April 2nd to 6th 2011
After arriving in the Guayaquil bus station at 2.30am and finding it very difficult to find a bus to my chosen destination of Puerto Lopez, I settled in with a couple from Spain who were heading in the same general direction. Most of the ticket offices were closed, and there must be over 200 of them, but we had been pointed to one office that was meant to open at 4.30am. While we waited there was a rumor that we could take a bus to Salinas and then get another bus further up the coast. Right as we were on the verge to leave with it, a very nice gentleman explained that it was better to wait, as it wasn’t a guarantee we would get a bus and this bus station was larger and had more security. We decided to wait it out and chatted with him, he also spoke some English so was able to help me figure out my ticket too.
As fate would have it he was on our bus heading to Olon (from there I had to catch a local bus to Puerto Lopez) and it was quite fun having all four of us on the bus together. We all promptly fell asleep and at some point into the journey our new friend deboarded. I found out later that he had actually managed to get into the couple’s bag and steal their laptop, mp3 and phone. Makes you lose faith in human nature.
The Beach, I can see the Beach!
After 3.5hrs we reached the town of Olon and had to flag down the local bus, that speeds down the road at beyond top speeds. Finally reaching my destination after another 1.5hr drive at high speed down a very curvy ocean road (I think I am now praying to any God that will listen on these trips). I threw my bag on my shoulder and decided to just hoof it to the hostel, the town wasn’t that big. I found a sign pointing to the right and followed it. I came across a distinctly hostel looking establishment but it had no name. Turns out it was Sol Inn Hostel and so I went about getting myself booked in. This is where things first got confused. I asked for a private room on the first night and then transfer to a dorm, I just needed to sleep. I was quoted $10 and then pointed in the general direction of room 1 as the guy walked off. So lugging my bag up the stairs I went into what was supposed to be a sanctuary in my present state. It was instead littered with leaves and twigs and dirt (caused from the heavy rain the night before). I found the guy (turned out to be the manager, Darwin) and he apologised and promised to have it cleaned immediately. I sat and waited.
Over 10minutes later I went to find him and was told they were all on lunch. I just looked at him and said I need sleep now, I will take anything, a dorm room is fine. He directed me to a different room that was a 3bed dorm with a private bathroom. It looked perfect and I said yes. He mumbled something about “privado” and I assumed he meant there was no one else tonight so it was like a private, because obviously this was a dorm room.
5hrs later I emerged from a dead sleep feeling very refreshed and headed down to the beach, the amazing beautiful beach. As I stepped onto it I immediately fell in love with this tiny town. The beach is long and white (a minor trash issue), the water was warm and clear and the beach was lined with little shack like bars all serving the same stuff and playing the same music.
Eventually I decided to grab a drink and stood in a daze trying to decide which one of the little beach bars to choose. Its kind of like standing at the cheese counter in an upmarket store in the States, just too many to choose from. One seemed to draw me in and I went and found, what was soon dubbed, my hammock. A particularly nice looking bartender brought me a menu and I ordered a chocolate shake. When he brought it to me he also brought a table and said “para mi princessa” (for my princess). I think I am going to like this bar. So sitting in MY hammock watching the ocean listening to Bob Marley and some 80’s remixes it felt about as close to heaven as you could get and well worth the trip.
Enter Boris, a rather skinny weasely looking Ecuadorian who seemed intent on talking to me. Its not as if I felt creeped out or anything but I just really wanted to relax on my own. He chatted a bit about tours and things to do and asked where I was from. I replied and was cordial but eventually, at the end of my shake, I decided I needed dinner so said my farewells. As I left my yummy bartender asked my name and asked if I would come back that evening as it was Saturday night and there were usually more people around then. I said yes.
Saffers are everywhere
During my time in the jungle one of the best tours I did was with a group of South African students. The last group of people I ever would have thought to encounter there. As I was walking down the sidewalk of Puerto Lopez, looking for dinner, I suddenly heard a young man say “I knew it was you”. And low and behold but guess who was there, the group had come to the beach for a couple of days. It was great seeing them and they greeted me like an old friend. I walked with them to meet the rest and I got hugs all around. Apparently the pic they took of me (looking bedragled after severe rain) was all over facebook. It was great seeing them but unfortunately they were heading out of town that day. Its a small world after all.
Dinner and beer in my hammock
After saying cheers I decided to eat where they had and ordered some fish and chips. The thought was to have a quick dinner and then go back to the bar for a beer. It appeared they had to catch my fish as it took over an hour for it to be cooked, and I was 1 of 2 customers. However, I just ran across the street to take some pics as I waited.
Finally finished I headed over and was able to recline in my hammock with my large beer (a whopping $1.25) and watch what remained of the sunset. This was heaven…until Boris showed up again. He chatted away, inviting me to his bar for a free drink etc etc… He even insisted on paying for my drink, I argued on that one just a little bit. But eventually I explained how tired I was and headed back to the hostel. My bartender waved goodbye as I left.
Mitch the Aussie
When I got back to the hostel, I discovered a rather dashing young man playing with himself, pool that is. His name was Mitch from Gold Beach Australia and he was actually trying to learn how to cheat at pool. We ended up playing a couple of games and I came fairly close on one of them, think I needed a second beer as I always play better when I have a slight buzz. By the 3rd game 2 local kids had shown up, about 5 and 7, apparently they are there every night and are child prodige pool sharks. They made it their mission to teach me how to win, and I fear I failed them as a student. There is nothing quite demoralising as having two kids act completely disappointed at your ability to hit a ball right in front of you.
