It lies in a bay with a long stretch of beach cradled by two high rocky cliffs on either end.
I arrived on Sunday when the weekend crowd was still bustling. It was extremely hot, humid and dusty as the town hadn’t seen rain in over a month. The beach directly in front of the town was littered with rubbish and waste. It was a sad sight. My first impression of this town was not a good one. I missed Canoa. The next day brought a downpour of rain for several hours and even extended into the night. It was a happy relief from the dust and humidity. The dusty roads soon became muddy, wet messes with streams and pools forming. Walking barefoot was really the only option to avoid slipping. With the beginning of the week here, the crowds had disappeared and so did a lot of the garbage. There are city workers who pick up the rubbish as well as a tractor skimming the beach. Of course it would save time if only people didn’t litter in the first place. There are some organizations and hotels that are environmentally focused and trying to make a difference but I am afraid the majority of the population it seems are still uneducated or carefree about the situation.
After a few days in Puerto Lopez, I became accustomed to the town and my impression changed. It is a charming little coastal town in its own right. The locals are friendly and it holds its share of beauty as well as countless things to do and see.
There are a number of restaurants and bars directly on the beach to enjoy a cocktail or cerveza. I toasted my two English mates one last time the other night as they have now gone on. My accommodation was also a great find. I am staying at a Hosteria Itapoa, a beautiful place set in beautiful luscious gardens with birds and butterflies flying around, across from the ocean. I have my own cabana set at the very back. It is $15/night with breakfast. There is a wonderful two-storey bamboo structure used as a common area filled with hammocks at the front of the gardens. This is where I sit now on the top floor as I write and stare out into the ocean.
Each morning, around 6am the day’s fishing catch is brought into the south end of the beach by countless fishing boats. Women and men are filleting the fish right on the spot including tuna, and swordfish. You will also find squid, octopus, prawns, crabs.
There is a huge ice truck as the men rush to keep their catch fresh. A mad rush by locals ensues with best catches being bought and carted away quite quickly, to be served at the restaurants that day. There are modest restaurants set up on the beach at the fish market for an Ecuadorian breakfast of fish and rice; you can’t get fresher fish than that.
A lot of the fish guts are dumped directly back into the ocean, as the pelicans and other frigate birds await their morning feed.
Puerto Lopez is the closest village to Parque Nacional Machilalla. It is the only protected area of the Ecuador coast, and stretches a mere 3 km along the coast, however it does cover 55 000 ha in total. Most of that area stretches out to the ocean including a couple of islands.
The serene Playa Los Frailes is located 10Km north of Puerto Lopez inside the Machalilla National Park. It is a pristine beach with long sandy beaches and rocky outcrops. It is a magnificent sight and a shame that only 3km of this beach remains in its glory. It is a massive reminder of how human impact absolutely destroys the environment with our carelessness and complete disregard, unless it is protected. Nonetheless, Los Frailes was a warm and refreshing sight. The water was a beautiful blue and a perfect temperature to cool down in.
As I am writing this, I am reminded of the election that takes place this weekend. A convoy or parade of cars and trucks are passing by on the road honking their horns obsessively, playing loud music with massive speakers attached to their cars. People are cheering as they are crammed in the back of the trucks celebrating and waving flags. It’s an interesting sight, yet it will be a welcoming change once the election is over.