Can it really be 3 ½ weeks since my last posting? I really did try, and try, and try, but for some reason, WordPress was out of commission for a while. You see, I wanted to share with you what happened after my friend left: I got depressed.
Fortunately, that didn’t last too long, and I got back into the rhythm of my solo travel. Since last writing, I’ve visited 3 major destinations:
- The Nariz de Diablo (Devil’s Nose) train ride which now basically goes no where, just back and forth through (what else) spectacular Andean scenery.
It starts in the tiny town of Alausi,
Which is really not a very busy place:
The train, which is only for tourists, goes through this narrow steep gap in the mountains:
Then the train stops for an hour in the middle of nowhere for lunch, a museum, indigenous dancers and, you guessed it, shopping.
Here’s the woman who sold me my new purse, it’s around her neck. It’s made of dried and dyed agave leaves:
After the train ride and a few intervening activities such as. a week more of Spanish classes in Cuenca, followed by another week of study in Quito, I was off on another adventure to: MINDO!
Mindo – this puebla, an easy 2 ½ hour bus ride from Quito, was recommended by my Galapagos guide. Out of all the beautiful scenery I have seen in my lifetime, Mindo ranks as #1 – maybe because it’s different. It’s cloud forest, which translates to LUSH.
The flora is more exotic even than on Kaui in Hawaii.
Part of its charm is that it is small, a very small town, where just about 3 fun packed days of tourist oriented activities await.
One activity: participating in making the best chocolate in the world, then getting to eat it as a chocolate fondue. Here I am extruding the chocolate from the already fermented and roasted cacoa beans:
There is hiking through the cloud forest to see seven waterfalls:
There is also zip lining (which I didn’t do) and canyoneering (which I didn’t do).
I did visit a butterfly farm, and here I am with an owl’s eye butterfly on my finger:
And more pretty butterflies:
After that there’s just about nothing left to do, except relax and absorb the beauty. Here I am watching humming birds:
Next I was off to Puerto Lopez: You can tell by the “Puerto” in the name that I’ve made it to the coast. It’s where I am now, as I write, hearing the surf from my hotel room.
I had to see this place for myself. Especially since this is the jumping off point for Isla de la Plata, oft referred to as “the poor man’s Galapagos.” Some said it was terrific, some said “not.” And, it brings me closer to Peru, my next destination. I’d thought I could go overland from here into Peru and then catch a cheap flight to Lima. (brief summary: NOT).
My personal review of Isla de la Plata is negative: it is only like the Galapagos in 3 ways: it is an island:
it has blue footed boobies- here’s a married couple :
And here’s a handsome fella all by his lonesome:
and there are frigates. Here’s one studly male doing his best to attract the ladies by puffing out his red chest:
End of similarities. Negatives: you have to go on a tour; you cannot stay overnight or hike on your own; it has only a few hiking trails; it has no tourist facilities except there is a bathroom where the boat docks. It’s very dry, and very small.
Puerto Lopez, on the other hand, is a real live fishing village, and just as I was not raised close to a farm, I was also not raised in any way near a fishing village (except if you call the Fulton Fish Market a sort of fishing village –but I never even saw that as a Brooklyn kid). So, I made my way at 6 a.m. one morning to see the fleet (and the fish) come in. For me, truly a sight of shock and awe.
And here is some of their bounty:
Note the hammerhead sharks –
It’s also at the edge of Machalilla National Park, “preserving a small part of the country’s rapidly disappearing coastal habitats.” (per Lonely Planet). I always like to see places before they disappear.
There has been one very positive change to Machalilla N.P. since my LP was published: it’s now free! You take a tour boat to Isla de La Plata, which is part of the Park, and that costs $35 – $45 (for the tour, not park entry). Between July and September, many lucky people get to see boy orca whales wooing girl orca whales by jumping high into the air. Going to Isla de la Plata the boat ride should take 1 ½ hours each way (one of the two engines on my boat died, so my trip took 3 hours extra). Also, many people got seasick –but not me! I took a fab medication they sell here called Anautin that has no side effects, not even drowsiness.
Additional tours I’ve taken here: whale watching for $20: & I got to see the horney leaping Orca’s, up close!
I also took a horseback tour into the Rainforest ($40) – loved it.
Here’s an overview of the rainforest:
And here’s my guide. He didn’t speak English but he did know his rainforest and I had the illusion I understood him. I think he was complaining about the poor phone connections:
Winter weather here is overcast,
and the sea is murky making snorkeling a non-event. However, it’s comfortably cool (now it’s 75 F., 24 .0 C, and 77% humidity).
I’m hanging out here for a week, and indeed my experience of the Ecuadorian people as totally nice is continually reinforced. It’s an inexpensive place to stay – the most expensive single ensuite room I could find is $31 at Mandala Hosteria – probably the nicest place to stay, but a 10 minute walk from town so I didn’t want to stay there. I’m at Nantu Hosteria which I love – I can see the sea from my room (along with some shacks) and hear it at night. I get wifi in my room, and the manager speaks excellent English. It’s modern and immaculate. $20/night.
I’ve gone on too long and you’re probably totally bored. If so, I hope you just looked at the pictures, which I also hope will get properly posted this time.
I arrive in Lima, Peru on July 12, this retired nomad’s 67th birthday.
Hope this finds you all well.