Last week we visited Ecuador’s coast for the first time, in the company of our buddies Larry and Karen Schunk.
The route to the coast is over a 13,600 foot pass in Cajas National Park. At seemingly the top of the world the massive rocks can appear spooky in the fog, like Inca fortresses re-materializing from the past. On the other side of the pass, the magnificent canyons plunge thousands of feet. Arriving at the coastal plain. The manner in which the mountains suddenly leap out of the completely flat rice paddies is astounding.
On route Larry and Karen introduced us to Noe Sushi Bar in Guayaquil, an authentic Japanese restaurant that is as good or better than any we used to patronize in San Francisco’s Japantown. Notice in the photo not only the sushi rolls, but also Deborah’s finger nails with tiny flowers painted on them. Deborah, Karen and various other amigas have their fingernails and toenails painted every couple of weeks by a very talented Ecuadorian (well, Mexican actually) lady named Viky Reyes. Karen and Deborah were also sporting sea blue and aquamarine toenails with seahorses painted on them. Perfect for beach going.
Here are two photos of billboards along the highway from Guayaquil to Salinas, the likes of which we’ve never seen in the United States.
Salinas is similar to Miami Beach (although much smaller), with a wall of high rise residences and hotels at the edge of the sand. (You'll notice that in all of our coastal pictures it was cloudy. It was chilly too. But, beach season is just around the corner.)
Walking around, we found an impressive, genuine sand castle!
At Salinas, we stayed at a picturesque, converted private residence a block off the beach, the Hotel Amira. It has has gorgeous, multi-colored bougainvillea bushes along the several hundred feet of its perimeter wall. It is a very nice little boutique hotel.
From Salinas we drove north along the coast on the Ruta del Sol. We stayed at Azuluna Eco-Lodge, a few miles south of Puerto Lopez. The exteriors of the various eco-lodge buildings are delightfully funky, the interiors wonderfully colorful, and the gardens truly tropical.
Where we live in Cuenca there isn't a plethora of birds, other than chickens. We were therefore delighted with the abundance of sea birds we found when walking the beach close to the eco-lodge. The pelicans (which we never tire of watching) are very much like those in San Francisco; those are pelicans in the photo of the interesting rock formation offshore. Frigate birds are a new favorite, especially with wings that look built for supersonic speeds. The big surprise was buzzards, lots of buzzards, both in the sky and holding conferences on the beach; the red-headed one in the photo is perched ominously on a sign for a magic labyrinth (made out of beach stones, that Deborah and Karen were able to traverse without incident. It was probably those seahorses on their toenails that protected them).
The beach was wide, long, and (when we were there, on a cool overcast day) deserted. The first photo is facing north (with a buzzard assembly in the foreground). The second is facing south, with an appearance reminiscent of Northern California beaches. The third shows one of many thatched-roof beach huts, in this instance containing several of the coast’s ubiquitous black hammocks.
Our next trip will be when the weather is more conducive to lying around in one of those hammocks, with cerveza or umbrella drink in hand, lazily admiring the sea birds and assigning cute names to our buzzard neighbors. Meanwhile, though, we have our fond memories of our first exploration of Ecuador’s coast.