I have a story to share with you today from my time in Ecuador. I went down there for 3 weeks in August of 2019 to help a friend of mine with a film project. Almost every day, we got up before sunrise to chase light and shoot timelapses around some of the most stunning landscapes the country has to offer.

Using a connection my friend had made the year before, we had the luxury of a jeep for the first week, and DR650 dirtbikes for the second leg of the trip.

I learned that Ecuador is generally an underrated country. In comparison to the most popular tourist destinations photographers dream of visiting like Iceland or Norway, Ecuador sits under the radar, largely untouched by the developed western world and the packs of Instagram models. Located right on the equator, the country is home to alien looking landscapes that stretch from the beaches at sea level, to the humid, mountainous jungles, and all the way up to the crater lakes and alpine volcanoes that can reach beyond 20,000 feet in elevation. This wild diversity gives rise to some vegetation and ecosystems that are completely unique to this corner of the world, and thus offer a fascinating canon of geological and ecological history that is accessible if you care to converse with the locals long enough to find it. Many of them are very proud of this part of their country, and rightfully so.

I feel like I’m writing for the Ecuadorian tourism blog. But the nature I experienced is imprinted on me in this way. Now that you have a general sense of the natural landscape of Ecuador, I’ll zoom into one particular morning that sticks in my memory, from a crater lake called Quilotoa, the one you see in this image.

To get to Quilotoa, you drive southwest of Quito, the country’s capitol, through hours of highland. We passed several tiny villages that looked stricken with poverty. I remember passing people of all ages dressed in classic colorful Ecuadorian attire, walking along the roads we were driving. There was nothing for miles. I wondered where they were walking. How far did they have to go? How often did they make these treks? The difference between my life story and what little I knew of theirs astonished me.

We filmed around Quilotoa in the afternoon and evening which gave us a chance to scout out our positions for the following day’s sunrise. The next morning, we woke up early and walked up the hill towards the lip of the crater. As we walked through the village, it was as quiet as it was dark. There were stray dogs everywhere scurrying around their hometown. One dog of a light yellow-ish color took a liking to us and began to walk alongside. Others joined briefly, or circled us timidly, but this one stuck around.

As we made our way closer to the crater, the dead quiet slowly filled with the howling wind of the night. It was cold. We had about 15 minutes of walking before we got to our spot. The wind got louder, the air got colder, and the dog kept walking with us.

I named him Peter.

As we arrived and set up our cameras, Peter stuck by our side. At one point someone walked passed us on the trail and he barked them off. He curled up on the ground near us trying to avoid the wind, and I sat there with him trying to stay warm once the cameras were set up.

I’m not sure if he was trying to protect us or if he was looking for protection. Maybe he could tell we weren’t from here and wanted to be our guide. Or maybe he just wanted to make friends.

I thought it was funny. He stuck with us for most of our walk back to town, but eventually went his own way and I never saw him again.

I still remember Peter. He reminds me of how different life can be in different parts of the world. And he also reminds me of how easy it is to befriend someone new.

Peter, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re well-fed and staying warm! Take care buddy.

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