So, we’ve added a lot of new photos to the Quito album, which you can find HERE. I also decided that I had had enough of sitting around our hostel room in the rain in Quito, and decided we might as well go check out the nearby town of Mindo, in the cloudforest, even though I heard mixed opinions about it. It turned out to be a wonderful little trip (wish we had more time there) and photos from it can be found HERE.
Also, I took a short video whilst on the zipline (or canopy tour) in Mindo, which can be found HERE!
Mindo is an interesting place – a tiny town, but well known to tourists. Since we missed our bus back to Quito (more on that later) we ended up taking a “taxi” (read: man with pickup truck) to the main highway to flag down a bus to Quito. On the way the driver was commenting to a family about Mindo’s history. The people in Mindo didn’t care much about the environment, and as such destroyed quite a bit of the forest to buildings, crops, etc. Even so, Mindo was still known to bird fanatics, since over 400 different species of birds have been documented here. But, the fact was: a beautiful thing was being destroyed. So, some young people ended up going to the US and Europe and learned about environmental education, and decided to convince the people of Mindo that they could (and needed to) restore the forest around them. How? They had no money. The people said, tourists will come to see the trees, and we can use their money to reforest our land. No one believed them, yet here we were (paying a few bucks around every corner to do something)! The driver was saying that the reforestation project in Mindo (which took place over 20 years) is held up as an example in Ecuador for other regions in the country. But what do you think – using tourism money for reforestation? Is it worth the carbon emissions we spend getting there? And what about all the damage to the environment that tourism inevitable brings (trash, pollution, plant damage)? Is eco-tourism a viable solution? Just some thoughts I had as we stood in the raining, watching no less than 4 buses pass us, refusing to stop…As a side note, we also heard stories from a hostel-owner that radiation rain, produced after the earthquake in Japan, has caused quite a bit of damage to trees here. True? Not sure, but even so, the interconnectedness of the world is astonishing (in both good and bad ways…).
But, Mindo is a nice (lindo) place. Tiny, and the town itself is not so pretty. But, there are great places to stay outside of town, and some fun stuff to do in the forest. We stayed in a wonderful cabin (Los Cedros: take the dirt road to the left by the school and pass the cemetery. Great directions, I know!) where we fell asleep listening to dozens of frogs serenade us, and rain falling on the metal roof. In the morning we woke up to what seemed like hundreds of birds singing, and looked out our many windows at the colorful plants and vegetation that surrounded us. It was a fantastic respite from the noise and pollution and people of Quito. We also went on some zip-lines (hey, why not? something to do and only $1 per cable!) and got to see the forest from some very unique angles! We also went on a “chocolate tour” at a small store in town (run in part by an Oregonian family (Silverton nonetheless!), where we learned an awful lot about making chocolate. There’s more comments on that in the photos in the link above, but I just have to reiterate that they try to get all their ingredients within 2 hours of town, and that they buy all their cacao and coffee beans directly from the farmers, often paying above fair trade prices, and try to reinvest into the community as much as possible. It’s a great little place, called ChocalArte.
Our second and last day our wonderful hostess made us a great breakfast, even though it was after 11 a.m., and we spent an hour running around to try to see as many waterfalls as we could (3) and rode a cable car to get to the trails – a beautiful day (until the routine afternoon downpour!). Here is where we had to rush to catch the 3 p.m. bus, the last one for the day. We would have made it, had we not given our key back to the owner of Los Cedros, who was at the grocery store when we rushed back to get our bags and run to the bus. But, it worked out, as now we had time to buy some coffee beans from the store where we did the chocolate tour (they also roast their own beans), and ended up catching a van back to town for the same price as a bus, and faster.
Now, we’re back in Quito, back the New Bask Hostel in new town. Tomorrow we’re planning on heading to Otavalo, a few hours away, to check out a large indigenous market that’s there on Saturdays, before we do our final load of laundry and pack to go home on Sunday. I’m warming up to Ecuador little by little. We’ve seen some beautiful places, despite terrible weather, and we’ve finally found some local food we enjoy: cuy (guinea pig), corvina (sea bass), shrimp empanadas, ceviche with a tomato sauce, tomate d’arbol (sweet tomato), fried plantains, another dessert similar to funnel cake, and we’ve seen signs of street food at last in smaller towns. Tomorrow night we’re heading to a great Ecuadorian restaurant (Mama Clorinda’s) for a second round of treats – hopefully minestras (a bean dish), seco (chicken or beef stew), a dessert humita, and the Ecuadorian version of tamales. People we’ve run into have generally been incredibly friendly to us, and proud to share their country with us, even if they were just bitterly eliminated from the Copa America by Brazil. I’m glad we’re enjoying it more here, because I’m trying really hard to finish off our trip strong!!
On that note, its a strange thing, saying things like “I’ll take care of that on Monday” (oops, had to cancel a credit card when it was stolen, and now we’re late on our storage unit payment!) and finally being invited to plans we can actually make. How will we live without dropping off our dirty clothes and having it come back clean and folded? Or without cheap carbonated mineral water? And with being late to everything acceptable, and a people that are willing to help each other and get to know one another easily? How many times will we start conversations in Spanish before we realize everyone speaks English again? But then again, how have we lived without IPA’s for 10 months? Without phad thai and good coffee? Without high speed internet and dear friends and family? All in all, I think we both have a lot to think about, are trying to prepare ourselves for the inevitable culture shock, and hopefully I’ll have time to share some of those thoughts tomorrow night before we head home.
Until then, enjoy your Saturday. See you soon!
Sharon and Tyler