It was going to take three buses, changing in Bahia and Manta to make it to Puerto Lopez. Our new Dutch friends, Elio & Sjoerd and German friend, Kay also decided it was time to move on, but these Euros took a little too long to pack up their stuff, so we said, “we”ll see you at the next bus change over or Puerto Lopez”. They missed the first bus in Canoa, but got on as the bus was pulling away in Bahia. We we’re all together again. Puerto Lopez was far from an attractive fishing village, but the surrounding area had lots to do. On our first full day there, Abe and I got on a bus to Los Frailes National Park only 20 minutes up the road, while the Euros went south to check out the quiet surf beach of Ayampe. Los Frailes has a hot, dry brush, walking trail with 4 lookout points. We instantly regretted not bringing our masks and snorkels. It was crystal clear water. Los Frailes beach is the first and only trash free beach we have seen in all of South America. We went for a playful swim and took a long nap on this beautiful coastline. We met up with our friends for a tasty dinner and beers to reflect on our day. They insisted that our next stop be Ayampe, plus Kay had landed a job there. The next day we all headed out to Isla de la Plata, aka ‘the poor mans Galapagos’. It was an hour and a half boat ride to our next destination. When we arrived we had two options, to take the long 3 hour walk around the Island or the quicker hour and half trail and go snorkeling for longer. Being that Abe and I had already seen the Galapagos wildlife and were keen on getting in the water we opted for the shorter route. We still saw at least 100 Blue Footed Boobies. I even got attacked by one! Okay maybe not attacked, but it didn’t like all the people on the trail and I didn’t move out of the way in time, so it pecked me in the shin. I will forever have a Boobie scar. We snorkeled near our first disembarking spot, where a few large sea turtles, large eels, colorful fish, and starfish frolicked around this small reef. We were in hog heaven to be back in the water again and only in swimsuits. Once the long hike group appeared we had to get in the boat and head to another spot that was colder and had less to see. But exploring the sea for Abe and I is always icing on the cake. As soon as we got back to town we all instantly warmed up with a few beers on the beach. Abe and I loved our new friends so much we decided to extend out time in Ecuador and follow them to the next destination, Ayampe.
Ayampe was a quick 30-minute bus ride south, but being that we came across a truck driver that wanted to take us we opted for a different kind of ride. The boys and all the luggage squeezed into the back, while Magdalena from Germany and I hoped in the interior of the truck and caught up on girl talk. She had just finished medical school and was taking 4 months to travel around South America before she began working her residency. Her boyfriend was still in the program so as all strong women, she ventured off on her own.
We all checked into Cabañas de la Tortuga. A cute little beachfront hotel and restaurant for $30/night. They had funky yet comfortable cabins spread out on the property. The restaurant was expensive by Ecuador standards, but had great ocean views from the top deck. It was a beautiful sunny day so our friends dropped their bags, grabbed a surfboard and headed to the beach. It was the first time we had gotten Internet in 4 days, and I received some very sad news. My grandmother (only 68 years old- married my grandfather when I was 12) had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two weeks before, had decided against chemo and was deteriorating quickly. I knew that she wouldn’t have long, as one of my dear friends lost her mother to it within 4 months only a year before. Abe held me as I cried. Once we joined the others I just sat in silence sending love, light and strength her way. I reflected on our happy memories, grateful that I got to see her before I left and appreciative that Abe and I were living life to the fullest. That night we all stayed up late drinking Rum Pom Pom and telling stories.
The next day was beautiful and sunny, so we all hit the beach after breakfast. After watching Abe and the boys catch lots of waves, I decided to give surfing a whirl. It had been over a year since I last tried. Abe pushed me into wave after wave, laughing as the sea tumbled me round like a washing machine. The board was too small, so standing up was a challenge. But it was still a lot of fun. After working up an appetite Abe and I found a restaurant that served tasty shrimp burritos. Oh they were so good and just wet the palate for our upcoming Mexico trip. That night Sjoerd and Magdalena collected firewood and built a bonfire on the beach. We all drank cuba libres, met a few girls teaching yoga there and chatted about our adventures.
As much as Abe and I wanted to stay with our new friends, it was time for us to hit the road for our last destination in Ecuador….Montanita.