A second visit to Quito isn’t entirely necessary. None of the blogs or guide books suggest a second trip, but an arepa cut our stay short last time and we wanted to visit Mindo, so it made perfect sense to us.
Mindo is almost certainly reachable directly from the coast but we couldn’t be arsed with the bus changes, so we chose this convoluted route. We did a bus from the coast to Manta, stayed overnight, and then got the bus to Quito.
The bus from Manta to Quito was the best yet
You can watch pretty much any film you like as long as it’s in Spanish.
Oh and I bought some biscuits from a chap selling biscuits, which made a nice change from usual bus snacks.
Last time in Quito we stayed a little outside the historic quarter, most South American cities seem to have one. Essentially it’s an area where some of the Spanish buildings have been somewhat maintained, with museums and other tourists attractions. Also a great place for petty thieves and homeless people to hang out.
This time we opted to stay in a trendy modern neighborhood called La Floresta. We didn’t do tons to be honest. We ate food from some trendy food spots
Admittedly this is just a burrito, and not that trendy, but I love burritos and apparently so does Emma now… My new favourite thing about her.
We also went to see a film in a nice little cinema. “La Favorita”, which translates to “The Favourite” (you’re welcome), was in English with Spanish subtitles, and was very enjoyable. 7/10 for the cinema, they had wine. 8/10 for the film; dark, very funny.
We went for an obligatory trip to the botanical gardens
I liked the Bonsai trees (and anarchy). Em liked other stuff too
Emma: It definitely wasn’t the best botanical gardens I’ve visited but was still very pleasant.
It was a little on the small side for my liking but they had made quite a good use of the space. I really enjoyed the orchid exhibition, there were so many different types and colours.
There was a huge rose garden, roses are a big deal in Ecuador. They are one of the countries biggest exports, you can pick them up dirt cheap here. The climate is ideal for growing banging roses apparently.
There was a nice variety of cacti in the desert garden, including this fine specimen
And the Japanese garden was muy tranquilo
Overall I’d give it a 6.5/10, a pleasant way to spend a few hours.
Excitingly, this was carnival weekend. We know that because we saw a parade as we left Puerto López, and subsequently looked it up. The internet didn’t offer much in the way of event information and nobody was ever around at the place we were staying to ask, so we went to the park to take a look. From what we can tell Quito wasn’t going crazy for carnival, but there may have been tons of big events we weren’t aware of.
After a bit of googling it looks like people used to take things a little too far so they toned down celebrations in the major cities. That said, there was a bit going on in the park.
Carnival is the weekend before Pancake Day but rather than make delicious flour and egg treats to mark the beginning of Lent, certain cultures just throw the ingredients at each other! I believe over time, and government intervention, egg throwing has been phased out in favour of foam and water. You can buy a can of spray foam from pretty much anywhere and, in certain parts of town, spray it at anyone. On the whole everyone, including the young scallys, were very respectful and didn’t really ambush anybody who wasn’t onboard.
Anyway, we had our bags and stuff so didn’t get too involved in the festivities in Quito.
Next stop Mindo. Mindo is in a cloud forest and is the main reason we looped back around the country. It’s possible to visit as a day trip from Quito but I would definitely recommend a few nights because there is plenty to do. We stayed here
Which was very cool. I just love how different and brilliant pretty much everywhere we’ve stayed has been.
We got off the bus and wondered through the town. As we were trying to find the hostel we saw plenty of carnival revelers throwing foam and water over anybody they could find. We did our best to avoid being hit while we had our big bags on but early evening we went out to investigate… Mindo care about carnival!
On the way to dinner a guy spraying the pavement with water (dunno why) thought it was hilarious to set the hose on me from the other side of the street, which set the tone perfectly.
After a wet dinner we bought a can of foam and went to join the celebrations…
Em convinced a small girl to slap blue paint on my face while I was looking the other way (to be fair she didn’t take much convincing!). Shortly after blue-ing my face the young girl quickly turned on Em, teaching Emma an important lesson in trust…
We danced in the foam cannon…
And hung around with a crew of locals while we all poured bottles of water over each others heads for a few hours. I’m sure there were bigger and better celebrations in Ecuador, but it was a crazy fun night!
No time for hangovers, zip lining the next day
Which was great! 10 lines, amazing views and bonus toucans!… We’ll try and take a photo next time!
Just time for the best falafel I’ve ever eaten (outside of Finland)
and off to visit the waterfalls
This was a nice little walk with six different waterfalls flowing from the same river
Swimming was technically an option so we came prepared
But it was cold as balls, so knee deep would have to do.
Day 2 (3? Not sure if you count the arrival day), determined to milk Mindo for all it had we took a cab to the butterfly…
On the walk back we made an unscheduled stop at Minjoy (guess anyone can make shit puns…) to check out the cable car up the mountain. There wasn’t much more to it, it was a cable car up a mountain
but it was suitably scary
and offered great views of the surrounding area
Oh and Em spotted another tucán!
Safely back on solid ground we got a wiggle on and made our way back to town so we could get there before the orchid garden closed!
We made it… It was a garden attached to a hostel but the owners obviously really cared about what they were doing and a lot of work had gone into getting so many different types of orchid in one place. We got a guided tour from the lady who had a magnifying glass to help us see the little ones. It was actually pretty nice…And Em obviously had a lovely time
She took so many photos of plants (bless her) the she had to plug her phone in to a battery pack in the bag, like some kind of rubbish Ghostbuster!
After the excitement of plants we shot over to the chocolate shop to catch the last tour of the day.
It wasn’t actually the last tour of the day, turns out 10-6 means that there is a tour starting at 6 so you don’t have to rush to get the 5 o’clock one. Makes sense…
We learnt about the process
And Em smelt lemongrass and stuff…
But we were there for one thing…
At the end of the tour we were given a platter of chocolate with different percentages of cocao and sugar, as well as some small pots of honey, sugar, salt, cocao vinaigrette, cocao BBQ sauce stuff and were guided through some “experiments” to see what affect each thing had on the taste.
Finally the guide left us all for five minutes so we ate as many of those little chocolate buttons as we could physically fit inside us, and went on our way.
Couple of hours to get dinner and then we were off to the night tour. It’s not something either of us were that bothered about but it turned out to be a bit of a highlight. We got a jeep back out to the countryside (most of the activities we’ve done over the last few days are all in the same area pretty much) and met up with a lovely, nerdy, Canadian man who is big in to nature and loves insects and things. He runs a little part of the forest and takes people to have a look around after dark. He pointed out loads of cool little bugs, and this cool huge bug
and a spider on a window
Next morning we just had time for this champion breakfast at a chocolate farm (which came with a pot of chocolate)
and we boarded the bus back to Quito, waving goodbye to a man who, a few days previous, we spent much of the night throwing water over.
The bus was fine, we admired the scenery, passed the equator monument
And used the time to catch up on our Spanish audiobook