This was and is a beautiful town

Bahia de Caraquez has a reputation for sustainable development. Recycling and composting bins are everywhere, although some of the containers have been stolen. The taxis are bike taxis. Sad!y, a lot of this seems to have been lost since the earthquake two years ago. Streets and sidewalks are still buckled and cracked, rubble from fallen buildings remains. Many people have downcast, hurt expressions, maybe they lost many friends and relatives. As Kate says, “There is no FEEMA here.” This is true, whatever one thinks of that agency under Trump.

Still, there is a movement towards rebuilding. There are billboards saying. things like “We are not stopped, we are rising,” in Spanish, of course. There are beautiful new murals on birds, forests, and a woman becoming a butterfly. Today, 1/1/18, we passed a house where people danced at a New Year’s Party. Many others swam in the ocean and strolled on the beach. The coastal setting is beautiful, there is hope. We will learn more. Arriba, Bahia!

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We are in the coastal town of Bahia de Caraquez, which is known as an eco town. Also, someone who works for Planet Drum Foundation, a group I’ve worked with, manages a sustainability project here. But this town was severely hit by an earthquake 2 years ago, there is still rubble. This is life in the developing world.We wonder if this impacted on eco projects. We will be here a few days, I will connect with my contact person. We will also hike. Feliz ano nuevo!

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Machalilla National Park

It is surprising how dry some parts of Ecuador are. If I am remembering right from geography and ecology classes, warm air rises at true equator, carrying moisture that starts to fall as rain over Central America and areas equally far south of the equator. So these areas are lush while  equitoreal areas can be relatively dry. This frustrated me at first, I love Cental American forests, but these habitats have grabbed me! They are their unique selves, and seeingy them deepens my understanding of the earth.

This is a spectacular park north of Puerto  Lopez. There are high mountains to the east. The coast is as rugged and rocky as California’s, with a different geologic history that I will try to look at. The plants are drought adapted, like California’s again, but they are different species, including cactuses. Pelicans and frigate birds swarm over the ocean, ha bird that we are fair unsure is a mockingbird sings loudly from the shrubs. Other hidden birds answer while lizards scurry everywhere. We met lots of hikers on the trails. Ecuadorians seem to love their parks!

Tomorrow we will head up the coast to Bahia de las Caracas for four nights. That is a different area, there are mangroves. Then we will be in a cloud forest for a few days. Hasta lluego!

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Isla de las Platas

To be clear-we are both huge fans of Charlie Darwin, and think the evidence points to evolutionary biology. But we are not going to the Galapagos. Three reasons: expense, crowds, and growing evidence that massive tourism has negative impacts on the ecosystems. Kate has seen a lot about this recently.

So today we visited Isla de las Plata’s, a beautiful place that is about an hour from Puerto Lopez by high speed boat. This is a rocky dry island, home to magnificent frigate birds, hummingbirds, green sea turtles, bright red crabs, and more. The more includes blue footed boobies that nest here. They are fearless-they squawked  as we passed the nests but seem unafraid, and we stayed far enough away.

These lovely duck sized birds with blue webbed feet build scrape nests of rocks and soil. One parent guards the chicks while the other finds food, then they switch. One pair was in the early stages of a mating dance. Come here, they are everywhere, you will be amazed!!

It continues to strike us what a minority we are here. US travelers are few, compared to  Central America. We talked with travelers from Columbia and Basque Country today, very nice folks. The language issue is big though, our Spanish is weaker than we thought. We do feel isolated at times. Most travelers seem to be from South America, and not English speakers. But there are good thingss about this. We are not the center of the world.

More adventures tomorrow. Buenos noches.

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Puerto Lopez

Here we are on the Pacific Coast. This is an unusual town. The main street is parallel to the ocean. The beach is full of open air stands that sell such cocktails as “Sexo en la Playa”. It seems to be a hot spot for young South Americans. The street itself is lined with cafés, t shirt stores, ice cream bar stores, and bars.  A block away it is a work a day  world for a fishing village. There is an open air market selling clothes and crafts, a soccer field, supermarkets, shoe stores, etc. There is also a small bar called ” Che’s” that seems to be a haunt for eclectic locals. Kate, who likes authentic scenes in other countries says, ” I like this part of town more.” I do too, it is more unique.  We will have adventures in the next few days, stay tuned.

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We like Guayaquil lots more than we expected to!

Our day started with a visit to the Iguana Park. This is a downtown square where iguanas live and are free. They are on the ground, in the trees, eveverywheere! These big lizards are harmless. I do not know it they eat  fruits Costa Rica’s iguanas do or if they also eat bugs and o their  prey. Their only reaction to people is to stare sagely.

We didn’t expect to make it to Isla de Satay, but after the iguanas we found a tour .boat that went there cheaply. This eco project lies in an estuary near downtown. People on the island work on projects like protecting endangered  crocodiles. Each family gets a wooden houses and there is a large place for meetings and gatherings. The tour was in Spanish and we undersstood a little of it. This is frustrating since ecology and community sustainability fascinate both of us.But most of the people were South American travelers. Why should the tour be in English? Besides, it is a good experience to be the Other, and to get some small idea of what it is like.

The place is gorgeous. There are mangroves, trees that are very common in tropical estuaries, andthicg groves of palms. Birds are everywhere, we startled a huge group of ibises. Dragonflies filled the air, and blue iridescent butterflies are everywhere. This place demands research!

After the trip we walked more on Malecon 2000, the walkway by the water. Some parts of this are cheesey – a McDonald’s (sigh)with a view, a StarWars funhouse, too many shoe stores, etc. Lots of it is lovely. There is a bromeliad garden, pools of fish, and a great walk for birding.Guayaquil has had a hard history. This is a successful project that helps it move from times of corruption and crime to a future as a beautiful city. It seems to be working.

Still, as Kate commented, were people displaced,a s so often happens with redevelopment in the States? We noticed the cops that are everywhere, and the many surveillance cameras. Kate wondered if these were placed to keep poor people out of the area. This is a city of three million people. Does everybody benefit?

These aren’t questions we will answer on this trip. R research is needed and will come. It has been a fascinating stay. Tomorrow we will head for Puerto Lopez,  and many new coastal birds.


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In Guayaquil

We had a spectacular bus ride over the cloud shrouded Andes to this coastal city. We have been a little leery, it has a reputation of being dangerous, but it is working hard  to get past that.We are really finding it appealing. There is a very nice walkway along the coast, locals gather here in the late afternoon the socialize, stroll, and watch birds. We saw frigate birds, nesting herons, swallows, and many we can’t identify so far. We hope to visit an eco project here, but have other plans if that doesn’t work. The bridge to that island was damaged, we learned.

Last thought on Christmas here. This is a very Catholic country, they take Christmas seriously. That may be partly why they make it a welcoming, social day rather than an alienating and lonely one for many. Also, this is a very community oriented culture, very different from individualistic America. We could use a change in that direction.

Buenos noches!

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