A Travellerspoint blog

The Ride

by: Ryan

Well, there we were being driven through the mountains by a madman. The question was not if the van was going to flip the question was how many times would the van roll before stopping at the bottom of the ravine. And whatever happened to the three second rule for following another vehicle? This crazed driver thought it was the three millisecond rule. I am serious! We were so close to the cars in front of us I could smell what the occupants had eaten for lunch.


But in the end we made it to one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed.

Hacienda Cusin is a wonderful estate that was built in the 1600s and at some point it was converted into a unique hosteria. It has many amenities such as horseback riding, secret passageways, stunningly beautiful grounds, hummingbirds, a playground for the kids, a basketball court, and a lot more. I had a great time and it was worth risking my life.

P.S. Tami says that the car ride was not that bad. She thinks that because I was riding in the back and did not have any control over the situation that I was being overly sensitive. She might be right - but I still almost pooed myself.

Posted by RTMM 13:44 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Touring around Otovalo

by: Madeline

Today we went to two demonstrations -one on how the indigenous people make musical instruments and one on weaving-; we also went to the Condor Park, and to the Otovalo Market.

At the demonstration on musical instruments, a man showed us how the indigenous people make panpipes out of bamboo. Using an exacto knife to create an indentation at the correct length on a piece of bamboo (by using another previously completed pan pipe as a model) he scored the wood so he could snap the bamboo where he indented it. Then after completing the correct number of tubes for the size of panpipe desired, he cut another bamboo stick down the middle and cut about a third off each half so they would lay almost flat against the tubes when they they were lain down flat one against the other. Last, he tied the tubes together with a series of confusing loopy things and cut the string and he was finished. I bought a flute-like bamboo instrument and Maya bought a pan pipe.

At the next demonstration on weaving, a different man showed us how to use a loom to create a pattern of 3D blocks made up of varying colors. He had already started on the weaving, so we knew the pattern ahead of time. The man had about 6 different colors of yarn attached to a lot of small white strings. Instead of putting the yarn over or under each individual string he did a few at a time. The man also showed us how he could create red dye from a chalk-like substance, which grew on cacti, when it was smashed. My mom bought a weaving with a condor on a volcano.

The next place that we went was the Condor Park. At 11:30 there was a flight demonstration. The man who was doing the actual demonstration only spoke Spanish. A person who also worked at the park offered to translate for us but since my mom didn't have any change to tip him we had to listen to the whole demonstration in Spanish. The demonstration was still cool. Unfortunately there weren't any condors in the flight demo but there were some in their enclosures.

Our final stop for the day was the Otovalo Market. At the Otovalo Market you are expected to bargain. The prices are set high for foreign tourists, like us, that don't want to bargain or at least aren't really that good at it. Maya bought 2 items and both times she thought they were reasonably priced so she said okay to the initially quoted prices. Now, it was my turn to buy something that in my mind was worth 1 dollar but of course you have to ask a price first so I said, “Cuanto cuesta?” which means “How much?” in Spanish. The lady who was selling the trinket said “Tres dollars.” (3 dollars). I pondered for a while until she said “Two-fifty.” That was still to high in my mind so I said, “Dos dollars.” Now it was the woman's turn to ponder, until finally she nodded her head and the deal was done. So I still payed more than I thought it was worth but all in all at least I bargained.

Posted by RTMM 13:53 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

An enjoyable visit to the cloud forest



by: Tami

We've just returned to Quito after spending a few enjoyable days in the small Ecuadorian town of Mindo. Located northwest of the capital, Mindo is an easy two hour drive (although Maya would define it as nauseatingly winding) through lush, green, forested hills. In the mid-80s Mindo took a great economic leap of faith, transitioning from a traditional farming/logging community to a tourism-generating, environmentally protected forest preserve. Fortunately in this case, doing the right thing is benefiting not only the butterflies, orchids, and 300+ bird species of the area but also the local community.

Mindo__Ecu..009_008.jpgMindo__Ecu..009_037.jpgMindo__Ecu..009_099.jpgWe stayed a couple kilometers out of the main town at a lovely, family-friendly lodge called Casa Divina. We had a beautiful and very private cabina, surrounded on all sides by cloud forest. The kids were in seventh heaven. Dogs, cats, and chickens roamed the property. The lodge owner's two very friendly little girls were always around for a bit of playtime. And there were even indoor swings installed in the dining room for a little fun between meal courses.

We enjoyed ziplining over the cloud forest, walking into town for lunches, a nighttime wildlife hike, visiting the local butterfly farm to see not only butterflies but also tons of wild hummingbirds, and just enjoying the peace and quiet of the forest. We were all a bit sad to depart this morning, but Mindo did not allow us to leave without a little bit of excitement. As we were finishing packing up we heard an extremely loud crash at our cabin window. It sounded a bit like someone threw a baseball at the window full-force from ten feet away. We opened our door wondering what alien object could have possibly intruded upon our little haven of nature. Well, they told us that Mindo was the birding capital of South America ...


Yes, that is a photo of a toucan (or more accurately a toucanet) lying inches from our door. Don't worry, although he looks to be in rather a dreadful state in the photo, he was able to pull himself together after quite some time and fly back off into the forest. His heavy bill left a dent in our window, his bottom left us a quite messy final departing gift (Madeline says Mr. Watt mentioned in school that birds tend to defecate before taking flight; apparently this toucanet was privy to that lecture.), and his memory will remain with us for years to come.


Posted by RTMM 19:04 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

Going To Mindo

by: Ryan

Today we are headed to Mindo, Ecuador to visit the cloud forest. There are several exciting things to do there: canopy zip line tours , tubing down the Mindo river, hiking to find birds and other animals, visiting a butterfly farm, spending time at the Nambillo Waterfall, and much much more. We will let you know which of these adventures that we chose to do in future posts.

Posted by RTMM 05:45 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

The Dirty Truth About Laundry

by: Ryan

I always knew that things like food, laundry, sundry items, etc. were more expensive when you purchased them at your hotel , but I did not know just how much of a discrepancy there was, until now. As you might have read in a previous post by Madeline, we are doing most of our laundry in the bathtub of our hotel. This procedure for cleaning our clothes has worked out pretty well, but when we returned from the jungle and found that about 85% of our clothes were in dire need of a thorough cleansing we realized that the bathtub trick would not work this time. We had two options. The first option was to have the laundry done at the hotel and the second option was to find a lavandaria (where you drop off the dirty laundry and they clean and fold it for you) in the city. We started by calculating how much it would cost if we had it done at the hotel. The answer was $191. Since we could replace more than half of the clothes for $191 we decided to check out option number two. So we packed our dirty clothes into a duffel bag, got a taxi, and drove to the lavandaria. After arriving at the lavandaria, Tami took the dirty clothes inside and Madeline, Maya, and I placed bets on what the price would be. Madeline's guess was $60, Maya guessed $47, and my guess was $25. Well we were all wrong. The actual cost was $9.45. Yes, that was $9.45. Even when you add the $10 for the taxi rides (the ride from the hotel to the lavandaria and back, times two, this also includes the time the diver waited for the transaction to be completed) we saved about 90%. I could not believe that with just a little effort on our part we could save that much money.

So what is the moral of this story? There really isn't one, but there is a bit of common sense. If you want to save money, get off your butt and go to the lavandaria.

Posted by RTMM 07:27 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

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