Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Puerto Lopez and Isla de la Plata

If you've read my previous post, then you know that I made a side trip down to the coast as I wanted to visit Isla de la Plata, also known as the Galapagos for Pobres! A trip to Galapagoes, even with last minute deals would still probably set one back at least 1Kusd although i think it'll probably be around the region of 1.5k. I'm gonna leave Galapagoes for when I don't sweat paying 150usd to go snorkeling. 'sides, I had kind of decided to use the budget for Galapagoes to upgrade the touring bicycle instead. By upgrade I mean trash the existing one and get another which was built specifically for touring. But I digress. this short post is going to be about Isla de la Plata.

From Quito, you can catch a bus from Quitumbe Terminal down South. The journey is supposed to be 8 hours, but thanks to the race car driver mentality of the Bus drivers in Ecuador, it'll more likely take 6 hours meaning if you take the night bus at 9pm, you'll likely be in the Puerto Lopez terminal around 4am. The terminal itself is located on the outskirts of town so it may be a good idea to take one of the many taxis or tuktuks waiting to ferry passengers to their accommodation in town. The Swiss couple and I were fortunate to snag the last 3 seats on the bus despite not having made any reservations. As such I would recommend making a reservation if possible in advance. Taking a taxi to Quitumbe terminal from Central Quito is not cheap, the journey took over an hour, and it won't be fun having to turn back if you weren't able to get tickets.

Surprisingly, upon reaching Puerto Lopez, I discovered that it was not warm as I'd expected. I had to keep my ultra light down jacket on as, being right by the ocean, there was a constant strong breeze. One good thing about reaching at 4am in the morning was that we got to take a look at the fish market. Every morning, and even throughout the day, the fishing boats would come into the bay. Smaller boats would ferry people and their catch right to the shore where buyers, who had pulled up with their trucks would be waiting to view, weigh and purchase the catch! We even got to see some swordfish being gutted and cut up before getting thrown into the back of a refrigerated truck

Even when the sun came up, if you weren't doing any physical activity, it still stayed pretty chilly which really wasn't something I was expecting. I mean when you're by the beach near the Equator, you kind of expect to be warm!! I didn't really help that most of the first day was cloudy and overcast with light rain as well for a couple of hours. We did however manage to make a reservation to visit Isla de La Plata the following day with Aventuras which cost 42USD and included the boat ride to the Island as well as a chance to snorkel with turtles nearby. As it was also whale season, we were graced with some of these gentle mammals breaching the water surface on the way there!

Anyway once you're on Isla de la Plata, there are a couple of walking trails to choose from and once we'd split into 2 groups, one doing a shorter easier hike, we set off with our guide. Known for the birds, especially the blue footed boobies, you can barely walk a hundred meters without running into them on the trail. I guess years of tourists hiking along the trails has desensitised the birds to human presence though they do squawka lot louder when one approaches. Generally though we were advised to keep a meter or so away so if they were on the walking path itself, our guide would divert and walk around them. There were one or two occasions where we did have to make quite a big detour off the track due to the birds being everywhere!

Having enjoyed the tour, I also decided to go on another whale tour, as I had really not gotten my fill of whales having never seen them  before in my life while Sabine and Martin went on a horse riding tour of the surrounding town. The following night, it was back to Quito where we'd pick up our gear and carry on South to Latacunga where I'd planned to hike the Quilotoa Loop and visit Banos!

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