After Baños it was back on the bus for the six hour journey north to Ibarra. Or it was sold to us as a six hour journey but obviously it was always going to take nearly eight. We got off to a bad start when the bus dropped us at a deserted petrol station in the dark in the middle of nowhere rather than at the terminal. We looked sad and pathetic and asked a lady if we could share the only cab with her to our hostel as we didn’t fancy standing around on the deserted dark streets. Luckily she agreed because as we drove down silent back streets behind the market I was getting a little worried – and these worries escalated as our chosen hostel appeared – cloaked in darkness.
the modern interior of the Fevilamir
Our cab driver waited whilst we rang the bell and eventually a man appeared to let us in. Climbing the tiled staircase with its stainless steel handrails we speculated why there was no indication from outside that the place was open or occupied. To be fair there was a whopping great big illuminated sign spelling out ‘hostel’ but a little lamp inside the door would have helped. I was just relieved to have M with me and the lady waiting in the cab.
The next day the Fevilamir hostel luckily redeemed itself. The gentleman who had opened the door to us the previous evening introduced himself as Geovanny and couldn’t be nicer, and we also met and chatted to Maria who cooked us some good eggs for breakfast and made us juice.
There was an airy dining room at the top of the building. Breakfast wasn’t included in the price but it was very reasonable and it was tasty and filling. We stayed two nights at the Hostal Fevilamir which was a heap of contradictions. Arriving at night it looked run down and empty. The prices were very very reasonable for a room for the night indicating that perhaps we should not expect great surroundings or service. However, once inside, the place was immaculate, nicely decorated and with real modern touches like the staircases and the decorations in the dining room. Geovanny showed me around many of the rooms and was meticulous in his presentation of them, squaring tables off and tweaking cushions in order to give a good impression.
The Fevilamir’s dining room
We had stopped off at Ibarra to break our journey to the Colombian border and although we didn’t expect too much of the town it wasn’t too bad at all. We tracked down the tourist information place and picked up a good map with all the places of interest marked on it; but bizarrely the place that we found the most fascinating – the museum which contained some excellent exhibits inside the by now, expected colonial building – didn’t get a mention or a pin point on the map at all!
Whilst at the museum we happened upon a presentation of poetry by local school children and we got chatting to one of the teachers. He then introduced us to other teachers and soon we were having our photos taken by them all. We were introduced as almost-celebrities but we were more fascinated by the female teachers clothes and were dying to get our own photographs of them.
The other draw at Ibarra was the park. This new park is very much still work in progress but it was a lovely place to wander around. It is the most unusual shape resembling a tennis racquet with a large area at once end and with a very long thin ‘handle’. And it was long – stretching way off into the distance. When we arrived they were in the process of removing giant sculptures of hummingbirds from packing cases and positioning them around the string end of the tennis racquet. The birds were all decorated in different ways and were really very beautiful. It seemed that they had been sponsored and represented different things from the local area. Some unusual types of water features and fountains were dotted around, there were sports pitches, a Japanese garden (planted with cactus) and a couple of long slender footbridges. The strange shape was eventually explained when we discovered that the site was originally the airport. I would expect that the majority of local governments would have sold the land for housing and I think that it is a very progressive, socially acceptable thing to turn such a large space into parkland.
We took a bus to the nearby Laguna Yahuarcocha. The lake is also known as Blood Lake due to a massive battle which took place here centuries ago and in which the lake turned red from the number of corpses floating in it. It was a nice lake but nothing special although I suspect in high season it is crowded with tourists on the little boats. We stopped for a while to eat some fresh fish cooked in a pan outside one of the little cabins whilst trying to avoid the sinister dogs which were roaming around. Ever since we got attacked by a horrible dog in Cajabamba, me and M are very nervous around some of these street dogs.
