After finishing our journey on the Ecuadorian coast with Miriam, we headed to Mindo, a village located in the mountains west of Quito, at the heart of a huge nature reserve.
This destination is famous for its exceptional nature, its countless bird, butterfly and orchid species, and its high-quality cacao. Very (too much?) touristic but nevertheless a place to see in Ecuador!
A long hitchhiking day
Friday 1st March 2019
We said goodbye to our lovely hosts from the Casa del Cacique (we wish we could have stayed longer and they really insisted on it, but we were unfortunately running out of time) and started hitchhiking early in the morning. We had a long way to go to reach Mindo, located in the jungle about two hours before Quito.
It took us not less than 7 different cars to reach our destination, including an old truck (we needed this in our hitchhiking experiences!), some very friendly twin sisters, two young guys that were driving like pilots… and during our longest waiting time (about 30 min), the owners of the house in front of which we were waiting offered us some oranges. So unexpected and adorable!
When finally in Mindo, we immediately found a nice hostel where to get some rest. Hitchhiking is a nice experience but it’s particularly tiring, especially as you keep on telling always the same story (where you come from, where you’re going, for how long you’ve been traveling, etc.).
Our first priority was then to go to the river crossing the village, so as to get a bath. Nothing better to get our heads straight and get immediately re-energized!
A day off
Saturday 2nd March 2019
Not such an interesting day… we took our time, did some grocery shopping, strolled in the village, did some yoga and got some rest.
It happened to be long weekend in Ecuador (Monday and Thursday would be holidays because of the carnival). Mindo was already full of tourists and it would apparently be even worse over the two next coming days.
We also tried some chocolate (unmissable in Mindo), but prices were really prohibitive (5$ for a 60g bar), so we resisted to the temptation of buying some. We thought it would be the ideal place to make our stocks but it was actually a real luxury!
The waterfalls just for us
Sunday 3rd March 2019
As the whole region of Mindo is protected by the nature reserve, every single activity or even just a walk has a cost. We then decided with Miriam to leave at dawn to the park Santuario de Cascadas, so as to get in and out before the guards would be present. This meant we wouldn’t be able to use the cable car in the park but we didn’t mind it.
We left our hostel as it was still dark and walked at a fast pace for about 6 km to reach the entrance of the park. Once inside, we continued at this sustained pace, following a small trail going up and down through the jungle, as the first rays of light were rising.
We reached a first waterfall and then went on to the main one of the park, called “la Reina” (= the Queen) along a trail steeply going up and down for 3 km. The vegetation was dense, the birds were singing all around, and the air was so wet that we were literally soaked.
As we arrived at the waterfall, the air was much fresher, which was not unpleasant… but we couldn’t stay long as we still had to get out of the park before the arrival of the guards. We then came back at the same intense pace.
We finally went out around 8.30. There was no one at the entrance yet, mission accomplished! A bit further down on the road, we came across a pick-up passing with all the guards inside, but we were already out of “danger”.
Lots of thrills above the canopy
As we were going down the road already taken in the morning, we discovered the landscapes that we had not seen in the dark. Some cars were already heading to the waterfalls; the day would be very busy with the long weekend, and we felt even happier to have enjoyed the park on our own.
By 9 a.m., we were already at the entrance of a zip line park, which we were tempted to try. We were the first clients and could have a tour straight away, so we didn’t need much more to be decided.
We then started a tour including 10 different zip lines, with two guides just for us. It was a first for me and I immediately loved it, without any surprise! After seeing the forest from below, it was ideal to get the chance to admire it from above.
The tour consists in several different zip lines, some faster than others, some in which we could be as a “super-chica” (= superwoman) or “mariposa” (= butterfly), with the head upside down… such a thrill!
We finished the adventure with a “Tarzan Swing” jump, a great moment of adrenaline!
Some well-deserved rest
We walked back to Mindo around 10.30 a.m. We had already seen that the zip lines were getting full as we were finishing our tour, but it was even worse as we reached the road. The amount of cars – all full of people – was impressive, and even scaring. That was also definitely a good reason for waking up so early, so as to enjoy these activities in optimal conditions!
Once in Mindo, we wanted to go to the river to get refreshed after these intense 18 km and the zip line, but there also it was also overcrowded… which was not for us! We then spent the afternoon chilling at the so pleasant last floor of our hostel, listening to the sound of the rain on the roof and admiring the hummingbirds coming back and forth at the windows.
We had to reach Quito by the following day as Miriam had her flight back to the States; but this last day was a perfect conclusion of our trip together.
To be continued…
Melyang Hostal: 6$ per night in a 6-bed dorm. Familiar and welcoming hostel, with a very pleasant atmosphere. Carlo, the owner, is sweet and full of good tips. The last stair is especially nice, with lots of hammocks, beautiful views over the mountains and hummingbirds coming all day long to drink close to the windows.
Tarabita y santuario de cascadas de Mindo: 5$ the entrance. It includes a cable and two trails leading to 8 different waterfalls.
Mindo Canopy: C20$ for a tour with 10 different canopies and the optional « Tarzan swing » jump at the end. The quality-price ratio is excellent; it’s hard to find a park with so many canopies for this price in Ecuador.