♪♫♬ Azuluna ♪ You Saw Me Standing Alone ♪♫♬

Or “Mara’s Trip to the Coast” 
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In mid July (deep dark winter here in Cuenca) Mara and two of her great friends, Lance and Kathy Mentink, imagetook a quick trip to the middle coast of Ecuador.  Glenn decided that the heat and humidity of the coast held no appeal for him so he stayed home in frigid Cuenca, which is just the way he likes it.  And by frigid, I mean high temperatures in the 60’s.

Kathy, Lance and Mara were transported in comfort by our driver Peter Kwee of American Transporter (N4311T@yahoo.com) via the Cajas National Park and then the Ruta del Sol.

Map from Cuenca to Las Tunas

 

We left at the dark and early time of 6 am but that worked out very well for us because we had a gorgeous morning drive and clear blue skies through the Cajas and arrived at Azuluna Ecolodge in the town of Las Tunas by 1:30 in the afternoon.  I have traveled through the Cajas three other times and this was the first time I was able to see anything other than rain, fog and my life flashing before my eyes as cars passed each other on blind curves.

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Okay, you’ve waited long enough to find out why I named this post “Azuluna . . .”  The eco-lodge that we called home for three nights and four days was called Azuluna Ecolodge which means “Blue Moon” like the Marcel’s (or Ritchie Valens if you’re not that old) song of the same name.  Here’s a youtube link if you need a walk down memory lane.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eMkH0s3Vpc

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I would highly recommend Azuluna Ecolodge to anyone who desires quiet, charming, well run, reasonably priced accommodations near Puerto Lopez and the Machalilla National Park.  Azuluna has received many awards for their quality and sustainable practices including recognition from TripAdvisor.  Please go to http://www.azuluna-ecuador.com to find out more.

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The main reception area is bright and airy with open windows letting in the ocean breeze. The restaurant was very good and reasonably priced. This is very important because if you are in Las Tunas midweek like we were and not during a major holiday, nothing else is open. However, Azuluna is only a short drive from Puerto Lopez which has many services or a little further drive from Montañita which has lots of restaurants, bars, etc.

image image image image All of the rooms are ocean facing and have lovely verandas with hammocks and other seating.  Our main purpose for visiting the coast was not necessarily to relax in hammocks while catching a few zzzz’s in the refreshing ocean breeze.  But I wouldn’t discount that reason!

imageBecause we came to the coast in “winter” (July and August) the heat and humidity were not that bad and the insects were not a problem at all.  Even so, our rooms were air conditioned and equipped with mosquito netting over the beds.  I’m sure that visiting this region other times of the year would yield different experiences.  I highly recommend coming in July if you’re not a huge fan of tropical heat.

We walked on the beach across the highway from Azuluna a couple of times.  Again, being midweek and non-holiday time, we enjoyed the birds, rhythmic waves and warm water on our feet in near solitude.  Unfortunately, swimming was not an option here as there was a very strong undercurrent, but wading knee deep was just fine.

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The beach walks were pleasant but they still were not our main objective for this trip.  Well, what was?  Two words:

HUMPBACK WHALES!

humpback whale
I wish I could take credit for this picture but even though we did see a breaching whale, I am not skilled enough to catch a picture like this. Photo courtesy of http://www.animaleans.wikispaces.com. My philosophy is you can either WATCH whales or TAKE PICTURES of them. I chose to watch!

We booked an all day tour with Machalilla Tours (www.machalillatours.org) to whale watch and spend time on Isla de la Plata.  The tour leaves from Puerto Lopez which is the only place from which you can access the island.  Isla de la Plata is part of the Machalilla National Park and is sometimes called “The Poor Man’s Galapagos.” Our boat had about 15 passengers and four crew members.  It was a beautiful day but we were out in open ocean once we left the bay on which Puerto Lopez is located so we were very glad that we had taken our seasickness medication.  Unfortunately, not everyone did.

