Quito is a cosmopolitan and beautiful city (UNESCO's very first World Heritage Site) with all the standard city amenities of a big city, such as "staring tubes."
|Please wander aimlessly on designated paths only|
And maybe someday I'll do a post on it. but eventually it is just a city, as any other city, and unless you're a shopper (none here) you may find yourself just wandering aimlessly around. So we continued onto Mindo, less Teddy who wandered aimlessly back home to Cuenca.
Due to conflicting information about available buses to Mindo, we missed the morning bus and so used the time to explore the middle of the world (La Mitad del Mundo), where the actual equator passes through nearby. It's a massive, though kitschily entertaining village built around the massive monument constructed at the site of the original survey of the equator. That they missed the mark by a few hundred yards is still an exceptional achievement for the time and hardly relevant to any touristy pursuits. And we learned some things:
- Did you know you weigh less at the equator? (But only about 0.25% less, rather than the 5-7 lbs they tout).
- Did you know you can balance an egg on end here on the equinox...just as well as you can at any other time or place on the earth?
But there are great museums on insects, Ecuador, geology, and such, and great playgrounds for the kids. So our money was well spent.
The relatively short 2-hour bus ride to Mindo was remarkable for the fact that just after beginning a long descent from Quito we plunged into the cloud forest like driving off a pier into the ocean. And so we swam through clouds the next few days, but with the pleasant warmth and lush surroundings, we never felt the urge to come up for sun.
And it's a low-key tourist paradise. There are the standard touristy things (ziplines, rafting, tubing, overpriced food), but there are loads of more locally-relevant options as well. It's a bird watcher's paradise, though you have to get out of town for the good stuff (I saw a toucan!). Butterflies, on the other hand, are much easier to wrangle and show off. Though still a little ways out of town, you can't beat the pure, concentrated, butteriffic experience of being swarmed by giant and beautiful mariposas.
|Chrysalises, and we watched some hatch|
|That's not chocolate!|
|Well, it's no chocolate river, but...|
That night we attended a "frog concert" around a private lake created specifically for frog and toad and other other storybook character habitat. It was really just a guided walk through the surround wood, but since I couldn't take pictures, here's what we saw:
- Bullfrogs the size of a grown man's hand
- Wee frogs the size of giant bullfrog's hand (no, smaller than that actually)
- Poison dart frog (just one, but we were very lucky to see that at night)
- Glowing log (no kidding, and with an amazing bacterial story that funny looks from my wife tell me is interesting only to me, so I won't share)
- Mock fireflies that use the light to attract fireflies and eat them.
- Several other indescribably freaky looking insects
And so we ended our Mindo visit and hopped our first overnight bus to Puerto Lopez. But that is another story...