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June 22, 2012

From Mitdad del Mundo we drove for almost three hours to get to a small valley town called Mindo. The road was good but slow as it was up and down through the mountains and eventually down to around 1200m at Mindo itself.

Mindo is a great little town – small and quiet but with loads of guesthouses and backpacker places. Fortunately we arrived on a Sunday night and all was quiet – we couldn’t find anywhere formal to stay so we parked on the town square.

This was our first time parking on a town square and we were surprised how quiet it was overnight. A few children played round our truck sometimes even jumping on it once or twice but they all disappeared around 9pm so it wasn’t really a problem.  In the end we stayed three nights on the square and would have stayed longer but we needed to stock up on groceries as supplies aren’t that readily available in Mindo.

Mindo is the birdwatching capital of Ecuador so we thought that we should give it a try. We booked a birding day with a local guide through the owner of the local eco-hostal. This would be a great place to stay in a vehicle –we were just slightly too big for the parking spot around the back.

Our birding day started at 5.30am when we had to meet to get to a Lek (a place where birds go) for 6am. We stumbled up a narrow path through forest at the top of the valley in the semi dark as we made for the lek. Once we got there we saw the Andean Cock of the Rock for a few minutes – not really getting a good view before they disappeared with the light. We couldn’t get a picture because of the light which was a real shame.

However there was a quetzal just next to the lek which we did see clearly – its times like these when the guide having a spotting scope is really important.

From the lek we were driven to a small lodge that had a feeding station for small birds – with bananas. While waiting here we saw loads of small birds and some toucans as well. Our guide had excellent knowledge of the birds and told us the names of all the ones we saw – not sure how many we remember now though.

After this we went to a large area of cloudforest called Milpe. They had hummingbird feeders near the entrance which we watched for a while and then we went on a loop walk through the forest.

Our guide had amazing eyes and ears, he also managed to imitate the calls of several birds to lure them into the open. We saw some rare birds on this walk including the Trogon. To be honest though we just like the pretty ones.

There was only one stop left after Milpe and that was for lunch in a nearby restaurant. They again had banana feeders and we saw a whole host of birds here too. The lunch was overpriced though and not that great.

After lunch we got driven back to Mindo and we were pretty birded out. In all we saw 49 different types of birds.

The upside of not have any food in the fridge when we arrived in Mindo is that we had to eat out each night. This was great as the restaurants in Mindo are fantastic.  One of the local restaurants that served Italian food (El Nomada) gave us the best pasta we’d had since leaving home !


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