Puerto Lopez and Quito12/03/2012
After a few days delay due to fishermen strikes we finally got a bus going to Ecuador and headed for Guayaquil with no real idea what we would do when we got there. Our options where to stay in Guayaquil, go to the beach at Puerto Lopez, or head straight up to Quito. We litter ally hadn't decided yet but as luck would have it, as we got off the bus in Guiaquil we got chatting to a couple from Australia who were on their honeymoon and were going to rent a car and drive to Puerto Lopez. Decision made. We crammed all our belongings into their small rental car and headed for the coast.
First stop was actually Montanita about an hour south of Puerto Lopez and a much more popular beach. It was beautiful but it was also very expensive and crowded with young holiday makers making us feel old. It was a nice town to hang out in in the evening and the swimming was great, but our hotel owner was very odd (asking us to move tables after we had finished our breakfast even though we were chatting to the people at the table next door) and in the end we were pleased to hot foot it out of there in the morning to Puerto Lopez, again courtesy of a lift from our new honeymooners.
Puerto Lopez is a fishing village and very different from the tourist hub of Montanita. We found ourselves a nice little hostel in the middle of the town and went to explore what our options were in this town. We thought we might like to do some diving while we were there as the Islands near to coast are known as the Poor Man's Galapagos but we quickly established that visibility was poor due to the recent rains so we decided to do a more local snorkelling trip instead, which would also confirm or deny our fears for the visibility. So on our second morning in the town we got on a little boat with a bunch of other tourists (mostly from Chile) and headed for the small island of Salango. On the way we saw all sorts of birds including the Blue Footed Boobie nesting in the rocks by their hundreds and Pelicans watching the fisherman with a keen eye. At the island we jumped off the boat for our snorkelling but, as predicted, the visibility wasn't great and the varity of fish we could see wasn't particularly impressive either. It was great to be back in the water and splashing around but we were very glad we hadn't paid for a scuba diving trip. On the way back there were more birds and a lot of jumping off the boat into the sea. It was a fun morning outing but back on dry land it was nice to swing in a hammock with a good book and doze the afternoon away.
We seriously considered getting the night bus out of Puerto Lopez to Quito but in the end we read too many horror stories of night-time attacks on the buses and decided to take the safer daytime option. So early evening we arrived in Quito and went straight to our hostel, Casa Bamboo. It was a great find (well, we "found it" by looking in the Lonely Planet) as the hostel has lots of open areas, is on a very quiet road (if it wasn't for the dog that insists on barking every few minutes from about 6am) and close to both the old and new areas of town. It also has two kitchens so we are cooking for ourselves again which is nice to do and saves money. Perfect.
When we first arrived in Quito is was, as often happens, all about preparing for the trek around Cotopaxi Volcano. Once we were back though we spent some time doing more touristy activities like going to the museum which has some amazing artefacts, and going to Equator line.
As everyone knows, the equator line is a a single (imaginary) line at 0º latitude. There is only one such line and it goes around the whole world and with GPS it is easy to find and identify. Simple. Unless that is, you are in Ecuador. At La Mitad del Mundo (The middle of the world city) there is a line that was, in fairness, apparently originally identified by the French with no GPS or clever modern technology, and given that it is not too far off so hats off to them. The site is quite impressive with a bit tower and lots of sculptures and gardens to mark the line, and of course a line you can stand on.
What is less forgivable though is the second line that is in another museum, Museo Solar Inti Nan, where the line is again marked but this time supposedly identified by GPS 15 years ago. Unfortunately we had a GPS device with us and identified the line as being just across the road, just outside the Museum boundaries. It may be that our device was wrong for some reason but... well, we don't think so. It does kind of throw a bucket of cold water over the experiments they show you "on the line" showing the Coriolos effect and other such equator related anomalies. That said it was a very fun day out with our new friend Pam, and actually some of the other things they showed us about jungle life and ancient traditions in Ecuador were very interesting, particularly the shrunken heads.
Other fun times in Quito included a very random evening at a bar that does a drag show on Friday nights, unfortunately we went on a Thursday and it was clown night, and to put it bluntly our Spanish wasn't up to keeping track with this. Luckily the friends we had met in the hostel were better placed to follow the show and gave us a bit of translation. We also went to see the La Virgen de Quito, which is a huge and overlooks the city so we had great views of the old town despite the cloud and rain.
Next we are off to Mexico but first I must tell you about our trek around Cotopaxi Volcano.