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Published: August 3rd 2009
The scorching heat of yesterday had only grown in intensity for today - probably not the best day to visit the beach but I'm not one to change plans if at all possible so we were off to Los Frailes today. The beach of Los Frailes makes up part of the Parque Nacional Machalillas, the most beautiful part if I'm going to be biased.
The options of getting to the beach were as follows:
• a 'long but rewarding' trek through dry scrubland to reach the entrance followed by a thirty minute walk to the actual beach.
• a fifteen minute, 2 dollar motortaxi ride.
No points for guessing which option we took! I'm sorry to sound unbelievably lazy but I just don't see the point of going to the beach and then exhausting yourself in the hot sun. No fun at all, far better to save the trekking for highlands.
I couldn't quite see the point of the numerous tour agencies offering trips to Los Frailes as according to anyone we asked it was simply a fifteen minute ride down the road. In fact we struck lucky and a motortaxi was stopped outside our hostel
the second we stepped out and offered to take us for a couple of dollars.
The ride itself was interesting enough. Parque Nacional Machalilla is Ecuador's only coastal national park covering 138,000 acres of beaches and coastlines. It was originally commissioned to stop the decimation of the coastal forests which apparently are almost down to one percent of their original size.
These 'forests' consist of bizarre bottle-shaped trees with lots of spikes and no leaves, are also hideously ugly and don't really seem worth protecting just for the dry tropical forests when compared to the rest of Ecuador's beautiful national parks. However, these forests are also home to over 200 species of birds along with lizards, monkeys, anteaters, iguanas and deer.
None of which we saw as the 10km motortaxi ride was unbelievably bumpy. I'm all for adventurous forms of transports but this was just plain painful being shaken about for twenty minutes until you were ready to either throw up or faint.
Arrived at the checkpoint and I stayed in the taxi trying to hide my pasty white English skin under my slightly more Ecuadorian looking hair in order to get in for the nationals'
fee. I have no problem paying national park fees normally but I do object to paying ten times as much as my friends to go to the beach simply because I happen to have a different nationality from them.
Luckily the guard wasn't very with it (either that or he simply couldn't be bothered to come over and check in this heat) so I am now officially Ecuadorian! I have a two dollar entrance ticket to prove it!
We were actually the first ones on the beach amazingly enough considering my general laziness and inability to get up early in the holidays. Playa Los Frailes is truly beautiful and looked like one of the Galapagos beaches - pristine white sands and no sign of humans whatsoever. Perfect!
The only downside to all this perfection is that there is also no shelter whatsoever. I don't think the whole ecosystem would really be irreparably damaged by planting a few scattered palm trees for shade!
However the Ecuadorian government doesn't seem to agree with me. Add to that they are currently trying to get the national park recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site due to the indigenous
villages contained within the boundaries of the park it probably wouldn't go down well to introduce new species of plantlife.
So in order to provide shelter a little ingenuity was required. Luckily some intelligent people had left piles of large sticks around to construct your own shelter. It ended up a bit like Crystal Maze trying to work out the best way of creating shade that wouldn't be blown over the second the wind picked up but I think we did alright in the end.
We tried several variations with varying levels of success but found the best option to be an 'Eeyore' style house covered with towel and sarong walls. Robinson Crusoe eat your heart out!
More people started turning up around eleven including an Ecuadorian family with rather annoying children who kept coming over to criticise my building skills everytime the wind took one of the walls away.
Just lazed around most of the day occasionally getting up enough energy to chase pelicans or crabs but I did find the easiest way of getting photos was merely to lie in the sun and wait for them to come to you. I guess, like their
Galapagos cousins, they have no problems letting the humans know just who the beach belongs to!
The heat was unbelievable today so we didn't have the energy to walk up to the viewpoint to see the blue-footed boobies. Instead we just spent the day lounging around before managing to hitch a lift back to town on an even bumpier motortaxi (if that's actually possible.)
Back 'home' to Puerto Lopez in time for sunset on the beach with Pilsener before food and cocktails at a beachside bar. I love Ecuador!
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