Monday, January 11, 2010

Lindo Mindo

What an amazing weekend! Flying through the air on a zip line, lazing around by the river, salsa dancing in a disco bar, spending a rainy Saturday afternoon in a sweet little chocolate/art shop…what could be better?

As you can probably tell, I went on a trip this weekend with friends. We didn´t go to the beach- it´s too far for a two day trip. But we did go to a town called Mindo. It’s an easy trip from Quito- two hours by bus and it only costs $2.50. If you get a chance, you should go! Mindo is an adorable tourist town with tons of attractions: zip lines, waterfalls, butterfly farms, tons of species of birds, tubing on the river, and a local market with trinkets and gifts. (My friend Adrianne bought the cutest little shoulder bag with toucans on it!)

We had a few mishaps during the journey to Mindo. First, guess who overslept? Yes, me. Instead of waking up at 6:15 to meet my friend Raquel, I woke up at 7:20 when my host mom knocked on my door and said “Why are you still here?”

I ran out the door and caught a taxi to El Terminal del Norte, also called La Ophelia. I arrived in front of the ticket office at 7:55. Two other friends, Josh and David, were waiting with good news and bad news. The bad news was that Raquel and our friend Adrianne hadn’t arrived. The good news was that the bus didn’t leave until 8:20.

The bus left at 8:20, but Raquel and Adrianne weren’t on it. They apparently caught another bus to Mindo, which shouldn’t have been possible. As they told us later, their bus dropped them on the side of the road near Mindo (not in front of the Mindo ticket office as our bus did.) They had to ride in the back of a random truck and pay extra to get to Mindo!

Note to future Mindo travelers: buy a ticket on the bus operated by the Flor del Valle! They are the legit ones; I have no idea who runs the other bus, but I’m not impressed. We were just glad that the girls made it safely.

The first thing we did in Mindo was go to the zip lines. It was amazing! The company has XXXXXXXXXXX meters of cables high up in the mountains, 12 zip lines in total. And we paid only $10 apiece! We finished the first zip lines and I thought that was the end. But there were eleven more! We got to go upside down on one zip line, go with a partner and have one person fly like Superman in front, and ride on a cable that they bounced for us. The last cable was the best- it was so long and went so fast! It was AMAZING!!!!

We were feeling a little cheap, so we didn’t pay to go tubing, see the butterfly farm, or visit the Las Cascadas, the waterfalls that are supposed to be really amazing. But we had a great lunch at La Chef, wandered around and took pictures, and ended up spending the afternoon talking to the proprietors of a cool little place called ChocolArte. Victor and Carrie, the owners, offer coffee, hot chocolate, sweets, and breakfasts. They make their own chocolate, and they give demonstrations if you ask. (We asked; they were out of cacoa so they couldn’t.) But their food is delicious and the atmosphere is great. We probably hung out there for a good four hours this weekend!

We also had fun salsa dancing at a disco/bar called el BambĂș on Saturday night and at the river on Sunday morning. The disco was interesting- we tried salsa dancing and decided we weren’t very good. The Mindo boys would teach us the basic step, but as soon as we figured that out, they would start getting fancy and we would get confused! I think it’s time for salsa lessons…

On Sunday morning, we wanted to go Las Cascadas (the waterfalls, remember? Weren’t you paying attention?), but it cost $20 to get a ride there and back, which was more than we wanted to spend. So we hiked down to the river and found our own mini waterfalls, plus an island with lovely rocks for sunning ourselves. And the best part? It was free!

Just a quick note really about hostels- if you are traveling in Ecuador (or any country, frankly! Except maybe Antarctica…), there are a ton of hostels. They all want your business, but because you are a visitor, they will all think you are stupid and don’t know what is a fair price. In Mindo, we paid $8 per person, and that included a room for the boys and one for the girls, hot water for showers, and breakfast the next morning. Some hostels offer TV or Internet, but we didn’t bother with those niceties. A good hostel in Ecuador without breakfast runs about $6. There are some owners who see the color of your skin and raise the price to $10 or $12; when you come to Mindo, be smart and bargain! Because you are coming to Mindo, right???

That’s all I’ve got for you now! I´ll give you and update on the host family and classes next time.



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