Flying through the Mindo Canopy

Our favourite tourist attraction in Mindo was the Mindo Canopy Adventure. This is a series of 10 different ziplines – flying you across the treetops of the Cloud Forest.

Over the 10 ziplines, you mostly ride “normale,” but you also have a few different options for rides too 🙂 First, there is the “rapido” line which is super fast. Next, you can fly like “superman,” where you ride with a guide behind you on the line and stretch your arms out in front of you so you go head first down the line.

The last position you can try is “mariposa,” translating to “butterfly,” where you essentially fly upside down!!

Once our adventure was finished, we jumped into the back of a pickup truck for a quick ride back into town. So much fun!!

Here are our pictures & videos from the adventure:

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Getting Lost in the Cloud Forest

Welcome to Mindo ~

How can I even start to describe the wonder that is Mindo?  It’s a sleepy, small town in the middle of the Cloud Forest in Ecuador with nothing left to be desired. It’s likely to have at LEAST 1000 times more hummingbirds than people, and you can hear them & the plethora of other bird species at all times of day.  The sound of Mindo is the sound of the bird choir, and I could spend all my day just listening from the hammock and looking up at the sky.

 

The Cloud Forest ~

The first day Arnie & I spent in Mindo, we got ourselves a bit lost in the jungle.

DSC_0587We started off by walking 7km just to the entrance to Las Tangaras Reserve in the forest. As soon as we entered, it was like being in what I can only describe as the real life version of all the botanical gardens I’ve ever visited. The sounds, the smells, the colours – it was such an unreal experience. I think we moved about 10 feet every 5 minutes, because we were just in awe of everything around us.

 

fullsizeoutput_23b1Every time you stop and look around you, you notice so many different micro environments and so much more than what you thought was just right in front of you. At times the forest was so incredibly dense, and spiderwebs would form just 2 minutes before you across the path you had just passed through.

There were lots of different colours, plants, bugs – and the sounds of water, wind, birds and bugs were all-encompassing.

We also came across this suspension bridge that took us over the Rio Nambillo:

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DCIM103GOPROGOPR3361.JPGAfter lots of slow hiking, we eventually went in to the Reserve area itself, and chose one of the may paths to take. Once we started off along this path, the clouds came in and we started to really feel what it’s like to walk in the clouds.

I’ll also mention that we left our hotel around 9:30am, returned around 5:30pm, and didn’t think to pack a lunch or anything substantial with us – we survived the afternoon on the energy of 6 oreos. You can imagine how tired we were getting, especially since it was so wet too! It doesn’t really rain inside the clouds, it’s like the water droplets just suspend in the air around you.

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We found one really awesome swimming hole, took some pics, and made our turn back.  We eventually stopped in another swimming hole once we knew we’d have enough time to make it out of the forest before it got dark.

We made it out safe and sound 🙂 but next time I think we’ll grab a map and maybe some lunch!!

Our swimming holes ~

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And finally, here are pictures of some of the species we encountered ~

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Hiking & Biking the Cotopaxi Volcano

Volcan Cotopaxi outside of Quito is the second highest volcano in Ecuador, and the highest active volcano!

Cotopaxi is a female 🙂 and the translation of her name comes from Coto (meaning “neck”) and Paxi (meaning “princess”). Apparently this princess has a bad temper, and whenever she gets “full,” she explodes.

Arnie & I had the incredible experience of climbing Cotopaxi up to the ridge of the glacier, and then we biked down the side to a lake. Hiking to the top of Cotopaxi is extremely difficult and expensive, and you have to be very careful not to damage the glacier which is slowly melting away.

For you here, I have some pictures, a few descriptions, a video of our guide talking about different types of lava rocks, and a video of our bike ride down the volcano.

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We started our journey @6:30 in the morning, and first stop was breakfast. The restaurant where we stopped sold some gloves & hats made from alpaca, and there was a lovely lil llama hanging out outside ready to greet us.

Breakfast was absolutely delicious, and the coffee was amazing and necessary.

 

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From here we started our drive up to the mountain. We took this big van up to the parking area, with all of the mountain bikes on top.