And I can’t finish writing about Ibarra and not mention the helada de paila. This is ice-cream to die for and originated in this region. It is made by stirring fruit puree inside large bowls which sit inside even larger bowls containing ice. Gradually the fruit mixture freezes and sugar is sometimes added and egg whites but nothing else. It is an almost sorbet and an almost ice cream – but the explosion of fresh fruit flavours makes it stand out from the rest. The best places make it in front of you – not in a pretentious way, but simply because that is where and how they make it and we found what was supposed to be the cafe in which it was originally was invented, so of course, we had to try a flavour or three.
Would I recommend the Hostal Fevilair? Yes, and please don’t be put off if you arrive at night when the streets are deserted – just ask the cabbie to hang around while you gain entry. During the day the streets are a hive of activity with the overspill of the nearby market stalls. There are some suites with their own private outdoor patio areas and some family rooms as well as the usual twins and doubles. If you want some modern comfort at very reasonable almost hostel prices go along and check out the Fevilamir.
one of the suites
Note:- Whilst I received complimentary accommodation at the Hostal Fevilamir this did not influence my opinion or review in any way. I have portrayed an honest picture of my stay
Trundling down the Avenue of the Volcanoes we were treated to yet more spectacular scenery through the window of the bus on the way to Baños.
Just a few days previously I had received a flurry of messages from friends and family who wanted to know that I was all right as the Tungurahua volcano had erupted. It has been rumbling away for a few years now, every so often sending plumes of flame and ash high into the air, causing roads to close because of lava flows and villages and towns to be evacuated. Web sites were advising us not to travel to Baños at the moment – but every Ecuadorian that we asked looked at us as if we were mad and raised their eyebrows. I guess they live with the threat of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis every single day and if they were to put their lives on hold with every tremble and puff of smoke they would never do anything, so off we went.
The bus wound its way around and down the side of the valley, crawling like a tiny and insignificant beetle against the side of the volcano and we were deposited unceremoniously in the drizzle at the terminal. Resembling a beetle myself with my large rucksack and smaller pack worn on my front we crossed the main plaza in search of our hostel.
The Santa Cruz Hostel is situated behind brightly painted walls very close to the town centre. The rooms were contained within two separate buildings which were separated by another small plot, but both had chimneys/open fires, self catering and kitchen areas and TVs. There were some little gardens with hammocks and security was very good with large metal gates. Myself and M were given a triple room – containing bunk beds and a wide single bed and although small small it was very clean. We were on the ground floor and outside on a little patio area there were deckchairs and our own hammock. A covered courtyard at the front contained plenty of tables, chairs and seats, a television and a computer and a large raised open fireplace, together with a good supply of logs. The receptionist Monica Flores was super friendly and the cleaning staff thoroughly cleaned all of the rooms including the windows when guests checked out.
The colourful Santa Cruz hostel
We had just got ourselves settled when a friendly face from Quito turned up and checked into the room next door. H had arrived, fresh from climbing up to the snow capped rim of the Cotopaxi volcano. We were to share a bathroom with him via a little interconnecting corridor, so leaving him to freshen up and sort himself out we set off to climb our own mountain.
one of the gardens at the Santa Cruz
I am not sure how far we clambered but it took us an hour. We made it up to the very top where a large illuminated cross stands and we were rewarded with a great view of the town just as dusk was falling and all the lights began to twinkle below. We then realised that we had to get back down the very muddy, slippery path and didn’t have much time as the twilight would rapidly be turning to dark. We got down in record time – in just twenty five minutes although we covered the last few hundred yards in the pitch black. To reward ourselves, me and M took ourselves off to the hot springs.
Banos at dusk
Fed by natural hot water which came from deep in the volcano we joined hordes of other people in the large pool. It was busy but very calm and relaxing as people were content to sit neck deep on the ledge around the sides, gossip with neighbours and generally absorb the atmosphere. The complex was situated at the bottom of a waterfall which crashed loudly down the sheer mountainside, and which was lit up with pretty coloured lights in the dark. Steam rose from the hot water into the cool night sky. The water was a dirty sandy colour but it had a very clean, metallic smell and it was as hot as a very hot bath. After a while we went to investigate the smaller pool. I dipped a toe in and I almost fainted. It was scalding. I managed to get in up to my thighs but I couldn’t manage anymore. We were quite the celebrities and the locals were all giving us advice and laughing at our discomfort. Against my better judgement I decided to trust them when they persuaded me to sit up to my neck in the cold tank. They promised that it would help but I remembered from my physics class that this would only accentuate the heat. After I had turned numb from the cold I got into the cooking pool… and…they were right. It worked. I got in and I managed to stay in for about seven minutes before feeling my internal organs giving up, so with some approving smiles, I scuttled out as fast as I could.
