It's no secret that we love the coast, but we live in the Andes! So any chance we get, we head to the coast -- Puerto Lopez. We made one last escape at the beginning of September before Mark started teaching again at CEDEI and we're so glad we did.
We stayed at the Mandala Hosteria and enjoyed spectacular views from our suite. Just listening to the ocean waves, relaxing in a hammock with a good book or combing the beach for shells made us feel like we were in a different country. Maja and Aurelio (the owners of the Mandala) make sure that all their guests have the best possible experience and our last visit was no exception!
One of our favorite side trips is Los Frailes (about 20 minutes north of Puerto Lopez). We used to travel by mototaxi, but now a taxi will take you and pick you up for $15. We arranged for (ida y vuelta), which means the driver drops you off and you arrange for a time to be picked up. The park is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., so I suggest arriving early. Unlike four years ago--when there was just the beach and nothing else--there are now shower and bathroom facilities, beach umbrellas to rent for the day, a gift shop and ice cream and drinks for sale. Los Frailes is one of the most pristine beaches we've ever been to and definitely one of the most beautiful.
We've been fortunate in that every time we've visited the beach there has been glorious sun (so be sure to slather on the suntan lotion) and wear a hat. When you get out of the water, be sure to apply your SPF generously because you can end up with a nasty sunburn like I did (on the back of my legs).
Since it was "Labor Day Weekend" at Los Frailes, we decided to explore the other side (La Tortuguita and La Prieta). A short 20-minute walk will bring you up to the Mirador which gives you an unobstructed view of the Ecuadorian coastline. But before you get to the Mirador, there is an unmarked path that will lead you to La Tortuguita (Little Turtle) and La Prieta. We had both beaches to ourselves for the day, so we have endearingly named it "Playa Pombo."
At low tide, you can actually walk to the rock (La Tortuguita) and enjoy views that are unparalleled. We timed it just right and were able to explore the rock and swim in the water. Be careful in this area as the current is swift and there is an undertow that will grab you, so be sure it is low tide and don't think you can mess with Mother Nature. It may look calm, but it carries a powerful punch.
If you follow the path beyond La Tortuguita, you'll arrive at another beach (La Prieta) which is one of my favorites. At low tide you can find a treasure trove of shells and shallow water that allows you to enjoy swimming and snorkeling at its best. The sand is black, in other areas pink, and also white. We had the beach to ourselves once again until a group from a tour bus arrived, so we made a quick exit.
The same area can be reached by taking the path at the entrance of the park which takes about 45 minutes or you can take the path marked "La Fragata" once you're at Los Frailes. And definitely not to be missed is the lookout tower (El Mirador), which is a fabulous spot to take pictures and soak up the views. If you arrive early at the park, you'll also get to experience a variety of birds including the Blue Footed Booby.
We bought an underwater camera which has been one of our best investments, especially if you're going to spend a lot of time in the sun, sand and water. We purchased it for our trip to the Galapagos and haven't regretted it. Sand in your camera lens is something you don't want, so to protect your equipment be sure to get a beach friendly camera. We purchased an inexpensive Fuji which takes excellent pictures.
Since we've been back, I've been doing a lot of writing and finally revising Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered. I've got a few other e-books up my sleeve which I'll share with you later. Also, I just got news that I'm a finalist for Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness which will be released December 16, 2014 so you can be looking for that.
We're back in our school routine and enjoying life in Cuenca along with taking Spanish intensives once a week. After four years of living in Cuenca, we still can't imagine living anywhere else--except maybe Italy!
Until next time...hasta luego!
Connie & Mark
Chicken Soup for the Soul:Say Goodbye to Stress contains Connie's story on "Just Breathe" their arrival to Cuenca.