Hmmmm the ocean… the waves, the sun, the turquoise water, the sunsets everyday… and the mosquitoes! Tales of a sunny journey spiced up with epic and memorable hitchhiking experiences.
Running from Guayaquil
Sunday 24th February 2019
We woke up after a difficult night in Guayaquil – terribly noisy hostel, music out loud for the whole night, unbearable heat – and headed straight in the morning to the bus terminal.
We initially wanted to go to the Ecuadorian coast hitchhiking but it would not be easy to get out of this big city (the second of the country). We then decided to take a direct bus to Puerto López; hitchhiking would be easier once on the coast.
After a longish trip, we arrived in the beginning of the afternoon. The terminal was a bit far from the city centre but we didn’t want at all to pay for a taxi so we left on foot, trying to reach the long-waited ocean on our way.
As soon as we were on the beach, we had our picnic; and God knows we needed some energy to continue our walk.
Once in the centre, we realized that the campsite where we wanted to sleep was still far away so we finally took a moto-taxi to finish our trip.
We finally arrived at the end of the afternoon. This campsite belongs to a lovely couple that welcomed us very nicely. It’s a bit far from the centre but cheap and quiet, which was perfect for us.
As we were just starting to set up our tent, a French family arrived, travelling by bike with their two kids – 7 and 8 years old. We immediately had a nice contact with them; we would probably share some nice times with our new neighbours.
We then had our dinne and a shower, and went to bed early to compensate for our terrible last night in Guayaquil.
Machallila National Park
Monday 25th February 2019
Puerto López is mainly famous for the Machallila National Park, which is located close to the town. Wonderful beaches with warm and turquoise water, and an exceptional fauna and flora especially make the richness of this park.
We then left early in the morning to Machallila. We first went to the centre of Puerto López, from where we hitchhiked and were quickly taken by a nice Ecuadorian man.
Once at the entrance of the park, it is possible to go directly to the beach of Los Frailes, which is the most famous. The second option, which we obviously chose, is to walk for about 3 km to two different beaches (where bathing is forbidden because of the dangerous currents) and viewpoints, before finishing at Los Frailes.
The sun was already very strong but luckily the trail was shady, crossing a nice forest composed of small bushes where butterflies were flying wholeheartedly.
We reached a first viewpoint, giving us a nice insight of the park’s landscapes: turquoise water, high cliffs with orange tones and covered by abundant vegetation on the top. Many bird were flying over our heads, in particular the ticheras – literally “scissors” – named like this for the shape of their tail, always opening and closing like a pair of scissors.
We went down to the first beach, Playa Prieta. A very nice white sand beach, delimited on each side by high cliffs and covered by little crabs running all around with their so characteristic and funny walk.
We then back to the trail and arrived shortly after to Playa Tortuguita. No turtle to watch as its name could let it think, but again some wonderful white sand and birds everywhere. A small island is in the middle, surrounded by fascinating waves that join around the island.
We spent a while enjoying this wonderful beach and it peacefulness, before moving on to the second to last step; a viewpoint covering the whole park.
The trail was full of Palo Santo, a beautiful tree which wood is sold everywhere in South America. It is burnt to purify the air, help relaxing, repulse mosquitoes, to use for some ceremonies, etc.
The view from the mirador was sublime, with Los Frailes on our left, the ocean’s immensity facing us, and the last two beaches on our right. We also stayed there for a while, enjoying the view and the light but valuable breeze cooling us down after this hot walk.
Swimming in paradise
We finally went down to Los Frailes beach, with the ultimate reward: the long waited bath! It was so amazing that we stayed there for hours: warm and transparent water, small waves without any danger… pure relaxation.
The beach was big enough to have the visitors spread on the area without annoying each other. We had managed to find a small shady space (scarce on this beach) but even there I couldn’t stand the heat and kept on going back to the water.
As the beach would close at 4 p.m., we unfortunately had to leave, although regretfully. We did part of the trip on foot – it was still very hot and we were sweating again like crazy – before being lifted by a nice French family.
