Embracing Ecuador: A series of unfortunate events

We landed in Quito, Ecuador around 11pm. We found a taxi easily enough to take us for our 2-hour drive to Mindo where we had booked 3nights in a room above a chocolate factory. Although it was dark outside it was a scenic drive through the mountains, especially the first part with all the city lights. When our driver pulled up at our destination, we could see some lights on above the chocolate factory …so we knocked on the door and pushed the button for the doorbell. But nobody was there. Our airbnb host actually lives in the USA and hadn’t provided the code for the door. We tried calling them, but no answer. Our taxi driver even tried throwing small pebbles at the windows and honked the car horn several times. The rain was falling around us and it was now 1am. Through the airbnb listing we knew the name of the chef that worked at the chocolate factory, so we thought we’d go to the police station and see if they could contact him. Our lovely taxi driver said he’d happily communicate in Spanish for us. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone at the station either. Time for plan B… our driver (Jose) took us to the hostel right beside our intended accommodation to see if they had a room for us. He called the number on his cell phone, and when no one answered began to call out in Spanish from outside the gate in the pouring rain, until a man woke up and came outside. He said he had a double room available for $30, so we took it. Our driver then got an umbrella out to shelter me from the rain and helped carry our bags over to our room. The whole time speaking in Spanish and translating back to English. We gave our driver a generous tip for all his help. We then ascended some very steep stairs in a rustic wooden cabin to find ourselves in a tidy room with 2 double beds and a private bathroom. The host then explained in his best English that he would bring us some towels and that we could pay in the morning. The room had a corrugated iron ceiling and it didn’t take long for us to fall asleep to the sound of rain pelting down. The next morning, we paid our rescue accommodation fee and went across to the chocolate factory to find the chef waiting for us. Apparently, they had found out we were trying to get in and he left his number on a piece of paper by the door at 3am (a couple of hours too late). Very apologetically, we were shown to our room where we got settled and went down for our breakfast which was included in our stay. Shortly, we were reimbursed almost half our accommodation fee through the airbnb app because our host felt so badly about the miscommunications. Our accommodation was really quite nice, especially now that we were settled in. We had a nice balcony overlooking Mindo and could pick from the restaurants breakfast menu each morning. We decided to use our balcony area to get on top of laundry.

laundry mindo
Time for Laundry

But with Mindo being located in a cloud forest we soon realised that our clothes probably would never really dry in the damp. After we had finished hand-washing, wringing and hanging our clothes we walked into town to see it by daylight for the first time. We were instantly charmed by its empty streets and little shops. We purchased an alpaca blanket and scarves from the side of the road and ate lunch at the bakery. In the afternoon we went on our complimentary chocolate factory tour (included in our accommodation). Once again, we were guided through all the stages in growing and making chocolate. The tour concluded with a very generous tasting of chocolates. We were fortunate in being able to retire upstairs to our little room for an afternoon siesta. Looking for convenience we even ate dinner at our chocolate factory restaurant.

The next day we went to Mindo Cloud Forest. We took a taxi from town (6km – but mostly uphill – so worth the $6 trip) and then enjoyed the small cable car across the forest to the start of the waterfall walking tracks. The cable car was powered by a 2002 Nissan motor; you can see the operator sitting behind the wheel accelerating the car across the ravine and it actually picked up a pretty good speed. On the other side we were faced with a map that had several options. We eventually decided to take the longest walk as we’d heard it went to the most spectacular waterfall. However, we were unsure of how long the walk was, as the sign just said ’50’ on the path -perhaps 50 minutes return or maybe each way? It turned out to be each way and also in the rain …we didn’t bother putting our rain jackets on as it wasn’t too cold, but boy did we get wet!


The next morning, we checked out and went into town to catch the 11am bus to Quito. It wasn’t really clear where to catch the bus from, but Mindo is only small and we worked it out when we saw the bus parked up on the side of the road. The bus only cost $3.10 each for the 2-hour ride. This time we could see all those beautiful mountains and forest views in the daylight. About 1 hour into the trip we slowed down to a stop in a small town. Then a few locals boarded the bus with a variety of different snacks and beverages for sale. We decided we could wait until 1pm and have something in Quito, as we planned to hang out in the city at the laundromat to deal with our damp washing before checking into our next airbnb. One man was very enthusiastic about selling his Empanadas (we’ll call him Empanada Man) and they did smell pretty good. After about 10 minutes of these sales, the entrepreneurs left the bus and we kept rolling on towards Quito. However, we didn’t get too far before we were stuck in a massive traffic jam. After a while, our bus pulled out and went around most of the traffic in front of us and the pulled in further ahead in a space of the queue. It is here that we could make out a road block. Then an English-speaking tourist spoke up about hoping no one was in a rush as there was a massive landslide ahead. By then, many people were getting off the bus and walking up the road to check it all out. So, we did the same… it was massive! After a couple of hours, the Empanada man and his friends arrived at the scene, this time we decided to purchase the empanadas – and they were incredible! We sat and waited… and waited… 7 hours later, and now in the dark, the team of diggers finally cut through to the other side.

We got off the bus in Quito around 8.30pm at the first stop because we spotted a big mall. We headed straight to the food court as we were ready for dinner by then. We had to abandon the idea of laundry and went straight to our airbnb near the airport, arriving around 10pm. Kadin had read online that you could put washing between your bedsheets and blankets and then your body heat would dry your clothes as you sleep. Needing a plan B, we carefully laid all our washed but damp clothes in our bed and fell asleep. We had to wake at 5am to catch our shuttle to the airport and the 6 hours of sleep had made our clothes noticeably drier. We packed it all up and got ready for our 5 days in the Amazon.

Although many things didn’t go to plan over our first 4 days in Ecuador, we really enjoyed our time and have found the Ecuadorian people very hospitable. Looking forward to another 3 weeks exploring this beautiful country.

Have fun at work!

Gemma

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