Today’s adventure would take us to TelefériQo and Mitad Del Mundo. If you have been to Quito, you will know this is one if the highest cities in the world meaning that generally most humans entering it will get altitude sickness which is horrid. Safe to say, we both have it, albeit mildly. Our headaches are horrible, and it makes you feel constantly hungover. However, we hate staying in so after a great breaky we hopped in an Uber and headed to TelefériQo Cruz Loma.
I was really excited about this as I love mountains and great views but it is so high. A bit of background about this activity – it’s a gondola lift running from the edge of the city centre up the east side of Pichincha Volcano to lookout Cruz Loma. It is one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, rising from 3,117 m (10,226 ft) to 3,945 m (12,943 ft). The ascent takes about twenty minutes, traveling 2,237 linear metres. WOW – I KNOW RIGHT!
The accent up was actually quite terrifying for the first 5 minutes as it’s really high but the views of the city are spectacular, so you quickly forget that you are in a small hanging bubble. Once you’re at the top (a mere 4100m), you can hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha (4680m) – but there was no way in Earth we were doing it. Instead we wanted to go to the swing at the edge of the world and take photos with Llamas! There is also oxygen tanks up the top if you are feeling really ill and want to pay a few dollars for a quick fix – we didn’t but a few people were using them when we got there.
Tourists for the day...
So, after a month away we have arrived back in the freezing cold, busy AF, noisy, aggressive city of Quito. That’s not quite true, most people are actually lovely here but aggressive sellers what I should mention and we have been warned multiple times of how dangerous it is here – WE ARE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE!
We arrived last night after 12 hours of traveling – yes, I can’t believe it either for a 2 hour domestic flight there is so much nonsense of public busses, and boats, and taxi’s and aeroplanes that by the time we arrived last night we collapsed.
Today however has been filled with fun. Kind of. We spent the morning sorting our lives out as the WIFI here at ‘Hostal Imperial’ is fantastic. I had 17 blogs to post and we have a bunch of new work.aways to apply for. This time round we are staying next to Plaza Foch or as it’s better known the party capital of Quito – why I booked it, I still don’t know… but the Hostal is pretty good.
We left around midday to take a 3km walk to ‘Mercado Central’ or Central market for lunch as we had read it’s great to try local food and it’s cheap – yes, it’s cheap. For stall after stall of some of Quito’s most traditional foods, this is the place to be nestled between Esmeraldas and Manabí.
Upon arriving at the market we were greeted with big smiles, lovely warm welcome from most stalls and then it was like a free for all of who could grab us first. Slightly concerning from 100 year old woman but still we eventually sat down, got a fresh juice and llapingachos ( fried potatoes and salad) for $2.50USD pp.
From there we strolled back into the old town – which I am simply in love with the colours, architecture and vibrancy and headed straight to the Basilica del Voto Nacional. The basilica is the most important work of neo-Gothic Ecuadorian architecture and is one of the most representative of the Americas. It is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the New World. The building is noted for its grotesques in the form of native Ecuadorian animals such as armadillos, iguana, and Galapagos tortoises so I was dying to take a walk inside. It costs $2USD pp and I highly recommend it. The place is fantastic, filled with beautiful stained glass, stunning craftsmanship of the building itself and you can climb to not only the bell tower but another of it’s highest peaks – definitely not passing any health and safety rules for sure!
After that we went to the 6th floor where you can actually sit and have a coffee or beer in a beautiful little café overlooking the city! This was a great way to spend a cloudy afternoon when both of us wanted to just crawl back into bed. We have another free day here before heading to Quilotoa and then Brazil but I reckon tomorrow will be spent watching movies as we are both feeling a little under the weather with the altitude of Quito.
Our Quito family day out
We were up at 5am to catch the earliest us from Mindo back to Quito as I was bursting to see mum and dad. Again, the fare was only $3.10USD pp so I urge anyone traveling to Ecuador to visit Mindo as it was a truly special place which I highly recommend.
As we didn’t have any WIFI at the bus station we could grab an Uber so a regular taxi to the historic old town where we were staying that night will cost $12USD. Luckily, as fate would have it both my mum and me booked 1km apart so as soon as we checked into our hostel for the night (which was a shit hole BTW- never spend $17USD on a hostel as you will get EXACTLY what you pay for). Mum and dad were staying at Hotel San Francisco, so we wandered over to meet them and my god, I would recommend staying here, the place is a palace, full of lush garden courtyard and panoramic views of the city as much as I was so stoked to see them, I couldn’t help but wish we were also staying there too.
Seeing my parents was truly fantastic. I was absolutely filled with joy and excitement even though we have been so under slept the past 3 weeks. I knew my dad has re-injured his shoulder after a bad motorbike accident last year but he was in a sling when we arrived - made by my super woman mum and he was clearly in more pain than we were led to believe. As our whole family are Marvel geeks minus my mum we felt the best way to spend the day was heading to see the Avengers: End Game…AGAIN! We would be seeing them in Galapagos in a few days anyway, so it was a clear winner of things to do!
Downpours in Mindo & our last day
After sleeping in yesterday we were advised to get up really early as the cloud forest is renowned for great mornings and very rainy afternoons being a cloud forest and all. So based on that, we set our alarms for 5am and arranged breaky for 6am. IT RAINED ALL NIGHT AND DOWNPOURED THIS MORNING.