Feeling very relaxed and with skin baby smooth we went back to the Santa Cruz Backpacker Hostel where I sat by the crackling log fire and chatted to a couple from Toronto who were touring down through the Americas from Canada on their motorbikes. Adam and Jen had chosen the hostel to rest and recuperate and to do a little bit of work on their bikes which were locked securely in the courtyard. The best bit about travel for me is the people that I meet along the way and listening to their stories. Everybody has their dreams and their reasons for travel and they are all interesting.
The following morning M lost her tweezers. Hunting around the bedroom she swore that she had been holding them just a few minutes before. Giving up, she carried on getting ready to go out and then stopped. Laughing loudly she said, ‘Ooh, I think that I know where they might be. There is something hurting my foot inside my walking boot’. M had found her tweezers!!
Baños is jam packed with activities for adrenaline junkies and whilst I am definitely not the adventurous type we did want to do something whilst in the area. The volcano was off-limits due to its current volatile state so we went to check out what Geotours had to offer. Guests at the Santa Cruz Hostel could get ten percent off here – along with a free bike if they stay at the hostel for four days or more. We had met Geovanny Romo the man in charge of the tour company the previous night because he is also the manager of the Santa Cruz hostel. I will tell you in another entry if I did in fact do that bungee jump, go canyoning or anything equally dangerous.
Note:- Whilst I received complimentary accommodation at the Santa Cruz Backpacker hostal this did not influence my opinion or review in any way. I have portrayed an honest picture of my stay
I returned to Quito after my little foray to Latacunga and I was as pleased as punch to see some familiar faces at the Minka Hostal.
Pedro and Josh are both working as volunteers there and are two of the loveliest men that you could ever hope to meet, along with Sandra who is the lady who owns the hostel.
such a cool space
The Minka is situated just half a block away from the imposing stone grey Basillica in the old part of Quito and hides behind an unimposing green garage door. I can vouch for the fact that no matter what time you ring the bell you are NOT left standing in the street – and I have witnessed Josh or Pedro actually sprinting for the door. The street outside is very quiet at night with little traffic noise.
Once upstairs, you go into large, open airy white spaces, decorated with really cool artwork and with walls made up of collages of travel pictures. Sandra explained to me that the building was owned by her family and it was used as a warehouse and storage space until she invested in it and converted it into the hostel.
The dorms are airy and comfortable with the most massive lockers that I have yet come across and they have the most comfortable bunk beds too. I was in the ten-bed dorm but I had the best nights sleep ever. We had a tiny little en-suite bathroom – and a complete bonus for a hostel – the beds were made up for us everyday.
the light, bright comfortable dorm
A basic breakfast was also included in the very reasonable price up in the communal area on the top floor. This large open space contained a well equipped kitchen, beanbags and hammocks, a pool table a computer and access to a tiny little terrace.
I spent six nights here in total over two weekends and I just loved the chilled, laid back and very friendly atmosphere. Everybody worked together to create a homely feeling and socialised with the guests. I was to meet up again with two of the guests a few days later in Banos – H, the Australian with the impressive facial hair and L from the UK with her very funny paramedic stories, but all the guests that I met there were lovely.
the upstairs social area
On my second weekend in Quito I again met up with my Christmas and Carnival travel companion M as she had now left the NGO in Peru and we planned to travel together for a few weeks. We walked for what seemed like miles around Quito city centre as I tried to replicate some of the tour that my friends had given me the previous weekend and then later we caught a bus to the top of the hill above the city where there is a large glass exhibition centre set in some parkland. The late afternoon views as the sun dropped in the sky were amazing and we just sat quietly soaking up the views.
