Hello! Sorry for not posting this past week! We were in the Mindo cloud forest, and internet was not available.
Mindo is two and a half hours away from Quito by bus, but rather than drive the whole way there, we stopped at the Equator for a little while. At the Equator, we put one foot on each side, so we were in both the North and South hemisphere. Right next to the Equator was a little bug museum with live and dead bugs similar to those found in Mindo. We had the opportunity to hold huge beetles called “Hercules Beetles.” Holding these bugs came with a few minor freak-outs from some people in the group (lets just say there may or may not have been beetles flung to the ground, a few tears, and some uncontrollable laughing), but in the end, everybody was glad they held them.
On our first full day in Mindo, we went to a butterfly atrium and got to photograph different interesting butterflies. After the butterfly museum, we went right across the road and ventured to the icy cold river on which we tubed. The water was VERY cold, but it was really fun!
The next morning, we went to a bird-watching place to take pictures. It was really cool, and the birds were fun to watch and photograph. Later in the afternoon, we went to a place called Chocolarte. At Chocolarte, we got to learn how to make chocolate and were put to work like Oompa Loompa’s peeling cacao beans, and mixing everything together to make chocolate fondue (which we got to eat with fruits when we were done!) Dinner that night was quite interesting for some people, because the fish they ordered was served as a whole fish, with eyeballs and all…luckily for me, I ordered chicken!
On day three in Mindo, we were split in half, and each group did a different activity the first day, and switched the next day. My group was the smaller group (with 4 people), and we went to waterfalls. We took a cable car and hiked to get to them, and along the hike, we learned all about different species of animals that live in the cloud forest.
On day four in Mindo, we went to see mist netting. Biologists use mist netting to observe the growth of birds in the environment; they have multiple nets set up made of thin black string, and birds fly into them because they are hard to see, and then they band them, take measurements, and let them go. We again hiked to get to the mist-netting place, and it was totally downhill on the way down, and all uphill on the way up. The biologists were named Luke and Katie, and they are from the US, and are in Ecuador for 3 months for mist netting. During the few hours that we were there, 11 birds were caught (which is a lot compared to the 5 that the group the day before caught.)
On day five, we headed back to Luke and Katie’s (where the mist netting was), to help them and earn some service hours. We painted signs and fixed stairs (I now enjoy sawing things, and have to say I am quite the bamboo and wood sawer.) Later in the day, Massimo, our National Geographic photography instructor, left us to go back to Italy. The past week he critiqued our picture, helped us with photography techniques, and told us all about his career as a National Geographic photographer. He will be missed, but he left us with a great deal of knowledge.
Today, we woke up and packed, and then went to town for lunch and bought some snacks because the ones we brought were already running out. Everything in Mindo is VERY inexpensive…I bought enough snacks to last the entire trip for a total of $6, and on a previous day, we split up and went to lunch, and my group went to a restaurant and got soup, chicken, lentils, rice, and lemonade for a total of $2.50! After eating in town, we got on the bus and headed back to Quito for a night before going to the Amazon in the morning.