The cloudforests of Mindo

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July 12th 2009
Published: August 31st 2009
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1: Tarabita ride 25 secs
Off to Mindo this morning although it took a surprising amount of time to even get there. I knew the bus terminal had moved but unfortunately not to where it had moved. Although I visited Mindo last year that was on the return trip from the beach and I actually asked to be dropped randomly in the north of Quito close to my hostel so I didn't go to the terminal.

Fortunately our taxi driver was slightly more knowledgeable that me and not only dropped us at the correct place but offered to wait until we had found a bus leaving soon, if not he was going to take us up to the main road out of Quito where the Mindo buses pass by. Very nice taxi driver for the first time ever in South America!

Arrived shortly before midday and promptly went to buy tickets for the return journey as I remmeber from past visits how quickly the buses fill up. For some bizarre reason however the terminal in Mindo only sells tickets on the day except for weekends. Let's just hope there aren't a great number of people here this week. Actually turned out we were basically the only people in the whole of Mindo (or at least it seemed that way.)

We were certainly the only people at our hostel, the owners of which were only too pleased to see us. Apparently Mindo is a ghost town during the week and it's only on weekends that hoards of weekenders from Quito show up. Thought tourists at least would have caught on to this but we barely saw another person the whole time we were there.

Settled into the hostel before heading out for pizza and then went in search of quadbikes in order to go to the mariposeria. Unfortunately both agencies that were hiring quadbikes last year have since closed and there is now only one in the entire town. This one insists you only go on selected routes (which meant we couldn't go visit the flutterbies), cost more and only rented quadbikes to people who had driver's licences. Because tourists are really going to bring their licences from home when they're not planning on driving here!

Obviously business was slow midweek as he let me have one just by showing a random student card (I'd left my passport in Quito as we were only here a couple of days) although I did have to sign something in Spanish. Pretty sure it was just a waiver - hope I wasn't agreeing to donate a kidney or something!

Bit of a bumpy start to the quadbiking session despite having told the owner I know how to drive one. Perhaps my rolling down hills and stalling every three seconds last year wasn't really enough practise to have one of my own! You really wouldn't think it would be that difficult to drive one though kick starting in flip-flops turned out to be more than a little painful!

Took the roads we were instructed to (it didn't seem worth risking it as apparently the tourist police do check the other roads out of Mindo fpr errant quadbikers) and arrived at the end of the drive in a little under twenty minutes despite the owners promising it would take half an hour at the very least - I apparently can drive fast if not particularly well.

We weren't allowed to go any further as there is an animal sanctuary the other side of the bridge and the quadbikes disturb them. We decided instead to pretend we got lost and headed off onto the slightly more fun dirt tracks up a nearby hillside. Very bumpy which only made it all the more fun. Made it back to the village in one piece (quadbikes too) so managed to retrieve our deposit and IDs before hitching a ride to the mariposeria.

The woman was very surprised that we actually wanted to go inside as apparently, due to the lack of sun, the butterflies were inactive. All this meant was the butterflies stayed still enough to get decent shots for once. Unfortunately the swarm of hummingbirds at the feeders outside didn't feel the same way and despite staying for almost half an hour the best I got was a few emerald blurs on red plastic feeders.

We managed to hitch a (free!) ride back to Mindo as soon as we stepped outside luckily. The only downside to visiting Mindo during the week seems to be the general lack of pickup trucks that usually serve as transport. We've been lucky so far.

Seemed to have managed to exhaust myself today (probably due to the lack of sleep last night) and so collapsed in front of the discovery channel back at the hostel. Seems quite pathetic to be in the middle of a foreign country and just be lazing around in front of the tv!

Popped out for more food and ended up cornered by two very talkative women in the cafe who decided we needed to know all about the other hostels in Mindo (despite the fact we already have one) as well as telling us all about the waterfalls near Mindo which we had already told her we wouldn't be able to visit. She carried on her monologue regardless.

Generally exhausted but had to be up early today as the latest bus back to Quito on a weekday is only at 3 in the afternoon so it was a seven o clock start in order to catch the truck up to the tarabita to see the waterfalls. Very fun ride across the canopy in the tarabita though requires a lot of willpower to climb into a wire basket suspended by only one wire. Slightly scary thought!

Got across in one piece and the tarabita whizzed back leaving us on the trail to the waterfalls (I've no idea how we get back at the end - it's not like there's a call button to get the tarabita back.) We didn't have time to do the 5 hour round trek to Cascada la Reina (supposedly the best but far too long) so we settled for seeing five lesser cascadas in place of one huge one.

Started off well and reached the first, Cascada Guarumos, within 45 minutes. I actually decided to be brave and get in. It looked reasonably easy from the bank, turned out to be less easy in practice! Absolutely freezing and slippery. The only good thing that can be said is that the water was crystal clear so you could see where you were falling!

Having survived the first dip I decided to keep my clothes on at the next waterfalls in an attempt to warm up - didn't really work due to the wet bikini under the clothes and being under the canopy away from the sun but the waterfalls were still very pretty. Moved on to Cascada Las Ondinas by way of very rickety wooden bridges.

The next ones were harder to find. We'd been warned lots of people manage to walk right past the path but the only 'path' that was in the correct place looked like an unmarked goat track up a mini cliff. Turned out to be a lot easier than it looked but very easy to see how people miss it. At the top was Cascadas de los Colibries which was actually inhabited by swarms of mosquitos rather than hummingbirds but still very pretty if a little bit of a strenuous climb to get to the top.

Had to hurry back along the same route rather fast as time was slipping away and if we missed the bus we were stuck here! Got back to the main track and did manage to get to see Cascada Nambillo at least though we didn't have time to go swimming. That said, a rope ladder set against a sheer rickface is not my idea of how to get to a swimming pool!

The tarabita amazingly was there waiting for us when we got to the top along with a load of americans. More people always makes it more fun as it goes ridiculously fast the more you manage to cram inside.

Caught a passing truck back to the village which saved a four kilometre walk and so had time for food before catching our bus back to Quito.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Spider's lairSpider's lair
Spider's lair

Fortunately we didn't meet the inhabitant!

1st September 2009

Nice mariposa pics!
Great pictures, especially the close ups! Brings back nice memories of the time I was in Mindo.
18th January 2010

Blog of the year 2009, for the c and s America/photography category
Check this out :)

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