Chapter 2: The Wolfpack Explores a Cloud Forest
Mindo is a tiny town a few hours northwest of the capital. The geography is extraordinarily different from that a few hours northeast where the highway wraps around Ibarra’s dry, grassy mountains. Mindo is in a cloud forest, a lush, green selva with steep mountains and small rivers in the valleys. The town is dedicated to ecotourism. A few decades ago, Mindo was a community where the population got by with agriculture and forestry. A small group of locals and foreigners were able to turn the economy around to a sustainable model focused on tourism and positively exploiting the surrounding forest. This was my third or fourth trip to Mindo. The town is slightly more developed but my favorite hostel was still there (Casa de Cecilia, it’s basically a summer camp treehouse) and the guides and business owners were as friendly and accommodating as ever.
On our way to Mindo we hit up the Mitad del Mundo//Middle of the World monument outside Quito. It’s allegedly 0’0” latitude. Someone with a military GPS claims that the real middle is a few hundred yards north, but who’s counting?
Despite pouring rain that afternoon, we embarked on a chocolate tour at a hostel/café next to ours where we saw the chocolate-making process from fruit to bar and obviously tried some treats. The next morning was perfect Mindo weather, blue sky and sun, so we did a waterfall hike followed by my favorite activity of all time: ziplining.