Our trip to Mindo took us on a day drive that lasted for more than ten hours as we traversed steep dirt roads, meandered through small pueblos with fewer than 15 inhabitants, and wondered at the majesty of the tapestry of green. I learned all about epiphytes and bromeliads, tall giant ferns (see Scott’s photo of me for scale), how bananas grow and just how lush the land can be at 5000 feet. We tasted delicious chocolate, learned how it grows and how it is processed in small villages in the Andes, and watched people in each pueblo walking a variety of animals from one grazing spot to the next.
From there, it was all the way down to sea level and the small villages of Canoa and Montecristi. We had pizza with the locals, drank some of their maracuja infused alcohol and slept with the ocean at our doorstep. Our long walk along the beach the next morning was filled with ocean side splendor. We found the original Panama hats in Montecristi, bought beautiful beach mats and searched for small wooden spoons.
We spent a bit of time at Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the Earth) along the equator…while the actual GPS coordinates 0°00’0.00″ N are located along the road some distance away, this monument was built to celebrate the French geodesic mission of the 1700’s which originally located the center of the Earth here.
It was then on to the mountains at Laguna Quilatoa, four thousand meters above sea level (13,123 feet). Quilatoa is the western most volcano in the Andes of Ecuador. With a depth of almost 250 meters, this lake has the most beautiful blue-green color. The wind was so strong, we struggled to keep upright! We had warm potato soup and hot ginger and coca tea (which was necessary to combat altitude sickness) with a Quechua family, slept in thick covers on overstuffed beds, and awoke to a delicious breakfast made by the people of this indigenous community. We met local artisans, watched with amazement as the people around us tackled the daily tasks of life in this environment (gathering wood for cooking, tending to wandering livestock, selling cups of coca tea and fruit at roadside stands…), and marveled at the simplicity of it all.
Yes, this week we took roads less traveled. It was glorious. Our friends had not come to Ecuador to do the typical tourist routine. They came to explore the country, see the sights not seen in travel books, drive the dirt roads, and discover the Andes. There are some things you can read about in books, others you can only experience in real time with real people. Our time with Krista and Scott is a time we will cherish. Forever.
Today’s theme – Simple things are remarkable.