Sunset without ice cream
We made a small detour with our drivers to go to take pictures in a fishermen village close by, and then went back to Puerto López.
We passed quickly by the market to buy some fruits and started to look for an ice cream… but in vain. It was surprising for a touristic destination like Puerto López, but it was actually impossible to find even one ice cream shop! After striding along the city from one side to another, we ended up abandoning and just admiring the sunset from the beach.
We took a moto-taxi to go back to our campsite as night was falling down; and enjoyed our dinner and shower after this long day.
Don’t want to pay
Tuesday 26th February 2019
We had a quiet morning chilling at the campsite and talking with our cyclist friends and left in the beginning of the afternoon to the centre of Puerto López. From there we hitchhike to go to Aguas Blancas, another part of Machallila National Park.
Once at the entrance of the park, we were told that the price was of 5$, non-negotiable. Only for the visit of a small museum and to bathe in a sulphur lagoon… that was not for us!
We then decided to go back and walked for a while along the main road. The cars were driving too fast to stop for us! Luckily a nice couple finally stopped and drove us for the last part, which we would have had to do under a terrible heat otherwise.
Finishing the day on the beach
Back to Puerto López, we went to the beach; we had nothing better to do than bathing.
As we had both been to the water, a guy passed by and accosted us. He realized after a while that I had contacted him on Couchsurfing. He then kept on apologizing for not having replied to my request, but he had gone to party in Montañita (a city close by, which is known for its parties, drugs and surf…).
There’s no hazard in life, we quickly understood that we would not have felt well with this couchsurfer and that we were much better in our quiet campsite!
We were quite embarrassed, feeling a bit stuck with this forced company (on the top of that, one of his friend had joined meanwhile). But after insisting on the fact that we were very reluctant to go partying and spend our money in alcohol, and that we were planning on going to bed early in the evening, they finally understood the message and suddenly left.
At last we were on our own to enjoy another bath and admire the sunset in proper conditions! We stayed there until nightfall, and as we left, we noticed that the two guys had found two other feminine targets with whom sharing a beer on the beach. We were definitely not fan of this way to “chase” every potential prey!
Hitchhiking to Canoa
Wednesday 27th February 2019
After folding the tent and saying goodbye to our cyclist friends and lovely hosts, we left for some new adventures. As always, we first joined the main road crossing Puerto López, from where we could easily hitchhike.
We were lucky as a car stopped very quickly for us. It was three men coming every day to Puerto López to make an inventory of the rays on the beach and take DNA samples. They even showed us a few pictures; some rays have a diameter of 3m, impressive!
They dropped us off half way; we had already done a good part of the trip thanks to them. We were now on a big crossroad and it was time for lunch… not really the most bucolic place to east but never mind, we had out picnic there.
We then left, quickly lifted by three nice Ecuadorians for a short ride. As soon as we went down on another crossroad, we had another ride with a young policeman that was driving as fast as a pilot.
He dropped us off in San Jacinto, where we went to look at the beach, but it was dirty and not really welcoming. The sun was really strong so it was just better to continue our trip.
Once again, we were lucky as we were quickly lifted by some fishermen, which let us go behind their truck. There was no fish anymore but the smell was definitely strong!
They were precisely driving to Canoa. We arrived there at the end of the afternoon and immediately found a nice campsite very close to the beach, whose friendly owner also saves injured animals. Dogs, cats, pelicans and other seabirds which names I ignore… the atmosphere was really nice even though the mosquitoes were even more virulent than in Puerto López.
Never bored of the sunset
We had a quick yoga session and ran to enjoy the last rays of sunlight on the beach.
Bathing and enjoying the sunset, how to finish better the day! We were still craving for an ice cream since two days, so we started to look for an ice cream shop recommended by our campsite’s owner, but half of the village got plunged into the darkness because of a power cut… let’s just say we would still not get our ice cream.
We went back to our campsite disappointed, but still with hope; we would finally managed to find this ice cream sooner or later!