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When we got to our first stop, our hike began. Not going to lie, I was a bit skeptical because we were legitimately in a cloud, and could see nothing except the grey ash beneath our feet & the white clouds all around. It was also drizzling and cold.

Take a look at our start:

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Before we knew it, though, the wind swept the clouds away and it started to clear up. Soon enough we were at the refugio, and ready to drink some coca tea. That’s right – coca leaves. Coca is very good at helping you adjust to the high altitude.

When you’re this high up, it is ridiculously hard to breathe, your body feels super lazy and tired, and you can start to get dizzy really easily. You can also get ridiculously horrible headaches & nausea.

Apparently the coca leaves have a way of stabilising whatever is out of whack in your system, and initially they were used to help with really bad stomach pain. It’s a shame we can’t have these leaves in real life without having to be all druggy about it.

Here are some pics from the refugio as it started to clear up:

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Our hike then continued on, and we started our walk along the side of volcano to see the edge of the glacier.  Andres gave us a lovely overview of the different types of rocks that you can find made from lava, and where each type of rock could be found in the “lava lake” as it starts to form then cool.

Right before we reached the glacier, the visibility improved tremendously and the whole valley under the volcano opened up. It was so cool because you can pretty much see how the lava was flowing down, and the pools / lakes that it created below.

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Then, finally, we got to the glacier edge. I was so surprised to see the glacier so white and bright. The glaciers I have seen before have all been blue, but this one was totally white. When you looked inside the crevices, you could see the blue on the inside, but it was very faint.

Here are some pics of the glacier, with the incredible red lava rocks beneath:

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The colors here are just amazing

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Arnie jumping for joy at the glacier’s edge

 

After our visit to the glacier edge, we headed back down and were greeted by some majestic views. When we were walking down the steep part of the volcano, it felt like you were gliding down the moon. The ashes are so soft, like the most finely ground sand you’ve ever walked on – and when you descend, you glide down on your heels. Super cool.

Views from the decent:

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At an altitude of 4690 meters
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This is just so cool how you can see in this picture the way the lava was flowing

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When we got back to the van, we got on our mountain bikes and were off down the volcano! It was sooo bumpy and I basically had to lay on the brakes the whole time, being a big chicken & all, but it was so much fun!

Poor Arnie got really bad altitude sickness right about now and we had to stop a bit early, but I won’t dwell on that too much.

Here is the video of our bike ride down:

 

 

When we finally got to the late, we were greeted with this view of the lake as it started to really rain down hard:

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Last view here of the lake

 

The last stop was back again to visit our lovely llama friend, and to have lunch. I was so hungry I didn’t take pictures, but just use your imagination – it was delicious.

I couldn’t end this post with anything better than a shout out to our two guides, Andres and Marco. Here are the guys who led us up, and brought us back down. They were great – and I’d highly recommend checking them out @ CarpeDM Tours if you are ever in Quito.

Shout out to Andres & Marco!

 

 

 

 

Jem of Quito Old Town: Calle La Ronda

Calle La Ronda is a narrow, flower-adorned, colourful street in Quito’s lovely old town. This was our favourite spot in the capital city of Ecuador – let me tell you why!

La Ronda in the Sunshine:

First of all, La Ronda is gorgeous. I can’t decide which picture to show you because I love them all. There are so many colours, potted flowers, and flags that line the cobblestoned semi-circular street. The vibe is super Spanish and you can really feel the influence here.

La Ronda gets the name from an old traditional song typical to this street. Calle La Ronda has always been a popular place for musicians and artisans, and young men used to come and sing under the balconies of young women. The men would sing for the fathers, and if the father approved, he would allow the man to come in for a chat before meeting the young woman. However, if the father disapproved, they would throw water onto the man. The songs these young men would sing were called “rondas.”

There are a lot artisanal shops on this street too – including jewellery, paintings and incredible chocolate.

