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Annie & Blue

A Whale of a Time in Ecuador

By Sandra Scott


John and I are on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador near Machalilla National Park, much of which is a dry tropical forest, a habitat that is more endangered than the tropical rain forest. Our hotel, Alandaluz, "Winged City of Light," has received many awards because it is self-sustaining and has a minimal impact on the environment. Ninety percent of everything is recycled. The buildings are of bio-architectural designs, built mainly of 6-inch thick bamboo with palm leaves covering the open high-peaked roofs that let in the light and sea breeze. Our cabana is on a high hill with a panoramic view of the towering cliffs and long beaches that line the coast. The gardens are full of tropical flower seven though it is wintertime and the daytime temperature is between 75and 85. It is comfortable but cloudy and damp. All the food is organically grown on Alandaluz property. The first night I had chicken with rice for $2.82 and John splurged by dining on shrimp with native fruits served in half a pineapple garnished with tropical flowers for$4.03. The meal included soup, fresh fruit drink and desert. The currency of Ecuador is the U. S. dollar and pennies are worth something.

Learning the Lingo
Our main purpose for being here is to learn Spanish. We each have our own teacher and are in class for four hours each morning. We have to pay attention since we are our teacher's only student, consequently we actually seem to be learning something. We are supposed to speak only Spanish but we have not quite progressed to that point! Every afternoon our teachers and a guide take us on a field trip to a different part of the park.

On land and at Sea
Yesterday we hiked to an archeological site, wandered along the river, stopped at a lagoon, and spotted many birds including two blue-green pedrotes with twin tails that hang down like tassels. We picked passion fruit and anona, a sweet pulpy fruit full of seeds, to snack on. The best adventure was to Isla de la Plata. On the way we stopped to watch the whales. It is mating season and they were showing off, rising high into the air like white monoliths. The sightseeing boats must seem like annoying mosquitoes to the cavorting whales. We even had a close encounter of the humpback kind. Two whales broke the surface on the port side of our boat, dove under the boat, and surfaced on the other side. It was splendid but I think it scared the captain because that was the end of the whale watching. Isla de la Plata, or Silver Island, is called "The Poor Man's Galapagos," and according to romantics it was named for treasure buried by Sir Francis Drake, but more likely the name came from the guano that shines like silver in the sunlight. Thousands of birds make their nests on the island and since they have no natural enemies we could get up close and personal. There are frigate birds and albatrosses but the most comical is the blue-footed booby with its right-foot, left foot waddle. Returning to the mainland, not to be outdone by the whales, manta rays rose up out of the water, pointed their wing tips skyward and plopped back to the sea. Just before entering the harbor, we got a fin wave from a couple more whales. There was no dock so we had to take our shoes off, get out of the boat, and wade ashore. Waiting for us were young children with plastic chairs and buckets. For twenty-five cents they washed and dried our feet, and put on our shoes.

Accidents happen everywhere, even on vacation. We had our first personal injury accident in all our years of travel. I was walking on a bamboo walkway and stopped to admire the view. The railing gave way and I did a somersault into the vegetation ten feet below. I couldn't move my right arm so I assumed it was broken. The doctor determined it was a muscle injury not a fracture. The price for two office calls, two injections, plus medication for three days was $9.10. I was relieved to see the disposal needles and medicine were manufactured in the U. S. One half hour later we were back at Alandaluz sitting in class. The upside of the fall is that I don't have to do my written homework or carry my own bags

John said I really fell for this place! After a few days in the capital city of Quito we will be off to another week of study only this time in Amazonia. Hopefully, neither of us will fall too hard for the jungle.

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