Updated: Nov 2, 2018
9th - 15th October
After our wild week on the Galapagos, we needed some down time… mainly to allow what had just happened to sink in.
Mindo was the obvious solution: a small, beautiful, unspoilt town in the mountains, nestled in the cloud forest. It was perfect.
The bus journey through the Andes was breathtaking… I wondered about how the first roads were made as we snaked through the precipitous jungle. On arriving, we had a false start re. hostels, but settled down in the Orchid Garden Hostel which was buzzing with Hummingbirds and drenched in tropical, green plants. It had a rustic feel and the tartan blankets made me very happy.
We spent 4 glorious days in Mindo. We went to the Butterfly Centre and acquainted ourselves with some of the larger species. We embarked on a 5km walk to the cable car, but hopped in the pickup truck of a local on his way up the hill instead, and tried not to get whacked by low-hanging branches. We took the speedy cable car from one mountain to another and gasped at the valley below before walking to the waterfalls. At the end, we enjoyed a well-deserved icy swim in the biggest waterfall of all.
We participated in 2 Night Walks, and saw so much! With Canadian Eric, we saw 3 Mot Mots (a very rare sighting) as well as many spiders, grasshoppers, a delightful array of frogs and the Graceful Snail Sucker…
Our second Night Walk, began with a Frog Concert. It was as adorable as the name suggested. We made our way to Hostel Lago slightly out of town, and were given a thimble of red wine by a wonderful, quietly-spoken Ecuadorian man who spoke no English. We headed down to the lake and wandered round with our torches, seeking out the noisy frogs and toads. It was brilliant. We then moved away from the lake and into the woodland surrounding the hostel. We saw even more insects including a very busy Dung Beetle. We saw more beautiful frogs and I was apoplectic when I turned my torch star-wards and came face to face with the Greater Spear-Nosed Bat. It was magical.
We checked into a lovely, new hostel, this time in the old town of Quito. We explored a bit before having a GORGEOUS hot chocolate and cake at our favourite place ever… Republica de Cacao. It has the best chocolate ever, ever. Ever.
The following day we took a public bus to Otavalo to visit the craft market, which is the largest in South America. The journey took 2 hours through the mountains. We arrived after midday so the tourist throngs had dissipated and the hustle and bustle of the locals had sadly died down somewhat. Nevertheless, it was a day well spent and a wonderful experience.
On our final day in Quito, we headed up to Ruca Pichincha in the cable car, and spent a full day walking to the peak of the volcano, a feat we were very proud of. The altitude is 4794 metres above sea level! We had concerns about getting altitude sickness, but the only side-effect for the both of us (touch wood) was the breathlessness… a very strange feeling (am I breathless or just really unfit?!).
The views along this trek were incredible. Sarah and I have an ever-increasing love of mountains and this walk was our perfect love story. Everywhere we looked had us exclaiming about how beautiful the landscape was. We hung around near the cable car for the sunset above the clouds. Words cannot describe how beautiful it was.
Thank you Quito, for an incredible send-off, and thank you Ecuador for blowing all my expectations out of the water. You are a magical country and your little bit of ‘rough around the edges’ makes me appreciate you even more.
(In contrast, we got a flight the next day to Cusco, Peru, and had a marvellously gruelling 8 hour layover in Lima for a connecting flight at 5am… It's all part and parcel of the travelling experience (Jessica tells herself on the regular).)