Saturday, April 5, 2008

On The Beach

March 19th -- March 22nd, 2008. We spent our final days in Ecuador in a muggy haze at the beach. The Hosteria Mandala was an absolutely lovely place. A multi-storied wooden building with open verandas all around served as the common area and restaurant. The surrounding cabins were all hidden from each other by lush gardens filled with birds. A walk of about 30 seconds from the common building got you to a beautiful sand beach with cabanas.

My Mom and I both had great expectations for ourselves. While in Puerto Lopez, we planned to traipse through Machalilla National Park seeing exotic flora, fauna, and archaeological ruins. We planned to go to Isla de la Plata, the poor man's Galapagos, and see some blue-footed boobies and other wildlife. Maybe we would also go to Los Frailes beach!

But it was really hot. And I was really sick with a bad cold. And the surf was so sooooooothing ... We spent the entire three days swinging in hammocks under our cabana, body surfing with the kids in the excellent waves, playing in the sand, playing games and drinking beer in the common building, and kicking back with three meals a day in the restaurant. It was tough. Really tough. Actually, I was pretty miserably sick and exhausted. My nose dripped constantly yet couldn't be emptied with a good blow. My nose started to peel from the tissues. The only time I really perked up was in the water. The Pacific Ocean was like a giant neti pot, and the crashing waves were exhilarating.

After the first day of total sloth, I did manage to explore a little bit around the beach. I was really excited to see frigatebirds wheeling overhead, as I've often read about them, especially in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. Watching them congregate around the fishing boats, though, I realized they were about as common as seagulls. Oh well -- they were still exotic to me! Vultures were also pretty common, but fun for me to see. Further on down the beach and away from most people, I managed to encounter a pair of Yellow-Crowned Night-Herons. Cool name, huh? Seeing them made me feel right at home, since Michael and I often go to Golden Gardens Park in our neighborhood and see Great Blue Herons on the beach. There were many pelicans, too. They would do this very cool thing of flying very low in a V formation over the breaking waves. I imagine they were scooping up yummy treats.

Ghost crabs scuttled around on the beach, disappearing the minute I tried to get close. I was walking while trying to video these guys. Sorry for the shaking.

Far down the beach were some really nice peaceful views of the surf, the clouds, the birds, and a weird starfish stuffed into a crevice. I actually thought the little guy was an octopus for a minute!

At the end of the days the sun would set in a blaze of glory. One of our hosts, Maja, said she'd seen the elusive green flash before, but we didn't get so lucky.

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