- Published on Tuesday, 07 August 2012 20:13
After a quick stay in Montanita I woke early to hit the local bus ($2) again northbound for my destination of Puerto Lopez. The 40 minute ride was pleasant with rolling hillsides overgrown with tropical rainforest indicative of the region so close to the Earth's equator. I was happy to be in the jungle again and the shimmering blue hues of the Pacific brought an even greater smile to my face. Once in town I walked around and found a nice hostel on the beach which would serve as my base for the next few days. Here I met Samantha and Greg two Americans teaching English in Quito for the past year on a short holiday before returning home. Puerto Lopez was nice. It was the tranquil setting I have been longing for to waste away my last week in South America. It was warm, calm, the food some of the best I've had, and the beach was just what I needed to get back on track.
The main reason why I had come here was to visit Isla de Plata some 75km off the coast of Ecuador. Isla de Plata is billed as the "Poor Man's Galapagos" as it is easily accessible, with the same wildlife, and very inexpensive. I made the decision not to go to the Galapagos islands a while back. Not because of the money, I just ran out of time. So this would serve as a temporary alternative. My first day in Puerto Lopez I shopped around the 500 or so tour agencies securing a good price of $40 for a full day at the island. Up early I embarked on the boat for the two hour journey (which was fun in itself) for the island. I was full of anticipation and adventure.
Hiking around the island was a really fun day. We learned of the migratory birds that call the island home, evolutionary theory of flora and fauna, and were able to sample some of the native plants that serve as food and have known medicinal compounds for today's society. The birds here have no natural predators and therefore no fear of humans. You could walk right up to them and they would just stare right back. Walking about I was brought back to the adventures I had as a kid with my brother in the hills of Orange County exploring and learning about all manner of wildlife. I even came across the elusive booby. Priceless.
The passage on the boat back to the mainland was really special. As luck would have it the months of June through September mark the annual mating season of the mighty Humpback Whale off of the Ecuadorian coast. I was right at the peak of it. We witnessed many a whale breaching the ocean surface and splashing about. We were also fortunate to see a few mothers with their calves. I have no pictures of the whales, partly because they are very quick jumping in and out of the water and mostly because I wanted to witness these moments with my own eyes rather than through a camera lens.
The following day my American friends and I booked a mototaxi north 15km for the unspoiled and deserted beach of Los Frailes. A magnificent spot this is with a half moon bay of white sands, warm waters, and plenty of sunshine. Ecuador really is a beautiful country (from what little I've seen) and I already regret not allotting more time to spend here. We spent the lazy day lounging about and trying not to do much of anything which turned into a long day of doing nothing. Exactly what I was looking for when I formed my exit plan to come here.
As for me now; I've been stuck in my cabana living on bananas and just a little something to help the time go by in Montanita once again 40km south of Puerto Lopez right off of the beach. I've been reflecting a lot on how far I've come, where I've been, what I've seen, the people I've met, and how special the past six months have been here in South America. Tomorrow one final four hour bus ($5.50) south to Guayaquil and one quick night to await my plane at 5:35am Thursday ($623) to take me away from here and back to the States for a ten hour layover in Los Angeles and onto the next chapter in my journey. How strange indeed.