Tag Archives: hiking

The Top Things To Do In Mindo, Ecuador

One of top natural escapes from Quito is undoubtedly Mindo.

Just a 2-hour trip, Mindo is a valley and small village in the cloud forests of the Andes mountains.

For budget-minded travelers, the bus ride to Mindo will only cost you $2.50. The view from the bus is merely a tease, as you pass from the highland paramos of the andes into the lush cloud forests below spectacular views reign everywhere. But, it’s off of the main roads where the action in Mindo really is taking place.

Below are the top things to do when in visiting Mindo.

Just a little hike up the mountain. Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

Just a little hike up the mountain. Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

Hike up the mountain to the waterfalls

If you enjoy walking and exploring at a slower pace, then this  hike is for you. A cable car will take you across the rain forest to the hiking trails (the cable car is also a great preview of the zip lines). Once you get off the cable car, an hour long trail to your left will lead you to a huge waterfall. On your right – a shorter, 15 minute trail will take you to a  waterfall and river where you can swim and slide down the mountain into the river – a natural water park. Be sure to wear hiking sandals or boots and bring food and water.

Butterfly style! Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

Butterfly style! Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

Zip line above the rain forest 

At the “canopy” (Ecuadorian term for a zip line)  one of the most popular traveler’s spots in Mindo, you can zip line across ten different cables through the tropical rain forest. The cables are not very fast at first. If you are afraid of heights you’ll have plenty of time to warm up on the slower cables. Your fear will be overcome by the beauty of your surroundings.

At about the fourth cable, you will be able to test your adventurous side with different positions on the cables – superman and butterfly. The superman is a horizontal flying position and the butterfly is upside down.

Tube down Mindo river 

At first glance, tubing appears to be quite risky because of the rocks jutting out of the fast-flowing whitewater. But the tube(s) frequently tied together to form a makeshift raft is designed to navigate over and through the rocks and are quite adequate for the Class II rapids.  Keep your feet (and head!) above the tube to avoid injury. The guide will help maintain the tube’s trajectory all the way down the river.

One crazy ride down the river. Photo from www.ecuador365.com

One crazy ride down the river. Photo from www.ecuador365.com

Marisposario de Mindo

In this top-notch butterfly farm, change is a beautiful thing – the butterflies told me so. Here, you will witness firsthand the four stages in the life of a butterfly – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. The butterfly  pupae looks like a collection of  gold and silver earrings because of the different colors necessary to blend in with the butterfly’s natural habitat. 

El Quetzal

Here, a Quetzal isn’t a bird, it’s even better, it’s chocolate! At 4:00 you can tour Mindo’s chocolate factory and see how chocolate is made from the cocoa bean to the bar. Afterwards, enjoy a taste test!

Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

A little treat from Quetzal. Photo taken by Alexandra Reilly

And the winner of the top thing to do in Mindo is… Birding 

Mindo mixes the birds from the Andean highlands with birds the rainforest to create a spectacular cacophony of avian paradise!

According to the book “Birds of Ecuador”, by Ridgley and Greenfield, Mindo is home to the greatest number of endemic montane birds species of any place on the planet!

During the 2000 to 2005 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) sponsored by the Audubon Society, Mindo has been among the top 3 highest bird counts in the world over 6 years, with over 2,000 locations participating. Each location is a 25 kilometer radius, and the count lasts for 24 hours. Mindo had the highest count in 2000 with 350 bird species recorded, and in past years has exceeded the 400 bird species mark.

The highlight of birding in Mindo may be the Cock-of-the-Rock Lek. As Tom Quisenberry of El Monte Lodge in Mindo says:

“Sometimes described as a “singles bar”, a lek is a meeting place for male and female birds. The singles bar description seems even more appropriate when you consider that the males dance wildly and engage in all sorts of displaying behavior…

The Cock-of-the-Rocks in Mindo are bright red, with black wings and a bit of white on the rump and have a crazy pompadour-looking crest. The males come together at precisely 6:00 AM to dance, squawk, mock fight and sometimes to actually physically fight to maintain territory to impress the occasional female who may fly into the lek.

Males are able to spend all this energy and time (sometimes up to 6 hours a day!) to attract the females because they have no parental responsibilities at the nest. They don’t help build the nest, nor help feed the chicks… but prefer to hang out at the “bar” trying to pass on their genes.”

Stay a While

As you can see, there is so much to do, it’s difficult to fully appreciate Mindo in a single night or two stay. Many people stay a few nights in Mindo to have more time to see all that it has to offer. Take your time and savor the experience because it’s well-worth every minute.

Englishman Ed Stafford Successfully Walks Entire Length of the Amazon River

By Eli Mangold, Viva Editorial Intern

Ed Stafford and his companion, Cho. Image courtesy Walking the Amazon.

After 859 days, Ed Stafford completed his goal of walking the entire length of the Amazon River on August 9th. His journey, which spanned 4,000 miles, was full of countless run-ins with less-than-savory reptiles and insects, as well as Amazonian tribes.

Before beginning his walk, Stafford was a captain in the British Army until 2002 and was a UN security advisor in Afghanistan. According to his blog, Walking the Amazon, he had run remote expeditions all over the world, including various countries in Latin America.

His primary motivation for the trek was not to raise awareness or charity money, rather, in the spirit of a true adventurer he just wanted to do something no one else had accomplished before. However, during the course of the trip Stafford witnessed vast swaths of logged rainforest and hopes that his expedition will help connect more people to the environmental problems facing the Amazon. He also wants the feat of endurance to inspire people into setting out on adventures of their own.

The journey began on April 2nd, 2008 on the coast of Peru, with a fellow companion that dropped out after three months. Five months into in the journey, Stafford was joined by a Peruvian forestry worker, Gadiel “Cho” Sanchez Rivera, and the two completed the trek together. However, along the way they were joined by hundreds of people that walked with them for a few hours—and some even for a few months!

Stafford’s trek was fraught with microscopic, reptilian and human dangers, including stomach illnesses, giant caimans and anacondas, skin-boring insects and territorial local tribes. At one point, the two were seized by a remote tribe and stripped-down in front of the tribal elder. Ultimately they received the tribe’s blessing after they explained their purpose. On some days, the team would burn 6,000 calories apiece, but only consume half of that.

The incredible physical stress of the journey caught up Stafford just 53 miles from the finish line, when Stafford collapsed from exhaustion on the side of the road. He suffered from severe disorientation and developed a mysterious full-body rash, but after a few hours of rest was able to set off again. Trailed by a carload of Brazilian reporters and other news organizations, Stafford and Cho walked 53 miles in 21 hours on the last day. Upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean, Stafford and Cho sprayed each other with champagne and swam in the ocean.

Stafford hopes to set off on another record-breaking journey in September of 2011, but will not disclose its details so that somebody doesn’t beat him to it.

Aconcagua Claims Fifth Climber

In a typical year, about 600 people climb Argentina’s Mt. Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas. Of those, an average of two to three die trying to reach the summit. This climbing season (it’s summer in Argentina, remember) has been particularly perilous, as the mountain claimed its fifth victim, an American who was injured by falling rocks. He later died while en route to medical care. The others include an Italiam woman and her Argentine guide (killed during a fierce blizzard), an Englishman (heart attack mere steps from the summit) and a German climber who fell into a crevasse. It may still get worse: rangers are still searching for a French climber who has been missing for two weeks.