On Ingo and Genny’s farm, there’s no internet or phone, and very little electricity. Consequently, when you want to visit them, it can be a challenge to get there. Luckily, Ingo has a standing reservation at Pauly’s restaurant in the town of Mindo, at noon on Mondays and Thursdays. Would-be volunteers just e-mail a week ahead of time, and then show up for lunch at Pauly’s. When any of us needs a day off, we ride in with Ingo in the morning and hang around town for the two hours or so before he meets the next crew of volunteers at Pauly’s for lunch at noon. With e-mail, facebook, skype, and my blog, not to mention any shopping or errands I have to do, I never seem to have enough time.

Luckily, Sunday night this week, Ingo had to drive his stepdaughters back to Mindo to catch a bus to Quito. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to spend 24 hours in Mindo by myself – a whole day with internet access, plugs that regularly emitted power, and time to write or sketch without feeling as if I should be doing chores. I could get my fill of modern conveniences and catch a ride back in with Ingo on Monday with the new volunteers. When I mentioned my idea to Ingo, he did me one better. If I went into Mindo on Sunday, I could save him a trip to town by meeting the new volunteers at Pauly’s on Monday and bringing them home to the farm by taxi. And so it was that I found myself in Mindo, on my own with nothing to do for 24 hours.

I hadn’t spent much time in Mindo before. It’s a tiny town which barely merits a mention in the Lonely Planet guide, where it’s named in passing as a hotspot for birdwatching. The village consists of a main drag lined with shops and offices selling guided bird, butterfly, and adventure tours, a handful of family-run restaurants selling traditional Ecuadorian fare along with pizza, and a few side streets with moderately cheap accommodation alongside the locals’ homes.

Other than my usual Monday morning internet fix, my experiences in Mindo have been pretty terrible. Ellen and I spent one night here, two weeks ago on our way home from the beach. It was pissing with rain when we got in, after dark. The bank machines in Los Bancos, the nearest other town, hadn’t worked, so we had $8.50 for two people for dinner, accommodation, and breakfast before Ingo would meet us at noon. The ATM in Mindo was equally uncooperative, so we had a miserable and hungry night camping in a deep puddle outside La Casa de Cecilia hostel, against the proprietress’s better judgment, because it was all we could afford with change left over to share a breakfast between us. Ellen’s tarp dripped water onto my tent, which I was too grumpy and tired to move, so halfway through the night I relocated my sleeping bag to a marginally less flooded concrete pad under a dodgy-looking half-constructed tin roof, which afforded me a colder but drier night’s sleep. When the washroom proved to have no toilet paper in it in the morning, I stormed behind the unattended reception desk and helped myself to a roll. I was not impressed with anything in Mindo that night, least of all La Casa de Cecilia.

This time around, I figured I’d avoid Cecilia’s and look for a place to stay without all the negative associations. I left it too late, though, as I was skyping with my parents and catching up on the news of the world, and found myself searching for accommodations as night was falling along with a misty rain. When two other hostels proved well outside of my price range, and I was rapidly getting chilled from being dressed inappropriately while the local washing lady laundered every article of clothing I owned, La Casa de Cecilia seemed the logical choice. With a $20 bill in my pocket, my experience was much more pleasant than our last. For seven dollars, I had a private room on a balcony overlooking the garden. The comfy-looking bed had only a mosquito net between it and the great outdoors, yet was nestled under the eaves of the hostel roof. The bed was soft, the blankets warm, and I fell asleep to the roar of the river, the chirping of insects, and the croaking of frogs. All was not perfect, as the gentle patter of raindrops on the roof turned into the thundering rush of torrential rain hammering on the metal roofing and woke me up in the night, but my dry bed was a great improvement over the less-than-waterproof tent I slept in last time.

View from my tiny balcony room

View from my tiny balcony room

Overall, I didn’t do much of anything for my night on the town. I wrote a few blog posts, read several other people’s updates that I’d missed in the past few weeks, indulged in pizza and beer for dinner, and gave myself a movie night in my hostel room. It was a thoroughly enjoyable waste of time, which was exactly what I needed. And in a couple of hours, I’ll head back to the farm to play with the baby goats, see if Ellen and Ingo need help brewing beer, and find out what construction or planting projects I can get my hands on this week. I’m still having fun here, so it looks like we’ll be here for a few weeks more.

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