There are several ways to describe Quito, although if I had to describe it in a sentence I’d say: It is a much better place to live than it is to visit. Let me explain. What I believe makes Quito and Ecuador special are the seemingly endless options for weekend trips. Unless you’re bookending time in Quito with a Galapagos trip, it’s hard to really make the most of what the city has to offer with a short week. While Quito doesn’t have one standout landmark or tourist destination, it offers a constant list of nearby cities, hikes and activities. Best of all, most are really close. So if you’re in Quito, have around 24 hours and a desire to visit the cloudforest city of Mindo, then this is the guide for you.
I started Saturday morning at 7am to catch the bus at 8. After ignoring my alarm, I ended up catching the bus at around 9:30ish. Thankfully, Mindo is only a 2 hour bus ride from Quito. Upon arrival, the city itself can be seen with a quick walk. There are restaurants and bars to appeal to visitors, and it feels like a beach-city with it’s laid back vibe. Just take out the sand and add surrounding forests.
My hostel, Casa De Cecelia, was a brief walk from the bus stop. I took a few moments to settle in, and then the hostel was able to help me organize activities in Mindo. After looking through the options, I ended up choosing a zip lining ‘expedition’ throughout the forest. This tour puts you above the treetops and you are flying between the open areas. I’d never done anything like it before. If someone tells you they weren’t scared on the first line, they’re liars. Jumping off a small tree stand to another one you can’t even see in the distance will make anyone hesitate…especially when the instructions were in Spanish. (I made sure I didn’t go first so I could watch how other do it.) Since you are high enough to definitely die if you fall, I feel one could describe this as skydiving lite. After a couple lines, you start getting adjusted and can really take in the views as you zip through the sky above the trees.
During the tour, the rainforest stayed true to its name and started to rain. This is a normal occurrence, so while we got wet we were able to continue and finish without a problem. Fortunately, the rain didn’t get bad until after we were done, so I was able to get back and relax before my night walk.
Tours for a night walk were also offered from the hostel. Later that night around 8, a truck picked me a few other tourists up and took us into the forest. Our guide was a Canadian man who’d been in Mindo for years to work in nature conservation. Armed with a small flashlight and large mud boots, we walked through to see the wildlife that comes out at night. I started questioning my choice when a few minutes into the walk, the guide pointed out a tree with spiders on it. This species of spiders are one of the few that don’t use webs to hunt, instead waiting patiently before quickly darting to their prey. Great.
Once I got past the spiders, the rest was a cake walk. You get to see some amazing varieties of animals, especially since we just started after a rain fall. We saw frogs ranging in size from a pinky fingernail to a fist. As expected, there were plenty of other bugs along the walk. The stand out insect would have to be the multicolored caterpillars. After making it through the walk, our tour group decided to grab some well-deserved ‘I played it cool in front of spiders’ drinks at a local bar.
The next morning around 9, I took a quick tour through a local chocolate company’s production process, which is the fancy way of saying “I found a way to justify eating chocolate for breakfast.” I was able to catch a bus back to Quito and be home in time for lunch. So there you have it — visit Mindo’s cloud forest and do all of the above, all in a day’s time. There are more highlights in the area that I didn’t get to see, but thankfully it’s just a quick trip away. #VidaLaVic