Feet in the water
Thursday 28th February 2019
After a good night-sleep, we had our breakfast and went for a walk along the ocean. A long stroll with our feet in the water, the cliffs on one side, the immensity on the other side; nothing better to revitalize ourselves.
Canoa is a small town mainly dedicated to tourism, especially appreciated by the surfers. However it suffered from a very grave earthquake two years ago, which provoked a tsunami and did a lot of damage in the whole region, and considerably reduced the number of visitors.
The town is still marked by the tsunami nowadays, and the amount of accommodations and restaurants is too high for the current demand, which makes the situation pretty hard for the locals.
Half a day there would be enough for us as we were not into surfing or staying for hours on the beach. We did some grocery shopping, had our lunch in town (to change a bit from our eternal picnics) and AT LAST, found a coconut ice cream, which we highly appreciated!
The fastest hitchhike ever
We left at the beginning of the afternoon to our next stop. We went out of Canoa and walked to a roundabout from where it would be easier to hitchhike.
And indeed, as soon as we arrived, we did not even have time to drop our bag that a car was already stopping for us! Two nice Ecuadorian guys in a small car, which space behind was largely taken by a huge box… we were packed in but it was actually comical.
I noticed that our driver was wearing a gap with the name and logo of an ice cream, and was wondering if this voluminous box on our side couldn’t be full of ice cream… and indeed shortly after, our drivers offered us an ice cream, as it is what they were selling and distributing in various cities of the coast!
Two ice creams in one day, what a luxury after this shortage 😉
La Casa del Cacique
We quickly arrived in our final destination, recommended by Maud and Olivier (our cyclist friends). They had been looking for a place to camp on the beach and had been received by the owners of a superb bamboo house overlooking the ocean, which plans had been made by a German architect.
Indeed, the owners received us very warmly as soon as we arrived. They were cleaning the house as they were about to open a restaurant there on the following day, after three years building it.
We offered to help them but they insisted that we should go the beach to enjoy this wonderful place. We then went to bathe with lots of pleasure. High cliffs delimited the beach, Punta Blanca on one side and Punta Prieta on the other one.
I stayed for a long time in the warm water, lulled by the waves and meditating in front of this spectacular landscape, while Miriam was writing in her diary. However, I got literally devoured by a tiny insect that looked insignificant, but was actually fierce.
It was then time to go for a shower and cover us after all these bites. I enjoyed the last sunrays from the second floor of the bamboo house; just unforgettable…
We shared a nice moment with our hosts. They even had the kindness to prepare us a delicious dinner; we were really received like princesses! We helped them to do the dishes, as they had to clean everything for the coming day. It is the least we could do for all their generosity.
We finally went up to our incredible house, where they even had landed us some small mattresses. Unfortunately we didn’t sleep as well as we thought we would, as the place was opened to the wind and the mosquitoes attacked us for the whole night!
But never mind, we will always keep a very special memory of this wonderful experience, which marked the end of our journey on the Ecuadorian coast.
To be continued…
Bus in Guayaquil: 0,30$
Bus Guayaquil – Puerto Lopez: 6$, about 6h trip
Moto-taxi in Puerto Lopez: about 1$ depending on the distance
Hostal Berlin in Guayaquil: 13,50$ for two people with a double bed and private bathroom. Kitchen available. Very gloomy and extremely noisy hostel (music out loud all night long and never-stopping traffic), really not a pleasure.
El Camping de Dona Elsie : 2,50$ per person per night in tent. Shower and kitchen available. The camping is away from the city centre but is very quiet and pleasant, with lovely owners.
Camping Iguana in Canoa: 3,5$ per person per night in tent. Shower and kitchen available. Only block from the ocean, this ocean is nicely set with nice wooden constructions. The owners saves injured or abandoned animals (birds, dogs, cats), which gives a special atmosphere to the place.
La Casa del Cacique: Not a real accommodation but now a restaurant… with lovely owners. This place is absolutely unique, with an incredible architecture and a breathtaking view. A must-see!
Machallila National Park: Free entrance to go to Los Frailes. Amazing beaches and incredible nature, not to be missed!