Ecuador - Weekend in Mindo
Wonder what you'll do in your free time in Ecuador? Here Northeastern University student, Jessica tells of a weekend excursion. She is in Ecuador to do a physical therapy co-op for her school.
My friends and I went to Mindo for our first “unsupervised” weekend! We had a great couple of days.
We left the house at 7:15 to take the metro to the bus station, and we left at 8:20 from there. It was a really relaxing drive through the mountains- I tried to journal but I couldn’t stop either looking out the window or closing my eyes. But we finally got there. There were tourist hunters from the ticket companies and even the hostels to greet us and offer us places to stay or to buy things. Good marketing- it costs them nothing. We had been referred to La Casa De Cecelia (visit online here).
We got 2 beds and a private bathroom for 9.50 each per night. And we were right next to a cafe and chocolate factory, so naturally the first thing we got was coffee.
The hostel offered tickets for all of the activities in Mindo including waterfall repelling, the butterfly garden (mariposeria), and other things, but we decided to go into town to avoid a convenience charge. We were able to get tickets to go zip lining for $15 each including transportation to and from the site.
We had our own private zip lining tour over the canopy of the cloud forest with Roberto at El Mirador Mindo. Ziplining is truly one of the best fears to conquer, because once you are upside down hanging by a string over the forest I don’t think there is really much more to be afraid of.
Roberto also showed us the river and plants on the zip lining tour, including one called the “miremelinda” (look at me beautiful)that, if you rub it on you, is a natural insect repellent. We ziplined “como mariposa” (like a butterfly), “como Superwoman”, and even upside down. We tipped our guides because we liked them a lot.
Then we went to the cascadas for a hike. And we got soaked. There was a $1 chiva (shuttle) from the town to the cable car that takes you to the trail. We hiked for an hour and a half to see the first two waterfalls (there are 4) and return to the cable car. It was raining so we were SOAKED.
We got back to Mindo and were starving so we went to El Chef for dinner. I had a hamburguesa con queso (mozzarella!) that came with fries…yes, I am a terrible American but I needed iron. And for $3 I was quite happy with my very fresh, “the cow probably lived down the street” burger. For three dollars I thought it was only the burger so I also ordered patacones, which are like little mashed plaintain cookies. They were kinda bland but they believe strongly in condiments here so I am not surprised.
After dinner we threw our clothes in a dryer that we found in the hostel and went out for drinks. Lesson- don’t come to Mindo for nightlife. There are a few bars and an empty discothèque, but nothing at all exciting. Luckily we ended up at an Arabian-themed establishment (Taylor liked the hammock swings). My drink was a strong warm té con whiski, strong “to warm the spirit” after a cold rainy day. It was delicious and we got to play Yengha (which is harder than Jenga because the pieces are rough and unfinished, so we stopped before we made a mess) and Rummy until close. The female owner speaks English, French, and Spanish and both she and her make partner were very friendly. So was the cat, Misi, who decided my lap was the best for cleaning herself. For those of you who don’t know, I am pretty allergic to cats, so I was sneezing and sniffling all over the place. When we left I popped a Benadryl and passed out, and apparently I was the only one that got a good night’s sleep.
The next day was actually sunny! We got an early start and ate breakfast at the hostel for $3.50. We went on the chocolate tour at El Quetzal / Mindo Chocolate with Francisco, which was really interesting and in English. We got a tour of their backyard “laboratory” where they grow plants, the greenhouse where they firment and dry the chocolate, and the machines for processing and making the chocolate (he called this the real life Willy Wonka room). Then we got to taste their liquid dark chocolate with azucar (sugar), aji (pepper), and jengibre (ginger), all of which are their varieties that they sell in the store. He told us about his new invention called miel de cacao (cocoa “honey”) which is a result of part of the process of making the cocoa nibs that is a naturally sweet syrup that we tried- it has a balsamic flavor. Francisco used this in his own barbecue sauce recipe and we got to taste that too. We also got to try a brownie which is literally the world’s best brownie ever, and with the miel drizzled over it…I died. So good. Definitely recommend the brownies at La Quetzal, the restaurant that houses Mindo Chocolate, and the tour of the location for only $6. But be warned- Francisco lived in the US so he charges what restaurants typically charge for food in a US city. But there is a Mindo Chocolate Makers in Michigan, so I can have my brownies delivered to anywhere in the US. To order, visit Mindo Chocolate Makers online.
We also met up with people in our hostel who were traveling together from another hostel in Quito. We all went tubing together, since the tubes are done in groups of six and with our groups combined we had 11 people. It cost $6 each including transportation by pickup truck from the hostel and use of the hostel’s ” locked” storage closet since we had already checked out. They tube with helmets here, which is definitely a good thing because I hit my head on someone. Also, they tie all the tubes together and you sit between them so as to not hit your butt on rocks, and they use rope to make handles. Each group has a guide that keeps the tubes spinning and moving around or over rocks, and they warn you when its going to be rough and you should hold on tighter by saying “Fuerte!” and proceeding to make sure no one falls off the tubes. It was pretty fun- albeit a short ride, but definitely fun.
We came back and needed to eat. Taylor and I got sandwiches at the HummingBagel. I hadn’t realized how much I missed bagels until I had their ham and cheese sandwich on a fresh sesame bagel. We also got to watch hummingbirds. Maureen wanted to have the quinoa chop suey at the place across the street, which to all of our disappointment came with rice instead of quinoa- the quinoa was mixed into the vegetable chop suey part. But for two dollars including tomatillo juice it looked really good. He let us all sample his quinoa pudding con frutas topped with helado de maní (peanut ice cream) and his passion fruit-basil ice cream which was really delicious. Another recommendation from me for this little quinoa place. Visit Misqui Quinde Mindo on Facebook.
We went back to La Quetzal to wait a couple hours for our bus, because they have WiFi and brownies. We all just relaxed on the patio until the bus, then we all took the bus to the metro to the bus, got off the bus and hiked uphill on La Gasca and made it home. Mercedes made us grilled cheese sandwiches and we were happy and very tired and went right to bed.
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