We saw many whales in the two hour trip to the island and on the return but as per my philosophy I didn’t get many pictures but these prove I did see them.

image image imageWe arrived at Isla de la Plata around midday.  We had a quick snack, restroom break, and then headed up the 180 or so steps to the highpoint of the island.  From there, our guide took us on a 90 minute hike to see the blue footed boobies, red footed boobies, frigates, tropicbirds, and pelicans.  The island is very dry at this time of year and it was quite hot.  We were glad for our water.

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Only authorized tour operators can bring a total of 180 people per day out to the island.
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Our welcoming committee was five sea turtles in the harbor.
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Wilmer was our naturalist and guide for our two hours on the island.
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This map was completely UPSIDE DOWN! We approached the island from the south and hiked to the north side. Funny!
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This view was looking back down the 180 steps we came up to the top and center of the island. Notice how dry the plants are. In January and February, all of this is green but it is also raining. I’m glad we came when we did.
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An abandoned blue footed booby egg from last season is at the bottom of this photo
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A pair of blue footed boobies. Wilmer told us they only mate for one season.
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White Tailed Tropicbird
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You can really see the blue feet of this single blue footed booby.
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The north side of the island was rugged and beautiful. Many pelicans, red footed boobies, and tropicbirds were flying in this area but obviously not in my picture!
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Here I am looking over the cliff. Was there a railing or sign to warn me of the danger? Of course not! This is Ecuador and it’s your responsibility to not be stupid.
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Maybe this pathway could have used a caution sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I did not fall off the cliff but I did fall down on a different part of the trail (loose gravel on a hill) and skinned up both of my knees. I chose not to take a picture of my knees and posted this picture instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We concluded our time at the island with a satisfying lunch and a short time to snorkel.  The fish we saw were plentiful, big and colorful but as I don’t have a GoPro Waterproof Camera (birthday is coming up – hint hint) you are just going to have to take my word for it.   Another three hours and a few whales later, we were back in Puerto Lopez, exhausted but happy.  Mission accomplished.

The following day, we walked around the little town of Las Tunas and then took a bus to Montañita.  You have probably never heard of Las Tunas (which actually refers to a fruit not the fish).

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This is the one block long Malecón in Las Tunas – not much going on here Thursday mornings.
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This burro was our welcoming committee to Las Tunas! He really wanted a friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We thought Las Tunas was quite small but when we had a conversation with a lady who sold us a bottle of water in the only business that appeared to be open, we were told in no uncertain terms that it is not small! I’m not convinced.

Montañita, on the other hand, is quite famous for its surfing and party atmosphere.  As it was Lance and Kathy’s first anniversary AND Lance, although not a surfer himself, is a patron of surfing, we felt it quite appropriate to take the one hour bus ride to this happening place.

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A lot more going on here in Montañita but it was only about 3 in the afternoon. Most of the visitors probably hadn’t even gotten up yet.

 

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Montañita’s malecón was considerably longer and more developed than the one in Las Tunas.

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Lance Mentink – Patron of the Surf

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Our final day at Azuluna was spent walking the beach and lying in our hammocks.  Peter picked us up at the agreed to time and we took a slightly different route back to Guayaquil and then went through the Cajas again to get to Cuenca.  No pictures of this trip because like a horse heading back to the barn, we were ready to just get home!  The three of us had a terrific time and Glenn reports that it was lovely, dry and cool in Cuenca!Map from Las Tunas to Cuenca via Machilla National Park

What we’ve learned:  Lance and Kathy Mentink are our new travel partners!  We traveled very well together.  Check out their post about this trip at Rambling On over to the right.

What we need to learn:  How to understand Ecuadorian coastal Spanish.  Speech is much more rapid and has a different accent than in the Andes.

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6 thoughts on “♪♫♬ Azuluna ♪ You Saw Me Standing Alone ♪♫♬

  1. That sure was a fun trip Mara. I loved seeing the coast and love living up in the mountains of Cuenca. I guess someday we will have to go to the Amazon. Ecuador sure has a lot of interesting places to visit. We look forward to traveling with you again.

    Lance

    Like

  2. Awesome blog. Love the pictures and Azuluna sounds and looks great.

    Azuluna, the name makes me think of “Oh Suzanna”

    See ya esta manana!

    Like

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