Bird on a wire? No? Just us then...

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Descanso Hotel

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Monday, January 31, 2011

This morning we had arranged for a local guide to take us to a Lek. A Lek (a well known 'birding' term, ahem) is an early morning display, in this case by the aptly named Cock-of-the-Rock bird, which involves males of the species coming together every single day before dawn to compete for a female by basically putting on a variety performance including singing, dancing and wrestling with the hope that a member of the fairer sex will be impressed enough to accept them as a mate – a bit like Simon Cowell does but he just sends people off to boot camp (though this wasn’t the case with Sinitta we hear) (Andrew Edit – I’m ashamed she even mentioned that on a round the world trip, Simon Cowell indeed).  It is meant to be quite a show and prevalent around Mindo so we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5.30am to meet Jonathan our guide in the centre of the town outside the tour company office.  We had already been told that it might not be the right weather conditions today (and it was raining when we woke up) but still we donned our waterproofs (my waterproof trousers that we bought in Cusco for the Inca trail got their first airing) and headed out to meet him.  At least we got as far as the hostel door which was all closed up and the place was in darkness.  We had seen the lady shut everywhere up when we had come home last night, this made us feel like dirty stop-outs even though we had come in at 7pm (rock and roll eh?).  We tried knocking on a few of the doors (we were having flashbacks to Lima) but there was no sign of movement or anything, we also tried our room key in the lock to see if that worked but no it didn’t.  We turned the main light on (I had been holding the flash light up to now) and were a bit stumped as to what to do next, we even tried all the windows and contemplated jumping from the balcony on the 1st floor – alas we were saved from possible broken limbs by the lady who obviously woke up and wondered what the hell was going on downstairs.  She appeared in her floral pyjamas and simply rolled the door open – it wasn’t even locked – how bloody embarrassing.  I kind of assumed that would have been the first thing that we would have tried to do – um open the door first (I think we must have just assumed the lady had locked it last night and that in fact she hadn’t – or maybe our brains have just turned to mush – I have a horrible suspicion that it’s the latter).

So we were out at last and met up with Jonathan who was waiting in the rain, we couldn’t bring ourselves to explain why we were late, sadly he told us that it wasn’t going to happen and we rearranged to meet the following day at 5am – earlier still!  We sloped back to the hostel, past a dog asleep in the road, I did comment that it was a funny place to sleep with it being raining and such but just walked on by looking forward to crawling back in to bed for a few more hours sleep.  Andrew woke me up at 7.30am, he hadn’t managed to get back to sleep, saying that we should have breakfast and get going as the walking trails that we wanted to do up in the cloud forest were only open to 10 visitors at a time.  I was obviously in a deep sleep and wasn’t really for getting up yet but after a few minutes with my eyes closed coming round I got up and we went down to the ground floor balcony only to be greeted by about 50 Hummingbirds buzzing around the garden – it was a lovely sight to behold first thing in the morning – bright flashes of colour accompanied by a low drone flitting everywhere.  We had our breakfast and just sat there mesmerised taking photographs in between sips of coffee and fresh pineapple juice.  Another couple turned up with a guide who had paid to come in and have a coffee just to see the Hummingbirds – I think quite a few people do the same.  We finished our scrambled eggs and bread and started out on our trek – we intended to try to get quite a few kilometres under our belts today to try to walk off a small proportion of the vast number of burgers and chips that we had eaten in the Galapagos Islands.  As it was now light when I walked past the dog which strangely was still in exactly the same position I came to the horrible realisation that it was dead, there was a small pool of blood mixed in with rainwater on the road below its’ nose.  I nearly cried, it was so sad, I’ve never seen a dead dog before and it even had its’ eyes slightly open, with a lack of knowing what else to do and not being able to speak the language we carried on walking.

