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Galapagos Day 18

Mindo hummingbirds

I woke up today feeling considerably better and ready for action. Luckily I did have the presence of mind to look into transportation options the night before when I was still suffering from altitude sickness. Juan, our taxi guy, was able to get a van to hold the four of us comfortably for the 2 hour drive to Mindo. On the way, we stopped at a gas station and I couldn’t believe the prices for gas! $1.65 for diesel and $2.39 for unleaded…per gallon, not liter!

Unfortunately, two of the places I had picked to stop at, the hummingbird/orchid place and the chocolate place were not open or out of business. Luckily our driver was able to ask around and get some alternatives. We went to Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo where they breed butterflies and release some to keep the area populated. This was very cool and well worth the $7.50 admission! They had plates of ripe bananas and if you got some banana on your finger you could get a butterfly to sit there since they “taste” through their legs. One of them landed on my dad’s mask and hung out for several seconds. They also had racks of cocoons in various stages (I saw two butterflies being “born” out of their cocoon) see pics. We were startled to learn that some have a lifespan of about 2 weeks and the larger ones still only last about 2 months before their wings start to break up. They also had a koi fish pond and butterflies would sit on lilypads teasing the fish like squirrels taunting dogs. The fish would open their mouths but would never get close enough to eat the butterflies. Check out the video here.

Next on our list was Hostal El Descanso where for just $4, you can see tons of hummingbirds flying around and squabbling over rights to the feeders. We were in an open viewing area and a few times got “buzzed” by a speedy hummingbird. It was so amazing to see all the different kinds of hummingbirds and even a few other birds. I finally got my first good pictures of the gibnut I first saw in Belize (squirrel face, body a cross between a rat and a pig with a snub tail), which are called paca here. The owner of the hostal puts out bananas for them to eat. He is also clearly passionate about birds and pointed out several non-hummingbirds that were further back among the trees. (see pics and here is the video)

Then we tried to find our chocolate place but it was closed down so our driver suggested an alternate, Yumbos Chocolate, where they hand make all their chocolate. It was a bit pricey at $5/bar, but it is handmade, as opposed the to Trader Joe’s that I’m accustomed to. They had 100% dark, 85%, 70%, and 60% as well as ones flavored with chile, ginger, coffee, and coffee with milk. The free samples were quite good so I am hopeful the bars are good too if I can get them back without melting.

Our last stop was on the way home about 20 minutes closer to Quito called San Tadeo Birding. At this point, the rest of my family was tired, hungry, and had had their fill of birds so they sat down and had a hot dog with fries for just $1! I found a similar bargain where for only $5 I was first brought to the bird viewing area, offered tea and cocoa, then once I sat still and stopped making noise, a variety of birds came out. (See pics) Then she guided me down steps to the hummingbird area. The feeders were set up mostly on the left but one was almost above me and a couple more near the pathway I had just taken. This created a situation where the birds were occasionally flying through the viewing area or stopping very near me to drink nectar. I think the larger number of feeders also made the hummingbirds less territorial because these seemed more willing to share (see pics)

As we returned to Quito, perhaps it was the 2 hours in the car on a winding road, but I started feeling unwell and exhausted, which I personally attribute to the elevation (Mindo is about half the elevation of Quito). By the time we got to the hotel, I was mildly nauseated and had zero appetite so I stayed in the hotel lobby while everyone else went to dinner across the street. At 10:15 Juan showed up to take us to the airport, and we got there shortly before 11, which was perfect since they opened the United check in counter at 11pm. We sat down and got our luggage in order, then noticed red lettering appearing next to our flight info. Delayed, oh no! Until 3:55am (originally 2:30). That sucked. It sucked even more, minutes later, when we realized we would likely miss our connecting flight out of Houston because of the delay. We did manage to check in around 1am so we could at least wait in a Priority Pass lounge with food, drink, and comfortable chairs, but pretty much every second until our flight left was spent praying that 3:55 would come so I could get to the pressurized atmosphere of the airplane. I managed to sleep about an hour on the plane ride, despite United having very little recline and the rows so close together that you have to be a contortionist to get your bag out from under the seat. I managed to do it but tweaked a muscle in the process.

Once, we got to Houston, my aunt and uncle raced to their gate to try to catch their original flight and avoid an 8 hour delay getting home. I’m happy to report that they made it! There were no Priority Pass lounges open, but Craig gave us his passes to the United Club lounge so dad and I happily rested there, tired, but at least not nauseous since we were finally at normal altitude. They had wonderful individually wrapped snacks like fruit and cheese and veggie wraps.

The next flight again on United had small seats but this time they were small in the width. The guy next to me spilled over a bit with his arm in my seat area. Luckily, we realized there were a number of open seats around us and he moved to another row where he would not be next to someone. The seats are truly narrow. I saw a family of three (parents and a teenage daughter) squished into their seats like sardines. We were very glad to finally arrive at home in SFO, and also pleased that we were picked up at the airport by Joe and taken directly to my house so we could rest and recover from our long journey! The trip home was exhausting, though the rest of the trip was unforgettable, the best family trip yet! Thanks Dad!

Picture Collage: https://drive.google.com/file/d/15UneLn_rlJIDmRIXzwpKJDAeZQ9FKQv3/view?usp=sharing (< ERROR: the link title is too long!)

Posted by nutmeg2000 07:47 Archived in Ecuador

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