Mindo, Ecuador

The Norma Blues

We arrive at Mindo in Ecuador, a biologically diverse area filled with chocolate, waterfalls, forests, clouds, and birds. After a lovely evening of hot chocolate on the first night, we plan to the hike in the cloud forests the next morning. Since the hike itself is 7km, we decide to drive to the trailhead 5km away.

But Norma doesn’t start. After 7 frustrating hours trying to fix her, nothing. So we decide the best course of action is to tow her to Quito (1.5 hours away) where we can find a mechanic and parts. Steve gets in touch with Ivan who owns a Jeep parts store (Jeep Willy’s), and he arranges our tow truck and a mechanic nearby who can also look at her on short notice – Mauro.

Feeling defeated, we prepare to spend an evening or possibly the weekend in Quito – wherever that might be. Since it’s Friday, we don’t hold too much hope that she will be fixed by the end of day. But Mauro and Ivan work tirelessly for 5 hours and get her back to roaring again! Wooop!

In the meantime… our Swiss friends get stuck in thick mud coming to Mindo. They have to walk to get reception and then abandon their car for a night until they can get proper help the next morning. After they finally get their tow from a farming tractor, they come to rescue us in Quito. If Norma doesn’t get fixed by end of the day, then they offer to drive all of us and we can at least enjoy Mindo instead of waiting at the mechanic’s shop.

At 6pm, fully repaired, we all roll out and decide to meet at a campground in Mindo.

You thought that was it eh? Nope.

We get to the campsite first, and then 20 minutes later we get a call from Virgine. They can’t shift gears and they are stuck on a hill 400 meters away. Something snapped and they are now in need of a tow from Norma. Let’s recap for a moment. They spent 36 hours getting their van unstuck from mud and now something is broken in a tiny town with no mechanic at 9pm. It hasn’t been a good day.

Thankfully, the road to the campsite is mostly downhill, so we tow them up and he rolls down in neutral and then tow him when it flattens out. It takes us 2 hours, but we are all finally inside the campground where there are hot showers waiting.

Tonight, we rest. Tomorrow, we fix.


Mindo is a typical small town. One Central Park in the center with a church nearby and maybe two or three rows of businesses – mostly restaurants and souvenir shops. But they are also known for bird watching, extreme sports like roger rafting, and chocolate – lots of chocolate.

We do the Tarabita cable car ride with 6 people and 2 dogs. At $5/person we zip over the clouds to the other side of the mountain and then hike the 6 waterfalls. There are actually more than that, but after 3 hours – we agree that’s enough and we got to see as many waterfalls as you can see really. This was a really fun and not too challenging hike and the cable car ride really adds to the fun factor.