So even after waking up in the middle of the night by the time we left the house was about 8am and today we wanted to hike the Hacienda San Vicente nature trails or the Yellow house to us non Spanish speakers.
This place has been described as: ‘A place of un-equalled beauty and natural richness. It has one of the richest variety of birds, butterflies, including ones with transparent wings, animals, plants, mushrooms, wild flowers, including orchids and bromelias karatas. Beautiful rivers. With its own rain forest inside its property, the “Hacienda San Vicente” is one of the best known birding localities in Ecuador’’ – so we had to go!
As it was our first morning in Mindo, we treated ourselves to a longish lie and had breaky at 8am. Spoilt with fresh fruits, smoothies, pastries and scrambled eggs we stuffed our tunnies and headed on an adventure to the waterfalls. There are two roads out into the Mindo-Nambillo nature reserve. If you aren't bombarded with signs advertising the waterfalls and canopying, you're on the wrong road, but as it was a 5km walk uphill to get to the start of the waterfall walk we hopped in a taxi which cost us $6USD.
I complained to Leo that it was expensive until we started the ascend and I realized that every time a taxi drove this road it was guaranteed to damage the vehicle – the road was useless and filled with holes.In NZ we love chasing waterfalls and visiting as many as possible and on this walk alone there are 7 overall ranging in size and depending how long you want to walk.
At the top we decided to do the walk first to Nambillo, one of the largest waterfalls before later catching the Tarabita – Cable car. It takes about 1 hour to hike to the Nambillo waterfall and will cost $3USD per person to enter this side of the park. It’s such a beautiful walk, filled with nature, lush green forest, a fantastic rope swing and plenty of questionable areas of path.
Upon arrival, there is a beautiful waterfall – Nambillo which was absolutely bursting at the seams as we have had so much rain, as well as a toboggan which you can shoot down straight into the falls. It looked like instant death to us and luckily it was closed as 100% Leo would have given it a go.
What was open unfortunately was the 12m death drop. I have never seen anything like it. You jump from 12m into the actual waterfall and the white water rapids below. Now these falls reminded us both of Huka falls in NZ or any other white-water rafting river so I laughed knowing neither of us would do it…however, Leo wanted to.
When we started planning this trip nearly a year ago I always knew that Mindo had to make the cut based on it’s location, the things to do here and how beautiful it looked from our research.
Full of lush greenery, exotic wildlife, and vibrant Ecuadorian culture, a visit to Mindo can be thrilling to the senses yet soothing to the soul at the same time.
Where is it, you ask? Nestled in the heart of Ecuador’s Cloud Forest, Mindo is a little oasis of thriving natural beauty. From Quito, we headed in an Uber to Terminal La Ofelia which has busses about 5 times a day to Mindo for only $3.10USD pp and takes around 2 hours.
We have planned 3 nights here and 2 full days as the town of Mindo is quite small, so we hoped that this would be the perfect amount of time to soak up the sights and take advantage of all the activities, while still having some downtime to relax and unwind a but as the past few weeks have been full on to say the least.
We did it! After my initial panic about altitude sickness, not being fit enough and the weather conditions we can successfully say that we reached base camp of the Cotopaxi Volcano, the second highest in the world! WOOHOO, what a bloody achievement. I am so proud of both of us as it is by far not an easy stroll.
The trip itself was great, we left at 7am from across town so grabbed an uber for $2.33USD – winning! then made our way to the National park stopping for breakfast along the way, including getting to pet a Llama and play with some beautiful puppies – my day was already made!
From there it was a good hour drive to the Cotopaxi National park home to the Cotopaxi Volcano. Our guide was amazing and he taught us so much about the culture, flora and fauna, and facts about the National park along the way. Ecuadorians love to connect with their mountain deities and one way to do this is to hike as high as possible There was an eruption in 2015 and since then, the National Park has stopped all climbing to the glacier and the summit of Cotopaxi but has reopened the trail to the Jose Ribas Refuge at 15,973 feet (4,600 meters) which is where we would be hiking to. The hike up is strenuous, requiring good lung capacity, and the views on a clear day are unparalleled. Our weather was incredibly average, snowy, freezing cold and super windy so by the time we hauled our bodies to base camp, my fingers and toes were ready to fall off.
Destination number 3 – ECUADOR
We have made it to the busting city of Quito, gateway to destination 4 – Galapagos islands where we will be spending 1 month starting May 1st.
Over the past 2 days we have been in Santiago, Chile having some well needed rest, sleep and rejuvenation after the past few weeks. Santiago surprised me – It was freezing, that was surprise 1, but the people were unbelievably friendly, the street art was next level amazing (Check the pic below from Paseo Bandera) and the city itself was easily to navigate and full of interesting places and monuments.
We stayed in Hostal Casa de Mosaico in Recoleta ( a neighbourhood with an excellent vibe) and we loved it. We paid $25NZD per night for a huge double room, bathroom and breakfast through Air B N B. The staff were so friendly both in person and through email and spoke fluent English, recommended us exactly what to do and where to eat. We really enjoyed our time here.
Hey! I'm Ally. I left the UK in 2011 to move overseas and ended up in New Zealand - my new home. This year we are taking a gap year to loop the world stopping in some AMAZING destinations - and I'm passionate about sharing these adventures with you!