On Sunday, we got back from our first weekend trip in Ecuador. The seven of us went to a town called Mindo. Mindo is located in the cloud forest in the Andean Mountains to the north of Quito. The city is has a number of attractions for tourists that fuel the local economy. It was about 2 hours away by car, which we arranged with some help from CIMAS. Unfortunately, it was super expensive- $26 per person vs $4 on the bus. Next time we are going by bus. The driver was nice and the car was definitely safer and more direct than the bus though.
We left for Mindo at 8am on Friday since we didn’t have class. When we got there, we convinced the driver to take us to the hostel that we had researched on the internet, the Rubby Hostal, instead of the one with a pool that he knew. It was basically this woman’s house where she and her children rented out beds to travelers. The best part was the hammocks on the pourch upstairs. We spent many hours napping and watching games of fútbol (soccer) across the street.
Immediately after situating ourselves in the hostel, the driver set us up with a guide who took us up to go zip-lining. It was so beautiful to fly through the trees, and I wish we could have gone on more than three lines, but I’m glad that we didn’t because one girl was very afraid to go on the lines. We were all proud of her though because she came along and made it through even though she was super scared!
After zip-lining we ditched the guide (we didn’t really need a guide or want to pay for one), and took a four hour siesta (nap) at the hostel. To follow up, we went to a place called El Quetzal where they make their own chocolate and have a tour of the whole process. Even though I have been to the Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle, this was a totally different experience. We got to go through the whole process from seed to bar, including sampling along the way. It was so cool to actually try the fruit of a cacao, as opposed the seed that chocolate is actually made of. We also tried the miel de cacao which is the liquid that the can extract from the cacao paste. During the tour we met two other travelers who were visiting from Quito. I also tried the cerveza de jengibre (ginger beer) that they make at the factory.
After dinner we wondered around the main street a bit before going to the local bar, where we ran into our guide from zip-lining and the chocolate factory, as well as the other travelers that did the chocolate tour with us! It definitely showed how small the community was!
The next morning we went on a hike to see the cascadas (waterfalls). When I asked the guide which path we should take, he said to go right to the Cascade de Reina, which was only 15 minutes there and 15 back, and there wasn’t anyone else on the trail. When we took that path, we found out that I misheard him, so we actually had about 50 minutes each direction! The waterfall was super pretty and I went swimming just a little bit :] It was also awesome to stop along the path to look at the intricate ecosystems that were right along the path. I totally understand how Ecuador is home to such a huge amount of biodiversity. If we had had more time and energy, I would have loved to go to all the other waterfalls, but we only went to the one.
We pretty much spent the rest of the afternoon resting at the hostel. I’m not really one for unscheduled time, but for some reason, I felt completely relaxed and comfortable hanging out on the porch.
On our last day, we went tubing on the Rio Mindo (Mindo River). Very similar to floating the Boise River, but it was almost all little rapids because the river was pretty low. And we went down on a raft made of seven tubes tied together with ropes instead of a proper “raft”.
After that, we walked a few kilometers/miles to look around the mariposario (butterfly exhibit). The others liked it a lot, but I thought it was a bit overrated and I think I could have had more fun elsewhere.
Needless-to-say, I had a great weekend, considering that having butterflies eat banana out of the hang was my least favorite part! I had so much fun spending my first weekend in Ecuador relaxing in the cloud forest of Mindo. I think I definitely want to go back at some point during my time in Ecuador.