A few days ago I woke up to pouring rain and no electricity. So why should this be such a disaster, you may ask? Well, what if I told you that when I went to bed at 9 o’clock the night before it was raining and there was no power. The first thought I had as I awoke that morning was, “Do I have to face another day of this and can I?” I began to plot my escape.
I guess I should back track here a bit and fill you in on some of the details leading up to this bleak picture. I arrived in Mindo, a small village in the Cloud Forest region of Ecuador, last Wednesday. It’s been raining every day since. Only now as I begin to write this post on Sunday is the sun coming out and looking as though it might last for most of the day. It was yesterday that I was planning to escape to Quito for some sun or at least something to do which I couldn’t see happening here if this rain kept up. However, just when I was getting very serious about following through with my escape plan, the sun did decide to come out (for a little while) as I was eating breakfast. The one thing I have learned about Ecuador by now is that nothing, and I mean nothing, ever happens as you would expect it to. No sooner had the staff stated that we wouldn’t see power until at least noon, the lights flickered back on. That did it for me. I decided I was ‘jumping the gun’ in deciding to leave without giving this place a chance so I went back to my room, grabbed my walking shoes and camera and set out to do some hiking on my own with some advice on where to go from Luis, the owner. I am glad I did.
My walk ended up on the top of the mountain overlooking Mindo where canopy rides with zip lines are the attraction. I’m sure if there had been a person there instead of two unfriendly dogs I would have considered giving it a try. As luck would have it, I was probably fortunate that no one was there because shortly after I heard from a young 23-year-old staying at my place that she didn’t enjoy it because the young folks running it were forcing her to take positions she really didn’t want to take. Instead of feeling exhilarated by the experience as those Cathy and I had met in Banos did, she felt pressured. This gal was very savvy for her age so I took her word for it.
By the time I got down the hill, I had walked about 10 km. It was well worth the effort because not only did it put me in a better frame of mind, but it gave me an opportunity to think more clearly about my life and where it is going. Nature seems to do that for me; it gives me time to reflect on the things in life that matter.
Now, I am finishing up this post two days later as I get ready to fly back to Buenos Aires. Mindo was certainly not the highlight of my two months in Ecuador but only because of the rain. I found out that I don’t adjust well to a sub-tropical climate especially in the rainy season. I couldn’t get used to my damp clothes. I am certain that if I had stayed longer I would have sprouted out in mildew. However, I did succeed in getting a mild sinus infection from it. By opting to stay I did manage to see some of what this little place has to offer. For instance, I saw many species of hummingbirds of all shapes and sizes. The downside is I did not get to see any toucans or the very rare long – wattled umbrella bird which looks like a crow with a black wattle and an Elvis quiff.
I also took a very informative tour of a chocolate factory where we not only saw the process of making pure unadulterated chocolate from start to finish, but also got to sample all the chocolate made there in all its forms from the nibs, to the chocolate flavours, the syrup, the tea, and a brownie to die for. It was amazing how energized I felt by the time it was all over. Our guide was right. Eat this kind of chocolate every day and you could easily live to a hundred years or more. I was sorely tempted to go back for a few more tours at $6 a shot (senior prices) just to keep my energy up.
Finally on my last few hours on Sunday, my last day there, I had to get out and get a few more hours of the remaining sun before the rain started again as it did in all its fury. I decided to take in one of the many butterfly farms in the area – the Maraposas de Mindo. This was another fairly long walk of 3.5 km. but, hey, what better way to get some exercise and to get the adrenaline moving? The walk was great but I wasn’t overly impressed with this farm. First, I thought it was way overpriced for what I saw. I’ve been to many such farms and seen much better. We were given a very short explanation of the various stages of the butterfly and then just directed to a fairly large enclosed garden where various types of butterflies were flying about. There was no real information after that except for the odd sign stating in Spanish the type of butterfly that we might see. That said, it certainly was very colourful thanks to the blue morpho which could be seen madly flitting about all over the garden. With the eye they made a beautiful display but were impossible to capture on camera.
There are other things to do and see in Mindo such as, taking in an expensive bird tour if on your own but if with others gets less expensive depending on how many are in your group. If really adventurous, you can try zip lining as I already mentioned, or go on guided overnight hikes right into the cloud forest, or try tubing. There are probably lots more adventures I have not mentioned. It’s one of the best bio-diverse areas in South America so has everything for those who appreciate what nature in all its glory has to offer. Just don’t go in the rainy season and especially in an El Nino year as this year is because you really won’t get to enjoy it as it’s meant to be.