The following day we jumped on the Trole bus system and headed off for the Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the Earth).
its in the wrong place!
This site which is dominated by a large monument was built to represent the highest point where the equator line runs around the planet, but in fact the French placed it a few hundred metres off course. All the guide books said that it is a bit of a disappointment – and it was – but to be honest, I am glad that we went there first. After our rapid visit to some less than average exhibitions we walked a few hundred metres up the main road to the correct place where the contrast between the two sites was massive. The first place was tacky and had the most boring exhibitions I have ever seen. I didn’t pay the extra to go into the small museum on site and that may have been amazing although I doubt it, but the proper equator venue was really good. There were exhibitions and displays of traditional indigenous homes and also some real-life, very old shrunken heads. The tribes people in the area used a technique to shrink the heads of their victims from war or they preserved the heads of their important leaders which they would either wear as a lucky necklace or stick on the end of their spears.
the correct equator line
There were also some cool experiments on the equator line. We all know that water swirls down a plughole in the opposite direction depending on whether you are in the north or southern hemisphere, but did you know that it is almost impossible to balance on the actual line itself, and due to less gravity, you have less resistance to somebody pulling or pushing you around. Apparently you also weigh less too and this was a cue for most of us ladies to jump onto the line and pose.
After a tiring day out me and M made our way back to our respective hostels. The charming Pedro shared his home made soup with me whilst I had a bash at forcing everything back into my rucsack because me and M were once again moving on the following day.
Note:- Whilst I received complimentary accommodation at the Minka Hostal this did not influence my opinion or review in any way. I have portrayed an honest picture of my stay
I had met a Swiss girl whilst in my hostel in Mindo and we teamed up to go to Quito together. Martin (of the frog chorus) joined us on the bus trip back and after me and Kath had checked into our hostel (the Minka Hostel – more about this in the next post) Martin showed us around the night life sights of La Mariscal in the new town. This is an area of several streets based around a lively square, edged with restaurants and pubs and jam packed with people all out to have fun. It is knows as Gringo Corner or Backpackers Alley and is where many tourists and travellers gather both during the daytime and at night.
The following day was a Saturday and Kath was planning to visit the market town of Otovalo. I was originally going to give it a miss as it was physically impossible to put anything extra in my rucsac but I am so pleased that I changed my mind and I went along. Otovalo is said to have the biggest and best street market in Ecuador and it didn’t disappoint. It was enormous and the stalls spilled out of the main square and took over many of the surrounding streets. It was a riot of colour with stalls selling material and ceramics but the best bits for me were the different clothes worn by the local women who were sat behind the piles of merchandise.
Many of the women wore crisp white cottons shirts with fabulous embroidery around the top half. They had long skirts made of wool – in most cases these appeared to simply be a large length of woollen cloth which they had tucked into a waistband. And hats. There were all sorts of hats but the strangest headgear appeared to be a large amount of material which had been folded down into a large square and just popped on top of the owner’s head. The majority of the ladies wore their hair long but in a single plait or a pony tail and many had wrapped a length of elaborately embroidered material around and down the length. They also had wider embroidered strips which they wore as bright belts.
a stall holder poses for me
After trawling around the market we had a bit of a wander around the other streets and then we got the bus back. We were treated to the usual violent film on the bus, and after being escorted to the correct Trole bus across the terminal by our own personal armed guard we very quickly got ourselves lost when we disembarked. I don’t know what it is about Quito but for the life of me I cannot get my bearings and I have no idea where I am for most of the time.
everything is bright and beautiful
Quito stretches along a thin valley for some forty kilometres but it is only five kilometres wide. Add to this, the fact that it is built on hills and on the sides of volcanoes which slant away from the run of the grid structure, and it contains many old streets which do not conform to the grid structure which is trying to impose some order on the map and you have a recipe for losing your way.
