On July 13th, we took a bus out of Quito heading west to Manta on Ecuador's Pacific coast. The bus was a bit late from the get go (no surprise there), but eventually we got going at aroud 1 pm. To our dismay, the bus was boarded by one salesman after another, taking advantage of their captive audience (apparantly a standard behaviour here). First came a guy selling some polished rocks and crystals - he was claiming they had various "magic" powers, using words such as "astronomic" "scientific" and "researched" to give some credibility to his claims. Second, a guy came on with some sort of odd looking wire and bead constructions which were exclusively decorative. You could pull and push them into different shapes "in the style and fashion of the moment" as he convincingly pointed out. Then came a guy selling some herbal tablets, which could cure just about any ailment - bladder infections, kidney problems, various "women's issues", and even sores caused by HIV. He used drawings and pictures of different human organs to prove his point - all very pseudo-scientific. In the end he poured some sort of colorant (looked like iodine to me) into a glass of water, and by putting in one of his all-purpose tablets and stirring it, he made the water clear again. Apparantly this was to illustrate how the tablets could clear up infections that made your pee go dark. Unfortunately for him, the pen he used to stir the glass was extremely suspicious looking (most likely, the extra large top on it was full of bleach or something like it). But hey, who's looking when you are on a bus zipping up and down mountain sides in the Andes. All in all very tiring. Then came some dubbed b-movies, and very loud Ecuadorian pop music, till we were close to breaking point. The ride to Manta was supposed to take 8 hours, but after about 9 hours, we were still not there. We gave up, and managed to get off the bus in Portoviejo to get some sleep.
On the 14th, we thus found ourselves in Portoviejo instead of Manta. As the town seemed to be devoid of charm and interest, we decided to get going again. Rather than head to Manta, which we had only meant as a stopover anyway, we went straight to Puerto Lopez for some whale whatching. The busride took about three hours through dry, dusty hills, untill we arrived at the coast. It was sunny, but surprisingly chilly considering the proximity to the ecuator. We checked into a hostel, and went exploring. Puerto Lopez is a medium sized, dusty town, but the beach is beautiful. We looked at some diving, but it was way overprized, and so we booked a whalewatching tour instead.
July 15th, we went to see some whales. We has lots of great sightings, and we saw the whales (humpbacks) both slapping their tails and heads on the water, as well as jumping pretty much clear out of the water. Truly amazing! Hard to get pictures though, as it all happens quickly - but Alan managed to get some great ones.
After a few short hours, we turned back to shore. We went to the local market for a meal, and had fresh crabs, which we smashed up with wooden hammers, as well as fried fish with rice. Good, cheap eats! We also found a local soda called Inka Kola - it tasted kind of like green soda, or sprite, but not quite - its good!
Next day, on the 16th, we were going to head off, but then decided to stay and try to find a fishing trip with a couple of people we had met at the hostel. We found a really good prize with a guy named Wiston Churchill (Wiston, not Winston). He does his business out of a small red shed on the beach front - really nice guy! He charged us 20 dollars a head for several hours of fishing off a boat, including equipment, boat guys, fruit and water. Granted, it was all very rustic, the gear was not the latest model (not even rods, but lines on handles), but it worked! For the first while, we caught nothing, but we still had a great time bird watching - we saw fregats, pelicans and blue footed boobies (who needs Galapagos!).
We cruised around Salango Island in our little fishing boat, and our boat guys spotted whales! There were several jumping in the distance, and a pair that came quite close before they dived down and disappeared.
Amazing! After that, our fishing luck turned as well, and we caught several fish - all of them small and odd looking, but hey it's better than nothing.
We all caught at least one fish, so everyone was happy when we made it back to shore again. We went to show Wiston the fish, and he offered to have his wife cook them for us, if we would come round his house for dinner. We gladly accepted the offer, and at 8 pm we went to his house. His wife had made miracles with our sad bunch off fish, and the meal was a delight. Simple fried fish and rice, but so tasty! The family was really great as well, all the children curious about us and where we were from. All in all a great day - and a great look into real Ecuador in a sense!
Don't forget to go to www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5, where there will soon be more photos of our whale watching and fishing experiences.