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Published: July 31st 2009
We finally arrived in Puerto Lopez today after travelling pretty much the whole width of the country overnight. Puerto Lopez has to be one of my favourite places in Ecuador due to it's perfect balance of being lively enough for an extended stay yet not overrun with tourists.
Apparently tourist season hadn't started officially yet (despite all hostels charging high season prices) as the touts which line the malecon advertising trips to Isla de la Plata and whale-watching tours practically threw themselves at us whenever we ventured out of the hostel.
Cynical as always I refused to buy off one of the touts on their bicycles who ride up and down the malecon promising anything you want, 'yes, we'll be the first boat there', 'yes, you'll get your money back if you don't see whales', 'yes, the boat is air-conditioned' (I threw that question at them as a joke - how exactly an open air boat is air conditioned I don't know.)
However, and rather embarrassingly, when I refused to buy off one guy and insisted on going to find a proper agency it turned out he was actually the owner of the agency and it was all
legit. Oh well, better safe than sorry.
With the chore of the day over very quickly and after popping to the internet to let my parents know I was still alive and hadn't been eaten in the jungle, the rest of the day was spent lounging on the beach.
This rather strenuous exercise was only interrupted in order to walk to the opposite side of the street to one of the numerous cheap restaurants that line the beach and have the freshest seafood imaginable. Pity I'm allergic but the fish was pretty good too.
A couple of days of sheer indulgence was needed to recover from the rigours of the jungle. Ok, I was just being lazy but what else can you do on the beach except relax? So my days were pretty much made up of late breakfasts, long hours on the beach interspersed with more food and ended with cocktails and Pilsener whilst watching the sunset. I think I'd rather like my life to be like that frankly!
One morning we were slightly less lazy and got up early to go visit the 'real' Puerto Lopez. This is the fishing village Puerto Lopez used
to be before tourists discovered it. Strange how different a place can be only a ten minute walk away.
Gone were the hostels and cheap restaurants that line the main street. Instead were ramshackle buildings were the fishermen brought their catch before selling them to those same restaurants just down the street.
Watching the fishermen come in was certainly entertaining. Apart from the more unusual items of giant swordfish (already without the sword - I don't actually know what they do with it), crabs, sharks (very small ones - not sure which breed) and truly giant rays the most entertaining part was watching the poor people run the gauntlet with crates of fish balanced on their shoulders.
It seemed the entire Ecuadorian population of pelicans and frigate birds have discovered the easiest way to get breakfast is to wait for the fishing boats to come in then dive-bomb the poor men with the crates. Admittedly the pelicans were slightly politer and stayed in the water but the frigate birds were positively vicious!
We kept a wary distance from the cacophony but a rather friendly fisherman wanted us to come and see his catch and posed rather
proudly for a picture with his swordless swordfish.
His boat had also managed to bring in a number of rays, ridiculously large ones at that, I don't think I'd ever seen them that size outside of the Galapagos. Unfortunately the size also meant they were slightly awkward as he soon found out.
The final, and biggest ray, was too big for him to do his usual bend, lift and hurl over shoulder into waiting truck. He called a friend over to help but even then the damn thing kept slipping away from them (it was dead at this point, just very slippery.) So he had to call another friend over to help.
The three men stood pondering for a while until one got the bright idea of cutting hand-holds into the ray. Rather gross to watch but it took all three of them with their hands buried inside the ray to be able to lift it onto the waiting truck.
Needless to say I don't think I'll be eating ray anytime soon! Instead I opted for the slightly safer option of Italian food that night at the excellent Bella Italia our hostel owner had been trying
to get us to go to the whole time we've been here. Have to say she was right - perfect antidote when you've truly at saturation point on fish however good it may be!
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