The following day me and Kath met up with one of my Ecuadorian friends who lives in Quito and we were treated to the most amazing guided tour of the city. If you are going to see a city, then the best way is with a local. Tanya, Daniele and Lys tried to encourage me to climb the ladders up the turrets of the Basillica (do they think that I am completely mad??), but they did persuade us to clamber high up onto a ledge in front of a massive round stained glass window for a photograph.
We saw the old town on a Sunday morning when many of the streets are closed and are given over to the population who walk and ride their bicycles. We popped our noses into a few of the many churches and convents and wandered around a food market sampling many of the local flavours. And then we strolled down La Ronda – a series of narrow streets which used to house poets and writers and now house artisan products, workshops and traditional restaurants.
After a lunch, in my case a warming, filling local soup called locra, we got a cab up to the top of the smallish hill called Panecillo (because it is shaped like a little loaf of bread) and we climbed up inside the large statue of La Virgen de Panecillo which dominates the skyline. The statue is made up of thousands of squares and has been constructed like a three-D jigsaw. She faces the city with her back to the south and is believed to protect the city from the volcanoes in the region.
La Virgen de Panacillo
Me and Kath returned back to our hostel and both agreed that we had been very lucky and privileged to have such amazing tour and experience in Quito.
We parted company the following day when I set off for Latacunga on my own but I left my larger rucsack behind at the hostel, as I would be returning and hopefully meeting up with my Polish friend at the end of the week.
I am becoming unhealthily focused on what I can possibly leave out of my rucsack so that I am carrying less, but it seems that this is an affliction that strikes all backpackers at some stage. Paint on carnival clothes – a good excuse to throw them out. Thousands of mozzies – great – spray on the poison – it will reduce the weight. Toothpaste finished – this is a cause for celebration until I remember that I have to buy more and that loads the grams back on.
And yes, of course I bought something at Otovalo market!
Well, to begin with, I got lost! I went for a walk, took the wrong turning and then I ended up about a mile away from town up a dead end. But it was no big deal – after all, I was wandering around the countryside just a stone’s throw from the equator and surrounded by cloud forest, many of the four hundred species of birds that live here and drifts of butterflies.
such a cutie
I finally found the right road and I hiked up and up and up. After an hour and after having turned down offers of lifts from several passing trucks I decided to check the map. Hmm – why had I not spotted the note from the nice lady in the information office earlier? Nine kilometres! And it was all uphill. Eventually I staggered to the end of the road to find my worst nightmare. The entrance to the cascadas (waterfalls) was via a suspicious looking cage suspended across the valley, hanging above the canopy of the cloud forest on wires and pulleys and driven by a car engine in a hut. The most enticing attractive Ecuadorian man hopped in and out of the cage to prove it was
this woodpecker refused to turn around
safe and promised to hold my hand all the way over – and he almost had me sold – until I then realised that I would have to walk for a minimum of another two hours the other side to get to just one of the six waterfalls and back. After my hike up the mountain I truly had no energy left, having also forgotten bring my water bottle (I was not having a good day) so regretfully I declined (although secretly I was relieved not to be trusting myself to a cable hundreds of feet up in the air) and I began the much quicker yomp back down the mountain. I got blasé and tried to look up at a vulture while breaking into a jog and tripped over my walking boot. I KNEW I was having a bad day and sprawled out in the middle of the road I turned the air blue as I mopped the blood from my knees, checked out my torn trousers and swore at my damaged camera.
Arriving back in town, the power was out and it was to remain out for the rest of the day.
Searching out lunch I ended up on the wooden veranda of a coffee shop which was owned by a German family. I quickly switched tables when I realised that there were hummingbird feeders hanging at the open windows which were attracting birds by the dozen. I invited myself to sit with a man who was obviously making his onward travel plans (I recognise the signs well – guide book, note book with lists of names and countless crossing-outs and concentration) and a bit later we were joined by a couple of American travellers. The birds were fascinating; with some not much larger than a big bumble bee; and they darted around and then hovered to suck the sugar mixture out of the feeders just feet in front of us.
pausing for a drink
Some had iridescent blue and green plumage, others were black and white or had red tails, but all were amazing. The afternoon flew by as we chatted and swapped tales and wondered when the best time would be to venture out into the now pouring rain.
