I think the only thing harder than discussing politics in spanish with my Ecuadorian aunt between mouthfuls of rice, is finding the time to document all of my adventures here. This update is coming at you on my 50th day in this beautiful country, and although it still feels like my plane landed in Quito a week ago, the amount of life we’ve packed into the past 50 days feels surreal. Here’s a quick recap of the first of my weekend adventures abroad. Enjoy!
This adventure began with a sunrise, a cup of hot chocolate, and the realization that the bus station I needed to be at in 30 minutes was a 45 minute drive away. Thankfully, Ecuadorian taxi drivers are by far the bravest and most insane people in the Southern Hemisphere, and I jumped on the bus to Mindo about 30 seconds before it pulled out of the station.
The three-hour bus drive carved through the Andes mountains, carrying us across a neverending landscape of tropical trees and massive waterfalls. I remember thinking it felt wasteful to blink, that no matter how intensely I stared out the window, I would never be able to fully take in the world around me.
We have all heard the cliche that life is about the journey, not the destination. I’m convinced the first time those words came out of someone’s mouth, it was as they stepped off of a bus that had taken them from Quito to Mindo.
After arriving in the small village of Mindo, Ecuador, a group of six strangers from all corners of the United States wandered into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and became friends over a $3 plate of rice, chicken, soup, and freshly squeezed pineapple juice. We dropped our stuff in the world’s most peaceful hostel, covered ourselves in bug spray, and jumped in the back of a pickup truck that drove us up a dirt road into the forest.
Twenty minutes later, we were flying over the tops of the trees in a bright yellow canopy-car, kissing the clouds. After crossing the forest, we embarked on a three-hour hike through the forest. I say three hour, because nowhere is the actual distance posted, and none of the employees could understand why we would want the actual distance, when there was a hand painted “map” of the hike on the side of the bathroom at the trailhead.
We jumped across mud puddles and waded across rivers on our waterfall hunt, taking in a grand total of five falls. When we arrived at the final fall, Cascada de los Maderos, we all peeled off our clothes and spent an hour exploring the area from the water. In all our excitement, we left our clothes laying out on the rocks, and by the time we decided to head back, they were soaked from the rainfall we hadn’t noticed. As I’ve quickly learned, the rain always wins. (Perhaps the person that talked about the value of learning to dance in the rain thought of those words after doing this waterfall hike…)
Our hostel, Casa de Cecilia, will go down as one of my favorite places in the world. Although it’s just a short walk from the town, the hostel felt like I had wandered into a wood-fairy’s sanctuary. We spent the evening rocking in hammocks on the deck, reading, talking to strangers, and playing cards by the river. After a dinner of woodfire pizza and Pilsners (here, cerveza does not mean beer, it means Pilsner, the locally brewed pale lager and the only beer I have seen in this country), we followed the sound of reggaeton music to the town’s one gymnasium and were invited to partake in the community’s Zumba night. We danced our hearts out for two hours with the people of Mindo (and embarrassed the entire Gringo population with our atrocious dance moves and lack of coordination). We slept soundly, exhausted after a day of hiking, dancing, and swimming, under our colorful mosquito nets.
Day two in Mindo was filled with even more adventure. After fueling ourselves with an organic breakfast made by the hostel’s kitchen, we jumped into the bed of another truck, this time to experience waterfalls from a different perspective. After following our guide through a different part of the never-ending forest, and miraculously crossing a tightrope bridge over the rushing river, we ended up at the top of a waterfall. We strapped on helmets and stepped into our harnesses, and then rappelled ourselves down the falls, becoming one with the water. I think I could spend the rest of my life pretending to be a drop of water, rappelling down the wet rocks, and never need anything more. We rappelled down three waterfalls total, and then followed the streams back to the truck. We had a feast of chocolate from our guide’s pocket and apples that I found at the bottom of my backpack.
Once we were dropped off in the heart of the little village, we realized we had such a great problem on our hands. We had fallen in love with Mindo, and we were in no way ready to board the bus back to Quito in a few hours. So, we talked to our hostel’s owner, booked another night in the fairy sanctuary, and sent our host families messages in broken Spanish explaining that we’d be home a day later than expected.
Staying that extra day was the best decision of the trip. Day three in Mindo was dedicated to kissing more clouds, only this time without the safety of the bright yellow cable car. My new friend Elisha and I went on a ten-cable zipline adventure. We flew across the tops of the trees together, alone, rightside up and upside down - all without signing a single waiver.
We caught the last bus back to Quito on Sunday night, but I’m certain that a huge part of me missed that bus, and is still chasing waterfalls in Mindo.
This was the first weekend here in Ecuador, and I was sure it was going to be the best weekend of the entire trip - day-10 Lucy was confident nothing could ever top that adventure. Now, day-50 Lucy is amazed to share that every weekend since that adventure has been the best weekend of my life, and I can’t wait to share these adventures with you all.
Thanks for reading.