Morning Notes from Mindo


We leave Mindo today for Otavalo after three days of leisurely exploration. I left a rave review of our home here (in photo above), Sisakuna Lodge, at TripAdvisor. It is a collection of five high-peaked, two-story cabins and one brick-colored, rounded structure that reminds me of Santa Fe. A woman named Amada manages Sisakuna, and I believe her father owns it. They began building the compound, lush with plants, flowers, and birds, five years ago, and it has been open for two years. From our cabins, we were able to walk everywhere in Mindo but we did take a $3 taxi ride back from the butterfly pavillion, which was about a half-hour’s walk up a steep dirt road.

Avenue Quito is the main street, and in the evening it is a wonder of combined transportation. The cobblestoned street fills with kids, dogs, chickens, bicycles, motorcycles–and yes–a few cars, pickup trucks and an occasional bus. At dinner the other night we saw three pickup trucks drive by, horns honking and kids in soccer uniforms in the back cheering and waving flags. Someone must have had a good game.

Our bird-watching trip starting at 6 a.m. yesterday morning with Alex Luna, who moved here 15 years ago from another city in Ecuador. He introduced us to several varieties of tucan and other colorful birds, as well as to the role digital technology plays in bird-watching these days. I remember my Aunt Edna heading out with a small pair of binoculars and a small field guide book on her bird-watching walks decades ago. Alex arrived with a cannon-sized Pentax scope with 20 power magnification, a green laser pointer to show us where to look in the trees, and a Sony smartphone filled with thousands of bird calls. He used the phone once in a while to call a particular bird toward us, but sometimes they flew away instead. Alex also loaned us each powerful Swarovski binoculars, made in Austria.

Alex Luna, our birder guide in Mindo, and Darlene on yesterday's walk.

Alex Luna, our birder guide in Mindo, and Darlene on yesterday’s walk.

Mindo is a small town in the cloud forest northwest of the capital, Quito. The population is about 3,000. We saw just one other set of tourists from the U.S., a couple from California with a four-year-old daughter named Shiva. Mindo gets many Ecuadorian visitors, including a couple I just met here in the dining pavillion, Natalie and Sebastian and their one-year-old, Sara. They met in Montreal, where Natalie is from, and moved back to the Quito area, where Sebastian is from, three years ago. We ran into a group of about 20 students from Norway at the pizza place where we had supper one night. ¬†They were traveling the world for a year, and their next stop is China. The next morning they showed up at the Rio Mindo, putting on life jackets for a tubing ride down the river. I’ve had a chance to practice my French with two groups of visitors from France. So it’s a varied collection of tourists that makes its way to Mindo.

This was a good place to settle in after the intense tour of the Gallapagos. This morning a driver will pick us up for the three-hour ride to Otavalo and the Ali Shungu eco resort, which sounds like an amazing place at higher elevation. Reviews often point out that the woodstoves in the cabins are kept fired up against the chilly mountain air.


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