In the clouds but not on cloud nine

We arrived in Mindo yesterday without any problems.  The bus station was pretty quiet at 8:00 in the morning and the biggest menace we faced was two women who were Jehovah’s Witnesses who tried to preach their message to us.  This was one time that not knowing the language served us well.  Guess they didn’t receive the memo in Ecuador that I am an ex-JW and should be avoided like the plague!

As the road to Mindo twisted through the Andes, we were fascinated by the scenery as it changed from the arid, brown mountains of the sierra to lush tropical forests in the foothills.  The bus ride took a strong stomach as we went up and down and around the mountains at a speedy pace.  Chris sat in a window seat on the side of the bus that was next to the sheer drop offs.   I opted for the imagined safety of the other side of the bus that hugged the mountainside.

In Mindo, we stepped off the bus into heat and humidity, a distinct contrast to the temperate climate we had enjoyed in Quito.  It was 10:00 in the morning and the dusty main street, lined with rundown buildings was pretty much deserted.  We collected our packs from the bus, brushed the dust off them, loaded them on and started to walk.  I had written down the directions to our hostel which would have been helpful if only the streets had names posted somewhere.  But the locals were friendly and pointed us in the right direction.

Our hostel was a tad rougher than we expected.  I was glad we hadn’t opted for the cheapest accommodations available in town.  You can get a place for seven bucks a night, but we saw a few of these places, and you are definitely getting what you pay for here.  Prices range from $7 to over $100 for a room in a hacienda outside of town.  We had reserved four nights in this hostel for $13.50 a night each (including breakfast), again based on the reviews we read on the internet.  First impressions were less than favorable, but we’ll give this place a chance before we cast our final judgement.

Since we arrived so early, we had to wait a few minutes for the owner to get our room ready.  This gave us a chance to chat with a young lad from Texas who was preparing some food in the kitchen of the hostel.  He had been volunteering in the hostel for the past week and a half and was leaving tomorrow.  He gave us some tips about things to do and things to avoid both in Mindo and in Ecuador in general.  He spoke very highly of the hostel, especially since he had gotten sick and the owners had taken really good care of him.

Once we were settled in our room which was actually quite nice, we went for a walk around town to get the lay of the land.  There isn’t much to Mindo.  The main street is the only paved road and is where the majority of businesses are located – a handful of restaurants, a couple of internet cafes, a few tour operators, a few corner stores, a pharmacy, a school and a few hostels.  A small plaza marks the center of town.  Off the main street are several dirt roads that don’t seem to really go anywhere.  There are more hostels and restaurants and few businesses on these roads.  And that’s pretty much the whole town.

At this point we were getting hungry and had to decide where to eat.  Food is always a challenge.  My primary concern is whether or not the food will make me sick, so I’m looking for signs of cleanliness and good food prep habits (e.g. if the chicken meat is sitting out on the counter, I’m probably not going eat there).  Cost plays a factor too as we don’t want to be gouged as tourists.  And finally taste and familiarity is considered (e.g. do I recognize what I’m eating although I’m flexible on this one as I believe sometimes what you don’t know won’t hurt you).

We settled on a little joint on the main street where another gringo was already eating (guess that’s a criteria too).  We had the daily lunch plate.  The lunch plate, which is very typical in Ecuadorian restaurants, comes with a bowl of soup, a glass of juice, and a plate of food – rice, meat, vegetables, maybe some beans – and sometimes some fruit for dessert.  In Quito, we picked the restaurants frequented by locals, especially those dressed in business attire.  We never had a bad lunch!  So in Mindo, we picked the restaurant with the gringo (who turned out being a friendly fellow from New Zealand volunteering at a research centre close by).  We had a delicious bowl of soup – Ecuadorians really know how to make soup! – and tilapia (fish), rice, salad and beans for our main meal.  It was simple but tasty.  The juice tasted a little like lemonade.  Total bill:  $5.00.

