Transportation is incrdeibly cheap in Ecuador and the two hour bus ride from Quito to Mindo was only $2.50. I wanted to get out of city a bit, so this was the perfect solution. I boarded the bus and was expecting a very obvious endpoint in Mindo. Turns out that I missed the stop (it was a random stop on the side of the highway) by two minutes. The bus driver told me to get off the bus. So there I was, in the middle of a random town, with my Gringo Spanish skills and a strong need to find a way to get to Mindo. I was able to walk to the Police station, ask them to hire me cab and $8 later, I was in my destination.
I was only planning to stay for a day, but after some of the transportaiton shenanagins, I decided to stay the night. I looked into my wallet and realized I had only enough cash for a few meals, a place to stay and a bus ride back. I had to ball on a budget.
Tarabita Cable Car and Waterfalls:
I went to the local tour operator and basically asked what I could do with my five dollar budget. This meant I had to walk instead of take transport and I was limited to mostly hiking. GREAT! I said. It sounded perfect. She wasnt too happy though that she had to dish out tourist information without the potential for a commision. I walked up the hill an hour to get to the cable car, took a tour over the jungle canopy, landed on the other side and explored the hiking trails and waterfalls. It was just what I needed.
Susan and her Husband Lewis run the place. Susan is Americana and Lewis in form Ecuador. They met while she was in the peace core and eventually opened up the hostel. A lot happened in between including Lewis travling through Europe to perform music, the two of them living together in Chicago, Susan working nights as a nurse to come up with the money to buy the land and then waiting for the hostel and restaurant to be built.
I went to this hostel because I had the vibe for it and it turned out to be a great decision. Although they were not feeling my negotiations with the overnight room cost, they did broker me a deal. They own a coffee plantation that is a 30 minute drive from the town center. They told me that they would feed me free breakfast in exchange for me working for them in the plantation. I had no idea what the work entailed, but I heard the words FREE FOOD and I was sold.
Susan knocked on my door and woke me up at 6 am. We had breakfast and then headed out to the plantation in their pickup truck.
The coffee starts as a flower
The flower pedals call off and it turns into a mini pod
The pod grows bigger with an external fruit and once it is ripe, it is picked
The fruit is peeled away and the inside bean is left to dry. From this process the codde is then sent to a local plant that speed dries the beans, roasts them, peels the shell, then packaged for export.
It is not as romantic as the entire process being performed in house, but it was still pretty cool.
I essentially got to weed the coffee platns as I learned about the entire process.
It is also very common to have banana trees in coffee plantations because they feed off each other. Most coffe also needs to be grown along the Equatorial line.
She told me the story of the coffee bean-I think I forgot most of the details, so this may not be fully accurate. The orginal bean was in Africa and some guys animal ate it and got really hyper. He then ate it and got hyper too. He then gave it to a monk in the middle east who liked the feeling of energy and put it in water for tea. It tasted terrible and he was upset, so hey threw the beans in the fire. They smelled really good being roasted and he put the rosated beans in the hot water and violla...Coffee