Mindo Hike

Lindie and Dan with a single leaf overhead. The black string around Lindie’s neck is from her hat.

Dan loves to hike; I like to hike a lot. There is a difference between “love” and “like a lot” but still it is one of my preferred types of exercise. Our guide took us to the small town of Mindo, not far from Quito.

We paid $5 each for Dan and myself (guides are usually free) and rode a cable car from the parking area across a deep ravine and set out to see the Cascada de Reina, a waterfall. Of course it took much longer than the one hour each way and at one point I had given up only to find out I was less than 10 minutes from it! The trail wasn’t really steep or hard but we had gone about 2 hours at that point.

Concrete stairs by waterfall. Just out of view of this picture, the water covers the stairs.

The waterfall is impressive due to the amount of water flowing through it. There are concrete stairs along side the waterfall so you can walk up but there was so much strong gushing water coming down the fall that I chose not to go up the stairs although Dan did.

Chocho beans with salt, courtesy of CuencaHighLife

On the way back, we stopped under a shelter and ate a late lunch of veggie ceviche: chochos (a nutritious and tasty white bean with a slight crunch), onion, tomato, and plantain chips and lime or lemon juice. It had been marinating for about 3 hours by then and was delicious however as we sat still the mosquitoes had found me so I headed back down the path, forgetting that I had Dan’s rain jacket in the pack on my back.

Of course it started raining and after debating, I decided to backtrack and get the jacket to him. I went most of the way back to the shelter before I met up with Dan and the guide. By then he decided he didn’t need his jacket so I got a lot of extra steps in.

All in all it was a pleasant day although it was clear that we needed to do more hiking. We tend to walk a lot in towns but not actually hike.

Pasto and Ipiales, Colombia

Mopa Mopa Vase. Each strand of color was individually added. The process looks like making taffy with the plant sap being stretched and pulled. Once it is the right consistency, color is added. Then it is rolled into thin sheets where it is cut into strips and each piece is pressed into place with a hand tool.

One of our last stops in Colombia was the small town of Pasto, less than 2 hours from Ecuador. We were only there a few days and we saw a few interesting things.

Below are a couple of pictures from a night parade right outside the gate of our apartment. It was church related; can’t tell you anything more than that. Here are a man and a woman on stilts and below that a float.

 

We took a walk one day and there were cows grazing on the meadow by this large apartment building. In Colombia you can tell small towns by medium sized ones when apartment building like this show up. This one is on the edge of Pasto, about two blocks from where buildings are built side-by-side.

Beautiful view of the area. Many Andean mountain cities and towns are like this, where the city suddenly ends and fields appear.There was a place on the river close to where we stayed where a number of people hand washed their laundry on the river. I took a quick picture of them but can’t find it. We were surprised because it was inside the city limits. We heard about a business where a washing machine is delivered for under $5 and then carted to the next place.

We went to a house built in 1623. This is the oldest restored structure in the town. It was especially interesting to Dan with his construction/restoration background but I enjoyed seeing the old tools and the newly made wooden sculptures, boxes, and wall hangings. One thing they talked about was Mopa Mopa art. The best way I can describe it is that they make something akin to vinyl from resin which is  colored and cut into shapes and then applied to almost anything (wood, metal, ceramics) as a decoration. More pictures below when we went to the local store where they actually do this.

The Blacks and Whites Carnival is held every year in early January. We missed seeing it but we went to the museum where they house a lot of the old floats. These floats are not flower decorated floats…they are made of a paper mache base with fiberglass applied and then painted. Each float can be up to 50 x 60 feet in size and intricately designed and painted. They take about 4 months each to make and their is stiff competition for the first place prize money. Keep in mind how big these floats are when you look at the gallery.

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Mopa Mopa Art is amazing! Watching the gentleman apply to filmy color and looking at some of his art work it is hard to believe it is done by hand. Here is more info on the process although you will have to use a translate program if your Spanish isn’t up to par.

Las Lajas Sanctuary in nearby Ipiales was built on the location where  in 1754 a young deaf girl reported seeing the Virgin Mary and the girl spoke for the first time. The bridge for the Sanctuary crosses a river and is incredibly beautiful. The cathedral itself is stunning. All along the path to the cathedral and past it people have added various plaques, probably thousands of them!

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At the Sanctuary we met Juan who is from Bogota Colombia and traveling by bicycle to the tip of South America. He has pretty good English and we bumped into him the next day at the bus terminal in Ibarra as well.

From the Sanctuary we took the cable car up the steep hill and caught a taxi. We paid the driver to take us to the cemetery which is across the border into Ecuador. More on that in another posting but here are a few pics from the cable car.

 

 

 

Jardin

Jardin plaza dominated by church made mid 20th century using hand carved stones

By the time we left Medellin, we were ready for small laid back towns. We’d heard good things about Jardin and they were true. Primarily an agriculture area, there is some tourism. Very few expats live here, about 30-40 according to our guide. Compare that to Boquete which is about the same size and has 1000-2000 expats! We got lots of chances to practice our Spanish, especially since we staying in an Airbnb home of a young couple and an almost 3 year old who spoke very, very little English.

We spent 12 days in Jardin, a small town with a population of under 10,000  and during that time we did a lot of walking, a horse back ride, rode the Gurracha and saw the Cock of the Rock birds.

