Our stop in Quito was just an overnight as we head out again to visit more of Ecuador, a country that we are really beginning to love. Our destination this time is a town called Mindo. Bus times are rubbish on a Sunday and we also want to stop and visit a few places on the way so we take an option of a private car and realise that we will probably never truly embrace the ‘traveller’ lifestyle.
Franklin collects us at 8:00 and we head North, leaving the Southern Hemisphere for what we thought was the first time on our trip before realising that that occurred a few days earlier when we visited Otavalo.
Anyway partly because we didn’t realise and also because there is no “thing” made of it we aren’t counting it and instead this morning we stop at Mitad del Mundo aka The middle of the world.
Ecuador has made a monument to celebrate the fact that the equator runs through it (it doesn’t actually make land that often really) and a park that you pay $3 to enter. There is a painted yellow line on the floor – cue lots of cheesy tourist shots of people either side of the line (of course we did!).
There are a few shops, cafés and exhibitions,including a scale model of the historic city of Quito. We have a quick look (and as always with model villages I cannot stop thinking about the Hot Fuzz finale) and we notice that the convent we visited has basketball courts. I now have amusing images in my mind of Nuns playing basketball against Monks.
Strolling back to car and we see a small sign saying Latitude 0,0,00 GPS. Apparently they built the monument and park and then later discovered that GPS technology puts the actual equator 300m to he North (Doh!).
Back in the car and another brief stop at a mirador Pululahua (a recommendation by our Quito hotel owner), which is a volcanic crater that last erupted a 1000 years ago and now is home to a lush green valley with spectacular steep sides and has clouds rolling in.
An hour an a half over windy roads surrounded by lush steep green hillsides we arrive at Mindo. Famous for it’s cloud forest, which apparently is the most bio diverse place on the planet
Our lodgings are slightly unusual and have a little French inspiration with Petanque courts. The room is in fact a wooden caravan, complete with wood burning stove, double bunk beds(?), and a private bathroom. The owners are wonderfully friendly and helpful, and we enjoy a lovely lunch and plan our time in Mindo before heading out for a walk in the rain (a regular occurrence in a cloud forest I suppose).
The walk aimed to get us to see some of the waterfalls, and whilst in didn’t succeed in its original aim, it did provide plenty of entertainment and challenge. We get the first of many ‘lifts’ in Mindo when a passing pickup truck offers to help us up the hill if we jump in the back – travelling up a bumpy road in the back of a pickup in the rain is certainly memorable (if not comfortable). We then reach a river with a self propelled cable car across. I say cable car, its more a wooden crate to be honest, but it safely gets us across the river to the footpath signed ‘cascadas’ (Spanish for waterfall).
Challenging is an apt description for the trail that we spend the next hour literally climbing at times (it has ropes and ladders) and just when we thought we were at the end and would see a waterfall, the signs stop and we reach a road. We find a local man to ask who tells us that we have to get to another cable car to get to the waterfalls but it closes soon – so we run down the hill in the rain to sadly reach the cable car as its about to close. Another lift in the back of a pickup truck takes us back down to a point we can walk back to our accommodation.
Determined to see a waterfall today, we ask the owners for the route to a small one nearby. Whilst not as difficult as the last walk, its still far from a traditional UK footpath, but eventually we find a lovely, if small waterfall. I think the shock is too much for Niki who immediately falls down on her bum (a slip of the wet rocks), but thankfully nothing is broken and we head back for tea and a few drinks before an early night.