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Published: August 3rd 2017
On the bus journey from Guayaquil to Puerto Lopez (PL) we had the joy of that classic film 'My Mom Robs Banks', starring the uniquely talented Charisma Carpenter. Surely due a big award win in the very near future. The bus terminal at PL is 3km outside of town and for once we weren't feeling stubborn enough to decline the offer of a tuk-tuk at only $1.50. We were at our hotel within 10 minutes.
We were staying at Tuzco Lodge, which suffers the same problems as most accommodation in hot places; it had a damp, musty smell and numerous insect visitors. Apart from this, it was actually a friendly, comfortable, clean place to stay with a breakfast that changed each day, the variety making a nice difference.
After settling in we went straight out to book a tour for the following day. We planned to do a whale watching tour on the Friday and a visit to Isla de la Plata on the Saturday. We went straight to the highly rated Plato Alto tour company and ended up booking just the Isla de la Plata tour for the Friday as whale watching was included on
the way to and from the island. The tour cost us $41 each and included lunch and snorkeling equipment. Mission accomplished, we headed back to freshen up and do research on food options.
We ended up at an out of town place called Sabor Espanol which had rave reviews. We found it cosy, if a little bright, and the hosts very friendly. We ordered chicken paella for 2 and a jug of sangria, all of it was very nice before heading back to the hotel to settle down for the night.
The next morning we got to the Plato Alto office for 09:15 and met up with the rest of our group. There were 16 of us, one of which was a guy called Jamie from Portsmouth (boo!) who we chatted with. Also a Peruvian woman who we had bumped into on the bus from Guayaquil and who we saw a number of times around town (it really is a small place). We walked to the jetty with our guide and were soon on our way to the island.
On the way we spotted a pair of humpback whales and a small group of boats watching them.
Now, we've done whale watching before in New Zealand where the whales come up to breathe and then dive again, giving you a view of their tails. Here, as it is their breeding and birthing grounds, they are much more playful, showing off to each other. They were slapping the sea with their fins and breaching the waves. It was such an experience and one we felt so lucky to have seen, a real highlight of the trip.
After about 30 minutes we headed onward to the island. Once we were there, one of the crew threw some lettuce into the water, strange! Then a load of green sea turtles appeared right in front of us. Another amazing sight to behold. It was then onto the island itself, known as the cheap Galapagos, one reason we chose it. While waiting for the go-ahead onto the trails, I spotted a gentleman wearing a Manowar t-shirt passing by. I gave him the horns, which he returned with a big smile.
Once we were allowed onto the trails (it's all strictly controlled by rangers) we saw loads of Blue Footed Boobies. I'm not really interested in bird watching but there was
something special about being so close to these birds as they do not see humans as predators. They nest in the middle of the trails at times and you just have to scoot along by them, trying not to disturb them. We also saw Red Beaked Tropicals, though they were difficult to photo as they were in the air.
After about 2 hours we were back at the start point and returned to the boat for a drink, fruit and a couple of sandwiches each. It was then over to the reef for some snorkeling. The water looked freezing but once in, it was alright. Suzanne didn't bother going in and to be honest, it was OK but nothing we've not seen before, but still enjoyable. Not much is going to beat Fiji for snorkeling if I'm honest. After about 30 minutes or so, it was back to PL. On the way back we spotted another pair of whales breaching a number of times, an added bonus. We got back to the port around 16:30. It was a wonderful way to spend the day and I highly recommend both the trip and the company we went with.
showering we headed into town, intending to withdraw some money and find a place to eat. We got to the cashpoints and someone told us they were both not working, so we had to trail back to the hotel to grab some more money. We then treked back into town and decided to try the cashpoint anyway. Sure enough, it worked fine.
Our first choice restaurant had shut down, so we decided on the cheap looking Sabor Playa. It was a family home with plastic tables and chairs, and had a good mix of locals and tourists. We ordered fish with rice and beans plus a beer each, which was brought from the shop next door. The food was actually really good, enhanced by a lovely hot salsa on the table. The bill came to $12... for both of us... with a 500ml beer each. We were over the moon as the previous evenings meal came in at $27.