We walked through the town and followed the Rough Guide map of Mindo up towards the start of the trail to the cloud forest.  Somewhere along the line (in fact about 2kms along it) we  realised when we came to a set of very private gates that we had gone the wrong way so we double backed along  the muddy path and eventually found the right road which also happened to be the same road that the canopy zip lines and the butterfly farm were on.  About 5kms on we came to a fork in the road which said Butterfly Forest 2km one way and the Canopy and Cloud forest trails 2.5kms the other.  We opted to go to the trails first and set off over a bridge and somehow picked up a dog who decided that he would be our guide, he walked ahead of us all the way and then would stop and wait for us if we paused to take a photo – he wasn’t very good with the common names of any plants or birds though which was a bit of a disappointment.  It was all uphill and the humidity relentless so by the time we got to Mindo Canopy Adventures I was roasting hot and my trousers underneath my waterproofs were quite disgustingly stuck to my thighs they were that damp.  We figured as we were there we should do the zip lines if it wasn’t too expensive.  We were first greeted by a guy selling the first company to us (there are two right next to each other) but we chose to do the original one Mindo Canopy Adventure as it had longer lines and more of them – plus we managed to haggle the price down to match the price of the first company (from 13 Dollars to 10 – we first tried to pretend that we were Ecuadorian Nationals who get a reduced rate of 10 Dollars anyway – the guy didn’t believe us I think he thought Andrew was German but we got the cheaper price anyway).

It was a great experience and we were joined after the first line by a couple of German girls which made us a nice group of four.  They spoke Spanish and English (show-offs) so could translate any instructions that the guys looking after us gave.  This was particularly useful when we were asked if we wanted to adopt the ‘Superman’ style or ‘Marinosa’ – the first we went down the zip line with our legs wrapped around the guide with our arms out front (as if we were flying over the forest) and the second was to travel in a star shape upside down (the guide held our legs up in the air while our heads were looking right at the ground).  I did the Superman once (which was a bit painful on the stomach) as did Andrew but after that Andrew left the acrobatics to me and I did the very elegant Marinosa alone which resulted in me getting a prolonged rush of blood to the head.  The girls were quite funny and at one point after finding out that we were English said that "English people drink too much and work out too little", I responded with “Do you know us?”  Fair enough though isn’t it.  Andrew joked that we had already had a drink this morning, but I think the joke was taken a bit too literally and the girls kept saying that no wonder the Superman hurt my stomach if we’d been drinking this early in the day – god, they ought to see the Russians!  He felt he had to qualify it all and said “We haven’t been drinking” to which I nearly wet myself.  After zipping along 14 cables totalling 3,500 metres in length and soaring goodness knows how high above some of the last areas of primary cloud forest in Ecuador we made a plan to come back and do the trails tomorrow and walked back along the road towards the butterfly park.

A good few kilometres later we arrived and paid the 5 Dollar entrance fee, the girl explained the lifecycle of the butterflies to us and we saw the eggs, chrysalises and newly hatched butterflies that still had wet wings so couldn’t fly it was quite amazing.  There were about 25 different species of butterfly flying around including the huge Brown Owl Eye (so called because of the markings on it’s under wing) which has a wingspan of up to 20cm.  It was a welcome break along our walk but we weren’t sure that it was worth the 5 Dollars each as there was only one butterfly house to go in and we thought the site was bigger.  Anyhow we headed back along the dirt road and about 3kms in buckled and hearing a taxi approaching we flagged it down and jumped in the back with a local family with 4 kids who were quite taken with us and couldn’t stop staring and smiling (Andrew edit: there were already 6 people inside the cab, we were in the open back bit with 6 other people).  Back in town we decided to visit the same restaurant as last night El Chef as it had been so good and we bumped in to the American couple that we had done the Kicker Rock snorkelling trip with – small world – they were just in town for the day having hired a driver to drive them around Ecuador – how posh.  After another delicious meal we went back to the hostel and as Andrew slept in the hammock on the balcony I did some blogging.  I also got to straighten my hair which is such a welcome relief as I’ve been walking around looking like a dog’s dinner for ages.  I just can’t imagine what it is going to feel like to be back at home with a whole wardrobe of clothes to choose from, oh and to wear a pair of heels is going to be a revelation having lived in flip-flops for the past 11 months!
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