This week, instead of being an “accidental tourist,” I was an “on purpose tourist” in my own country. It started out yesterday, when I traded my usual Manta shopping day of Wednesday and headed in with a friend for cruise ship day. Roughly eight times a year, a cruise ship will port in Manta for the day and vendors come from all over Ecuador to sell their wares. This time it was a Princess 70 day world cruise that sailed from Australia! Jim and Jane always go for this event and have their regular vendors that they love to trade with, so they were our guides. We enjoyed looking at all the artisan goods and meeting some of the people from the ship.
Then today, I headed out for a day of exploration with my new friend, Sigrid. She just moved to Ecuador a few months ago to be near her two sons and their families (who both had already relocated from the U.S.). She, like me, is by herself and dying to explore the country, but not alone. So we are quickly becoming friends and travel buddies! We first started our day in Puerto Lopez so that I could pay my internet bill. She had been there a few times before, but wanted to experience some of my favorite places. So after I took care of business, we headed for breakfast at my usual spot. However, the lady told us she was not serving today because she was going whale watching with her husband (who was our guide on the tour that Robert and I took last year) and it was also her mother-in-law’s birthday. So true to Ecuador, we ended up doing “plan C” on our way to my “plan B” option, because the road to get there was closed. We ventured to a newer little place I had seen before, but never stopped at. The food was great – we each had a veggie omelet, with roll, coffee and juice and shared a “bolon de queso” (a traditional Ecuadorian breakfast item made with green bananas) for Sigrid to try.
After showing her a few more points of interest in Lopez (namely my favorite bakery and resale clothing shop), we headed out to explore the nearby area of Agua Blanca. It is situated between here and Puerto Lopez and is a small commune of indigenous tribal people that are located within the confines of what is now Machalilla National Park. There is a small church and museum in the center of the village. There is also a sulfur lake. The water and underlying mud are said to be good for the skin because of the sulfur deposits. The idea is to coat yourself with the mud, let it dry and then wash it off in the water.
It is about a 6 Km drive back from the main highway to the center of the village where the museum is located. We were greeted at the entrance by Paul, a guide who would be with us to offer a private tour for the rest of the day. He took us through the museum and explained the history of the civilizations in the area (dating back to prehistoric times) and described all the relics and artifacts we were seeing (fortunately, Sigrid has been a better Spanish student than me and was able to fill in some of the gaps that I missed).
After touring the museum, we headed out for our 2 Km nature hike back to the lagoon area. We enjoyed encountering many varieties of animals and plant life and the peace and quiet of being so far from civilization was tangible.
Although we came prepared, we decided to forgo the mud paint and sulfur swim for another day. Time was getting along and we weren’t in the mood for the preparations to get messy and then clean again. We decided since we have now gotten the preliminaries down, we can return another day (when there is hopefully a bit more sun) just to enjoy some spa time!
Below are more than a few pictures of our adventures – I hope you enjoy!