We heard that it was whale watching season on the Ecuadorian coast. Sperm whales to be exact, on their migratory path from the southern ocean to... somewhere in the northern hemisphere. So they favour the Ecuadorian coast for mating, splashing and heavy petting. Who'd be a whale?
The overnight bus down from Quito to the coast was a nightmare, the bus was too cramped, the driver a complete nutter and thus the chances of sleep were somewhere between slim and zero. So we arrived pretty knackered, but not to worry as the market diner was open so we enjoyed a full carne number and set off to find some cheap digs. Which we did...The Sol Inn a rustic number with a sandy floor, hammocks and a wobbly pool table. Perfect.I shared a room with Fabien and Kev and Claire took their own.
The nearby beach was certainly an attraction in it's own right - not for the pleasantness of the environment (dirty, loud and the sun wasn't out anyway) but for the fisherman's market. Hammerhead sharks, rays and barracuda being the big ticket items and all types of unfortunate marine life below them. The day's haul was so large it makes you wonder how there's anything left.
Having decided against The Galapagos Islands ($1500 minium) we were keen on visiting the nearby Isla Del Plata, which is billed as the poor man's Galapagos and had heard from Luis Garcia that the best way to visit was from slightly further up the coast, which is closer to the island and can be combined with whale watching en route. So we set off on the short distance up the coast via the Routa Del Sol (Route of Sun, even though there wasn't any) to the small village whose name escapes me. Alas our info was dud - you can only visit the Island from Puerto Lopez.
Although we were going to return to Puerto Lopez that eve, there were some agencies offering whale watching tours for pretty cheap so we decided to spend three hours taking one of these tours. We bundled into a 4 x 4 and were taken to the beach and onto a small fisherman's vessel. And I mean small. After 2 hours without a single sighting we were about to give up then....thar she blows! A couple of whales frolicking in the water....increadible sight! Our captain was afraid for his boat and didn't want to get too close...luckily his mate talked him into it and we had some good close up views. Amazing.
Back to Puerto Lopez and alas the Sol Inn was full so we booked in over the road instead. We were entertained one eve by an Ecuadorian dressed as a clown who bizarrely once lived in Penzance, Corwall. We found that most odd. That evening we arranged a tour for the following day, Fabien is a pretty good negotiator so we got a good discount. We set off early in the morning for the 2 hour journey across to the island with some more whale watching on the way...this time the little blighters were breaching right out and landing on their backs...what a sight! The Island itself involved a 2 hour walk from one end to the other, lots of tame birds (you are practically standing on them) with interesting names such as Blue and Red Footed Boobies. The coastline was pretty rugged, no seals or sealions to be seen unfortunately though. We did some snorkelling around a reef, OK but not as good as I have seen in Asia.
As we had paid $20 for the national park entrance fee, which is valid for 5 days, we decided to stick around for a couple of days to check out some of the other natonal park locations. First up was Los Frailes Beach, a beautiful curved stretch of sand and for a change the sun was actually shining. Hallelujah! The following day we took a trek around the tropical dry forest, which apparently used to stretch from Colombia to Chile but now is at less than 1 pc of it's original size.
So a successful week exploring this section of the Ecuadorian coast, now back to Quito for what felt like the millionth time but what the hell it was rum night there again and time to say goodbye to Fabien who is heading down to Peru, whereas Kev, Claire and I are heading north to Colombia!