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Tony Gavilanes / Lacy Sarco

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"El Crater and Mindo"
(episode 4)

Can't see the movie? Click here to download Quicktime

Diego bought us a night in a luxury suite at hotel "El Crater." The name implies that it overlooked the Pululahua crater, which is the second largest inhabited crater in the world. Remarkably, all the inhabitants reside there despite the fact that this is also an "active" volcano.

After settling in, we hiked down a treacherous footpath into the volcano while enjoying spectacular views of La Pondoña, the huge dome of lava that looks like a mountain in the center of the crater. We made it down with only minor slips and falls during the 45-minute decent which led us into the lush area of Pululahua.

Our goal all along was to find some horses so that we could ride the crater in style, and we happened upon a wonderful hostal called Pululahua Hostal. It was very well equipped, being one of the most modern and well-kept buildings, with an owner and his wife speaking English as well. They hooked us up on their finest steeds, and with our guide Miguel, we were off down the road.

We had come down early enough that the clouds weren't completely engulfing the crater (which happens every afternoon), so we were able to see the sights with great clarity. Our path into and around the crater is shown here in the map.


Afterward, we retired to the Hostal for sandwiches and a couple bottles of Pilsener. On a side note, we've grown quite accustomed to the local cerveza, as in many fine establishments, you can order what's known as a "giraffe," 3-liters and as tall as a hobbit!

Our chauffer, Carlos, came down the road just in time, picked us up, and we were on the hour-and-a-half road back out of the crater. We saw some cute coñejos (rabbits) and found out that they are a good source of food for the locals, that and cuy (guinnea pig). We opted for steaks and a bottle of red instead, and we were served magnificently as we were the only residents at the hotel that night. We did, however, start ourselves off with a bottle of white before dinner, and then afterward enjoyed some homemade Pisco Sours in the room while playing a drinking game to Jet Li's "Hero" (each time the dominant scene color was primary, and whenever anyone's honor was disgraced...). I hit the sack quite early leaving Lacy to her devices.

The morning found us with a room service breakfast, and Carlos waiting outside with the truck. Once we got dressed, we made our way to Mindo, a small pueblo about a little over an hour away from the hotel. It's a great place for touring, being famous for river rafting, butterfly habitats, and ziplines. In fact, the assistant at Mindo Ropes and Canopy was from Seattle too! We had an hour-long tour for $10 total through the canopy. Our guides showed us toucans (think fruit loops) and a myriad of orchids local to Mindo. Quite the adventure. Lacy and I rode "Superman" and "Mariposa" positions down a couple of the lines (hands-free and upside-down shown in the video).

Our trusty Carlos was waiting for us when we got back and took us a little further up the hill to Sanctuario de Cascadas, a sanctuary of waterfalls. Upon taking the open-air cart across the ravine, we had two choices: left or right. Left led to a series of small waterfalls, but we decided to hike to the biggest of them. I guess I wasn't fully listening, because it took us two and a half hours.. Way longer than we'd planned. We almost turned back a couple times because Lacy's flip-flops disintegrated and after attempts at MacGyver-ing them with local roots, she ended up in my socks...

It was certainly worth the time though when our spirits were lifted at the bridge to the cascada. We were the only people that had come down that trail, so we knew it was a good time to strip down and touch the waterfall. Dios mio, was it cold! We did it though.. touched the rock and took a shower. Carlos was a bit worried when we finally did get back. People from the left turn told us their trips were 15 minutes. So we ended up missing the butterflies, much to our disappointment.

So we went back, and made sure to stop by an ATM so that I could pay back Carlos, who lent me $50 because all we had were traveler’s checks. Again, don't travel with traveler’s checks. It costs more to take a cab to and from a willing bank than it does to hit up any ATM and take the international fee. We had an amazing time though. The hospitality and adventure of El Crater, Pululahua Hostal, and Mindo were second to none. We hope you like episode 4, keep updated for a special edition of El Mundo Real coming up next!

Much love everyone, and a very special thanks to Diegsies!

Tony and Lacy

POSTED: December 22, 2008