Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Puerto Lopez

Puerto Lopez is a small beach town about 4 hours from Guayaquil by bus. Its main attraction is whale watching that occurs between the months of July and October--but are most popular during the month of August--while the whales migrate south to find warmer waters. My main reason for wanting to go though was to go to Los Frailes, a virgin beach in National Park territory (Parque Nacional de Machalilla) that is considered one of the most beautiful beaches of Ecuador.

This week is vacation week for the majority of the international students, so I went with a few people who would be returning to Guayaquil on Sunday and another group of about 8 continued traveling north along the coast after Puerto Lopez. The courses taught in English get a break this week but since I have one course taught in Spanish I had to stay back with just a few other international students. Next week we'll have only classes Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week off for Dia de los Difuntos--Day of the Deceased and other celebrations throughout Ecuador.

On Friday morning I headed out for Puerto Lopez with one of my friends, Sharae. The start of the trip signaled to us that we were in for an interesting weekend. When the city bus stopped at the terminal a mob of male domestic and blue collar workers looking to get on the bus for work swarmed the bus and started pushing it and shaking it. I thought for a few seconds that they were actually going to tip the bus over, and the bus driver was not amused either, so he was refusing to open the doors to get in or off. After they calmed down momentarily the doors swung open and the fighting to get on the bus began again, while I had to push my way off.

Right after that incident we crossed the street to get to the terminal. As we were walking by the bahia (black market) to the side of the terminal a man started approaching us coming from the terminal. His eyes were glazed over, he couldn't walk in a straight line and he had his arms kinda flailing side to side. We tried to walk farther to the left, away from him but he came right toward me, made some unhuman growl and grabbed my arm. I immediately smacked his arm and pushed him off me and he just kept walking, while the people that watched around us just laughed at me. Although it shook me up a little it was relieving that the man was so clearly not capable of actually doing any harm to me because he had almost no motor skills at that point.

The rest of our trip that day was relatively peaceful, arriving around 12 to a pretty empty town, finding a cheap hostel for 7 dollars each and heading to the beach while we waited for the other girls to arrive. Since we all had been exhausted from our exams all last week, and there was also nowhere to go at night, we just stayed in our room and went to bed early to wake up for Los Frailes the next morning. We ended up taking mini chiva carts (basically a motorcycle with a cart attached behind it for two people) for the 20 min or so ride to the beach, and picking up local fruits on the way at the main market for our lunches. It ended up being $5/cart each way and they stayed at the beach to wait for us until we were ready.

The beach was absolutely amazing--making me miss having a camera. Just about nobody was there--just a few couples were there during the entire afternoon, the weather was pretty warm and the water was crystal clear. When we got back to Puerto Lopez we met up with the other group traveling for the rest of the night. The beach is lined with a chain of mini bars that have chairs and hammocks (I prefer the latter) available for the customers. Being the only gringas around we were an apparent target but I was glad to stay in the 7dollar hostel where we didn't get robbed, rather than the 5 dollar one where that was an issue. Thankfully, we were all able to make it out of Puerto Lopez safely--either back to Guayaquil or onto other travels.

After my weekend at the beach, on Monday I had a field trip with my international trade class to Cuenca. I love Cuenca, so I was excited to return but it ended up being a lot less exciting than I'd hope. It was a 4 hour drive to a 4 hour lecture in the university on the outskirts of Cuenca, before driving four hours back. The celebrations were already starting that day but since we didn't spend any time in the actual city, I wasn't able to see any of it. Next Wednesday I'll be heading out to Cuenca with Dave, when the celebrations are really in full swing, and pictures will finally be posted. Until then I'll be in the Guayaquil area for the most part, while everyone else has their vacations in the Galapagos, Peru or Colombia.

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