This post is about 6 days late, and I’m writing it while recovering from some ridiculous stomach bug. I know what it was: the lettuce!!!! Never eat the lettuce unless you saw how it was washed! Lousy lettuce….

So we arrived in Quito!


That about says it!!

Joaquin assisted us in finding a kick-ass hostel in a safe part of the city ~ for those of you looking, El Vagabundo was amazeballs. For $56, we had peace and quiet, hot showers, wifi and plenty of room to spread out. Other choices when prowling around included a hotel for $146 (no, thanks!), and a hostel for $30 which was 80% sketch-city.


Quito, Ecuador!! This picture is deceptive. The city is MASSIVE and sits at 9,350 ft above sea level.

Our marching orders were to be *ready* for 8:30am so that we could head straight to Mindo ~ circa 2.5 hours away, a tropical rainforest area ripe with cool things to see and do. So far we have been demonstrating a complete disregard for punctuality (hold your comments people!), but this most recent blasphemy had everything to do with being locked OUT of our hostel bathroom first thing in the morning. How does this happen, one might ask? Easy. The toilet water “ran” all night despite our best efforts to shut it off. Sam is a light sleeper, so she reefed on the door to make sure it was closed as tightly as possible, only to realize some 8 hours later that it must have been locked from the inside. Darn it!!! How does this ALWAYS happen to me?? We all had to pee, 100% of our toiletries etc were in that room and we were already running late. In broken Spanish and using our now infamous hand gestures, we managed to convince the front desk dude to come up and take a peak and after some time and jiggling he found the right random key amongst his set of 50 to open said hostel bathroom door.

At any rate, we then went on the fastest mission in the West to try and find Saffy some pancakes. She’s really struggling with the food here. As her mom, I just wanted to get something in her belly she would enjoy and eat up. We found the Magic Bean Café and ordered a double round of chocolate chip pancakes with bacon. Eat up, girl!!! But enough of this… onto our day, once Joaquin picked us up we were officially 45 minutes late.

Mindo was lovely ~ damp, but lovely! Our first stop was an artisanal chocolate factory where we all learned that coco leaves and cacao are two different things. After all this learning, we worked up an appetite to sample no less than 12 variations of chocolate creations. The kids were in their glory! If it had been a potato chip factory I’d have been equally delighted in the tastings.


Cacao seed pod being cut open for us.


These things that look like moist beans are the start of something special!


Cacao beans drying out.


I agree mostly with this, but replace chocolate with chips.


All sorts of different flavours and strengths of chocolate to try.


Trying the first one. It was only 100% pure chocolate and SUPER BITTER. She just didn’t know it yet.


Saffy realizing how pure chocolate can be ruthlessly bitter!


The process of testing and tasting chocolate. Including the yummiest brownie EVER.


If a cacao bean falls in the tropical rainforest, can anyone hear??

Next we stopped off at a butterfly conservatory, run by some local nature enthusiasts. We spent a minimum of 3 hours there, marvelling at the different species and enticing them with mashed, gooey banana (Saffy, we later learned, even lured them into her hair by smearing the banana juice onto her scalp. Yum). The pictures speak for themselves, it was a magical place!


I finally caught one. This was a blue morph!


Feeding on banana mush.


This is what the blue morph looks like when the wings are open. Breathtaking.


So many varieties!


Saffy was the Butterfly Whisperer.


Her little fingers were covered in banana goo which was ultimately her secret!


This guy would not leave her neck and crawled up to the top of her head.


This is pure joy right here, folks!


Can you believe this happened??


Saffy had 5 on her at one time. Remember, she had the banana goo everywhere!


Various live pupae.


We later learned she put the goo in her hair. Yup.


Yeah. That’s right. They’re ALL mine.


Love this photo!!!


So many special variations.


Another rare capture!


Alvi was in his glory. I think we have 3,000 butterfly pics.

Finally, we had just enough time to witness the most amazing display of hummingbirds I’ve ever seen. Joaquin and Alvi hunkered down right before them and clicked the afternoon away, capturing these magnificent and curious birds.


Their wings sounded like light sabres moving around.

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All in all, a very full, but fabulous day! Now onto the next blog so we can catch up!!!