Hi from Quito, This weekend, I took a trip down (literally, there was way more oxygen) to Mindo with Jenna, a friend of a friend who is working in a rural community in the mountains near Kayembe. Her life is totally different than mine, think bucket baths and very repetitive meals but she has a lot more companionship as there are other volunteers in her village and she lives with a woman and her daughter. Luckily, traveling together gave both of us something fun and needed: she got a hot shower and foods besides rice and peas. I got some air (I had a little bit of altitude sickness on thursday night after attempting to exercise for way too long) and a chance to see more of the country and we both got a new friend to talk to and travel with. We met at the bus terminal on friday afternoon which is all the way north of Quito. The ticket was only $2.25 and dropped us on the road a few kilometers from Mindo, which we knew. Luckily there are lots of trucks that ferry people to the center so we found one and made our way to the center of town. Center of town is slightly misleading as the whole town is about four blocks long, but hey very easy to navigate. One of the things that my pictures definitely failed to capture is how beautiful Mindo is. The vegetation is like nothing I’ve ever seen and totally made me think that we need more words for green. It’s not the green of sod or avocado, the plants are layered and textured and they look like woven stripes on a mountain. It was so beautiful. Jenna is pretty outdoorsy and her summer is way more physically taxing than mine so I was a little worried about a mismatch in activity planning but it worked out perfectly!
We got dinner on friday night at an italian restaurant a friend who used to live in Ecuador recommended (what a small world, thanks Zoe!). Then on saturday, after breakfast at the inn recommended by a friend who worked in Ecuador last summer (thanks Daneel), we took a cab to the tarabita, a hand operated cable car that leads you to a hike where you can see a bunch of waterfalls. The cable car was so so gorgeous and a little scary (no pictures because I was scared I’d drop my phone) but it felt like flying through prehistoric earth, just green everywhere. We hiked for about two hours, stopped to look at the waterfalls, which were pretty small, no Iguazu. I swam in one which was lots of fun and it was warm enough that being a little wet was fine. We got back to town and had lunch at a restaurant with swings instead of seats that served smoothies and veggie burgers. Then it was time for a chocolate tour at El Quetzal. They showed us the different steps of cocoa production, of which there are many, including drying the beans for up to 21 days depending on humidity and fermenting them before you take out the nibs which are then refined into chocolate. Ecuadorian cacao often gets exported to Switzerland and Belgium but 70% of the world’s cacao comes from Africa, 40% of the world’s supply is from the Ivory Coast. Of course it’s always marketed according to the country of processing which is an interesting layer of control. The Quetzal is run by Americans (originally from ecuador but they’re based in Michigan) and our hotel/inn was run by a german guy and his wife. It’s always interesting to see how many businesses in tourist towns are run from people from the actual country. We sampled some chocolates and their famous brownie and then headed to the Beehive (the coffeeshop/restaurant also owned by our hotel owners) for coffee. We spent the afternoon reading and relaxing which was great. That night we had dinner at the beehive and they had a delicious smorgasbord with different vegetarian yummies, pickled veggies, cheese, apples, hummus, lentil falafel and homemade bread. We then got cookies and ice cream for dessert. Cookies are so under appreciated outside of the US, I miss them!
On Sunday morning we went to a butterfly farm that was vaguely overpriced. The cool part was seeing a couple of butterflies be born. The exit from the chrysallis is pretty wild and took way longer than I thought it would. Then the butterflies have to wait for their wings to unfurl and dry before they can flap for the first time. Around 11 the place started to get crowded (butterflies and their watchers love the warm parts of the day) so we headed back to town, hung out for a bit and grabbed lunch before the bus back to Quito.
this week is pretty intense with research (well hopefully it will be because I actually met someone helpful today) but it was so lovely to learn more about the country I’m studying and relax in a beautiful place.
If you go to Mindo:
-Stay at the Dragonfly Inn and request a room on the river side. The river’s sound is perfect to fall asleep to.
-Eat and grab coffee at the Beehive across the street.
-Italian food is good at El Nomada, past the park and to the right.
-El Quetzal has a good restaurant in addition to the chocolate tour.
-Wear your bathing suit when you go to the waterfalls.
-Bring cash to Mindo. There’s only 1 atm and it doesn’t always work.
-Pack bug spray. My bites still itch.
-Don’t sleep on the bus; the views are gorgeous.