Jardin is a very vibrant town with a good sized plaza and a large church built early in the 20th century. It doesn’t seem to matter what day or the time of day, there are almost always tons of people in the plaza…sitting, walking, talking, drinking. We quite enjoyed just walking around the town. There is a very laid back feeling of times long gone in most US cities and towns; people standing outside chatting in the evenings. Very community oriented.

Horse waiting for its rider

The altitude of Jardin is about one mile above sea level. This town has a very busy plaza, no stop signs/stop lights, and it is not uncommon to see horses walking or being led down the street.

The horse back ride in the mountains was amazing and very scary for me. The horses were well trained and it was just Dan, myself, and the guide. But the trail was sometimes muddy up to the horses’ knees, uneven, and often along the very edge of the mountain which dropped off at about 160 degree angle.

The views were amazing! Coffee and bananas and plantains are grown on these steep mountains and everything is green, green, green. And we saw a lot of butterflies, even more than we saw when we went to butterfly exhibits in different towns!

Our ride, 100,000 pesos each ($33 each) included a lunch. We had opted for the vegetarian lunch which was carried in the saddlebags. It was rice, avocado, fried plantain, and a hard boiled egg, all wrapped in a fresh plantain leaf, and tied with string. It was very tasty and I am sure that the leaves were composted or fed to some animal that night.

Dan

Dan walked through a cave and behind a waterfall but I opted to rest instead. While we were sitting for lunch, there was a cow that was VERY friendly. We kept shooing her away but she wanted to be with us. Maybe she was lonely.

It was about a 3-4 hour ride plus transportation to and from the town to the place up the mountain with the horses. We got our money’s worth for sure!

The Garrucha is a hand made cart that goes from one end of town up the mountain via a cable. Built in 1995, the round trip is just over $2 per person and you can spend as much time on the mountain as you want. The views from the mountain are incredible although you can’t see a lot through the slots as you go up or down in the Garrucha. It is obvious that the person translating or printing the signs is not an English speaker. Check out the views and signs here.

Check out the English explanation; obvious it wasn't translated by a native English speaker

The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock or Tunki is an impressive, odd looking bird, widely considered the national bird of Peru. It has a rounded crest on the head of the male and is bright red on the upper part of the body with grey and black on the lower half. We went to a private reserve where we saw at least 3 males (no females) who were very territorial and loud. Here are some pictures of the Tunki as well as some other birds we saw at the reserve. There is also a short video so you can hear them.

Cock of the Rock

We did another tour in Jardin, this one by car where we went to various places near Jardin. It was a laid back tour with just us and the guide.

Dan and Lindie

Volcan Panama

Horse farm outside of Volcan

Volcan is a lovely area about an hour and a half from Boquete. It is known as the Little Switzerland of Panama. It is a little higher altitude than Boquete and about 1/3 fewer people. It is more agriculture related and cheaper to live. The temperatures are similar to Boquete, 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. We went there on September 15th which is the first day of their fall festival. We didn’t want to be in the crowds of people that would be there the next day for the parade however we did see quite a few float type decorations at various places along the road.

We couldn’t see the top of Volcan Baru, the highest point in Panama (11,401 feet) because as usual it was overcast. Baru is close to Volcan.

Volcan Baru, 11,401 feet, highest point in Panama (photo from TripAdvisor)

San Gerardo de Rivas, Costa Rica

Looking down the valley. The white areas on the hillside, middle left, are actually greenhouses. I could not see a road up to them. That’s a lot of work if true.

This is a day to explore and find some waterfalls near San Gerardo de Rivas. We hope to do a little hiking and catch some nice scenery.

So we head further into the mountains from San Isidro and I asked directions several times to be sure. “Donde esta la cataratas de San Gerardo. I received directions in words and pointing, so onward we go.

The road is deteriorating. Now it is two concrete strips for the tires and now it is rougher and steeper and the concrete is not always there. We park and walk up the road. My final directions include “Uno kilometer.”

 

Trail head to Cerro Chirripo, at 12,533′, the highest point in Costa Rica. Need a permit to climb and there is a lodge partway to stay at since the climb takes so long.

The walk is beautiful.

Cows on a very steep hillside. Notice horizontal “paths” for the cows to walk up and down the hillside. These are normal size cows, so notice how high up they really are.

We end up at Cloudbridge Nature Reserve where we discover that these are different waterfalls. It turned out that the waterfalls I thought I had directions for was San Gerardo de Doty, three hours away.

Meditation maze in the forest

Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is a 1540 acre reserve where they have planted over 50,000 trees for reforestation. In 2016 and 2017 a jaguar was spotted. Costa Rica has a very strong conservation ethic and hunting is prohibited to preserve species. For more info on their reforestation project.

Mark a diagonal from lower left to upper right and most of that area has been reforested.

The walk in to the smaller waterfalls is quite easy. The higher one is a bit of a trek up a very steep trail and was well worth it.

On the way out, I suddenly came upon a garden in the forest, just a couple of minutes walk from the entrance.

Garden in the woods.

On the way back into San Gerardo, we stopped at recycling bins and to take in the view.

Umbrellas are useful in the tropics and are more comfortable than rain gear.

The upper part of San Gerardo snakes its way up valley with the river.

Peering over a huge boulder at the houses below.

What a great day!