This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Humming Along in Mindo

Like Papallacta, Mindo is an easy day or weekend trip from Quito and a great escape out of the city. But whereas Papallacta takes you up to hot springs high in the hills, a trip to Mindo will lead down into a cloud forest and river full of activities like tubing and birdwatching.
I have to pull myself across the river in this contraption to get to hiking trails in the forest
We roll into Mindo straight from Papallacta with an extra hour in Quito to cross from one bus terminal to the next. I am actually surprised how touristy Mindo is. The town is very small and clean with the one main road lined mostly with tour offices, small hotels and restaurants that look geared towards visitors, not for people from Mindo. It is the first place in South America that reminds me of Thailand where I often wondered if people were doing anything in these towns before tourism arrived. It is the type of place that is very busy on the weekends, mostly with Ecuadorians, and almost completely dead during the week apart from several foreigners loitering around town.
We find a nice wooden structure of a hotel sitting by a small river. It is quite beautiful and what one would expect in Mindo, but the constant rush of river is quite loud and I have several nights of interrupted sleep. Our hotel (and I think most others as well) has hummingbird feeders which are filled with sugar water. There are about seven different species buzzing back and forth between the trees and feeders. It is quite delightful to sit and watch them and we do so for what must be hours during our days in Mindo. I am though a bit concerned about an entire generation of hummingbirds being dependent on sugar water for their sustenance while ignoring the flowers all around them. Will having an endless supply of sugary drinks make hummingbirds fat and slovenly like it does some humans?

I have neither the proper camera lens nor the skill set to take stellar hummingbird photos, but I burn a lot of pixels trying:

Safety first
Our first activity is not to go into the cloud forest, but to glide over the trees on canopy zip lines. It is a course of ten cables of various lengths that takes us from platform to platform on top of the trees. After the first two lines I become accustomed to the harness, speed and safety of it all, so begin to relax and enjoy the parrot-like views of the tree tops. This is really an excellent activity and well worth the money. It costs just $10 - a complete bargain compared to other places like Costa Rica.

Hook up, second

Zip line, third
Getting stuck right before the final platform and needing to be rescued by the guide, fourth
Our next activity is not worth the money. We hitch a ride with a nice Ecuadorian couple to the butterfly pavilion that charges us $5 for a six minute lecture on the evolution of butterflies and unlimited time to try to get the insects to eat gooey bananas from our fingertips. I am not sure why I am so irked about this place. Maybe because of the lack of aesthetics of the place or maybe because only the big, brown, creepy looking butterflies accept my fruity finger while the cute, colorful critters just flutter away. Either way we feel like we got gypped.
"I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder:
Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?"
-- Chuang Tzu (369-286 BC)
Mindo has no ATM, well they have one but it is out of service. We are running low on cash so we must make a trip to the next town appropriately called Los Bancos (the banks) which kind of makes it the Switzerland of the region. Coming back from that dingy town I can appreciate much more the relaxing, quaint cleanliness of Mindo, the surrounding greenery and the population of cute but lazy hummingbirds.

Cacao seeds drying at a chocolate makers in Mindo 

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