Later that evening, myself and Martin (the planning traveller), met up again as we had arranged and we trekked a little way out of town to the Mindo Lago.
dusk falls at Mindo Lago
This was billed as the ‘frog chorus’ and we arrived at the little complex just as dusk was falling. A small veranda overlooked a couple of plant filled ponds and thick shrubs and trees pressed down to the water’s edge. After a thimbleful of wine we were given an introductory talk whilst fireflies flashed in the bushes and the noise from countless frogs picked up in volume. We then all trekked in the dark down to a narrow path around the ponds and walked through the tiny forest area whilst our guides pointed out with their flashlights the various frogs, insects and a HUGE spider. We all gathered in the pitch black and discovered how a certain bacteria on some fallen logs actually glows in the dark and as we passed around a naturally occurring glow-stick I marvelled at how wonderful the natural world can be.
One of the highlights of my stay here was the (very) early bird watching walk. You can read a more detailed report by clicking here on the link – Bird watching in the cloud forest Suffice to say I was VERY excited to see toucans in the wild!
feeding from my hand
The following day I set off on a shorter hike to the Mariposario – the butterly farm. I was given an introduction and shown some caterpillars, chrysalises with their clever camouflage and then some butterflies which had emerged just an hour or so earlier. Some of the chrysalis resembled little globules of metal – these were the ones which would hang close to water – and I was then free to wander around inside the beautiful gardens. Butterflies fluttered silently around everywhere and it was even possible to feed some. They would cling onto your finger after being enticed there by some over-ripe banana.
They would settle everywhere, then flicker off or hang in droves from the wooden posts or flowers. The best but the most elusive to photograph were a dinner plate sized electric blue and these drifted around epitomising the very essence of the cloud forest. I then very happily hiked back to the town where the power was out yet again.
There was a lovely little coffee shop called La Reposteria around the corner from the Bio Hostal, so I tended to camp out there when the power went out. The Swiss owner Andrea visited Mindo few years ago and never left. The coffee was always lovely and the atmosphere very calm and tranquil, and the place glowed with candlelight.
It seems Mindo attracts people and then grabs them so that they don’t want to leave. It is a tiny little town but I also found another tiny little coffee shop which served the most delicious vegan and chocolate cake overlooking the river and owned by a French and Italian couple. Another delightful find was a little place called Mishqui Quinde – Sweet Hummingbird which served quinoa pudding with fruit and ice cream. Sat in the sun chatting to the owner, I was invited to climb the wooden log ladder and take a peek inside the tree house where he lives.
Mindo also serves up canopy zip-wire courses for adrenaline junkies and tubing – this is where you charge down the river sat in massive inner tubes, although I passed on both of these activities. When I arrived many of the cafes and restaurants were closed but they were busy preparing for the season and the whole town was receiving a lick of paint.
the veranda at La Casita del Arte y del Te
It is a friendly town and I could quite happily have stayed longer and tucked myself away in one of the lovely little cafes and spent my time reading and writing but the time came to move on and head for the manic city of Quito
You can’t help but to unwind on the journey to Mindo as the road slowly unravels across the mountains. Leaving the concrete and crowds of Quito behind, the surprisingly good road curls its way up and down for a couple of hours before it drops deep down into the small town. Soft, humped-topped mountains march alongside with every square centimetre rammed with spectacular trees and shrubs.
The tiny town of Mindo
Hotels and hostels for the most part are tucked tantalisingly away inside this greenery, built sympathetically with their surroundings, and most with a large amount of space between them and their neighbours. My hostel, the Bio Hostal, was located just one block back from the main square down an unpaved road. Walking down this road with my backpack I became aware of the peace and quiet of the place, with little traffic but resounding bird songs echoing around.
