We left the hostel in Quito at 9 AM and set off for Mindo. On the way we stopped at the equator and straddled the line so we stood in the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time. After taking several photos of ourselves on the line we made our way over to a bughouse that had many of the species we would soon find in Mindo. The bughouse included tarantulas, scorpions, and huge beetles called Hercules beetles that we each held!! I completely freaked out when I had to hold one and I literally cried!! After it crawled around on my hand for a few seconds I started screaming and begging for him to take it away. Thankfully he came over and took it off of me. I thought I was done, but he was just giving me a new one! Round two began and I was even more panicky than before (if that’s possible). As he placed it on my hand it tried to grip itself to me but I couldn’t take it anymore and flung it to the floor! In my defense, it didn’t grip tight enough so it wasn’t entirely my fault! I was flustered and shaky for twenty minutes after my traumatizing ordeal and only calmed down when I got a guanabana Popsicle. We headed for the bus as I happily licked my popsicle and forgot all about the massive beetle. We rode for another hour and a half to two hours then arrived at an inn in Mindo around 2 o’clock. We ventured into town and found a burger place (looked like a bar) with little swings hanging around. We enjoyed burgers and mango milkshake type things then returned to the inn and had a photo critiquing session with Massimo. We went out to dinner then returned and went to our rooms and relaxed/uploaded a few photos.
We woke up for our first full day in Mindo and started the day with a workshop led by Massimo and Ms. Bottoms. The floors were pretty slippery in the place we were doing that photography stuff and I slipped and fell because I was wearing socks. It was really funny. After working with our cameras with help from the leaders we walked to lunch in town. We returned to the inn and put on our swimsuits for tubing later in the day. Open-backed trucks picked us up and took us to a butterfly sanctuary a few minutes away. We walked around and took pictures of all of the different butterflies for and hour or so then walked across the street (dirt road) to the river where we would be tubing. Tubes were tied together and we split into 2 groups (7 on one set of tubes and 6 on the other set). We sat in the cracks between the tubes and held onto the ropes that tied them together and set off down the river. Our guide swiftly maneuvered us through the rapids and rocks down the freezing cold river. We made it to the end and hopped back into the back of the truck that took us to the inn. We uploaded and sorted photos from the day then typed our blogs to copy onto our blogs next time we had internet access. We went to dinner a little before 7 at an Italian restaurant and ate forty slices of pieces between the 9 kids. We walked home in the dark and worked on our blogs for a little longer then headed for bed.
We are in Mindo still and will be heading back to Quito on Friday. It’s Tuesday night right now and yesterday we went to a hummingbird sanctuary and got some action shots of lots of colorful hummingbirds. After spending an hour or so with the hummingbirds we went to town for lunch and I had some rice, plantains, and a vanilla milkshake!! Mmmmmm…..!! We split into groups of threes and walked around taking pictures of the town and the people in their everyday lives. Ecuador has good cocoa plants and there was a chocolate shop in Mindo. We went and made our own chocolate by roasting the beans then pealing the shells and grinding them and finally turning them into fondue!!! The woman that owned the shop cut up a variety of fruits for us to dunk in the fondue and it was delicioso! We ran home (literally) and got flashlights/small digital cameras for a bug hunt that we would do after dinner. Then we ran to dinner where I boldly ordered fish, which was served with the head and tails included! Once I finished the meat part of the fish (it was actually quite good and a nice break from all of the chicken I’d been eating) then took a whack at the eyeball! The instance it touched my tongue I couldn’t chew it so I just took a swig of water and swallowed it like a pill. YUM. On the walk home we looked in the plants on the side of the road for bugs…I kinda just walked along pointing my flashlight without really looking because I didn’t want to find anything that could potentially freak me out. We got home and had a short group meeting then head to bed because some of us had an early morning ahead of us. We split into two groups and my group was going on a birding excursion where we would help experts “mist net”. Me, Bailey, Madeline, Madeleine, and Clara set off at 6:10 with Massimo and Sam. A taxi truck picked us up and drove us partially up the mountain to the trailhead where we slipped and slid down the extremely muddy trail for about 45 minutes until we reached a cabin where two biologist/bird specialists awaited our arrival. Caught and tagged birds until about 11:10 then headed back up the trail for about an hour hike (this time it was uphill) to the taxi at the top. The taxi took us to lunch at a pizza place and we walked home around 1:20. The other group didn’t get back until a little after 3 so my group just showered and relaxed for a bit then everyone got back to the hostel we uploaded pics and picked our top 5 from the past few days to be critiqued by Massimo. Around 4:30 we went to have our photos critiqued then headed to dinner. We came home and blogged then headed for bed (I assume that’s what we are doing next).
We were still in our two groups today and the other group got up early to go bird netting like my group did yesterday. Callie and Madeleine are in my room and Callie was in the early group today. She stomped around making as much noise as possible in our little bungalow/cabin. Finally she was gone around 6 and let Madeleine and I sleep until around 8:20 when we got up for breakfast and left for the falls. We took a taxi up the mountain then road a “tarabita” across a ravine and took a small hike down to a few waterfalls. We snapped some photos then dove right in for a swim. The icy cold water instantly made my hairs stand on end and gave me chills all over. After spending 5-10 minutes in the waterfall I had to get out because it was way to cold and I was ready to put my clothes back on. We got dressed and set off back up the trail to the tarabita. The taxi picked us up and drove us down the mountain into the town where we had burritos and guanabana juice then met the other group back at the hostel around 3 o’clock and uploaded our photos. Now I’m typing the blog on Word since the internet hasn’t been working here, but soon we’ll be back in Quito so I can upload all of the blogs that I’ve been keeping on Word.
Today we woke up around 7:20 and took taxi trucks up the mountain to a trailhead and hiked into the woods to help people repair their steps and paint new signs. We sawed wood and hammered pegs into the ground to hold up the steps in the dirt. Around 12 we left and hiked back to the main road. On the hike back Callie, Madeline, and I got a little lost on the trail. The group in front of us got a little too far ahead and the people behind us were too far back to hear our calls! We yelled the names of the leaders who were behind us and the names of the girls that were in front of us, but got no responses. We started to walk back down the trail in the direction that we came from and thankfully ran into the group behind us! We made it to the end of the trail and took a taxi into town for lunch then went back to the hostel and had some free time to play mafia and say goodbye to Massimo.
Today we spent the morning in Mindo and did a photo scavenger hunt around the town. Around 1:30 we left and got on the bus back to Quito. We arrived in Quito around 4 and went to do a little shopping at a market. We went to dinner then came back to the hostel and did some blogging. We leave tomorrow morning at 8 for the Amazon. We'll fly for 30 minutes to Coca then go on a 5ish hour boat/canoe ride down the Amazon to our lodge. HAPPY EARLY FATHER'S DAY DAD!! I love you.