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.
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.
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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