Mindo madness and crossing over to Colombia

Trip Start Mar 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2010

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Flag of Colombia  , Valle del Cauca,
Sunday, May 2, 2010

I have always loved the rainforest, ever since watching documentaries as a kid. I always dreamed that one day i would get to go to one, which is why the place we went next was a dream come true for me. We arrived in Tena, a small rusty looking town that quite frankly had a funny smell, and then climbed onto the back of some pick up trucks, and travelled along the rocky road toward the first jungle lodge. Trees of all kinds leaned over the road, creating a natural tunnel. We arrived in the jungle village and it instnatly reminded me of the type of place you would see watching Bruce Parry in Tribe. Wooden huts surrounding a common, green area, and bewildered and curious locals watching us carefully. We were then all eld up a slippery slope, towards our jungle hut, carefully stepping over the ques of leafcutter ants and small streams. The hut was nice, it had hammocks and comfyish beds. Our stay here was largely uneventful, we had a quick jungle tour and relaxed in the hammocks.

The view from the second jungle lodge was by far the most stunning view i have ever seen in my life. It was as right in the middle fo the rainforest, on a cliff overlooking the Napo river. From here we could it was jungle and meandering river as far as the eys could see. It was by far the most spectacular piece of scener i have seen in my life. As good, if not better than i hoped it would be. Looking out i almost couldnt believe that i was actually there, i mean i dont want to use the phrase "too good to be true" but it kind of was. I could have literally sat there for hours, gazing out, but then we were told we were going to doa quick hike through the jungle. It was kinda cool, the guide was telling us about all the cool stuff the plants could do, medicines and dyes etc. Its amazing how humans discovered some of this stuff. The second day in the jungle lodge we were told the was an optional excursion to a bat cave deep in the rainforest. To get here we would have to do a 4 hour hike down streams and through dense forest. It was brilliant. We spent our time swinging around on jungle vines and looking atcool fish and insects. To get to the bat cave we had to climb a steep slippery rock face. I am surprisedsome of the people in our group managed to do it because it was quite difficult. Sometimes we were about 20ft over a stream, the only thing stopping us plunging to the depths below was our feet on both sides of the ledge. The jungle is so diverse, in fact all of Ecuador is. There are more species of plants in Ecuador than there is in the whole of USA and Canada, and Ecuador is only the size of  the state of Nevada. Impressive eh. The bat cave was smelly, and bats flew dangerously close to our faces. I didnt see Robin though (Poor joke). After the trek we went tubing down the Rio Napo. Each time wejoined a new river the water got colder.It was quite a relaxing experience despite the rain and the temperature. I was sadto leave our jungle lodge, because it kind of signified the end of G.A.P. The next and last stop for all of us was Ecuadors capital, Quito.

Quito has a reputation for beauty and violence. To be honest i saw little of either. We didnt do much in Quito excpet go out at night. And for a City so close to the equator it was surprisingly cold. We said some emotional goodbyes to some some more people. Im really miss some of thepeople on the tour.I can definetly say that it has been the funnest month i have had in mylife. So many experiences and great times. I honestly have had no bad experiences at all. After we ledt everyone, Nick, Olivia and I checked into another hostel. I think it was a wednesday and at this hostel Wednesday is free rum wednesday. What a terrible idea. Nick and Olivia went to bed quite early, but istayed up with a french guy, and American and this scary ogre from Colombia. We played pool til the wee hours, it was fun, especially when avocados were intorduced to the pool table. The next day Me Nick and Liv finalised our Colobia plans, but first decided to go to another jungle town called Mindo.

Mindo is a sleepy quaint village situated 2 miles outsideof Quito. Right on the Equator, its sunny all morning and raining all evening, everyday. The rain makes this town look amazing,it makes the grass appear greeener and makes blanket the hills. We looked in ourlonley planet and saw there was quite a few cool things to do. One of them was Canopying, which involves hurtling across a zip wire suspended high ontop of the jungle canopy, before this however we journeyed down the jungle path towards the mariposa, a butterfly sanctuary. At only $3 it was one of the biggest bargains of the trip.  On the way there we madea few new friends, a petdog named Graham, and a small child named Johnny. They followed us most of the way there, and Graham barked at cows. When we entered the Mariposa, wewere given a quick tour. We were whown some glass tanks,one with caterpillars, one with cacoons, then a rack with about 200 cacoons, of all different shapes and sizes.Some madeto looklike leaves, others looked like bark. Its fascinating to think how long it took these creatures to evolvelike this, amazing.We then entered the main sanctuary. If you cover your finger in Mango, you can pick them up and they will eat it off your finger. Also because i was wearing a bright tshirt, butterflies would just land on myshoulders. It was bizzarre and amazing. Zip lining was also cool. Sometimes we were over 100m from the ground. We also did some pretty awesome tricks like hanging upside down. The views were stunning and it was so fun. That night we sat down in the barin Mindo adn there was a huge powercut. Everything wentpitch black, and afterabout 10 minutes of this the fireflies began to emerge and close in on us. They surrounded us and buzzed around our heads, it had a celestial feel,like we wereflying around the stars. The day after in Mindo we went toa coffeeplantaion adn ground our own frshly roasted coffee.Its pretty interesting theprocess that goes into making a jar of coffee.

After Mindoour next stop was Colombia. We were aware that the next couple of days would be constant travelling. We travelled from Mindo to Quito(2 hours). Quito to Tulcan on the border(5hours) and then Tulcan to Ipiales in Colombia (1hour) and finally Ipiales to Pasto (3hours). The border notorious Ecuador to Colombia border crossing turnedout to be the most relaxed one so far. No one checked our passposrt going through, we only got it stamped really for our sakes. The day after we travelled from Pasto to Cali (8 hours). I managed toread a whole book in the 2 days of travelling. The scenery on these journeys was stunning. Colombia has more species of flura and fauna per squaremile than ANY other country in the world. These bus rides are fullof action and Colombian culture. In every town we stop and street sellers selling anything from fruit to Jewelry to birthday cards comeon toflog their wares. It can be intimidating as they like togive the hard sell, but its also very fun to watch. In Cali We went to a salsa club. The girls their wer amazing and their salsa skills second to none. Im not the best though. I think my dad would like it here. After a night in Cali we got a night bus to Medelling. Once the capital of Colombia lucrative Cocainne trade. At one point Pablo Escobar was earning $60million a day and according to forbes was the 7th richest man in the world, until he wa shot and killed. Despite that it feels quite safe.

Next stop is the lovely Caribbean coast, where weshould be spending a couple of weeks. Then hopefully somekind of conservation or volenteering in Ecuador. Ciao
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