My last days in South America

When travelling you always hear stories about places that are dangerous and where to be careful. Plenty of people make things sound much worse than they actually are but one such place is Quito. i heard so many stories of people getting robbed I decided to avoid it and stay two hours away in a small town called Mindo. Mindo is known for the sheer number of birds, the relaxed atmosphere and the outdoor activities you can do so it sounded like the perfect place to finish off my stay in South America.

Getting across Quito proved to be quite an adventure as I used local buses (50 cents vs. $20) and discovered that Quito is the exact opposite to many of the towns I’ve visited so far – the outskirts were really nice but the city centre looked like a dive. It was hateful and I’m very glad that I decided to stay in Mindo instead! I appreciate I only stuck to the bus route so the touristy parts would yield a very different feeling, but still I’m not sure my opinion would change!

I’d pre-booked a place in Mindo called The Yellow House and whilst it was more expensive that I wanted to pay ($18 a night) it was one of the best decisions I’d made. I was convinced that a mistake had been made in the morning and that I needed to pay significantly more money as it was such a lovely place – I had a complete house to myself for goodness sake! In the morning I had an amazing breakfast of fresh fruit (from the garden), fresh coffee (from the houses own trees) and scrambled eggs (from the houses own chickens). It’s an awesome place and I highly recommend it! So much so, I’m writing about it here at the start!

Hiking to see the birds

The yellow house has it’s own section of jungle and trails which you can hike on. When you stay there they are included in the price but you can visit them anyway. Maybe it was the early morning or the early start (6am) or my lack of experience of animal hunting, but I saw nothing other than some pretty yellow birds and a macaw. Still, it was a nice walk in the morning and readied me for breakfast!

Canopy Tour in Mindo

I took the collectivo to the Canopy tour place and paid my monies for a trip through the skies. Doing it alone is a bit boring as you simply race through each of the zip-lines without much stopping and it only really took 20minutes to do the entire circuit.

It is however very exhilarating! The speeds you can reach are quite impressive and the lines themselves are very long stretching from one side of the valley to the other – you ride them for a good minute or so! The other reason it’s exhilarating is that I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s that safe! You’re in a climbing harness and they allow you to do a thing they call the “Superman” where the suspend you from the cable using the back of the harness. It was tremendous fun, but when I got off the harness fell to the floor! When the offered me to do the “butterfly” I politely declined – this one involved hanging upside down!

Chocolate Factory in Mindo

The chocolate factory in Mindo is worth a look – they are a local fair-trade place which makes chocolate for a factory in the USA somewhere. The tour is a little short but includes a walk into their gardens and shows you loads of different plants (banana, chilli, coffee, coca…) and then a wander through the small factory itself. Apparently they are trying to extend their technique to other farms in the area as they have a more efficient way of producing coca capable of producing chocolate (whereas most plants are used for Coco butter) and the by-products are usable to create BBQ sauce and honey. The best bit bit is the tasting session at the end when you get to try raw chocolate with various extras such as ginger, chilli, salt or sugar. You even get a proper brownie which tastes divine!

Later on I met a couple of people from the chocolate tour and went for pizza and a few beers with them!

Butterfly Farm

Mindo also has a couple of butterfly farms which are worth a look. A very brief tour showing you the different areas and you are let loose inside the area. It’s very cool to wander around with butterflies fluttering about just overhead! They are so placid it’s very easy to take pictures and the colours they have is astounding! Just outside the butterfly farm they have some hummingbird feeding stations so I sat outside trying to take pictures – Humming  Birds are so fast it’s nigh on impossible!

Visiting Mitad del Mundo

Even though it’s only 20minutes outside of Quito, I journeyed out to the Mitad del Mundo to see the museum and surrounding area of the Equator. It’s cheesy, touristy and way over the top but it was something I just had to do! I took a local bus and jumped off a little too early so had a bit of a walk to the museum and then joined an American Church Youth Group – I’ve never met a group of more unpleasant individuals in all my travelling! They were chronically rude to each other (the leader declaring on of the students a fool and verbally attacking him) and apart from a couple of them the just were hateful! It was so bad I almost said something and I’m usually happy to live-and-let-live!

I wandered around the museum for a bit and saw the various exhibits which had nothing to do with the equator and then line on the ground with all the experiments which were nice. I can say that I’ve stood with one foot in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere! They showed us water spiralling different ways depending on the hemisphere (or straight down on the Equator), balancing an egg on an nail, walking blindfolded… They were cheesy and I didn’t take part as I hated the group I was with, but it was fun to be there! Afterwards I took a bus back to Mindo.

Frog Concert

One of the hostels you can stay at offer a night-time tour to listen to the frogs and I joined a family that were staying in The Yellow House. It was a bit of an odd experience as you listened to a guy giving a 20minute speech in Spanish only (I caught some of it, but really struggled with as he was using terms relating to the frogs of which I wasn’t familiar) and then we wandered off into the grounds.

There were lots of people on the tour so it was a little difficult to get to the guide to find out what he was pointing at and then when I spotted something of interest (a frog for example) the guide rushed forward and chased it away. On top of that, halfway through the tour a load of new people turned up and pushed in front of me forcing me to the very back. I couldn’t for love-nor-money get back in front and whenever I reached the guide to see what he was pointing at he’d walk off. The tour became something where I had to entertain myself rather than rely on the guide, but I had a great time! Since everyone was in front with their torches I could turn around and watch the fireflies buzz around flashing in the darkness of night, find things myself, pause and look around… I loved it!

The best bit of my time in Mindo?

For me the best part of Mindo is easy – it was a great place for bit of quiet reflection. To sit back and think about the things I have seen, the things I’ve done and the people I’ve met. I sat and thought about the person I was three months prior and who I had become and realised that I still had to face some of the things that bothered me in the UK. I love Mindo and it will have a special place for me as it was the end of the start – I left Mindo in a taxi, jumped on a local bus (and stood for 2 hours), got to Quito, was shouted at by Taxi Drivers and then boarded a plan bound for Panama. My time in South America had come to an end.

I wrote about this reflection in the post Three Months Can Change a Man!

More pictures

More pictures of Mindo and the activities I did can be found in the Digitallery album South America – Ecuador – Mindo

Click here to load a map showing you the location of this post and images from the digitallery taken nearby.