So as I headed to bed, I hung my head in shame and we let them take over the table.
Blue Footed Boobies
Today was my tour to Isla De La Plata and my chance to see Blue Footed Boobies. My trip to South America would now include Lake Titicaca and Blue Footed Boobies, I was content and this section of travel has been worth it.
I met up with my tour and we boarded out little boat out to the island. Heidy was our English speaking guide and was really good. A tiny 5ft petite Ecuadorian girl with lots of knowledge of the area. I made some new friends with a group of Americans and soon we were enjoying the sea air as we jetted across the waves. It would take at least an hour to get there. About half way through we were welcomed by a huge pod of Spotted Dolphins, apparently rather rare at that time of year and never that close, under the boat and all around us. Truly amazing.
When we got to the island we had a bathroom break with little buddies, crabs. Most of the girls came running out screaming, I went running in with my camera. Gives a whole new meaning to “catching crabs in the bathroom”. Finally it was time to search for the Blue Footed Boobies (insert hysterically giggling here). The island was quite desolate and very hot, and we had 201 steps to walk up to get to the top. I hate stairs. But at the top our very first juvenile Boobie was there to greet us, I think he must be on the pay roll. The entire hour and a half walk was incredible. We saw longtailed mockingbirds, candelabra catcus, small lizards, frigate birds and of course numerous boobies. They just sort of stood there and looked at us as if to say “yes I have blue feet, do you have a problem with that?”.
All to soon we ended the loop and headed back to the boat where we were given lunch and moved on to a snorkeling spot. We were lucky enough to see a green turtle on the way and at the spot there were numerous colorful fish all around the boat. A fantastic day all in all. Afterwards some of us headed to grab a drink, my bar (Oscars Bar) was closed so we went to another. One of the guys had agreed to be my boyfriend if Boris showed up, but wouldn’t you know it, it looks like I had been dumped for another couple. Oh well I wasn’t really into the relationship.
Back at the hostel I hung out with my new friends Mitch and Connie (Wales). Heidy also happened to be there so we all hung out till 11pm. Great times, great friends.
On Monday Anya, met her the day before on the boat, and I decided to grab a moto (small tuk tuk 3 wheel transport type thing) and head out to Agua Blanca. Famous for the historical significance of the settlement and the sulfur pool, the local community has truly embraced this and made quite a decent living off tourists coming to visit. The ride was great fun and our driver was hysterical.
At the community there was a small museum that we were taken around and had everything explained to us, all in Spanish and I could understand and translate most of it for Anya. Then we took the moto to the sulfur pool and were greeted by the overwhelming smell of rotten eggs. We were given the option to swim if we wanted, but we both declined. We did however put the mud all over our faces. Heading back we stopped at a view point and then went back to town. We grabbed a drink at Oscar’s Bar and just relaxed.
The plan was to meet Anya at the bar at 7.30pm, so I headed back to relax and take a nap. At the appointed time I headed to the bar and waited, and waited and waited. Chatted with one of the local guys, Felix, and Gustavo. When Felix got up to leave Gustavo (the bartender) started asking me about my family and where I was from. Then he asked if I wanted to join him in the morning to go to another beach 15min by bus up the coast. I thought what the heck and said yes. Later I got a free mojito. Some other friends showed up and it turned into a great night.
Just before 9am I headed to the bus station, picked up some rolls and a piece of cake (it was Gustavo’s birthday) and waited. It turns out Ecuadorian time is 25minutes later, but no worries. Soon we were on the bus and heading to the beach. It was spectacular, white sand, black rocks, no trash and littered with interesting shells. We spent the morning collecting shells, sunbathing, swimming and generally hanging out. Since he spoke virtually no English we communicated in Spanish and it turned into a great Spanish lesson. When the sun became too hot we headed back into town.
Gustavo’s Birthday Party
My small group of new friends, Connie – Wales, Mitch – Australia and Heidy – local, headed over towards Oscar’s Bar to celebrate Gustavo’s birthday. When we got there the bar was still closed so we went and had a beer next door. We decided to pick up a couple of bottles of rum as the guys had promised to make us free drinks if we brought the alcohol.
When they finally arrived it turned into a humdinger. Great music, great fun and great friends. The biggest surprise was seeing Michi from AmaZOOnico, he had come to meet a friend who ended up knowing Gustavo and so both came to the party. enter “It’s a small world” theme music. We danced and drank and had a whale of a time. Gustavo being shy ended up spending most of the time making drinks or playing DJ. At one point Oscar, bar owner, grabbed both of us and made us dance salsa along with everyone else. A great night, and one that required ibuprofen, a large bottle of water and sleeping in till 11am. Luckily my medical precautions prevented any serious after affects.
Dinner with Friends
Wednesday was a lazy day. I went to buy my 11hr bus ticket to Quito for the following day and spent most of hte day relaxing at the hostel or on the beach. I had planned to make dinner for everyone, Pasta Italiano, I invited Gustavo when I bumped into him on the beach, but due to a disagreement with the hostel owner he didn’t like to go there. So we agreed to hang out afterwards for a beer.
The dinner was delicious and I managed to feed 5 of us, I will really miss my new friends, hate having to say goodbye. Then I headed to the beach and hung out with Gustavo for the evening.
All in all I think I have fallen in love with this little beach town, and have made amazing friends along the way… perhaps I should come back????