Thursday, March 26, 2015

Welcome to Mindo – Sorry We Are Closed

Here is another cultural experience or another fine mess we got ourselves into. At the Quito bus station, standing at the window for Mindo tickets, we requested two for the 4pm bus. There was a young man talking to the ticket seller, obviously a friend, not another customer. He tells me in Spanish, there is a 3pm bus going our way if we are interested. It took two times telling me before I grasped what he said. Looking at the bus nearby, it seemed reasonable, saved us an hour, so we agreed.

Instead of putting our luggage under the bus in the storage bin, he placed them behind the driver in a very insecure space. All of the front rows were already filled, but we did manage to find seating with a luggage view. For most of the ride, the luggage stayed in place like well-trained dogs. When we hit the dirt roads though, they started to bounce around, but the driver’s assistant paid them no mind. 

After three hours, the bus stops and the driver yells “Mindo”. A dozen people leave the bus, but we are sitting there still with our mouths gaping open. This is a hillside highway with absolutely nothing in site. This cannot be Mindo. An older Ecuadorian woman catches our reactions so asks if we wanted Mindo? When we said yes, she explained another ‘bus’ would be by to bring us the rest of the way. It will cost us 50 cents each. Without hesitation, we followed her guidance. 

Suddenly, everyone was running across the highway like illegals running from immigration officials. We ran too with suitcase and backpacks, even if the reason eluded us. A van pulled up and the woman climb in. It looked doubtful there was room for us, but there was. Ten minutes later, we entered what looked like a war zone.

The plan was to meet the landlord of our rental at The Chef restaurant. He was expecting us an hour later, so we had dinner while we waited. I went to the bathroom, but no water anywhere. Foretelling of things to come? Dinner was generous portions and very cheap indeed. We were not sure, why the roads looked the way they did, but what roads were not in upheaval, were just dirt and mud.

Olaf, a German from Hanover, who has lived here a couple of decades, arrived to drive us to the cabin in the trees. If you have watched the video, you know it is wonderful. If you haven’t yet, you are left to your imagination. 

Mindo rests within the western slopes of the “Andes, where two of the most biologically diverse ecoregions in the world meet: the Chocoan lowlands and the Tropical Andes. In this transitional area — which covers an area of 268 square kilometers (103 sq mi) and ranges from 960–3,440 metres (3,150–11,290 ft) above sea level — three rivers (Mindo, Saloya and Cinto) and hundreds of streams irrigate the landscape, which consists of a patchwork of cloud forests, secondary forests, agricultural land, and human settlements.” Source

What fascinates me is this area receives more tourists than any other place in Ecuador with 200,000 visitors a year. Those adventure seekers are going horseback riding, rafting,
tubing, trekking, canyoning, mountain biking, birdwatching and herping (looking for snakes, reptiles and amphibians. From this list, we can omit all, but birdwatching and that is from the balcony. 

Later, we learned that the road construction necessitated the water to be shut off for all of the businesses on the one main street as well as those smaller establishments on the side streets. Those entrepreneurs with insight were using bottled water for maintaining the business. From what we were told, it had been off for days with no end in sight. We had running water throughout the cabin.

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