One of the great things about going to a Spanish school is that it sets up these side trips whether it’s during the week or weekend to go to some well-known tourist locations within the country. Most Ecuadorians know what and where these places are but for the most part, foreigners do not. As a way to encourage students to get together and know each other (and probably make it safe and comfortable for everyone whose Spanish might not be all that great), the school will make selected destinations available for group travel. This one particular weekend was off to Mindo, a town known for its tourism-selling spot, about a 2 hours drive northwest of Quito in the middle of the hot jungle and in-between mountains. This trip was for hiking, canopying, jumping off of heights including a waterfall, and tubing down a river.
The first method of business was heading off to the Spanish school where everyone would conjugate and hop on a private bus for the next 2 hours. It was basically boredom after getting used to seeing the jungle and down a bunch of windy mountain roads. But once we all got there, we all settled in our rooms and then took off hiking for a few hours to get to a waterfall. This was when I got to know some people since I’ve never seen them at the school because they were volunteering, not studying, which is a part of the school services. Some of them had some interesting stories to tell but I understood that all of them were looking for a great time someplace other than Quito.
Along the way, there was some interesting places to go by. First was this special canopying site where a person basically jumps off the ledge like superman but is restrained by a harness. Most of the group was female and after looking around for any volunteers, I raised the first hand and elected to show “how it’s done to everyone.” I figured it can’t be any worse than jumping out of a perfect good airplane. After watching a little girl do it without any hesitation and getting instruction from the main guy, I set myself to go roaring like being fired out of a hardcore cannon. I took off running and jumped off the ledge, free falling, until I felt the pull of the harness on me.
After having a great time with the canopying, we proceeded to walk to the next area which happened to be a Tarzan rope. Our guide showed us how to ride the rope back and forth from a ledge and naturally, I went first again. I was only supposed to go once but I mis-stepped on the return swing only to find myself swinging back over the ledge, slipping and losing my grip until I completely lost hold of the rope and fell 10-15 feet down the hill and into the jungle. All I remember was hearing all the girls gasp in unison as I fell backwards and crashing and landing into some bushes. I came out unscathed and I think the guide shit his pants, but damn, I wished I had some pictures or videos of this event!
After that incident, most of the people were discouraged from going so we went onto the waterfall. Now apparently, we were supposed to drink some alcohol to calm ourselves down before doing this 50-60 foot drop off a ledge and to the bottom of a waterfall. After watching one guy do the jump, others naturally followed. I supposed to go after this one girl but she freaked out and instead let me go next which after looking down, holy crap, was that one long drop. It must have felt like 3-4 seconds of airtime before I hit the water! And getting up sucked too, as it was tiring to climb this ladder. But still the whole thing was a blast. Even the majority of the girls jumped as a leap of faith after watching all the guys do it. I guess they didn’t want to be left out of all the fun.
Next was going to a water slide. This was another fun place to go to. Everyone was supposed to stop at the end of the slide, but for me, forget about it. I went twice on that slide and twice, I couldn’t stop at all and just ended up going full-blast and into the water. Some did managed to stop but I think it was my surfing shorts that didn’t have a brake mechanism on them. After getting on the slides and into the pool, it was time to leave. Back down the mountain to change, eat dinner, and hang out for the night.
The next day was more of the canopying. I had done plenty of canopying in Honduras and Argentina so this was nothing. I had plenty of fun riding the cable lines riding high above and getting great views of the jungle forest. But I felt as if the Argentinean canopying was better probably due to it going over a river while this was just all jungle.
But the next part of this trip was the tubing which was a great experience as well. I’ve gone whitewater rafting but tubing down a river with some rapids was completely different. There were no paddles involved and it was basically hold on for dear life at certain sections of the river.
There were plenty of bumps on this ride. Even the guide would tell us at certain points to hold on tight. But overall, the tubing was better than expected! I had a blast.