Saving the best for last

We have decided to leave Mindo tomorrow (Wednesday) a few days earlier than planned.  A week has been long enough in Mindo and we’re ready to move on.  We plan to spend a few nights in a hostel on the beach before we meet up with Andy and Leo, our HelpX hosts who we plan to stay with in a “work for room and board” arrangement.

Today we visited one last “attraction” advertised in Mindo – the local chocolate factory, El Quetzal. Every day during the past week we have meant to go to the 4:00 tour and we have missed it every time for one reason or another.  Today was our last chance, so we were determined to do this tour.  Are we ever glad we did it as it was one of the highlights of our visit in Mindo.

Joseph Meza, the owner, began the tour with a description of the rich history of the cocoa bean.  We had the opportunity to taste the cocoa fruit as well as the cocoa bean in various stages of processing.  We were then taken on a tour of his farm and we were inspired by this man’s creativity as he continuously sought out new and interesting ways to use every part of the cocoa plant.  For example, he had created a barbeque sauce from the juice of the cocoa fruit, a by-product that is usually thrown out.  He had also created a syrup from ginger that he serves on pancakes in his restaurant (instead of maple syrup which is expensive to import).  It passed the Canadian taste test!

We toured his garden and saw some of his other projects: about 25 coffee bean trees,his own cocoa trees, lemon grass, aloe vera plants, variety of fruit trees and vegetables for his restaurant, chickens, and pigs to name just a few.  Everything had a purpose.  All of this on an acre and half plot – it was amazing!  At the end of the tour, we sampled his products and were wowed by the brownies – they certainly lived up to their reputation as the best brownies ever!

The products produced in this little factory are sold locally.  In addition, Joseph who is a Michigan native, exports cocoa nibs (cocoa beans that have been processed to a certain point) back to the US where he also has a chocolate factory.  He splits his time three months in Mindo and three months in Michigan. He has a fascinating story about how he got into this business.

While on the tour, we met a lovely family: the mother, Blanca, an Ecuadorian native,  the father, Richard,and their adult children: Scott, Kelly and Kelly’s husband Kevin.  This family has its roots in Ecuador on the mother’s side.  In fact, her father, who was a civil engineer, had played a pivotal role in the establishment and development of Santo Domingo de los Colorades.  We caught their attention when we shared with them that we were on a 2-year round the world adventure.  When they heard about our plans to go to Canoa to do a work exchange, they mentioned their sister (aunt) who runs a school in Santo Domingo de los Colorades who is always looking for help teaching English to children as well as help for her many projects she has on the go.  They insisted on providing us with her contact information and encouraged us to look her up. They said they would mention us to her as well.  While we’re committed for the next week or so, we’ll see after that.  Who knows, maybe that will be our next gig. Richard also provided his business card along with their address in Pedernales where they are heading next.  He kindly offered to provide us any assistance if we need help or got ourselves into trouble.  I am constantly amazed by the kindness of strangers!

And so that wraps up our visit to Mindo.  Back to practical matters, like how the heck to get to Canoa from here.  We have puzzled over the best way to get to Canoa from Mindo.  The advice we have received is to go back to Quito, and catch a bus from the station south of the city.  This just seems counter intuitive as we are already about a quarter of the way to the coast.  I have looked at the map and scoured the internet for other options.  I have discovered there is a main bus terminal in a town called Santo Domingo de los Colarados which isn’t too far from Mindo.  I’m certain we can catch a bus from there to the coast.  The only question is how to get there.  I read a blog about a guy who went this way to the coast, so I know it can be done, just have to figure out how to do it.  And that is what we did earlier this afternoon.

The bus station in Mindo provides bus service between Mindo and Quito only.  However, I have seen another bus in town that does not use the bus station – this bus just parks itself on the road next to the park.  I figured we should find out where this bus went – who knows, maybe he went straight to Santo Domingo.

I suppose we could have asked someone in town about this bus, but that seemed pretty complicated from a language perspective.  I figured it would be much easier to talk to the bus driver directly.  Only problem was we didn’t know when he would be there.  So the big plan for this afternoon was to hang out around the park waiting for the bus to show up.  Luckily, the bus was sitting there when we went to the park around 1:00.  I had practiced what I was going to say and so dove right in with my questions for the bus driver.  Sure enough, this bus went directly to Santo Domingo at almost hourly intervals in the early morning, then again at 11, 1 and 4.  Problem solved.  That was much easier than anticipated.

We will take the 6:00 am bus tomorrow morning in order to give us plenty of time to get to the coast before dark.  We will have to transfer in Santo Domingo to Pedernales, and then again in Pedernales to a bus heading south down the coast.  Not sure how long this journey will take, but at least we now have a plan.

Category: Ecuador, South America
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