Mindo, Ecuador is a sleepy town 2 hours north of northern Quito. It is slightly off the beaten path for international travelers, but well worth a visit. This is a small sampling of what you can do in Mindo….
Being a human butterfly feeder
The butterfly on my hand tickles slightly as it nibbles on the mushy plantain I had smeared on my finger. The big brown moths with owl’s eye camoflouge are the gluttons glued constantly to the plantain feeders – piles of mushed fruit scattered around the Mindo Mariposario (Butterfly Garden). Simply holding out a finger and gently lifting the moth up makes it substitute your plantain covered finger for the stationary pile of plantain mush. The delicate black and orange butterflies are shyer by far. The skittered off when I approached, perhaps scared or just not hungry. Until finally I approached slowwwwwwly, almost motionless to bring my finger close. It hesitated and then climbed aboard.
Ziplining and an “extreme” swing
The ziplining tour included 10 different zip lines; traversing them all took an hour including short mini hikes between the zip line towers. Soaring through the trees and feeling the wind in free-hang is exhilarating. Even better is hanging in the “Mariposa” position and experiencing the ride upside down. I felt perfectly safe- the harness and zipline actually have two wires, in case one…..well you know! An optional add-on is the “Extreme Swing”, somewhere between a swing and bungee jumping. You climb up a tall platform, maybe 50 feet or so, harness on, you lean over the edge…more, more, more, and suddenly your guide lets go and you are falling straight belly-first toward the ground. The cables come into play and redirect your momentum into a wide arc, almost to 90 degrees, and then back. This is when you realize you didn’t die, and your stomach unglues itself from your throat. The extreme swing is definitely not for the queasy.
Use your Ecuador residency for discounts
I returned to the tourist agency, where they grumbled, then refunded me part if my ticket price. I found out when I got to the canopy ziplining that they had charged me the foreigner price ($20) instead of the nationals and residents price ($14). I actually needed the $6 to eat because I has bought my tour, then made a trip to the ATM only to discover it only worked with national Ecuadorean accounts. Doh! Luckily I already had my return bus ticket.
I had just enough time to eat a delicious trout in garlic sauce before hopping on the last 5pm bus back to Quito. Shame shame shame. I should have stayed the night, or two, or three, but dance students in Cuenca were waiting.
- Spend the night! Bird watching is best done in the early early morning
- Bring plenty of cash. There is currently (September 2013) no international ATM.
- If you go just for the day, buy your return bus ticket as soon as you arrive. Apparently sometimes they sell out and you could be stuck there.
- The tourist agencies do not post prices, so if you are an Ecuador permanent resident make sure they know that and give you the locals price (see above)
- You can catch the 2-hour bus from Quito’s northern terminal terrestre (Ofelia). To get to Ofelia from the Mariscal district, you can hop on the Ecovia from the Seminario Mayor station (or take a taxi). Alternately, the Quito tourist offices sell organized day tours for around $50 per person.