After leaving the farm, we needed a few days to rest on the beach so we headed for Montañita, a tourist-filled town famed for its surf and Spanish schools. We spent one night camping on the beach, which was beautiful, but were turned off by the obnoxious dance music that blared through town until the wee hours. So we headed north to find a relaxed, slow-paced fishing village called Puerto Lopez, which reminded me of Taganga in Colombia- meaning dirt roads, pretty but littered beach, surrounding jungle, and hammock filled days. Machalilla National Park is a short 10 minute bus ride up the road, so we spent one day walking through the “dry forest” trails, swimming in the sea, snorkeling and laying on the beach. It was the last tropical beach I’ll be seeing for a while, so I savored it.
After yet another painfully long bus trip, we arrived in Tena, deep Ecuadorian jungle southeast of Quito. We’d learned about a Shaman living close by from a friend and followed her directions (up the hill at the pandería, left at the bus stop, down the gravel path…) to find his property, an incredible piece of land where his family has lived for 8 generations. We stayed one night to bathe in the river (and get nibbled by little fish), learn about native medicinal plants and participate in an ancient ceremony they’ve been practicing forever. It was a special experience, one I could only have had in that exact space. I left once again feeling appreciative for the jungle and all the life it sustains- even for the spiders the size of my hand.
After Tena, we spent one short day in Quito, enjoying locally brewed beer and wandering around it’s historic Old Town. Something I noticed while I was there, trying to eat in the market, was that Ecuadorian’s utilize every single part of the animals they eat. I ordered a potato soup “sin carne” (without meat) at a food stall, took one bite and realized the chewy piece of flesh in my mouth was definitely some kind of “carne”. The woman working explained that it wasn’t “carne”, but another delicious part of the cow and I should eat it. My bad for not knowing the difference, I guess. When I apologetically explained I couldn’t (my stomach was turning), she offered me a salad instead. Lettuce, onions and tomato were served atop a crushed reddish substance. Hmm, beets? No, Sangre. Sangre means blood. I apologized again, paid a little and left, vowing to make a full return to pescaterianism. Cream of tomato soup and a corviche (delicious fried plantain dough stuffed with fish) hit the spot.
Machalilla National Park
Taking shelter from the sun