A little extract:

 

 

High Hike around Laguna Cuicocha

Laguna Cuicocha

laguna cuicocha

This morning I got a taxi ride until the entrance of the reserve at Laguna Cuicocha. I hiked up on the edge of the mountain encircling the Laguna.

laguna cuicocha

What a wonderful scenary! From up here it is possible to see all the Otavalo valley.

Otavalo Valey

Country and urban soundscape resonates in harmony along with some birds.

Laguna Cuicocha

laguna cuicocha

In a glimpse, I recorded some Quad ambiences. Everything went so fast, I had to take the taxi back in the hour so I can jump into the bus to southern direction near the volcano Tungurahua.

Stealth Recording in the town of Baños

Banos Ecuador

I wandered around the streets of this small touristy village.
It is a really interesting village that is threatened at all time by the neighbor volcano Tungurahua.  I think I walked at least 7 times the same streets throughout all the village since it is pretty small. Some streets are steep and as a result I did a lot of exercise ;-). Without counting that I hiked up the mountain this morning.

Banos

All in all I surely walked 18km  today. I haven’t seen a lot of tourist along the way. It is impressive afterwards to think I didn’t feel insecure at any time. A lot of people told me about crimes in South America but it looks that it doesn’t apply to this little town, at least from what I’ve experienced around.

Banos Ecuador

My recorder is packed with interesting Ecuadorian ambiences from the church, the market, the gymnasium, cafes.
For these recordings I chose to record with my Custom Quad Surround Stealth Setup (CQSSS) since I am really akin to translate the immersive aspect.

Banos Ecuador Panorama

Authentic Endless Street Markets in Otavalo

Otavalo Markets

I have strolled around this beautiful mountain town of Otavalo as it offers some remarkable markets on weekends.

I couldn’t go to Ecuador without recording these. I took my surround stealth setup and walked in and out the markets.

First the usual market all around the streets expose some incredible textile artisans. It is a one of the biggest in South America and the stands expands all over the village. It creates this huge rich color palette and reflects on sounds as many people swarm around.

Then, there is the ‘mercado de los animales’, the animal market which is surprising mess of people and animals. With randoms cows bawling, pig shrieking, people shouting… I was so exciting to witness this scenery and record truly authentic and interesting ambiences.

 

Roomtones in Ecuador

roomtone Ecuador

I could record some roomtones in the room I had in Quito. This was in the Marescal Neighborhood, with a vivid nightlife going on at night which could be heard from distance. I captured different times of the day with birds singing in the morning and cars honking  during the days.

Why & How I failed to Record Pristine Nature Soundscapes in Ecuador?

Nature Fail

One of my goal in going to Ecuador was to record sound of the Nature, the “pristine Nature”.
What happened is that I was able to record ambiences of Ecuadorian villages, countries, cities, and also great pure nature sounds (but those were so few).
Prior to my departure, what I thought would be easy was to get access to Nature with little disturbance from Human.
In reality it turned out to be not the case in Ecuador and this for many different reasons.
I wanted to understand and analyse how and why, so I can learn from it.

While my previous trip to Central America and Guyana were prolific in pristine nature sounds, I was taken by surprise on what I found in Ecuador.

How/Why did that happen:

1) Surprisingly I found many roads on location which were not indicated on map. I discovered them once there! I have been told about Oil industry that overtook lands on government grasping many areas in the country. Thus they built a lot of roads on these parcels, generating traffic with big trucks, bus, from workers. It is sad to say but this disrupts the natural soundscape. And of course these roads are not officially indicated however I found afterwards the maps.me application which looks much more accurate than Google map. Roads that do not show up on google appears on maps.me. so I now know what to use and I have to acknowledge it is better to double or triple check on different maps!

2) Another things that I learned from is this:  I had a friend living for months in the town surrounded by the forest. I contacted him prior to my arrival. He told me he knew guides and places where I could find perfect nature sounds and I wouldn’t be deceived. I thus trusted him and didn’t plan so much for my stay in this village. The reality is that neither my friend nor the guide had experience in field recording. He brought me on a trip, but of course the place where the guide took us were too close from a road which we were able to hear from distance, even after walking 2or3 hours inside the forest. This was a waste of time and energy. I am not angry at friends in a manner because he was trying to help me and I had a great stay there.

3) After these experiences, I decided to go wild and reach the center of a natural reserve, which I thought would be a perfect place for Nature, and where I could have real pristine sounds. So I decided to go to Cuyabeno Reserve. The issue began with the fact that it is not allowed to go by your own  in those parks, you have to have a certified guide along with you. And the best way I found at that time was to book a 4 days trip with a lodge on site. The lodge was reachable only by a 2 hours boats on a small river. The only thought I could have was that it will be perfectly cut from human activities and I would find what I was looking for. But in reality arriving at the lodge, it was packed with tourists and employees (cook, ..), this is just normal since it is a lodge. In my mind  I thought I could just walk around the lodge and find quiet places like I did in Guyana in December. The only problem is that the surrounding of the lodge was all flooded in water, there was no possible way to go further than the wooden structures. I felt trapped in a touristy attraction. No one was quiet, it was kind of a nightmare. Hopefully during the night everybody was sleeping and It was a great moment to capture some pure nature.  At some point, the guide lent me a canoe, which sounded the perfect way to evade the lodge fortress. However I was no previous experience to manipulate a canoe, I did manage to navigate a little further on the river. But then at that point, I realized that all along the river were nonetheless other noisy lodges (4 or 5 in a row), but also a lot of traffic with motor boats every 4 minutes. What a difficult time! Me in the middle of the Amazon, and not finding peace and quietness!

At the end, 22 days in Ecuador and maybe 30 recorded minutes of pristine Nature. Not that bad, but the plan was to bring back at least 4 or 5 hours.

Here are the lessons I can pull from it (things to improve):

  • Plan with various/different maps!
  • Get more informations on the settings of a landscape and what particularities can bring weather. And possible flooded terrains…
  • Don’t trust people who have no previous Field Recording experience.
  • Beware of tourists
  • Avoid lodges farms
  • Learn how to navigate a Canoe
  • Surely more…