With just two weeks left in Ecuador I thought it was about time to partake in a good old fashioned trip to the seaside, something I haven't really done since my childhood years, where many beaches in Great Britain were visited, almost always during the cheaper, colder, and rainy off-season. This trip was no different. If I'd realised such a road trip was so quick, simple and would come complete with crazy bus conductors swinging through windows while travelling at 90km, a skill circus performers would admire, there is no doubting more coastal trips would have been undertaken.
With so many destinations to choose from it was the small fishing village of Puerto Lopez that won the honour of my custom, thanks to its proximity to nearby humping humpbacks and Isla de la Plata, an island affectionately known by locals as 'Poor Man's Galapagos'. It wasn't quite the idyllic, charming town I was expecting. Gloomy grey skies were met upon arrival, alongside a beach rife with fish guts, dead sharks and men and dogs alike urinating and defecating.
A short walk around Puerto Lopez, a place resembling that of a slum rather than a popular tourist destination didn't really add to my initial opinions. Packs of dogs roamed the streets alongside heavily armed military personnel and girls, thanks to their school uniforms looked more like strippers than the innocent slaves of education that they were. Luckily Ecuadorian TV was there to raise morale levels with the beautiful sight of people dangling from metal hooks, which had been pierced through their skin.
As already mentioned, the main reason for choosing this destination was for the opportunity of whale watching, alongside obviously eating copious amounts of seafood, in particular something called spondylus, an oyster-like creature. I certainly wasn't disappointed, getting within twenty metres of these huge powerful mammals, gracefully jumping through the water. This might sound like a perfect moment, but thanks to some obnoxious girls badly singing Oasis and Take That hits and discussing bouts of diarrhea and one-night stands at the top of their voices the moment was slightly tainted. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the 'Champagne Supernovas' and 'Never Forgets' of this world, in fact, there were many of these moments during my university days, but there's a time and a place for such behaviour!
Alongside whale-watching, other activities enjoyed included trips to Isla de la Plata, which is certainly a very poor mans alternative to the Galapagos, a number of secluded beaches, the tranquility shattered by floating, decomposing sea turtles, and ancient settlements. Choosing to snorkel in the cold fishless waters proved to be my worse decision though as thanks to acts of insensitivity, the snorkel I used led to an outbreak of cold sores a few days later. On a trip to a local doctor, confirming my worse case fears, I was met with the even more devastating news that cold sores and heat blisters are just polite names for herpes. There's education for you. It's the last time I'm going to be wearing communal snorkels!
After such incidences and realising that many a crazed man patrolled the local beach, all of which seemingly addicted to strawberry yogurt, it was decided a retreat to nearby Montanita was the only option, where the best surf in all of Ecuador is supposedly housed. I wasn't quite sure what I had let myself in for as upon arrival, the route to my chosen hostel was blocked by a brass band and funeral procession, with Old Norris's peaceful pale face on show for all to see. Fears were increased further when I also realised that 90% of the population of this village were either dreadlocked or bearded Gringo hippies and surfers. Not that I have anything against these people but sadly the idea of spending all my living hours playing the bongos and swinging handkerchiefs attached to string wildly around isn't really my idea of entertainment. 'Cumbaya My Lord' I'm certainly not.
When thinking of the hippy members of our society, a drug-fuelled, smoke-filled atmosphere often follows. Therefore it came as no surprise to find the odd used needle poking through the sand, the sounds of Bob Marley and UB40 blaring away in the background. Not the most attractive of sights for sure, but something that didn't seem to bother the numerous surfers walking barefoot towards the frothing white horses. I have a feeling though they would have been more concerned about the deadly rip tides which regularly help curb population growth in this area. After being dragged under the water myself a couple of times I can certainly see why Montanita has one of the highest death rates percentages in all of Ecuador.
Luckily no such tragedies happened during my short stay, my only tragedy witnessing the sight of a local lady baring the skin of her behind, the size of an inflatable beach ball, near the bushes that lay beneath my balcony before allowing a sea of gushing brown to discharge from her hidden starfish. I shouldn't complain as it saved me a few dollars on the price of a breakfast that morning.
I now only have a few days left of South American life and having the opportunity to run past fields of dismembered cows ready for market and addressing local policeman, their only protection against potential law breakers a great big giant long sword. That's one weapon i wouldn't argue against!