Mindo Cloud Forest

Cock-of-the-Rock (Peru's national bird)
When researching places to visit in Ecuador, I stumbled on the small community of Mindo.  Located just 2 1/2 hours from the Capital, we decided to hire a private driver rather than deal with the hassle of taxis, buses, and then hitching a ride from the highway down into the community.  We like to make the travel easy for ourselves and travel light, a small carry-on and a backpack each, makes the moving around go more smoothly.  Locating a hostel, along the Mindo River just outside town, with little bungalows, hammocks on the front porch, lots of flowers, and countless birds, there was no way we were not going to come to this town.

The Cloud Forest is home to 400 species, many endemic to the Mindo region.  Breakfast at the hostel and an hour or so in the hammock provided views of numerous
beautiful species, especially hummingbirds.  But the Paz de las Aves Bird Refuge, about 45 minutes away, provides glimpses of some rarer varieties, such as the strangely beautiful Cock-of-the-Rock.  Signing up with a private bird guide, we departed our hostel at 5:15 AM, and headed out to the Refuge.  With the use of our guide's scope, we were able to see and photograph clearly a number of unique birds.  After 5 hours with the guide, we saw at least 2 dozen gorgeous birds that we had never seen before, and likely will never see again.

Park in center of town
Of course not everyone is interested in trekking around in the rain
forest to see birds.  The area also offers tubing, zip lining, and extensive hiking opportunities for the adventure oriented.  With a population of only around 3000, Mindo offers a surprising number of restaurants, no doubt due to the large number of tourist that visit the area.  One place specialized in the "Inca Food of the Gods"- quinoa, and almost everything on the menu was made with this seed, which originated in the Andean regions thousands of years ago.

Primarily, we did some serious relaxing, hanging out by the river and multiple walks, in the rain, into town for meals.

Black-chinned Mountain Tanager
Green-throated toucan
Toucan Barbet
Blue-gray Tanager
In search of the Giant Antpitta, which eluded us
Undulated Antpitta
Yellow-throated toucan

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