My friend Tom, from Germany, took this photo of the zip-line that we took together in Mindo, a bit of an Ecuadorian tourist destination two hours north of Quito. On Saturday all of the kids in my Xplorer group met in Quito. We hopped into a rented van and drove north. It was a gorgeous drive. Ecuador doesn't worry about putting up safety walls on the highways, even when they're the enormous drop-off, so that made parts of the drive a bit harrowing. Other than that, however, the drive was marked by mountains transitioning to rainforest.
When we got to Mindo we hired a camioneta (a truck-taxi with space in the back to stand) and drove up to this zip line. The zip line had three levels (conveniently named one, two, and three). The first level involved being strapped in to a harness and then making a sitting motion, which set you off on your journey. The second involved a running start off of a platform (pictured above). It had a shorter cable, so most people just stepped off the ledge. The third level, modeled by me in the above picture, involved a running start and then a dive off of the ledge. The cable I was using had a bit more elasticity, so when I jumped off, I free fell for a little bit before being caught by the rope. It was totally awesome.
After everyone in the Xplorer group had gotten a chance to try the zip line, we hiked on the forest path for about ten minutes until we got to a waterfall. Even though the water is really cold we enjoyed splashing around and using a slide that dumped you into the water. Then, we noticed the cliff jumping opportunity.
There was a ledge to the side of the waterfall where people could jump into the water at the foot of the waterfall. There was a man there who was supervising the whole process and he explained to us where to jump to avoid hitting the rocks below. It was a twelve meter jump, so we also had to be careful to let our body fall completely straight - otherwise we'd hurt our backs.
I was the first one to try it. It may have been one of the scariest things I've ever done. With legs shaking I eventually forced myself to step off the ledge. I did a bit of writhing in the air, so when I hit the water my back hit the water as well, making my back sting for awhile afterward. There was also a bit of a funky current caused by the nearby waterfall, so while I had no trouble swimming to the surface I was turned in a circle for a little bit. After swimming to the ladder where I could climb back up to the platform I realized just how much I'd been shaking. I had difficulty standing up because I was shaking so much. The combination of the intense fear of jumping with the temperature of the water meant I couldn't stop shaking for awhile.
Unfortunately, when I got to the top of the platform, I realized that no one had taken a picture of my triumphant cliff jump. So, I had to go again, and then again, to make sure there were several good pictures of me cliff jumping.
Afterwards, we hiked back to our camioneta to go back down to Mindo, where we ate lunch. Hoping to get some different food, I ordered tilapia (I've been eating a lot of chicken at home). I didn't know the Ecuadorian preparation of tilapia, but I did enjoy it. The tilapia was fried, and whole (including eyes). Included in the whole plate was rice (of course), a tomato/onion salad, and fried plantains.
Saturday was definitely one of the coolest days I've had in Ecuador. I've also been surprised to release that I'm now more than a third of the way into my time here. Part of the reason I risked the cliff jumping was the realization that my time here is actually going to be quite short.
Thanks for reading, guys. I hope you're all well. Enjoy the photos!
Tom getting ready to run off the platform for his zip lining experience.
The view of the area where we were zip lining.
My tilapia at the restaurant - fried plantains, whole fish, rice, sald of onions and tomatoes, and a very sour orange (it was actually a cross between an orange and a lemon).