Mindo: Waterfalls, Sand Flies 'n' Bumpy Roads

Trip Start Nov 24, 2007
Trip End May 15, 2008

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Thursday, November 29, 2007

We just returned from a great trip NE of Quito to the little town of Mindo. A stones toss in distance but a world away in similarity. A town where dogs seem to outnumber the amount of people walking the streets and the humidity  can be downright overwhelming. Mindo itself is located in one of the wettest cloud forests in the world and is surrounded by huge lush mountainsides and beautiful rivers. Can you think of any reason why we wouldn't come here?

Finding a place at a end of the main dirt road (the sheets were damp from the humidity) we set our things down and not soon after went to check our trips first countryside excursion. To get to "el sanctuario de las cascadas" a waterfall sanctuary nearby as they call it, we walked a few miles along a dirt road through a very pretty forest until the road came to an end. There we had to choose between taking a beat up looking cable car across a huge canyon or walk down and then back up the other sides of the canyon only to walk back down again to get to the actual canyon of the waterfalls. After a season of fires it was a no brainer. No more hiking! We chose to risk our lives, take the cable car and enjoy more time at the sanctuary. We spent an entire day working our way up the canyon on overgrown trails, exploring some very beautiful waterfalls, weird looking birds, hanging orchids and the rest. Ecuador is just so amazingly diverse and we have only caught a glimpse. Absolutely one of the most impressive vistas that I have seen.

Unfortunately however, these wonderful climactic zones just so happen to be home to the most annoying bug in the world, the @#%&$! sand fly. Whew, excuse me. I have no clue why things always seem to happen this way (or why sand flies exist really), but the second you stop paying attention to your ankles and expend your energy on things more pleasurable than your legs, the annoying little flies just seem to appear from sand fly-city and go on full attack! In less than a minute, while bartering with a local over how much it would cost to rent broken down bikes for a few hours, both of us had at least 15 blots of blood covering our legs where the lovely sand#$ers had done their dirty work. Wait, ten seconds, Namaste, Oh Shanti Om. OK. Thank you for the bites my little friends, I will itch them in peace. So, supposedly our immune system cannot properly fight the bacteria/toxin that sand flies leave behind after being bitten. What happens is they itch like hell and wonŽt actually disappear for about a month. Imagine that! Lovely! I wear mine like battle scars...even though I am far weaker than Maya when it comes to resisting the temptation of itching them! I try to come to peace with the itching sensation but if you pay the slightest attention to them, you'll end up with raw legs because it's downright torture and you can't stop. What fun! IŽll send picture updates soon!

As for the nightlife here. It is spectacular. I have never witnessed so much partying before in my life! NOT. Something that could still bring us both to tears laughing though is this young boy who drove the main street Mindo not once or twice or three times in the time it took us to slurp down a batido (blended milk and fruit of choice) but something to the count of 5 or so times. The first time he drove by in his awesome little SUV listening to cool music we smiled. Night on the town for him..ain't no thing baby, just cruising the gut in a city of about 2-300 people. The second time he passed by he was on his phone. We laughed to ourselves and thought he must be up to some regular ol' fun now! He's got something planned! The third time he was eating a Popsicle. Once again, the definite man. The 4th and 5th time we loved it and laughed to ourselves repeatedly. Such is the life in Mindo. That and maneuvering around nasty barking dogs is what our nights here entail. Do you remember being a funny 17yr old? I do :-)

So the next day we decided to do the bike thing and rode our butts purple down the bumpiest road that exists in Ecuador (although I probably will take back that statement by the end of this trip...probably the night I am riding a bus, the driver is mad, the road is endless with curves and bumps, I'm exhausted, sick to my stomach and there is of course no bathroom). Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya :-)

As it rains a lot here, you can make the assumption that with rain comes puddles. Puddles knowingly leave behind potholes in dirt road over time and potholes of course lead to bumpy roads. Therefore lots of rain (a cloud forest remember) naturally leads to a lot of potholes. Massive ones at that. Especially when rains so much that the dirt has mostly been washed away leaving bumpy stones exposed everywhere and potholes that will never go away. And when you don't have a good bike or any sort of shock absorber, it can be a downright torture of a road to ride down. Even the locals we passed by looked at us with concern and complete bewilderment as if we were crazy! We didn't see anyone doing the same and people definitely own bikes around these parts. At one slightly downhill stage, an old dodge pickup coasting with its engine off passed us by. It was rattling so loud I wasn't sure if the driver was just trying to save on fuel or if it truly just didn't run anymore and was days away from completely falling apart. Scrap metal for a house or something I suppose. They too, apart from being shocked to see two gringos biking around these parts looked at us like we were crazy to be going down the road on what we were. We looked back at them with equal astonishment. Ready to see their pickup go off the road any second. Eventually we arrived at a place that was supposed to be some sort of cool, far off place for swimming in the nearby river and to explore around a little. When we arrived they looked at us like we were the first people to come by in a long time. Paying a dollar each we passed through some gates and an awesome garden down to an arm of the river that branched off from the main body. Leading the way, a boy walked over to a small cement damn and closed an iron gate. Two minutes later the arm of the river below the damn flowed to a trickle and the segment above turned into a massive pool for us to swim in. I guess this is what they mean when they tell you there is a place down the road to go swimming and bathe in the river! Excellent I suppose. Why not?

Well for now we are alive and well. Sore bums and bloody legs but alive and kicking on the Ecuadorian front. More to come later...
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