The Bio Hostal looked welcoming with its bright, airy dining area set out with colourful tablecloths and gigantic squooshy beanbags over in the corner.
Whilst Paul was checking me in, Maria, the most delightful eleven year old came over to practice her very good English with me and Marcela her mum, who was sweeping, beckoned me over to the back door and pointed out two green parrots that were playing around in the large tree outside in the garden.
My room was a good size and with two huge windows and it was nice and bright. It was basic but squeaky clean and it contained a double bed, a desk, a hand basin, a TV and some little wooden storage units. The bathroom was tidy with a three quarter-sized bath with a shower over it, decent towels and a basic toiletry pack. I also checked out the dorm which contained just five beds (two sets of bunks and a single) – these beds were much wider than your average bunk too and it was also very comfortable.
The Bio Hostal, Mindo. Everything is half built in Ecuador – don’t let this put you off
There was some discolouration on the ceiling and the walls of my room BUT it was clear from the slightly different colours of paint that a war was being raged against the damp which was attempting to sneak in. The amount of rain that falls every afternoon is quite something and whilst a lot of the buildings in the town could no doubt be made more modern, their rustic individualism only adds to the overall charm of Mindo.
There are plenty of little nooks and crannies for you to sit and relax in at the Bio Hostal, and with lots of magazines and books to read, hammocks hanging and places to sit overlooking the garden with its bird life, it is just a nice place to be.
somewhere to relax
Breakfast is included in the price and was ample. Fresh pineapple or melon juice, a plate of fresh fruits, scrambled egg, a tasty roll or toast and jams (or marmalade to use the Spanish) with coffee or tea – more than enough to set you up for the day hiking or visiting the many sites in this tiny town.
So, what did I get up to in the Cloud Forest?
Quite a lot actually and I shall cover the individual activities in another post, but the absolute highlight for me was an early morning bird watching walk.
Now. I like birds and I can identify quite a few, but I am no expert. I really really want to see a typical multi-coloured sat in a tree whilst in South America, but when I found out that Mindo had toucans I was very disappointed not to find a guided tour that I could afford.
And then I struck gold. A walk was going out the following day and from my hotel. The guide was none other than our hostel manager and he was already planning to take a small group of guests out and there was room for me an affordable price.
We struck gold
Rising early, Irman Arias (do check out his link. He is one talented man) served us all breakfast and then, just as the dawn was breaking at six am we set off. We trekked through the deserted town as the mist rose eerily up from the forest and the bird songs were shrill and clear. We walked for close on five hours and every so often Irman would stop and set up his tripod on the track and without fail, he would hone in on a bird or three. Through the telescope even the small brown birds became interesting and we all had been given binoculars to share around too. But then, all of a sudden – sat in clear view, though I doubt any of us would have spotted it without Irman was a dazzling yellow toucan. It posed for ages for us on its branch, and was soon followed further on in our walk by a small green one, the more traditional black and red one (as adopted by a brewery) and then playing for ages in the trees about our heads a trio of multi-coloured toucans.
An amazing bird
The toucans were the highlight for me but we also saw red, yellow, blue and white birds, humming birds and a swallow tailed kite. Irman walked along, gently calling and often being answered by various birds He knew all the names and exactly where to find most of them, having lived in Mindo all his life.
Irman Arias – the amazing bird guide
As well as the birds, Mindo can offer butterflies and frogs, good coffee shops, humming birds and orchids, tubing in the river and waterfalls, as well as zip lines through the canopies and miles and miles of spectacular walks or bike trails.
The best bits
- The relaxing atmosphere created by Irman, his wife Marcela and their adorable children
- My bird watching walk
- The location – very close to the main street but far enough away to be so very peaceful
- The oh-so-comfortable bed
Would I recommend Mindo and the BioCloud hostel?
Yes – without a shadow of a doubt.
Note:- Whilst I received complimentary accommodation at the Bio hostal this did not influence my opinion or review in any way. I have portrayed an honest picture of my stay