The Cloud Forest

I took so many photos of Mindo (The Cloud Forest), but when I opened up each one I was  so disappointed by the results. The iPhone wasn’t capturing the feel or depth of Mindo. Every photo looked flat when the entire place encompassed us in beauty. So I can give you the pictures, but I only wish Grant had his camera with him. It was a small magical town that I can’t wait to revisit.

This was during the time my sisters were visiting. My parents had given Liz some money to take me out for my birthday, at the time I said, “let’s goes to Mindo!” I’m pregnant and can’t really “go out” for a fun night. So the thought was, let’s take that money and stay overnight. Fast forward a bit, we found out we lost the baby,  and then a couple of days later we traveled to Mindo. I’m glad we had arranged to do so because it was exactly what we all needed.

We boarded our buses for $3.10/ticket. Ecuador has such varied terrain and within just this short trip we were transported to totally different land.

After about two hours, we rode into Mindo which had one short main road.  So true to what we saw, it had a very small town feel to it. In Quito, everything is so different, you look around and see mountain peaks everywhere, here you feel swallowed up in greenery.

When we first arrived, we hopped off the bus and made a short walk to our destination, the Dragonfly Inn. Immediately we were struck by its charm, a wooden structure which sat next to a large stream? small river? babbling brook? However you choose to describe the water that tranquilly flowed next to it, it was lovely all the same. There were banana trees hanging over the water and it almost immediately put you into a meditative state.

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We were shown our rooms by a very nice Ecuadorian man. I asked him if this was his place, he just responded “No, Gringo Alto” …”Ok..?” I was a bit confused by his response until I saw what/who he was talking about. We came downstairs and were greeted by (who was indeed) a very tall white man, hence “gringo alto”. I would say Ingo was probably about 6’7 or so, he made Grant who is over 6 feet tall look shrunken. Ecuadorians are not tall people, so this giant of a man in a small Ecuadorian town can’t be missed. Anyway, enough about the shapes and sizes of people, Ingo introduced himself and welcomed us to his Inn.

After getting a bite to eat we walked next door to sign up for the one thing the kids begged us to do, ZIPLINE! Our driver rolled in with a pickup truck. Grant and all the kids piled in the back and I think the kids enjoyed the ride to and from our destination almost as much as ziplining. Henry and I stayed behind and watched all of them nervously board their ropes and quickly descend into  the jungle. Once in a while I could hear an excited “Wooooo!!!” off in the distance.

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They are ready to go zip lining

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Ingrid flying into the vast forests

After that adventure traveled a short scenic ride to town and decided to do a highly recommended chocolate tour at El Quetzal. We walked over, because everything is within walking distance here. We met our tour guide who was a very nice Portuguese man and were shown, start to finish, how chocolate is made there. We were able to taste the raw cocoa beans, see the trees that they grow on etc. At the end of the tour…I can’t even describe to you the amazing brownie we consumed… (Grant, Sarah, Liz, and I all went back for brownies the next day…and chocolate martinis.)

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El Quetzal

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That night Liz and I walked to a little pizza place and ordered some pizzas for dinner which we brought back to the hotel. We all cozied up in her room eating, drinking beers or soda,  and taking in the day we had just spent in this beautiful place.

We went to bed listening to the babbling sounds of the stream. As soon as the sun rose the next day, the town started to bustle. We all went downstairs and had a breakfast (included with the rooms) of egg wraps, fruit, coffee/hot chocolate (both amazing) and fresh squeezed juice. We decided to stay another night because we didn’t want it to end (thank you Sarah!). The owner Ingo (a German living in Ecuador)saw us eating, came in, sat down and started talking with us. He was so open and friendly, we chatted it up for a while before we decided to head out to see the waterfalls. Like the owner Ingo said  “It isn’t Niagara”, which of course I didn’t expect. Seeing the falls required a tram ride, which was very high above the ground, serene, scary, and of course amazing. The falls were beautiful with lovely little pools you could swim in.  The first fall we hiked to my niece Ingrid tried to convince us to let her cliff jump into the pool but was sadly denied (sorry Ingrid!). All in all the hike was exhausting but well worth it.

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the hike

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family photo!

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(What was really nice about Mindo was, even though it attracted tourists, it wasn’t touristy.  It was such a natural setting and all of the Inns around were meant to highlight that.)

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My sister Sarah and I returning to El Quetzal for brownies and martins!

Later on that night us adults decided to hang out at the Inn and have some cervezas to cap off our day. After showering we made our way downstairs to join my sisters at a table that overlooked the street. Ingo, the owner, had already joined them before Grant and I got there. We all drank his home brewed beers, and yes, they were delicioso. That was just the start. So besides all of us hanging out and talking, Ingo gives Grant a couple of dollars and sends him across the street to the bakery to get some fresh bread. Ingo then goes back to the kitchen and returns with a big cutting board garnished with several different cured meats, cheese and olives, all food he brought back from Spain. The olives were amazing, the cheese and meat? How can I described it?…it was all just so so so so good. Along with the fresh bread and beer, it was in my mind, my perfect meal.  He shared all of this with us, and believe me, we consumed it, and there was so much to be consumed. I am forever grateful for that experience, it was perfect. So thank you Ingo for being such a wonderful host!

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yum yum yum, photo def doesn’t do it justice

Great food, drinks and company made the entire trip to Mindo even more meaningful. You can’t underestimate the power of these sensual experiences.

The next morning we had breakfast of yet again great coffee/hot cocoa/fresh squeezed juice and french toast with fresh fruit. Ingo chatted it up with the kids this time and then told them the best way to keep kids quiet is candy because they are too busy eating to talk lol. So he took Lola and Naomi across the street and bought them some candy. Then we all got ready, packed up, bought some honey that he and his wife harvest from their own hives (the honey is also incredible btw). We walked to the end of the street and after a short wait, boarded our bus and traveled back to Quito.

I am so happy that I was able to experience this with not only my own family but my sisters/niece/nephew. We were able to have other wonderful times together, but this was a great departure from the rest of it.

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view from our room

I think it is always a bit difficult to try and transport the reader to a place you can’t even quite describe to yourself. All of these experiences, the unusual like Mindo, to the more usual, in our case, Quito, have given us the opportunity to appreciate this world even more. We love meeting people, gaining from their knowledge/perspective and broadening our understanding of life.

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