Quito: Day trip to Mindo

Last weekend we took a bus tour to Mindo, a village in the rainforest northwest of Quito. We met for breakfast at a cafe a short walk from where we are staying. The bus was there on time, but the restaurant wasn’t open and we got on our way an hour later than planned.

The scenery was beautiful as we wended our way further into the mountains, past El Mitad del Mundo (the center of the world, or one of several equator markings), and deeper into the forest.

Our first stop was going to be  a walk down to a waterfall. The tour operator normally takes his own small van but, since this particular day was popular and he had too many for one trip, he arranged for a large, comfortable bus for us all. When we arrived at the bridge that we needed to cross to get close enough to the waterfall, a sign made it very clear that no buses could cross. Stop one: Disappointment.

Our second stop was Mariposas del Mindo, a butterfly habitat. I took the opportunity to practice some macro photography since bananas kept the little guys occupied long enough to focus on them–sometimes. No tripod, but it was fun to play a bit. Stop two: Pretty good.

Click to view larger versions of the images.

Our third stop was at a chocolate factory where we were to take a tour and make chocolates (and eat as much chocolate as we wanted to–what’s not to love?). After we piled out of the bus, several people turned and went in another direction, others asked if it was fine to explore the area. Turned out, none of the others wanted to pay the extra $10 per person for this activity, so we didn’t bother either. Stop three: Disappointment.

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Lunch at a nearby cafe was delicious. Another almuerzo menú del dia, but this time we enjoyed trucha  (trout), which was a nice change, and good conversation. Cost $3. Stop four: Good.

Everyone had been looking forward to the fifth and final stop of the day where we were to spend several hours, a place called Mindo Bonito. Since the main reason everyone goes to Mindo is the natural environment and bird life, I had assumed that we were going to a sanctuary or a protected nature park. You know what they say about assuming. Instead, we arrived at a private hostel with cabins, a pool and waterslide, a stocked pond for fishing, ping pong tables, a restaurant and bar, a small area with a hummingbird feeder, and another caged area with some chickens. There was a short path that led in a horseshoe shape out one side of this complex, down a hill to the river, along the river and back up the other side.

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The surroundings were really pretty, but it was definitely not what we thought we were signing up for. Stop five: Disappointment.

The bus ride only cost $20 per person and it gave us a chance to get out of the city and to meet some really nice people including two young Germans who were right at the beginning of six-month and one-year volunteer positions providing after-school support to young children in a disadvantaged area of Quito, and a young man from the US who had signed on for a one-year stint teaching English to teenagers in a small school (with no teaching background!). Since we are in Quito for a while, we didn’t miss out on anything important while on this trip so, overall, not a bad day. Just no recommendation here for this particular tour.

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