We celebrated by choosing a beach bar and downing 3 beers each. The stalls along the beach all have a gazebo and coloured lighting and it looks amazing and welcoming. It was a lovely way to finish such a
great day. We did fear the worst as there were no beer prices on the menu, thinking they could be anything up to $5 each. Total cost: $12 for 6 beers. Feeling really chuffed we hit the hay.
The next day started with me taking in our massive bag of laundry ($12 for 3 washloads, it seems 12 is the magic number here) before a lazy start with us heading out around 11:00. We wandered to the north end of the beach, stopping to chat to the Peruvian woman we bumped into yet again, before turning round and walking to the southern end. We passed all the stalls, a football tournament on the beach, a stage being built ready for that evening and the bustling fish market. By the time we got to the southern end, it was 12:30 and we were ready for a light lunch.
After the free ceviche in Guayaquil we were determined to have it again on the coast. We picked D' Chuky restaurant (on the left hand side, right after the southern bridge) which had been described as the best ceviche in town. We were warmly greeted and quickly ordered 2 fish ceviches
and a banana milkshake for me. It took a while to be prepared but the wait was well worth it. If you'd said to us that we would be eating a cold fish soup where the fish is 'cooked' in lime juice (i.e not with heat) we would've laughed at you a year ago, but here we are. It is delicious! The ceviches at D' Chukys come with a peanut sauce and patacones (fried plantain dough things) along with chopped onions and herbs. It really is a lovely dish. This time the cost was $9 in total. You can get cheaper food, but of this quality? I'm not sure.
We then spent the next couple of hours sipping caipirinhas on the beach at different stalls before picking up our laundry and heading back to the room. We were a little perturbed to find all the furniture in the room had been moved around as the owners had been touching up the paint a little. It confused us a bit, I can tell you. After a bit of relaxing and freshening up time we hit the town for the evening. We had spotted a little local place the night before
opposite the bar, so that was where we headed.
Bar Restaurant Oh'la-la was very local but had a few gringos in there as well. The place had the plastic furniture and TV on but we had a warm welcome and soon ordered 2 x Pescado Asado and 2 beers. We thought it would be fish fillets as per the picture. However it was barbequed whole fish with the bones in. Still, it was tasty, filling and cheap at $4.50 each. More challenging than anticipated but we enjoyed it. The total cost was $15. These little local places rock. While eating our meal, a dog wandered in, it gave us the big, doleful eyes and Suzanne just fell for it. To be fair, it was a cute looking dog. The 'perros' in South America have really affected both of us, particularly Suzanne. Before the trip, she was a self confessed cat person. But after all our encounters with dogs in South America, the ones we've 'not' been stroking in any way, she is now a fully converted dog fan.
The dog in the restaurant got sprayed with water by the staff to get it out of the place, so
Suzanne picked off some remaining fish from her meal and gave it to the dog once outside. It appreciated the food and followed us briefly before realising we had nothing more and it decided to go back to the table with the family eating as kids are always suckers for dogs.
We then popped to the bar on the beach we had gone to the night before however as our beers arrived, they started playing very loud, rubbish music. We paid up and moved to a quieter bar further up the beach where we stayed for 3 more beers each, again coming to $12 in total. It was then back to our rearranged room and to bed.
Puerto Lopez was another great stop in what is becoming one of our favorite countries of this trip. It is small, friendly, welcoming and full of options. The whale spotting has made this a unique memory for us and we've had some great food and the beer and cocktails on the beach are exactly what we hoped for. Yes, it is overcast at this time of year, but it is still in the high 20's temperature wise and I think the
cloud cover is actually good protection from what could be blistering heat. We could quite easily stay in PL for another couple of days but time marches ever onwards... and we hope to see another Charisma Carpenter film as we travel to our next stop!
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