Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Birds and bees and boobies (heh heh)

"Hello!" or possibly "Go away...little farther..."
I was about to go on about our first overnight bus trip going from Mindo in the clouds to Puerto Lopez on the sea and the blaring loud music they playing all night long. But this is a happy post with parades, happy giant splashy animals, boobies (heh heh), and even a happy funeral procession. So I will refrain from reliving that sleepless night on that infernal, speaker box of a bus from hel...oops. Anyway, we're going to our happy place...in Puerto Lopez for whale watching season.

Puerto lopez is primarily, from all outward appearances, an industrial fishing town. But it also borders a national park and is the first choice of launching sites for whale watching. And we had come to watch whales.

There are distinct differences in tourist towns that reached maturity before tourism came to town. For example, whatever the surf town of Montañita once was is no longer apparent, its having been so thoroughly dressed up with tourism, while the tourism in Puerto Lopez is but a cummerbund on a construction worker. OK, that sounds too much like a Chippendale dancer, but you get the idea.

If we had had any doubts that this was a real town, one of the first things we saw was a funeral procession with probably two hundred people led by a live band in the back of a truck. Chévere.

We wondered, a couple days later when there was another procession, if there was an epidemic, but despite the somber faces, drudging band music, and other outward appearances of a funeral, turns out it was a parade celebrating the town's founding. So for about two hours about twenty different sets of bands, cheerleaders, students in uniform, inconceivable numbers of royalty, and sundry officials walked stoically along looking ready for this to be over. For a while we thought they were just circling the block but no, just creative expression institutionalized.

Royal family of...the corner daycare, maybe?

Happy to be here

When the parade no longer satisfies
And that's our plan...Any questions?
The parade was just icing on our whale cake, though. We had come to Puerto Lopez specifically to visit Isla de la Plata (or The Poor Man's Galapagos) and see humpback whales in town for having babies. The kids are great at this age, and Duncan was ecstatic just to be riding in a boat. We saw only fins and water spouts on the course over to Isla de la Plata, which is probably for the best. The island is a nature preserve that is amazing, but it's a nice crescendo to the climax of seeing whales.

So the crescendo starts with a slog up some stairs from the beach to the top of the island. And there two paths diverged and we-- we took the one less strenuous, and the difference is mostly that we didn't see Magnificent Frigatebirds (what a name!) but did see more Blue Footed Boobies. This is good kid entertainment all while teaching them about...well, the birds and bees. When explained that the males' funny dance is a courting ritual to impress and win the girls Piper later explained it like this: "'Do you like me? Do you like me? Huh? How do you like me?'...Then he got on top of her and kissed her."

Got this tattoo in Montañita. See what happens when I do this?

Yes, among other things. The boobies have no natural enemies (besides vultures eating their eggs and young), so the adults don't avoid the people pathways when nesting. We often had to walk off the path and around a courting couple so as not to distract them and ruin the poor guy's chances (there's always another waiting in the wings...so to speak).

After returning to the boat, we drifted around the shallows feeding lettuce scraps to the sea turtles who are clearly well trained to shadow boats. Then we puttered a bit farther over to snorkel. And just twenty yards from out boat was a mantra of manta rays (like my new collective noun for them?) that one of the girls on the boat swam over to mingle amongst. Color me jealous, as I was swimming with children at the time.

And then we were off to spot whales. Upon our exit from the leeward shadow of the island and finding waves like houses, Diana positioned herself at the rear of the boat where there would be no risk of collateral damage from her lunch grenades. She really only had a problem when the boat stopped...to view whales. Poor thing. But she still soldiered on and managed some good pictures in between heaves while I was holding steady with the vidcam (sorry, lost the charger and haven't retrieved those movies yet).

As we are not the first people to go on about how amazing this is, I won't bother with more pictures than will illustrate the point that we had no telephoto lens and we saw this just 50 yards away!

It's really, really loud

And other people have said it, but it was un-freaking-believable. Amazing. Duncan was the most bubbly: "They're doing a show for us!" We also saw the new babies breaching. Which was amazing.

Not only was seeing the whales a good climax to our outing, it also served well for the end of this long trip. But on an unrelated note, after a series of buses and taxis back home from the coast, we arrived in our apartment with just one dime in our collective pockets. Worth a whole post right there. But not now.

Random shots...

Puerto Lopez "pancakes"

Yoga for ice cream fanatics


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