“It’s A World Premier Birding Site” She Says, Again…

Duelling Humming Birds @ El Edén, Mindo

Flutter Bye @ Santuario de Cascades, Mindo

After three long buses, we pulled into the tiny town of Mindo. We jumped off the bus early as we passed by our hostel. We were shown to our room and offered homemade chocolate truffles, at a cost of course but it was worth it! They turned out to be quite addictive as I proceeded to drop my coins in the box and munch truffles for the next few days whenever I passed the bowl. The hostel was clean and basic with a lovely loft/balcony area with couches and hammocks spread around for the guests to hang out and hummingbird feeders at every window.

We headed down the main (and only) street to check out some tours and bird guides. We were directed to the end of the street to the best local coffee in town, and we were not disappointed.

Two of the most biologically diverse regions in the country meet here in the Mindo Valley, creating a perfect environment for birding, agriculture, cacoa and coffee growing. So we of course had to try the chocolate cakes that were on offer with our coffee. Among birding and waterfalls, Mindo is frequented by travelsers seeking a thrill in white water rafting, tubing, mounting biking and canyoning. It has become one of Ecuador’s most touristy areas, and was recently name Ruta De Cacao by Ecuador’s Tourism board.

Masked Trogon @ Mindo

That night we decided to make use of the big kitchen and cook up some pasta.we should have known it was too good to be true to have the kitchen to ourselves, as within ten minutes we were swamped with 10-15 french tourists who had no spacial awareness. With our things laid out on the table in front of the two places we would take up to eat and prepare, we were invaded unapologetically and forced to all but clear out. As we were finishing up cooking on one of the two hobs allocated to guests, the family who lived at the hostel came out to cook dinner. There would have been around 30 people in one small kitchen , it was a nightmare. Then the family set the only table and took every seat for themselves. Luckily there were hammocks and couches upstairs.

The next morning we hit the bricks and headed towards the Santuario de Cascades, which I thought I had seen a sign for the previous day and was sure it was 500 metres out of town. So we took off on foot. About 2 KMs in we realised that it was an agency that was 500 meters, and we were on a very long hike, about 8 KMs or more to go, uphill. We were offered a few taxis but as the only ATM in the town wasn’t working, we were worried about not having enough cash to get us through the day. Eventually we had walked far enough to get cheaper taxi to the park entrance, already a bit exhausted.

We arrived at the Tarabita, a tiny rickety cable car that took you across a canyon dense in rainforest, to the other side where the trails to seven waterfalls started. The next couple of hours we walked through the virgin rainforests exploring all the waterfalls, all ranging in different sizes and each with its own beauty. By the end of the 7th waterfall though I thought I had probably seen enough waterfalls for a lifetime on this trip. There is only so much appreciation I can muster up for water pouring out of a cliff and being told that “this one is the most blah blah in the whole country”.

Jess Being Super Brave @ Santuario de Cascades, Mindo

We headed back across the rickety cable car (thank god the ticket included a return journey as we didn’t have enough cash to pay for another ticket back) and walked a couple of KMs down to a cafe called El Edén where Alice was desperate to go to. This little cafe was built on top of a hill, surround by rainforest and the owners had created a hive for all the different types of birds in the area. There was a viewing platform where you could drink your drinks while being surround by the wildlife coming to visit the trees and feeders the owners had set up. Alice was delighted. Hundreds of hummingbirds flew around our heads drinking from sugar water feeders that were spread around, and larger birds like toucans, aracaries, motmots, golden tanagers and others hung out in the trees around us.

We managed enough change for a coffee each, and some plátano chips before catching a cab back into town, where luckily the ATM was back up and functioning.

Collared Acari @ El Edén, Mindo

Hover @ El Edén, Mindo

We booked in a bird watching tour for the next morning (as if El Edén wasn’t enough) and headed back to the hostel to begin the evening dual against socially inept french and the hostel family, in the battle for a hot plate. As I was cooking, one of the kids from the hostel family came out and took alot of interest in Alice and the iPad, well, the iPad. Then once he had found the go pro he took off with it around the house. We now have a whole bunch of photos of the inside of this kids nose and mouth, some floor and door frame shots and one very close up of the dogs eye.

That night we hung out with a hummingbird on the rooftop while eating our dinner and watching the sunset over the rainforest. We didn’t have much that we could complain about, except that our go pro was now covered in kid germs and snot.

Humming Bird Bullets @ El Edén, Mindo

Jess and Pooch @ Mindo

The next morning we were picked up and driven just out of town. The next three or so hours we would drive, get out and view different types of birds, get back in the car, drive a little more, find more birds and repeat. It was my type of birding, not only for the lack of hiking, but most of the birds where big and colourful, not the small brown birds that come in 60,000 species . We saw a flock of toucans in a far away tree, some toucans up close, motmots, aracaries, lots of tanagers and a masked trogon that Alice chases for ages!

Back at the hostel, we packed up and got ready for the day of travel ahead the next day. We headed back to Quito on the first bus where we met the Canon man who had repaired Alice’s lens. It was a Saturday so his store wasn’t open, but kindly offered to not only deliver the lens to us, but to take us to another bus station where we had to get a bus to the other side of the city in order to get a bus to our next destination. He was extremely helpful and we couldn’t thank him enough for saving us either a taxi fare or another long bus journey.

The bus to the opposite side of the city took over an hour, I swear Quito has at least ten big bus terminals. From there we jumped on the next bus to Latacunga where we would start our hike through the Quilotoa loop. It was a very big day of buses, but we were off, we (I) had had our bird fix, now time for some scenery!

Blur @ El Edén, Mindo

Angry Birds @ El Edén, Mindo

Butterfly Gathering @ Santuario de Cascades, Mindo

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