Saturday, April 07, 2007

So, we have recently returned from an amazing trip to the small fishing town of Puerto Lopez on the West coast of Ecuador.

This was the first trip to the coast for us, so we really didn't know what to expect. One of the things we came to recognize is how much of a third world country this really is.

It is certainly easy to forget while making our way through Quito ~ and even our trips to the high Andes (to the Blacksheep Inn) haven't given us this same impression.

The other thing about this country that we came to realize even more is how kind the people really are. We knew this, yes.
But nothing will clarify this more than a trip across the country (which, by the way, is about the size of Utah - unlike Utah, however, it has one of the biggest mountain ranges through the middle and it doesn't quite have the infrastructure).

We started our trip with a 10 minute cab ride to the airport and a 30 minute flight to Manta. From there we took a 3 hour bus ride to Puerto Lopez. The bus system here is amazing and cheap. It cost the 2 of us 6$ for the 3 hour journey - and when you get a seat, which is most of the time, they are remarkably comfortable, albeit tough to snooze on.

We were ushered in a moto-taxi (the mode of transportation in Puerto Lopez) to our hostel - the Hosteria Mandala. An Italian artist and a Swedish lover of whales opened this hostel 9 years ago. They are sweet and vibrant people with a passion for life. The gentleman

is an artist particularly skilled in woodworking and he has created a beautiful retreat in which everything is a work of art. Check out the entrance gate he carved (above).

Five years ago they planted a garden - and I can't imagine the place any other way. Driving up I was concerned, but the place is incredibly special. The food is divine and the coffee as well (a rarity in this coffee producing country - as said in "The Panama Hat Trail, "The coffee gets worse the closer you get to the source."

We spent 1 day visiting a beautiful beach, Los Frailes and another day heading out to an Island called "La Isla de La Plata." It was something of a hellish place - a big, hot rock. It does have something of a unique ecosystem but it has been through several years of extreme drought.

This place is called the Poor Man's Galapagos, and aside from the obvious reason that it costs a lot less to visit, I can really only see one other reason - and that would be the blue-footed Boobies. Funny thing, I happened to be wearing some blue feet myself and accidentally snapped a photo.

On the third full day there we just chilled out. Of course I couldn't stop trying to dissect the fishing industry in the town. Boats would seem to come in at random times, although I am convinced there is a pattern to it all. I am also convinced that every one in the town knew exactly who was out on which boat, when they left and exactly when they would be back. This place is the real deal and a true journey into the past. When the ships returned, men and boys with their plastic bins swarm the boats - buying the fish right off of the boat. Some men go out for a day, but 2 day trips seem more common. These are tiny boats - like what I imagine in The Old Man and The Sea.

And a final note, we found this great Columbian restaurant (Chris is looking at the map of Columbia in the picture) run by a very friendly couple and they served delicious Caipirihnias and some delicious corn pancakes topped with beans and cheese ~ we were in heaven!