Friday, May 16, 2014

Day 8 - Mindo, Ecuador

Good evening! Today was a little less strenuous than the others, since we only had a morning hike around the grounds of our lodge. We met at 7:00 for breakfast (yes, all of your children were up at AND ready by that time) then went to our hike around 8:00. We saw some more native plants, walked down some pretty steep trails, then up some more steep trails. We crossed a really pretty water fall/bridge area. At the top of a hill, our guide surprised us by pulling out a rope swing! Very cool! We all took turns swinging and yelling like Tarzan (no, not really, only some yelled). After the hike we had several hours to relax, swim in the pool, read, walk around the other parts of the lodge area to see birds and flowers, or take a nap.

 Above - picture on the bridge during our hike; Below - picture of the waterfall (taken by Hannah)
Above: Dr. Crater swinging in the trees; Below, lunch outside at our lodge, overlooking the valley.

After lunch, we went for a drive into the nearby town called Mindo. This area is well known for activities such as rafting, tubing, zip-lining, bird watching and a butterfly farm. We rode around the small town and stopped to tour a chocolate "factory." It is not what you would think of as a factory, since it started as a restaurant, and they developed it into a factory with small tours. We saw what happens to the cocoa (pronounced here like ku- COW) plants, how they ferment and dry the seeds, where the roast the seeds and break them into little pieces (called nibs). From there they melt it in a hot room and mix it with sugar and then the cold room where they separate it into bars. We got to peek into some of the rooms through glass windows  - reminded us of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!"  At the end, we got to taste some 100% chocolate, mix it with some sugar or ginger or chili peppers. We also tasted chocolate honey. At the end, we got a small chocolate fudgey brownie that was like heaven!

After the tour, we bought some souvenirs for home, and got back on the bus. We went into another nearby town, Los Bancos and visited another hostel, Mirador Rio Blanco that overlooks a nearby canyon.  We got a chance to walk around a little, see some birds and buterflies, and talk to some other Americans that were staying at this hotel on a bird-watching trip. They had some pretty extensive camera set-ups that made several of our students quite jealous!

We left for our lodge, had dinner, and relaxed in the lodge. Since this is only place with WiFi, students seem to be hanging out here more than in their cabins. Some are playing games, shooting pool, or reading. We have a VERY early morning tomorrow - breakfast at 6:30am and on the road by 7:00. We have an 8 hour drive to the coastal lowlands, and will be stopping along the way for one excursion.  Hopefully on the next blog I can show pictures of the beaches! Yeah!

Some silly pictures of today...:
Kara, Tia, Skylar, Evan and Logan in one of the cabins:
Above: Taylor and Brianne with chocolate "stuck" in their teeth; Below, our version of "blue footed boobies" outside of the Galapagos Islands... (can you guess whose feet are whose?)

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