As they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. The people of Ecuador don’t need to worry…their first impression is amazing. We arrived in Quito after a short stopover in San Salvador. It was midnight when the plane arrived but our taxi was waiting for us. Due to a slight communication problem, the taxi driver was only expecting 2 people instead of 4 and had a fairly small car. Not to worry….he was able to jam most of our luggage into the trunk and the rest we put on our laps.
We stayed in Quito for the first two nights at Casa Montero which was recommended by our friend Alison. What a lovely hotel. It is a UNESCO heritage site due to the fact that it was the first International Hotel in Quito. It is located in ‘old town’ Quito. We got lucky to discover on our second morning that a festival of sorts was happening in the town square right outside our hotel with a variety of traditional dancers performing.
We decided to take an organized tour around Quito on a ‘hop on – hop off’ open air two decker bus. It was a great way to explore Ecuador’s capital city. Quito has a lot of historic sites and very old churches from the days of the Spanish colonization. Here are just a few of the places we explored.
On Friday we hired a driver to take us to Mindo – our rented home for the next month. Although most people we’ve met don’t speak English, Marilyn has been able to converse quite well in Spanish. Our driver, however, was a young man named Christian who studied in the US, so we learned a lot about area from him.
We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived at our house in Mindo but we were all excited to see what a great home it was. It is located right in the middle of the town and close to all the shops. We’ve been out exploring and getting to know some of the shopkeepers.
Mindo is small town (about 3000 people) located in the ‘cloud forest’ about 2 hours west of Quito. A lot of tourists come to Mindo because it is in the rain forest and has a lot of activities including, hiking, bird watching, zip lining, tubing, waterfalls, chocolate production, etc. On our first full day in Mindo, we took a chocolate tour and learned how chocolate is made. It is an interesting process starting with the fruit from the cacao tree.
After seeing all the stages involved in making chocolate, we sat down to a taste testing of chocolate in various stages of the process. We joined Alison’s tour group for dinner and were invited to come along for the making of empanadas (a cheese filled pastery deep fried in oil)….very yummy.
Here are some pics from around Mindo
Today (Sunday Feb 5) we got up early and took a taxi to the Santuario de Cascadas. This is a network of waterfalls joined by hiking trails. It was a fairly arduous trek through the rain forest but quite enjoyable and refreshing in the cool waters of the stream coming down from the mountain. To get to the trails we took a ‘rail car’ high above the rain forest.
As mentioned, Mindo is quite renowned for it’s many species of tropical birds. We have booked a guide to take us birding on Wednesday from 5am until 10am. We are also planning to take a trip to the Amazon jungle later in our stay. I’ll post more about our adventures in Ecuador next Sunday or Monday. Stay tuned.