Guayaquil grande bus terminal is a massive ants nest and someone just pissed in the middle
. We eventually find ourselves on JipiJapa bus ( pronounced hippyhappa...) along with a load of locals on our final leg to the Pacific coastal fishing village of Puerto Lopez four hours away. It's not long before the outskirts of the grim city are consumed by barrios shanty towns. The signs of daily struggle and poverty amongst the rain river flooded stilt shacks go on for sometime before we once again pass through agricultural land where labor intensive harvests eventually make their way to our kitchen tables. Yet again we are reminded of how very fortunate we are. Our bus driver ensures every roadside bus vendor has a chance to make a few on board sales as we inch our way along making stops every few hundred metres collecting that ever so important final passenger. The ever present vendors race up and down the aisle flogging baskets of fried everything, colas, cakes and the forever unknown before making a bee line and jumping off mid flight as the bus lurches forward once again. Occasionally on the bus circuit we are entertained by "salespeople" who remain on board to give everyone the pitch on the purse that somehow unzips and becomes a dog leash, ( not sure what your supposed to do with your stuff inside after...) the guy who hands out candies and hopes you buy a few after watching him put three inch nails up his nose and chew razor blades or the "amazing tooth brush" that survived multiple poundings on the overhead hand railing during the salesmans hook ( apparently this is a great feature as he sold quite a few...) The most amazing part of all of this is that neither of us have quietly pissed ourselves laughing
. At no time in South America in general will a moment go by that someone isn't somewhere trying to make a buck selling anything that will put a few coins in their pockets, no matter how bizarre. The heat and humidity are winning before we finally gain enough speed to generate a breeze.
Puerto Lopez is a small fishing village first and secondly on its way to accommodating local and foreign tourists alike. It has a few day trip opportunities including boat trips to Isla Plata where west coast greys and humpbacks make their home in July and August. This island is also know as poor mans Galapagos as you can see blue footed boobies and numerous other marine life for $40pp if you don't have the $2000+pp needed to visit theGalapagos. We opt to visit Aqua Blanco just outside of PL where there is an small interesting museum and gravesite with indigenous findings here from many years ago. A gravesite was partially exposed from flooding river waters years ago and revealed large urns intact with family members remains inside. Eventually the remnants of an entire indigenous community were uncovered. Also located here is a "thermal pool" where you have the option to lather up in therapeutic sulphuric mud and sun bake before plunging into the warmish sulphuric grey water pool. We pass. Puerto Lopez uses the Asian style tuk tuks to get around and we enjoy a number of "rides" over the few days there
. We also enjoy great fresh seafood including sea bass, ceviche, camarones and I finally get the grilled octopus I've been after, as good as I imagined. Before heading further south to Olon we spend a few nights at Hostel Tuzco. A great find at $10pp it comes complete with beverage cooler in your room, nice terrace, great friendly staff and a nice pool across the street.
We had heard about Montanita, the busy funky surfer town with no last call and partying till dawn so as a result of not being thirty five years younger we opt to stay five minutes away by taxi in Olon. Picture Long Beach Tofino with a scattering of people, 30c, surfing, ice cream wagon bells,warm sand, high humidity, cold cervezas and killer sunsets. Over the next week we enjoy lazy days with long walks on the beautiful long beach, day trips into Montanita to watch excellent surfing, walk the Bangkok Ko San road like streets, enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants and return to Olon to hit the balcony hammock, listen to the thunderous waves roll in and watch the sunset bouncing off the dozens of night fishing boats out front. ( we apologize at this time to anyone who is still shovelling snow, ducking from ping pong ball hailstones, scraping their windshields with a now paper thin credit card while the kettle whistles or bumping into each other in the fog...) Montanita is hosting an international surfing championship in a couple of weeks and to get the town "ready" they are digging up the streets to do what they should have done initailly septic wise and unfortunately culling all dogs without a leash or proof of ownership. Via roaming truck and loudspeaker residents were given a day to collar their dogs, uncollared / identified dogs would be round up and uthenized the following day.
After ten excellent days on the salty Pacific Coast we are heading to the highlands to base ourselves back in Banos where we will plan our final weeks before heading home.
We hit the road for Puerto Lopez on the coast in a "swanky" van we share with new Canadian friends Dale and Judy from "Cantanymore" Alberta. ( sorry guys, this just refers to the Oilers..:) This is a nice change from the bus scene and shortens the trip to Guayaquil a fair bit. Exiting Cuenca we are now entering Cajas National Park alongside pino, pardocopas trees and small lakes with roadside "se vende trucha" signs offering fresh trout eventually climbing into Rocky Mountain high peaks. We literally descend from the heavens through magical vistas between pockets of fog and bursts of sun weaving our way around slide swept bends and a smattering of houses. Guayaquil delta flats shine in the distance and we are soon very flat again rolling alongside kilometres of banana, cocoa and sugar cane plantations before the pre city signs of an industrial port city appear.