we decide to make a side-trip to a town called mindo, about two hours away from quito. the idea is to get up and get moving early, but a late night the night before complicates this plan for me. the physical, mental and emotional exertion of the previous two and a bit weeks has gotten into my bones. all I want is to stay snuggled up in bed, watching the tree branches outside swaying in the early morning breeze. there is no doubt in my mind that if it weren’t for my travelling companion and his energy, that is exactly what I would do. after travelling with him for the past couple of weeks, I have come to understand the dynamic he drives, so i surrender to this active, masculine energy and push myself sleepily out of my warm cocoon. and so it is that a couple of hours later I come to full consciousness on a bus that is making its way through divinely forested mountains shrouded in delicate mist. the mists in Ecuador are truly magical. it is a luxury to wake up to such a sight. i turn to my companion sitting next to me and silently give thanks.
arriving in town, it quickly becomes apparent that there is quite a bit to do, all of it amazing for the nature lover. of the options open to us, we decide to go to a place where we can walk and see waterfalls~although we could have also chosen to visit a butterfly or a bird sanctuary, which would have been equally divine. on this part of the trip (in ecuador) I have come to gain a deep appreciation of waterfalls and the energy that they create in nature, in us, in me. each one is different, with a distinct character, sound, feel……
at the tourist information office we team up with a scottish man called george. He is travelling alone and looking for people to play with so he asks us if he can tag along. after a pit-stop at a local café, we get in a taxi with a group of swiss travellers who are headed in the same direction and take off. the taxi drops us off at a spot across the valley from our destination. to get from point a to point b we need to ride on a motorised zip wire across the valley. this takes us a few minutes and is wonderful as it gives us a birdseye view of a river rushing below us, winding its way along, offering us a taste of what is to come.
once on the other side, the time finally comes to walk. we set off towards a waterfall called “la reina” (the queen), which we have been told will take about an hour or so to reach. as soon as we start walking, i am in my own world. i am taken with the sensations underfoot, as they are rather like walking on an organic carpet, one that is in an endless state of transformation as the trees disrobe themselves of their leaves, which fall and are rained on, ultimately melting into the ground over time. there are no hard surfaces here, everything is round and juicy, fecund. life is everywhere, and as I look I am once again taken by the delicate mist strewn across the treetops like white fairy floss. patches of muddy ground intersperse the carpet as I walk and there is the very occasional crunch! crunch! of stone moving up through my feet into my ears. we follow the path up and down, through damp air, thick with the fat smell of rain. la reina is off in the distance, but on the way we walk past a number of smaller waterfalls. as we approach I hear the sounds of water crashing across rocks becoming sharper, louder, then fading away. We stop occasionally to talk, but to me, talk seems unnecessary in this place~ this beauty converts even the most “important” of topics into nothing but small talk……
after some time I begin to hear the unmistakable rumbling of a mother of a waterfall. i hear her coming from a while away, and in my mind I try to imagine what she might look like, call her up, visualise her. a few minutes later when I am standing in front of her, I see that she is nothing like I had imagined ~who can imagine one permutation when the possibilities of nature are infinite? she is powerful, so powerful that the thought of getting under that flow of water and behind the veil is out of the question. this doesn’t stop cesar who immediately strips off, jumps in and heads over…….i stand on the sidelines, feeling microdots of water spraying my body and cold bursts of air pushing past me in waves, refreshing me, waking me up. she sings beautifully, producing different layers of sound. there are top notes, the tinkle tinkle tinkle lower down, building up to the bass notes of the water that is crashing down into the main pool. the guts of her song streams from the main torrent that is pounding down somewhat violently and crashing against a fallen tree.
the cacophony of sound rapidly translates to energy and i suddenly feel something building within me. i get out of my clothes and get into one of the lower pools, and when I do I feel an instant punch of energy that spreads across my body…. sitting there for a few moments i allow it to infuse, settle…. a little while later, when we set off, i move ahead and very quickly find myself running through the forest. for the first time in my life, I think I understand why people run. there is no slow connection to the ground now. now I am fusing with the air and my body by moving through space. the way my heartbeat connects to my breath and how these legs and arms propel me along is miraculous and i feel the energy gift from la reina channeling up and out of me, moving into the forest. for maybe half an hour i move in this way. connecting with something primal, natural, allowing the mind to fall away……………..eventually, the energy disperses, changing form, and i stop to catch my breath. stillness brings my focus back to the microdetails of the plants, the mist, the tender silence that hangs over the forest. i love this place. i decide to wait, standing still, rooted to the spot, waiting for cesar and george to catch up, and by the time they arrive i have worked it all out of my system, whatever it was…… i feel empty and clean. i’ve handed it over to the forest and i’m ready to move on.
it takes another few minutes to reach the starting point, at which time we decide to explore the other track so we can check out more waterfalls. this time, the track heads immediately downwards and we decide to follow the trail for about 40 minutes. what goes down must come up. tiredness is setting in, and it is a delicious sort of tiredness, one where I can feel the muscles in my legs, my heart, the spaces behind my eyes. yet i feel alive, totally awake, like i’ve done something meaningful. and we have~ we’ve gotten out of our heads for a few hours and engaged with the body, the vessel in which we travel in this world, escaping mental constructions, drama, and all of those other things that trivialise human existence…………..
the rest of our exploration of the area takes us past a couple of different waterfalls, not as dramatic as la reina, nevertheless gorgeous. i enjoy the trembling greenery around the waterfalls, everything moving in the air, alive………finally, we arrive at a small, suspended footbridge and walking along it we are able to access the inner sections of a pretty waterfall… we spend a little while there contemplating, taking photos~ I try to play with the images that I take of rushing water ~endlessly flowing streams of white foam with no beginning and no end. we start the walk back up, up, up….ironically, despite the abundance of water all around me, i’m dying of thirst. it’s raining now and i’ve gotten to the stage of tiredness where I have to slow the pace and respect the breath. i’ve moved past sensorial observations of nature and am now anchored in the happy and satisfying sensations of physical exhaustion that are beginning to come over me in waves. we walk up slowly and evenly, until we are back at the starting point. there, we kick the cable twice to inform the fellow on the other side that we are ready to come back.
quite a large group of people has congregated waiting to be ‘picked up’, so when he arrives, we wait for the others to go first and when he returns we jump in and are shuttled back across the valley. by the time we get over to the other side, the rain has picked up and when the taxi comes to pick us up cesar and I jump into the tray of the 4wd along with three british guys and a Canadian woman. george gets into the front. it is a bumpy (and wet) ride back to town…………a cold, damp feeling has started to penetrate my bones. we eat a late lunch and then get straight onto the last bus to quito. on the bus, we keep each other warm and marvel at the day we’ve had. what an incredibly beautiful, magical place, a precious opportunity for connection……we leave with full hearts.