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Hanging Out in Mindo Ecuador

Here are some quick travel notes from our 2007 trip to Ecuador.

Mindo

We only spent a few hours in Mindo, riding there in the back of a pickup with friends from Quito. It is a pretty little town. We went over the bridge and up into the forest to one of the Tarabitas (an aerial tramway). However, it turned out to be something else. It was a set up that left you hanging from a harness as you traveled ten different cables over a mile of various canyons. We passed on that and found the tramway in the photo below, where we crossed a deep valley.

Tramway in Mindo Ecuador

On the other side it was a fifteen minute walk to the first of many waterfalls, according to the operator. It took us forty minutes to reach the first, but they were beautiful. You can swim in places (it is too dangerous in other places), and the water appears to be perfectly clean.

Waterfall in Ecuador

Quito

Quito just keeps getting better. We were there twice during this trip. The second time we stayed at The Magic Bean. It was $30 (tax included) for the room, and we were in the center of all the nightlife and interesting restaurants. A few blocks away there was a vegetarian restaurant where for $2 we had the most delicious and filling lunch. There is a Mulligan's Bar (an American chain) nearby as well for those that like watching sports on large televisions -- with good drink specials.

Sunday, the primary street (Amazonas) was closed for most of the day so people could bicycle it in peace. One night we watched a soccer acrobatics competition sponsored by Red Bull. Saturday and Sundays there is usually an art exhibition in the park El Ejido. If you like shopping malls, they are as nice as in the states. In the mall "El Jardin" (The Garden), we had McDonald's for less than in the states, and got our digital photos printed in less than twenty minutes.

Busses

Avoid city busses if they are crowded - prime opportunity for pick-pockets. Taxis are relatively cheap everywhere (but a bit more in Quito). For longer distances, you have a choice of the normal busses or the "ejecutivos" (executive). The executive busses are supposed to be safer, and the locals really seem to think they are. You get searched and you are not allowed to take any luggage on board (it goes below). The latter fact makes me uncomfortable - I like to keep my pack with me. Both types are usually more comfortable than a typical Greyhound bus in the U.S.

I recommend taking the regular bus on a longer stretch at least once for the experience. They allow vendors on the bus to sell things, and it is quite a sight to see. Some just get on and off selling bread, ice cream or water. Others, however, travel with you for thirty minutes, and do a full sales presentation for their miracle vitamins or hand-made jewelry or whatever. We have been sold more than once in this way (and we got some beautiful inexpensive jewelry on our last ride back to Quito). Once, as we passed through Ambato, I counted 16 different vendors that got on and off the bus selling various things.

Taxis

In the major cities the taxis are supposed to all use their meters now. This is one of those laws that supposedly helps the public, but has the opposite effect. We were never ripped off on a taxi ride until the meters came along. Then we got a ride with a driver with a rigged meter. Drivers can also take a long route to get the rate up. Previously you simply asked how much it was to get to where you were going, and that is what you paid - all very clear and fair. Fortunately, many drivers still operate this way, so ask how much. If they insist on using the meter, watch for any sudden jumps in the meter reading.

Hostels

The idea of a hostel is to rent a bed for the night instead of a room. Common areas and bathrooms are shared. However, many hostels in Ecuador have private rooms with private baths as well. You might want to try one of these rather than a hotel, for a couple reasons. First, you get to meet people from all over the world. Unlike the isolation of a hotel room, you'll have common areas where people gather to watch TV or drink or eat (the terrace on the roof of Plantas Y Blanca in Banos was wonderful during our stay in October 2007).

They also are very practical. They generally have information plastered everywhere on what to do and see. The kitchen is usually open for you to use if you want to cook up your own soup or tea to save a few dollars. Most sell water, soda, beer and a few snacks, so you can relax instead of going shopping for every little thing.

A flyer I still have for El Centro Del Mundo hostel in Quito (at Lizardo Garcia and Reina Victoria) says "Private Rooms From $7.84 per person; Dormitories From $4.48; Party Atmosphere; 12 liters of rum and coke free every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday." Most hostels are not party places like this (I stayed here on my first trip to Ecuador in 2001), but they are generally very social places.


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