"Sir, there's a Ginger in Sector 4" stated the Lieutenant.
"Excellent, release all units. We won't have had this much fun since the Albino of '92" chuckled the Squad Commander.
...or at least that's how I expect it played out in the control room of Biting Bugs Inc. Shortly after arriving at Mindo, a stunningly beautiful cloud forest, I received my first bite. This wasn't a normal bite from a Mosquito but instead a vicious assault upon my blood supply. Whilst Mosquitos anaesthetise their unwilling victims, these blood-crazed black insects fresh from the gates of hell, plunge kamikaze-like onto your skin and tear it until blood trickles (flows) towards your toes. The bugs ate away at us both until our legs appeared to suffer from extreme acne and throbbed well into the night.
Pain aside, Mindo was beautiful. A tropical climate, the 'hostal' we stayed at was more like a luxury retreat. Our accommodation was surrounded by tropical flora and fauna, had a pool, jacuzzi and table tennis and was shared with only two other tourists from Germany, one of whom looked like an Alice Cooper tribute act. Mindo provided us with the opportunity to cable-box it over a jungle ravine to hike a series of waterfalls, canopy swing over more stunning scenery, tube down rivers, visit an organic chocolate factory and hike through more jungle streams during the nighttime. We would have stayed more than two nights were it not for the hourly assault we were under but would nethertheless highly recommend Mindo.
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was a necessary staging post for southern Ecuador, and we stayed for two days. The hostal we stayed at, Hostal Revolution (which btw displayed no anarchic tendencies) was simple and safe; our dorm shared with two Aussies, a fellow Brit and a further person who stated he was from "nowhere really". One to watch...
Old Quito is largely colonial, rows of Spanish-era buildings opening up into large Plazas where locals congregate and groups of schoolchildren endlessly pestered us to answer questions in English for their school projects.
Our journey to Quilatoa, an area with numerous (dormant) volcanoes, was straightforward albeit we were flung around a little in the back of the pick-up truck we commandeered to take us between the last two villages. At circa 3600ft above sea level, Quilatoa was by far the highest altitude location we had been to yet. This meant 2 things: 1) altitude Sickness and 2) the cold! Altitude sickness affects people in different ways; for some its a vice-like pressure upon the skull, for others nausea and sickness. Luckily we were largely unaffected although it does ensure that you feel breathless whilst trekking old volcanic craters at 4000ft. Undertaking such a hike at this altitude is no easy task but we were rewarded with epic views across the crater and Cara (dressed like a woollen Ned Kelly) even stripped off two of her six layers once the sun rewarded us for our perseverance.
Onto Banos next...
Summary of week 2
Highlight: hiking around Quilatoa crater then finding out that our hostal had beautifully hot showers
Lowlight: stupid Mindo bug bites causing us to take anti- histamine which led to my marathon 12 hour sleep and missing a Saturday night out in Quito
Cuisine summary: current favourite Ecuadorean discovery is Humitas and black coffee for breakfast (delicious cornbread baked in the corn cob leaves). Dan is still pretty much a pan or pancake man.
Reflection of the week: although we have been in places where there are no phone lines or Internet, Dan and I have an appreciation for how much easier travelling must be for us today compared to 10 or 20 years ago.