I’m pretty sure I climbed a mountain today, on a bike. We started down in a low valley and ended up swathed in mist somewhere up high in a cloud forest. Eight kilometers of switchbacks and somewhat gradual inclines along a severely potholed and stoney dirt road took us several thousand feet up into the Andes mountain range. It was beautiful. We passed steep terraced slopes dotted with cows and small haciendas looking out over deep valleys that encompassed every shade of green. At every bend in the road there was a stunning vista and I had to restrain myself from stopping to take a picture each time the valley’s and mountains came into view.
We woke up early this morning to finishing last-minute packing and enjoy our last breakfast at La Casa Sol (although we also made another reservation to stay there on our way back through Quito before heading to Guayaquil and the Galapagos. We are creatures of habit). Arie met us at the hotel with his brand new Land Rover-esque jeep topped with three bikes and a trunk full of gear. Originally from Holland, he has lived in Ecuador for the past 19 years and done bike tours for a good 16 of that. After loading the car with our bags, we headed out of Quito and into the hills of the surrounding countryside. As I said before, Ecuador is beautiful. After about an hour of driving, we pulled off onto a dirt road, unloaded the bikes, and geared up for our first ride of the trip. Arie followed us in the jeep as we sped downhill for 24 kilometers along an extremely bumpy road. It wasn’t long before my wrists and back hurt from being jarred around so much, but the views and experience more than made up for it. Arie met us at the bottom of the massive downhill with bananas and water and then we began our grueling eight kilometer climb into the cloud forest. I was very glad that I had forced myself to work out on the elliptical 5-6 days a week on the ship in Costa Rica/Panama! At the top, Arie had lunch ready for us, but it started raining, so we didn’t dally much. He lent me his raincoat and off we were again. More bumpy roads and beautiful sights. With the rain, it looked like we could almost have been in Ireland or Scotland, it was so green.
We finally reached a paved road, and from there it was about a 20 minute ride into the town of Mindo. Thankfully the rain stopped, so it was a nice ride, and my wrists and back were happier.
Sweaty, muddy, tired, and a little chilled from the rain, we rolled up to our little guesthouse looking forward to a hot shower. Surprise, surprise, the whole town was without water for a few hours for some reason I couldn’t catch. A bit disappointed, C and I sat on our balcony for awhile and then set out to explore the town. On our way out the hotel, we stopped by the open-air wooden porch that looks out onto a garden. The owners have hung several bird-feeders from the trees and we watched, amazed, as dozens of hummingbirds and other feathered species flitted about. This area apparently has 33 different kinds of hummingbirds alone.
After snapping photo after photo of the hummingbirds, we were still chilled, so we stopped at a nice restaurant for a cup of tea, which warmed us up. Then we strolled through the small park and down the one and only main street which was lined with no-frill eateries and convenience shops. Mindo is a sleepy town, but it’s cute, and most people come here, I think, for its abundant bird life rather than good food and historical sights.
It had started drizzling again, so we slowly made our way back to the hotel, but the drizzle turned into a downpour and we were soon soaking wet. Once in our room, the water was back on, but a hot shower was too much to ask for. I got most of the mud off, then climbed into bed and underneath the warm blankets. Outside the rain had turned into a thunderstorm that sent lightning strikes alarmingly close and rumbles that shook our wooden walls. I also learned something new - thunder can set off car alarms.