You may recall from our last post that Volcano Cotopaxi was threatening to blow, the Pan American Highway was closed due to protests, and we had to decide between the coast or the jungle as our next destination. Humpback whale season was the deciding factor, and we blasted Little Red towards the Pacific Ocean. 12 hours later (and after swapping long johns and down jackets for shorts and t-shirts) we pulled up to Jardin Suizo in Puerto Cayo, a great Swiss-run spot with a fully equipped indoor kitchen, clean bathrooms, fast wifi, and a safe place to rest for the night. We met a Spanish/Argentinian couple who generously shared their yerba mate with us (along with their tales from the road), and taught about the social etiquette surrounding this herbalicious beverage. It all boils down to swapping saliva by means of a metal straw and saying gracias when you are finished. Another warm beverage for us to look forward to down the road.

What we really needed was a clean out of the truck and some rest. We spent a couple of days getting ourselves organized, blogging, and reading books. By then we were ready to ditch out and head towards Puerto Lopez. On the way we stopped by the very popular Los Frailes beach. It was a nice spot with good views, lovely Palo Santo trees, and cactus bushes dotting the dried up landscape. We arrived in the Ecuadorian coast’s ‘winter’ – which meant many cloud-covered beach days and extremely dry conditions. A plus side: the temperatures were very comfortable and when the sun did come out it was a special treat to see the turquoise waters in their full glory.

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Our next stop was Puerto Lopez to book our whale watching and Isla de la Plata tour. In all honesty, the town didn’t immediately win us over. Its funny how you get used to one area or town in terms of timing (the heartbeat of the place so to speak), and you naively expect the next destination to be the same. We noticed a big difference between the Northern mountainous section of Ecuador and the coast. Overall, people were less approachable and friendly. In Northern Ecuador, you almost forgot about the fact that Ecuador is a third world country due to the well paved roads, big box supermarkets (we love you, Supermaxi!), and tourist infrastructure. The coast had almost transported us back to Central America.

Another difference was customer service. Almost every time we entered a restaurant, we were served last. It didn’t matter when we showed up, there were always big groups and/or couples of Ecuadorians who showed up at least half an hour after we had made our order and they were served before we were. We stopped for ice cream once and placed our order, an Ecuadorian came up and made his after us, and he walked away with his ice cream before we did. We learned afterwards that the Ecuadorian local tourists are made a priority because they are likely to return. Gringos, on the other hand, are just passing through. It is easy to get worked up about these things (especially when ‘hanger’ sets in), but it is really important to realize that “Dorothy, you aren’t in Kansas anymore!”

I have to admit that for the first time on the road we actually started to feel homesick. What is this sorcery!? What is this, missing friends and family, western comforts, and indoor living? It was an uncomfortable feeling for us and we weren’t used to it. South America so far has been incredible – the people, the food, the landscapes, the beauty. A big difference has been the number of people we’ve run into on the road, and the fact that we are often traveling by ourselves, just the two of us. We were likely craving some company, maybe even a hostal stay for a couple of nights, and some communication with our friends and family back home to raise our spirits.

In the meantime, the wildlife won us over and made the trip to the coast more than worth it.  Our tour took us to Isla de la Plata for some wildlife viewing, snorkelling, and hiking.  Seeing wild humpback whales joyously heave themselves out of the water, watching waddling Blue-Footed Boobies couple up, and fuzzy white frigate bird babies hanging out in nests was pretty swell.

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During our remaining days on the coast we talked with friends and family on Skype to cure what was remaining of our homesick feeling and we enjoyed the ocean views, bonfires, and cold drinks at Hosteria Salango Islamar.  We’re starting to realize that long-term travel comes with big ups and downs emotionally… the peaks far outweigh the valleys, but when we’re feeling down it’s just best to talk it out, have a drink and watch some breaching humpbacks (if available).

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11 comments

  • Jesse

    Long time quiet follower finally breaking silence to say “What an awesome campspot!!!”. Beautiful view!
    Interesting that the tourism culture varies that much within the same country.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • Jason

    My wife and I have been following you guys from the start, we have enjoyed your travels and appreciate your frank and candid perspective on your adventures. I can empathize with missing your family, friends and country but hang in there it will pass and there a lot more adventures to come and we look forward to reading all about them, be well and take care.
    Jason and Susie

    Reply
  • Al Lemire

    Great shots of the whales! How close to you were they breaching?
    Bummer about the homesick feelings, but unavoidable on an extended overlanding journey. Great that you could recognize and accept them for what they were.
    Just remind yourselves that everyone else is still envious of what you guys are doing!

    Reply
  • T&J

    Hi
    re. feeling out of it!
    Remedie – Take it easy for a few days not doing anything until your bored and “llena de hacer las cosas y de la energía , una vez más”

    And foremost – get over it!
    Too much to see and experience!

    Hasta luego – !

    Reply
  • Karie

    Holy crap! Those humpback pictures are once in a lifetime! Love them!

    Reply
  • Daniel

    Jeez, would be pretty hard to top that camp site at the end! Looks amazing! Awesome guys, need to experience the Downs to truly appreciate the Up’s or something along those lines, my vocabulary is about as eloquent as a brick haha anyways keep being awesome!!!

    Reply
  • Rhonda

    wow.. that is some campsite! Hope you added it to ioverlander so we can appreciate it for ourselves one of these days soon:) Having done the long term travel thing before we absolutely empathize with you on the feeling of homesickness. For the most part, we were just fine having mainly ourselves for company and meeting others along the way, but I will always remember Christmas in Hanoi being a really low spot (it didn’t help to be celebrating Christmas in a country that doesn’t celebrate the holiday!) but we fought through it and reignited the magic a short time later. Cheers to some great travel ahead for you!

    Reply
  • Bryon

    Miss you guys! Inspiring read and photos as usual.

    I don’t think most people understand the lows that come with long term travel. They can be really tough, but I agree, that at least for me, they are worth fighting through for the incredible highs.

    Keep inspiring and above all enjoy every moment of it for yourselves.

    Reply
  • Rich

    Great to read yet another inspiring post from you both!

    I agree with Daniel above, that you only can truly appreciate the highs after you have experienced the lows. I am very glad that you have been able to share them both with us, the highs and lows. I keep making notes for when I leave and maybe at that time we can spend some time travelling together, if you are still on the road somewhere!

    Great pictures, great comments and a fabulous view from your campsite. I am sure if you turned the chairs towards the ocean, the view would have been miraculous!

    Cheers!
    Rich

    Reply
  • Rosie

    Those whale photos are amazing! Such a wonderful opportunity. I just stumbled upon you guys, through Instagram, and boy oh boy am I inspired.

    Reply
  • Nate

    Pretty righteous campsite there guys.

    Reply

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