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Published: June 30th 2012
In the space of barely three days, we descend from the peak of Cotopaxi to Ecuador's Pacific coast - a vertical drop of nearly six kilometres. It's a long journey from Baños, the highland town located at the foot of Tungurahua and where we spend a couple of days recovering from our Cotopaxi climb, to the coastal town of Puerto López. We are again lucky with bus connections, meaning we don't have to spend any time in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city but not - by any account we've heard or read - its nicest. We instead make it to Montañita, a brash and unashamedly touristy surfer town, from Baños in a single, very long, day. After the highlands' quaint, quiet villages, Montañita is a jarring shock. With the hordes of surfer-dude types, however, come fancy restaurants and cocktail bars - dos mojitos, por favor!
A short hop north of Montañita is Puerto López, much lower key and a working Ecuadorian fishing port. Puerto López is a small dot on the map for much of the year, but from June to October it's a different story as large numbers of humpback whales arrive on their annual migration to calve and breed.
A day trip from Puerto López takes us to the beautiful Isla de la Plata - literally Silver Island
, as its covering of guano gives it a brilliant white colour in bright sunlight - where hundreds of seabirds, including three species of booby and rare albatrosses nest safe from predators. There are relatively few visitors to the island and many birds lay their eggs right on the walking trails which criss-cross it, giving us the opportunity to take a very close look at them. The blue-footed boobies, waddling clumsily on their very, very
blue feet, are a particular highlight, with their friendly looking faces and clownish habits. I'd quite like one as a pet.
The trip to and from the island, over 40km from the shore, takes us to within a few dozen metres of large groups of Puerto López's famous humpback whales. We've not been very lucky in the past with whale spotting, so riding alongside a group of seven of them as they duck and dive, tantalising us with glimpses of their immense flukes and blowing noisily mere metres from the boat, leaves us both very happy and ready to tuck into a supper of grilled
lobster back on dry land.
Tot: 0.044s; Tpl: 0.017s; cc: 9; qc: 23; dbt: 0.0063s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb