Friday, April 17, 2009

Sun, Sand, Seafood, Surfing, Snorkeling and Semana Santa!

After Palm Sunday in Guayaquil, we headed up the coast for the rest of Semana Santa (Holy Week). We started in the little surfing town of Montañita and from there went to Puerto Lopez, a little fishing town near a national park. Montañita was a charming little touristy town, despite the fact that half of the streets were half dug up and under construction! We still got to experience some delicious seafood and lots of time in the sun! It was so awesome to be at the beach again, just watching the sunset and wandering through the surf, which we did a lot!
We did have some difficulties finding a hostal, but we found an okay one with a balcony and a giant room--because there was a loft, we basically had our own little areas, pretty nice! If you turned your head you had a gorgeous view of the sea from our little balcony.
The first few days were pretty uneventful, but on the third day we took surfing lessons! We had two instuctors, Carlos and Ando--Carlos was obviously a very serious athlete, kind of what I always assume surf bums to be--very attuned with the waves and nature and all that stuff! Ando was more of a goof, and he ended up being my primary instructor. At first, he kept asking if me and Adam were really related, because Adam had much more balance and skill than me already! However, I soon won him over with my charm, and we had a good time, and I did manage to stand on the board quite a few times! I charmed Ando so much he tried to convince me to go dancing...oh those Latin men :) Of course Adam was still much more capable than me--I think he got the majority of the athletic genes in the family, of which there are few to begin with!!--but I still had a great time. It was great to just be out on the ocean!
That night we watched some fire dancers, basically juggling flames and doing other fun tricks with them, and we met an American who had spent some time in Missoula. Interesting hearing his ideas, and he made us both dying to go to Colombia!! Someday.
The next day we sweltered in the heat, waiting for a bus to Puerto Lopez. It was a quick bus, thankfully, accompanied by gorgeous views of the bay of the city as we drove in. Puerto Lopez was definitely one of the friendliest cities we travelled to--we met a lady who led us to our hostal right away (decent room including a balcony and a TV for five bucks a night, although no fan, so it was sweltering!!) and their neighbor happened to be Winston Churchill, our future tour guide for snorkeling and Isla de la Plata!
After arranging all that fun stuff, we hung out on the pretty although slighty dirty beach and swam with the pelicans and other seabirds circling for fish guts. That evening, we found a cheap and incredibly amazing restuarant with some of the best seafood I have tasted in my life. We frequented El Rey a lot, and I usually had amazing calamari or shrimp, and occasionally octopus or different kinds of shellfish if I was feeling adventurous!
The next day we dined at the Whale Café with delicious apple cinnamon pancakes, and headed out on our tour with Winston and a family from Guayaquil. It turned out to be the perfect day--snorkeling, fishing, and just riding around in a boat! We visited the edges of Isla Salango and Isla de la Plata, referred to as the Poor Man´s Galapagoes, as they have much of the same life, and quite a variety, but they´re closer and much much cheaper to visit!
It was our first time snorkeling in the ocean, and it was amazing! We stopped right near a pretty beach the first time, and swam in the warm water admiring tons of bright fish and the like. The highlight of that time was the giant turtle we saw swimming along!
After that, we got close enough to see a bunch of pelicans and the famous blue-footed boobies! Their feet looked like they´d been dipped in paint, it was pretty cool, and they were awesome little divers!
We fished for our lunch then, and to my surprise I caught quite a big fish! I also caught one tiny little guy, and got a few close calls--my hook got broken and completely lost, possibly from huge fish or rocks--but that was the best one! It was definitely heavy, one of the guides had to help me bring it in as I´m a weakling. He also killed it right in front of my eyes--not as traumatizing as I thought it would be for a former vegetarian! Guess South America has toughened me up a bit :).
There were a few other catches, the most memorable being some sort of eel and a pufferfish! He wasn´t puffed until our guide touched him, and then bam! They threw him back in, and he slowly deflated.
While our guides made my fish in ceviche--raw fish marinated with lime and chopped up with onion and other vegetables and fruit--we went snorkeling again. No sea turtle this time, but some sort of eel, a giant fish that I mistook for a rock at first, and tons of bright blue and yellow fish! We were right next to a bunch of caves and rocks this time, so the water had some colder currents, but it was still amazing! A whole other world, definitely inspires me to finally get certified for scuba diving!
After some ceviche--I was rather apprehensive, but it was delicious--along with amazing fresh fruit like pineapple, mango, and coconut, we circled around a bit and headed back to the mainland. It was an amazing day, but after that I was definitely ready for a break from the sun. While it wasn´t necessarily hotter, you could definitely feel the strength of the sun that close to the Equator!!
We also noticed festivities under way from Good Friday and the rest of the weekend--Puerto Lopez was becoming quite the loud little town! By Saturday it was filled with people and our little restuarant had lace under the plastic cloths and tons of people! There was a giant stage set up, and everywhere we went it was loud.
We decided to head to Quito for Easter Sunday, anticipating lots of crowds and parades and celebrations, so we took an overnight bus that evening. I was sad to say goodbye to our wonderful beach life, but my skin was definitely ready for some rain!
I hope all of you are doing well, stay tuned for an update on my brother´s last week in Ecuador!!! LOVE xx

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