Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mindo, Ecuador




All of 3000 people live in the town. There’s exactly one main road. The maximum taxi fare from anywhere to anywhere is 2$ and, I believe, there’s enough margin built in into that fare. Mindo is that kind of small town.

What had brought us here was what lay just outside of the town, though. Mindo is tucked away in a valley in the famous cloud forests of Ecuador which are home to some dizzying number of species of birds. We stayed in a beautiful lodge called the Yellow House, which itself was in an estate that has some famous birding trails within it. The reputation, I realised, is well-deserved. I probably saw more number of species of birds here than in any other 3-day period in my life anywhere else I’ve travelled to. The pièce de résistance in the Yellow House was the breakfast table in the balcony where you could watch hummingbirds hovering metres from you while you have your eggs and coffee in the morning. (See my posts on the birds of Mindo, and one separate one on the hummingbirds I photographed there.)

In the three short days we spent there I got my fill of birds. What I hadn’t bargained for at all was how much I ended up liking the sleepy little town. We kept stumbling from one endearing episode to another but here’s my favorite one. It was the first day of May and we were spending our third day in town. May 1 is presumably a popular holiday and almost all of the restaurants were shut. We walked along the one main road in town looking for any place that would offer us a bite, and ended up at the little cafe in front of the bus stop where we had had lunch the previous afternoon. The hostess recognised us from our last visit and flashed a smile at us. We took that for a welcome and walked in. She said something long in Spanish which my recent short online course hadn’t equipped me to understand. From the non-verbal cues, though, I started to sense that she probably was trying to communicate something important. The hunger had clearly made my wife oblivious to such hints; she had picked up the menu and had started pointing at her picks. The hostess shook her head and started crossing off items on the menu with her finger. This session of charades lasted a while, and finally, looking visibly exasperated, she said “Only Burrito”. We were beggars that afternoon and we said we’ll take it. At this time only one other table was occupied with what looked like family members of the hostess who was serving us. When she came out with a bunch of burritos it finally dawned on us that the restaurant was closed for the day. She had figured it was easier to share the burritos that she had made for her family with us than explain to us that the kitchen was closed. Mindo is that kind of small town.
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