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Series of Connecting Events

Paul 2006-12-16

We're not really planning very much, we're just letting things come to us; blown by the wind, you could say.

For example, after two people in Quito told us how great the nearby city of Mindo is, we decided to hop on a bus and check it out.

The buses here are nothing like what we've seen anywhere else in the world. They are old, black smoke spewing noisemakers... During the ride, the driver would stop at intersections and touts would hop on selling DVDs, chips, fruits, jewelry and gum, and hop off a minute later. A young boy of around 12, the bus driver's assistant leans out of the door or window while the bus is moving and shouts our destination, "Mindo, Mindo!!" If someone on the street is interested, they would wave their outstretched arm, palm down flapping their hand and the bus would stop wherever they stood, even if it required an emergency braking maneuver. They would hop on before the bus would come to a stop, saying nothing and sitting down. Interestingly, here you pay when you get off the bus, not when you get on.

On our way over, we looked Mindo up in our guide book, Footprint's South American Handbook and found the name of a recommended hostel: El Descanso, a 4 room wooden house with a hummingbird garden.

Over breakfast, we shared a table with a German couple who were taking Spanish lessons from this woman who's the local bird expert. They introduced us to her and we set a meeting for the afternoon, and learned her rate: $2 per hour.

After exhausting ourselves, trekking through the nearby mountains for 4.5 hours, and meeting and chatting (in Spanish! Woohoo!) with some of the incredibly friendly town folk along the way, we returned to town to meet her.

She arranged a visit to a philanthropist's animal sanctuary, where tropical animals that've been injured or confiscated by police in the city (it's illegal to own wild animals) end up recovering before getting set free in the jungle or cloud forest.

We later learned that the eccentric owner hardly ever lets anyone visit, and that we were the first in a month to be let in!

We saw all kinds of tropical birds (laurels, toucans, parrots and many species exotically colored and unknown to us), turtles, several types of monkeys to name a few of the zoo-like variety of animals here, probably numbering about a hundred.

These monkeys were rescued from the city after being purchased as babies. It's sad to say, but their mothers are killed and the babies taken to be sold for $5 each!

Guida, the property owner who built the rescue operation over the last few years explained that he bought two hectares for $20,000 and had a house built on the property for another $10,000. He has two hired hands that help with the property maintenance, gardening, animal feeding, cleanup, etc... they each each get paid $10/day. It's incredible to us that $2600 is all it takes to hire someone for a year ($50 /week x 52 weeks).

The monkeys were especially interesting to watch and interact with. They climb all over Guida, the philanthropist's shoulders, trying to steal his glasses and the contents of all his pockets. He had become their surrogate mother when they arrived, sleeping outside with them, and slowly weaning them off him and to a large stuffed dog. This is apparently really important, because without it, these girls would grow up to be mothers themselves, having not learned nurturing from their mother, would go on to abandon their children the way their mother "abandoned" them.

I can't begin to share all the richness of the stories he shared and the things we saw there... An experience of a lifetime!

All of it stemming from the strangers' recommendations to see Mindo, the Germans we sat next to, the teacher/birder who was the philanthropist's friend, and our openness to head out in seemingly random directions and be led through a series of connected events.


Permalink by Michael   |  December 16, 2006 10:34 AM

Sounds like what you've always dreamt of. I know you guys will soak in these special moments, and carry these special memories for the rest of your life. Enjoy!

Permalink by Jess   |  December 17, 2006 07:09 AM

As it goes, this is the best way to travel - going with the flow of what each new encounter brings on. Your experience today will, no doubt, pop up in your mind for years to come. Isin't it great to be free as a bird in a foreign land?!! Can't wait to hear what's next.... ox

Permalink by nick   |  December 18, 2006 06:36 PM

hey guys!!! havent talked to you in soooo long! hows everything! i guess ur back is better joanne. good. r u guys having fun? wanna come back? i can work on wes. hahaha good time to buy!!! ;) email me back soon!

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