Back to the room for a little siesta (when in Rome….) and a couple of hours later, we were back wandering around town.  We had a beer on a “patio” and watched the locals for a while.  We chose the Mexican restaurant for dinner and ordered nachos with guacamole, and meat tacos, and another large beer.   A little girl, about six or seven, carefully wrote down our order and served us our food including our beer.  The food was quite tasty, but not quite like home.  Total cost:  $6.75 plus the 50 cents tip I gave the little girl – much to her surprise and delight.  The mother thanked us profusely – guess she was surprised too.  We’re thinking service is included in the prices so tips aren’t expected.

By this time it was getting dark, and unlike Quito, we felt very safe.  It’s rather ironic, and perhaps misplaced (time will tell), but I feel safer here than in Quito, even in our hostel that has practically no security in place.  The main floor is completely open to the outdoors, there is usually no one around when we come in (we’re still trying to figure out where the owners live), and we just walk upstairs to our room that is secured by a flimsy door lock.  What a contrast to Fort Knox in Quito.

Category: Ecuador, South America
Please leave a comment below. We'd love to hear from you! Both comments and pings are currently closed.
6 Responses
  1. Sonja says:

    Chris….OMG…that bus ride must have been just terrifying and much better not to see how close those buses actually get to the side of the road.

    sounds like all is going really well…I will be in montreal this weekend as val is running her first 10km. My leg is feeling a ok….I ran 6km today and while I will take it really easy until the mri (oct 5), I feel very confident that I don’t have a stress fracture…here’s hoping !
    some time.

    i’ll try skyping next week. Oh BTW I was at a party last week and a couple of my friends have checked out your website and they are just loving it!

    Love you guys…..Sonja xoxo

    • christina says:

      Hi Son,
      The bus ride actually wasn’t all that bad, at least not from where I was sitting. I’m sure there will be worse. We’re having a great time in Mindo, just taking it easy, lots of relaxing. We’ve done a couple of great hikes, seen some waterfalls, lots of exotic birds, and butterflies. We’re in the middle of a beautiful, tropical forest. We’ve decided to stay this coming week as originally planned. We like the laid back feel to this place and the friendliness of the locals.

      Good luck to Val on her first 10 km race – maybe she can write a race report and post on your website.

      Love to hear that people are enjoying the blog….I always wonder if anybody is reading the stuff I’m posting. Great to get feedback. Go easy on that leg, if it is a stress fracture you shouldn’t be running!
      Miss you and our runs,

  2. Gail says:

    I am loving your Blog Chris. I was running with Sonja when she told me about your adventure. I was intrigued! I appreciate that you shared your decision making process on the blog. Enjoying the pics and stories. Keep it coming!

  3. Kathy says:

    Hi Christina,
    I am thoroughly enjoying reading your blog. Can’t wait to see/read more! I am also still enjoying my ‘change of lifestyle’. Take care of yourselves.

  4. Paul says:


    Thank you for sending me this site. I am a fan already. I love how I can sit in my dreary grey walled cubicle and be taken away to another part of the world. This blog is already in my favourites and I am looking forward to following your adventures for the next two years. Have fun and stay safe.

    Gotta go, I have a meeting and then a pile of work e-mail to catch up on. Yaaawwwn.
    Over and OUT!

  5. Connie and Yves says:

    Hi there! How is it going? I’m loving your blog and following your travels. I’m glad Chris is feeling much better and I hope that that doesn’t happen to neither one of you again. I was reading about your meal for $5 with the tilapia. That is one of my favorite fish and I pay $6.70 for a 5oz lunch portion with rice, veg and salad….and that is half price. Can’t wait to see some more pictures and hear more about your travels. We are all doing well here. Ryan is home today with a fever and a cough. One more weekend at the trailer and we are going to Niagra Falls for Thanksgiving. So in the meantime it’s the same old routine back here in Ottawa. Take care of yourselves and talk to you soon.

    Love you miss you guys!

    Connie, Yves and the kids