After our unbelievable week in the Galapagos Islands Brian and I needed a few days to relax, lie low and catch up on work.
We took a 1.5 hour bus ride from Quito to Mindo, a tiny village tucked into the cloud forest in Ecuador’s northern Andes. Mindo is a laid-back town on the backpacker trail, most famous for it’s excellent bird watching and adventure sports like tubing, zip-lining and canyoning.
We booked a room at The Yellow House Lodge a place that came highly recommended but was a bit outside of our backpacker budget at $19.50 per person per night. (Oh, how my perspective has changed. It cost us almost that much to camp at some of the U.S. National Parks this summer).
When I asked the owner via email how to find the Yellow house she told me to exit the bus, walk across the city park to an internet cafe, turn right, then walk up a dirt road until we saw the entrance to the lodge. I love visiting small towns that have no need for street signs. There’s one market, one park, one pharmacy. Perfect for navigating via landmark.
The road to the Yellow House
At the end of a long dirt road we found Yellow House Lodge and were instantly happy with our choice. We were shown to a big, beautiful room with our own private bathroom and a balcony with a hammock and views of the mountains. The homemade breakfast was fresh and delicious. Best of all, we had access to hiking trails on which visitors can meander for hours or go on trail runs through lush vegetation, spotting birds and dodging spiders.
One of the buildings on Yellow House Lodge property. Our room was on the top floor.
The grounds of Yellow House Lodge
We didn’t do much in Mindo, but it’s the perfect place to not do much. We spent hours reading in the hammock and even more hours on the balcony in the main house watching the hummingbirds fly by. We’d hike in the early afternoon and then walk the five minutes into town to grab some food and helado (I need to add a line item for ice cream into our budget). At night we would lay in bed reading, listening to the cows and roosters moo and crow with such rambunctiousness that they sounded like they were attending a wild party.
The slow life in Mindo, Ecuador
When we’d finally had our fill of laziness we dropped into a local company and booked a canyoning trip for the following morning. Canyoning, we’d learned, is popular in Ecuador and is essentially rappelling over a waterfall.
The next day we were greeted by our guide, a guy of about nineteen who shook our hands and ushered us into the back of a pickup truck. After a bumpy, dusty, ten-minute ride we were deposited on the side of the road outside of Mindo. We hiked through rocky terrain, past cows and a picturesque river, before stopping at the top of a rocky ledge.
Our guide did a series of things with carabiners, threw a frayed rope over the edge of the cliff, then spoke to us in Spanish as he gestured instructions while Brian and I both stood with blank looks on our faces, nodding.
“Do you think this is safe?” I asked Brian, gesturing towards the frayed rope.
“Sure,” he said, but his tone wasn’t too convincing.
“But they haven’t even given us helmets.” I pointed to a banner strung up in a tree with a photo of two happy gringos in the midst of canyoning, solid green helmets strapped to their heads.
“Just don’t think about it,” Brian said, and then he clipped into the rope and hopped over the edge.
We survived canyoning in Mindo
We were only in Mindo for three days but I could have easily stayed longer. I liked that the ex-pat hippy community exists here but doesn’t detract from the authentic feel of being in small-town Ecuador. There’s not a (working) ATM in Mindo, but there is a handcrafted chocolate shop. Children sell fresh juice on the street and a bohemian foreigner sells homemade, organic coffee in her tiny shop.
Children sell fresh juice on the street
There’s one main road, paved, and a dozen of other smaller roads in the process of being paved. There’s no heavy equipment here, things happen in Mindo one brick at a time.
Mindo’s main road
A hummingbird statue in Mindo’s town square