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Reconnect with mind, body and spirit in the lush natural surroundings of Mindo, Ecuador located almost right on the Equator. Imagine yourself learning the 16 form Tai Chi (16 steps) in a studio in the cloud forests alongside a rushing river. Our week together will weave a daily mindfulness practice with two hours of Tai Chi. We will also include daily activities to explore authentic small village Ecuadorian culture with local friends and family, and other activities to reconnect with nature in this beautiful environment. We will tour an artisanal chocolate factory, a butterfly garden, and take guided nature hikes through some of the most biodiverse places on Earth. Your home for the week is a quick walk away from the Riverside Studio, where outside of instruction time, you can choose to build upon your lessons or to pull up a hammock to read a book.
Your retreat guides are Tai Chi instructor, Sue Braun, whose Tai Chi practice began while living in China ten years ago, and EarthTreks’ founder, Alison Braun, who invites you into her home in the magical surroundings of Mindo for the retreat. This is going to be a fabulous week of relaxation, learning, and fun.
To find out about more about this retreat, we encourage you to please CONTACT US directly, so that we can answer your specific questions.
Mindo is a small village of approximately 3,000 people, located in a valley in the foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes. This was the first Important Bird Area (IBA) established in all of South America, and has built its reputation as an ecotourism destination greatly upon its notoriety for excellent birding and biodiversity more broadly. There exists a tremendous amount of fresh water in the area, from a few major rivers to endless numbers of streams and waterfalls.
Mindo is a safe, small village that boasts what many describe as the ‘perfect climate’ – a subtropical climate that is warm year-found and rarely climbs above the mid-20s (C) or below the mid-teens (at night). The rainfall is significant, with precipitation throughout the year and an average annual rainfall of well over 2,000 mm, which is more highly concentrated during rainy season (January to May). The rain is quite predictable, however, generally not starting until mid to late afternoon, so it is easy to plan our daily activities around staying dry. Mindo is located in a cloud forest, and as such, is green and lush, offering the ideal climate for mosses, orchids, and ferns to thrive. As it is located right on the Equator (which we will cross a few times), the sun sets and rises just after 6:00 a.m & p.m. all year round.
Our accommodations are at the Casa de Cecilia, a small, simple yet beautiful hostal located on the banks of the Canchupi River. The three cabins that make up the hostal are quite removed from the village’s hustle and bustle, even though it is only a short walk (just a few minutes) to the village’s main square. Cecilia Perez was the first person in Mindo to host international guests – right in the house we will be staying in – starting early in the 1980s. Cecilia has since passed away, and her daughter, Paola Peňafiel is now the Owner and Host of Casa de Cecilia. It remains one of the tourist favourites for accommodations in the village. Cecilia was Alison’s mother-in-law and Paola is her sister-in-law. The beautiful Mot-Mot bird (seen above) will likely be a frequent visitor to the Riverside Studio, where our daily Tai Chi lessons will take place, as the studio is very close to her nest. Everyone says the same thing about this place – ‘it’s paradise’.
Your flight will arrive in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, late afternoon. We will be at the airport to meet you and whisk you away from the city to the village of Mindo, which we will call home for the next week. This final leg of your journey will take about two hours.
Start the morning as the birds are waking with breakfast by the river. Then we will gather in the Riverside Studio for an orientation and overview of what the week has in store and all of the activities we have planned. We will take some time to learn some theory and initial Tai Chi moves. Following lunch, we will embark on a walking tour of Mindo to help you feel at home in this sleepy little ecotourist village and explore some of the sites and activities you may want to take in during your free time. Later in the afternoon, there will be an opportunity to tour the local Orchid Garden to take in some of the over 4,000 species growing in Ecuador (more than anywhere in the world), from big colourful ones to others that require a magnifying glass to see. Later in the day, we will have the unique opportunity to learn how to make colada morada, the traditional drink that is prepared only on this day every year, as part of the Day of the Dead.
After breakfast, we will head to the Mariposario (or Butterfly Gardens in English), where we will be able to see butterflies at every stage of life – from eggs to when they emerge as adults from their chrysalis to dry off their wings – including Monarchs, Morphos (the big, iridescent blue butterfly) and several other species. Afterwards, either take the ride back to the village, choose to walk (often offers fantastic bird watching) or continue on to hike the trails at the nearby Environmental Education Centre. After lunch, we will return to the Riverside Studio for our daily mindfulness practice and Tai Chi lesson. Following dinner this evening, we will head out for dessert – over to Tia (Aunt) Maruja’s house to learn how to make empenadas from scratch.
After breakfast, we will head out on an amazing walk through a private reserve with local naturalist Pedro Peňafiel, whose knowledge and appreciation for the natural world are astounding. Then we will head back to the village for a healthy traditional meal, followed by our daily mindfulness practice and Tai Chi lesson.
This morning we head to the Trail of the Waterfalls, to take in some of the waterfalls that Mindo is famous for. Take time to breathe in the moment. Bring your swimsuit if you feel up to a swim. Then we will head back to the village for a healthy traditional meal, followed by our daily mindfulness practice and Tai Chi lesson.
Breakfast will be followed by our daily mindfulness practice and Tai Chi lesson. You will be more familiar with all 16 steps at this point, and ready to start moving with them in one constant flow. Later in the day, we will treat ourselves to the local chocolate tour at our neighbours’ chocolate factory, the Quetzal. During the tour, we will learn about how artisanal chocolate is made, from bean to bar, including a delicious sampling of chocolate and brownies at the end. Then we will double up with a second tour that demonstrates how chocolate was originally made – you will be encouraged to help out, all set to live hand drumming.
Breakfast will be followed by our daily mindfulness practice and Tai Chi lesson, which will now be flowing even more easily. Later in the morning, we will travel to EarthTreks’ reforestation project – you will be amazed by how fast trees grow, as you hike to see some of the over 13,500 new trees now growing there.
A birding trip can be arranged for you this morning – there are few different options for outings and we will help you work through which best suits your budget and birding interests. The trip would require a very early start to the day (before the sun rises), so be sure to get to bed early the night before if you book one. You will be amazed at the birds found in this region. Mindo is on the list of the world’s top birding destinations for a reason.
Today is our last mindfulness practice and Tai Chi lesson, and will include how to integrate a daily practice into life back home. Then the rest of the day is yours to explore however you wish, whether that includes adventure sports, hiking in nature, relaxing with a book, or wandering through the streets doing shopping in one of the charming stores. We will help you make arrangements as needed.
After packing up and having breakfast, we will make the two-hour trip to the airport and see you off on your way, after a enjoying such a wonderful week together.
When trying to figure out what you may need to pack, please go to our TRAVEL TIPS or you can also feel free to CONTACT US at any time to answer questions you have. We want you to feel comfortable and prepared for an absolutely magical week of Tai Chi, mindfulness, culture and nature together!