Ecuador is like a vertical Ireland. It’s very green, is divided into small farms, and has many self-contained communities. Plowed fields reach almost to the tops of the mountains. How they manage to avoid severe erosion, we haven’t a clue.
After our stint on the eastern, Amazonian side, we re-crossed the Andes and picked the northern highlands town of Otavalo, known for its vibrant Saturday market and large indigenous population. Not being in need of anything but a hat for Craig, we went to the market on an off day. There was still plenty to choose from and no crowds.
Leaving Otavalo for Mindo, we made the first hostal reservation on the entire trip. We decided to take the less traveled highway, which deteriorated into a good dirt road. All seemed to be going well and we commented on the sparse traffic. About 50 kilometers in, we discovered why. A landslide blocked the road. These are fairly common occurrences because the mountain roads have been hacked into very steep sides.Outside the major cities there are few roads and many small communities have limited contact with the wider world. Literacy rates in Ecuador are now up around 75 to 80 percent, but the hidden hollows keep the rates from going higher After backtracking and finding our way over twisting stone and dirt roads we had to give short shrift to one of our favorite towns of the trip, San Juan de Minas, because we had reservations. That’s the best reason for not making plans in advance…unforeseen predicaments.
After a VERY long day of driving on twisted mountain roads with lots of stops for directions, we managed to find our reserved cabin in an orchid garden in the middle of Mindo…a town known for pleasant weather and bird watching. We weren’t disappointed. A note about driving in Ecuador…we have 3 maps, none of which agree, and it seems signs or even road numbers aren’t something anyone living here wants or needs. Also straight roads on the map are anything but. Challenging is an understatement.
So I liked this Mindo steer, and just had to include him.
Met a French Canadian, named Andre of course, who talked me into joining him at 5 am for a trip to a birder’s tower an hour from Mindo. I’m so glad I said “yes”. The day started rainy and grey, but by the time we climbed our tower (no one else was there), the day brightened and some incredible birds showed up.
Closer to Mindo other plants and creatures caught our attention.
Reluctantly left Mindo for the coast. We were warned as we left to have reservations because it was Carnival weekend. It’s the biggest celebration of the year in all of Ecuador, and we had no clue. We did manage to find accommodation in Canoa, but had to stay put until the craziness ended on Fat Tuesday. The music got louder and more obnoxious as the days wore on. Pounding bass, screaming DJs, and techno-crap music. What old fuddy-duddies we are. However, it was one of the nicest coastal towns we found, the ocean was warm, the seafood delicious, and our hostel just far enough from town.