We embarked on our Puerto Lopez adventure at 6am from Cuenca, for a 10-hour day of travel. We arrived at Terminal Terreste right as a bus for Guayaquil was pulling out of the station, so we jumped on it (literally). After the 4-hour ride we descended close to 9,000 feet and exchanged cool mountains for humid beaches. It heated up from about 60F to 90F in 4 hours. In Guayaquil (largest city in Ecuador) we switched buses with enough time to quickly indulge our inherent American McDonalds craving. Then we rode for another 4 ½ hours to Puerto Lopez. Based on the scenery (of people and landscape) we could have changed countries. In short “Sierrans” (mountain Ecuadorians) are Conservative in attitude, dress, and mannerisms where “Costeños” (Coastal Ecuadorians) are the opposite, very relaxed. We exchanged button down shirts and handshakes for tank tops and hammocks.
In Puerto Lopez I already reserved a place for the night. Normally this is against our traveler protocol, but by my (always so wrong) calculations we were supposed to arrive in Puerto Lopez around 10 pm (which is not a good time to go hotel shopping). But we ended up in PL at 4pm.
In theory, the place we booked was a great place. It was a little outside town with four walls, a roof, right on the beach and backed up to the jungle. I’m not sure if it was the 10 inch spider living in our bathroom, the scorpion that tried to attack Christina in the middle of the night, the oversized crickets that always jump into the direction you don’t want them to, the mosquitos that freely maneuvered their way in and out of the mosquito net, or Christina continually waking me up to tell me about all these things, but we did not enjoy our stay. The highlight of the night being sometime after 2 am:
Christina: “Ben are you awake?”
Me:“Yes (I am now)”
Christina: “I know where the giant spider is, do you want to know?”
Me: “Not really”
Christina: “Ok sleep tight”.
Needless to say I didn’t sleep tight. Neither of us did. We were out of that place by the first crack of dawn.
After finding a scorpion-free establishment, we walked around town, which for the most part involved walking down the beach. The town surrounds a small bay on the Pacific that offers protection for fishing boats. All the fisherman in town have small, handmade wooden boats and keep them in the same area of the beach, just a few feet from shore.
Every morning before dawn they go out and by the time they come back to unload their catch, the beach is swarmed with people waiting for them. There are food stalls already set up and ready start cooking their catches and there are people sitting at tables, waiting for a fresh fish breakfast. The beach is also lined with restaurant workers waiting to buy the necessary amount of fish for their daily patrons.
The rest of the trip was great and we even got to see some blue-footed boobies.
- Almost every time we get to a bus station there is a man that singles us out as if he were sent there to find us. He asks where we are going and directs us to the correct terminal. This man is never an employee of the bus companies but a freelance guy. I don’t think these men do this for free, but since we pay Ecuadorian prices for riding buses I’m not sure where they would make their money. I am curious to know and will try to find out for the next post.
- Time flies on bus rides in Ecuador. Most people build open front houses and small businesses on the sides of the major bus routes. Ecuadorian people work and hang out outside their houses so in a 4 hour journey you can get a snap shot of people’s daily life. I absolutely love this and would not trade bus travel for any other mode to explore a country.
- (There must be a rule that if you own a home in coastal Ecuador you must own a hammock and there must be at least one person laying in it at all hours of the day). No joke for 4 ½ hours of travel I can’t remember seeing one house without a hammock lacking at least one human being in that hammock.
- When I spoke earlier about traveler protocol, finding a room should go like this: We arrive in a new town, we find a hotel in a good location, ask to see the room, ask how much, check to make sure the water/ hot water works, check the locks, ask about bugs, make sure we enjoy the owner’s company, then make a decision. This is easier to do outside the US because the number of hotels is much higher than the demand, so no one really needs reservations because even the best hotels usually have rooms available.
- Everyone in Puerto Lopez has been refreshingly honest. When we tried a new hotel I asked “Does this place have bugs?” the owner responds “This is the coast, yes of course we have bugs, every place has bugs!” Then when I went to the dive shop, I asked the divemaster how is the visibility on dives here. He said ”Horrible, you will have better luck snorkeling, and probably not even much luck then.” Both people were right and honest.
- Puerto Lopez is high on my list for best beach towns in the world.
- After this trip I have learned Christina is the best tracking device for bugs. If I hear a loud deathly shriek I know there must be some sort of insect within 20 feet.
- I killed a scorpion. Saying this sounds really heroic and manly but after I watched the video Christina took, I don’t look heroic or manly at all.