Here are some of my favourite pictures from La Ronda during the day:

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La Ronda
Potted plants lining the windows is so telling of the Spanish influences during the colonisation period
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The buildings along the narrow streets are so colorful!
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I hope this guy doesn’t mind being in my picture!!
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View onto La Ronda with the hill to el Panecillo in the background

 

La Ronda at Night Time

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The next reason I love La Ronda is because at night time, the street booms with music from every shop and restaurant – it totally comes alive. There is a lot of hassling from the restaurant/bar workers to come & look at their menu, and to come inside – and they don’t just do this to tourists! Literally every person who walks by gets swarmed by persuasive restauranteurs speaking really quickly in Spanish.

fullsizeoutput_23daWe had a drink of the Canelazo as well, which is a traditional Andean sugary & cinnamon-y hot beverage. It is SO good – much better than it looks in the picture. They also sell giant empanadas here – Empanadas de Viento (which translating to “Cloud Empanadas”) – which are stuffed with cheese, puffed up, and covered in sugar. We haven’t tried these yet, but I hope to get some in our quick stop back into Quito!!

It is worth mentioning that Calle La Ronda was very safe at night. There are police and security guards everywhere, and there are cabs just waiting at the top of the street for people to take at the nighttime rates.  We did not spend much time going out at night, but here, it felt very secure and we had no worries.

Here is another picture of the night time. I will also included 2 videos of this amazing band playing classical guitar, ukulele and the pan flute! (Need to wait to upload when we get better wifi and it will actually upload….)

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Walking down to La Ronda at night time 🙂

 

 

Views of Quito

Hey mom & dad (and the unlikely anyone else reading this)!

Today we went after the best views in Quito. Mother nature decided to be super cloudy and misty today, but hey, we got some good views in the end when the sun decided to peek her head out from the clouds and shine her warmth down on us.

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Me & Arnie from the top of the Basilica Tower

There were two main places we visited – first was the Basilica. The Basilica had a series of terrifying ladders to get to the top that reminded me of the slippery steps that used to lead me up to the 10+ foot high dives. I don’t like heights – but it was worth it!

In regards to the inside of the Basilica, well – they’ve been building this basilica for over 100 years, and it’s still unfinished. Similar story to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, but this one — whilst impressive in some respects, was also a bit… cheesy? Lots of dolls. And crooked words & letters. Oh and there was some saint lady too who will be perpetually subjected to a colourful rainbow light show.

The second place we went to for the views was the  Teleferico, or a tram car that takes you up to a really high view point. This was pretty cool.

 

Here’s a little video I made with music from the day. The background music is native american flute because that’s the type of music they were playing at the top whilst we were enjoying the views. Hope you like it!

 

 

 

…and here is the rainbow glowing saint lady:

Our South America Itinerary

A few friends & family have asked for our itinerary in South America, so here you are!

You will notice that there is a big 6 week period that just says “Driving from the top of Chile to the bottom of Chile” — this is our big chunk of spontaneity so I can’t make any promises where we’ll be! However, I’ve put a few ideas for where I know we’ll end up 🙂

 

Ecuador Quito 02-Oct 07-Oct
Mindo 07-Oct 11-Oct
Quilotoa Loop 12-Oct 16-Oct
Banos 16-Oct 20-Oct
Cuenca 20-Oct 23-Oct
Peru Lima 23-Oct 27-Oct
Paracas 27-Oct 28-Oct
Huacachina 28-Oct 29-Oct
Cuzco 30-Oct 04-Nov
Macchu Picchu & Inca Trail 04-Nov 08-Nov
Arequipa & Colca Canyon 10-Nov 16-Nov
Bolivia La Paz 17-Nov 19-Nov
Uyuni & Salt Flats 19-Nov 22-Nov
Chile & Argentina Drive from top of Chile to bottom of Chile & All through Argentina (including places like San Pedro de Atacama, Fitzroy,  Mendoza, and the marble caves to name a few stops) 22-Nov 03-Jan
Punta Arenas 03-Jan 05-Jan
Puerto Natales 05-Jan 06-Jan
Torres del Paine 06-Jan 14-Jan
Puerto Natales 14-Jan 15-Jan
Santiago 15-Jan 19-Jan
Valparaiso 19-Jan 22-Jan
Buenos Aires 23-Jan 28-Jan

 

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