I spent the last two weeks busing between some of the northern beaches of Ecuador and Quito. The first week, Aaron and I spent at the beach Atacames. It was beautiful with medium-sized waves, friendly people, lots of fresh fish and shrimp to eat, and artisan stalls.There were also many stray dogs, including one (we named Sandy) who followed us around for an entire afternoon. Stray dogs are as common here as squirrels are in the United States, though (perhaps due to my now taller height) it seems there are fewer now than there were when I came as a child.
We took a walk to one end of the beach where a fresh water river had its delta, and found a field of trash. Plastic bottles, shoes, styrofoam, plastic bags, building materials, old clothes, fishing line, and glass seemed to be the most common artifacts. Walking along barefoot, we opted to start back toward the cleaner beach when we looked down and saw an old syringe half-burried in the sand. Though we walked away, the trash field was heavily populated by birds, crabs, and where it spilled into the water, small fish were congregated.
We took the bus back to Quito, saw Malaika briefly, and Aaron got on a plane back to the States. The following morning, I got back on the bus and took it back to Atacames, where I discovered that the buses to Mompiche beach stop running after 5pm. Atacames, like most of the country, experiences daily power-outages due to the country-wide drought, and so I waited in a quickly darkening town for my parents to make the drive to pick me up. Driving in the dark in Ecuador is especially harrowing due to large potholes, unmarked speed bumps, and a general lack of street lights, coupled with other crazy drivers and the tendancy for most trucks to have one or more non-functional head- and/or break lights. I was thankful to finally meet my family and find them all in one piece.
At Mompiche, the waves were awesome for body-surfing, and the beach was less touristy. We took a boat ride around the edge of the cove and out to a newly-formed island covered in sand dollars (which here they call sea stars because of the perfect stars in their middles and which have a "nursery" right inside the bend of the island) and little red crabs...
...as well as young mangrove trees, which are part-creaters of the island. Some of local food and profit comes from the conch shells which are collected from the muddy roots of these cool trees. The trees also support a wide-variety of birds and insects, and their steady destruction in Ecuador (and other parts of the world) due to shrimp farming and other commercial enterprises, is threatening the biodiversity and health of the coastal area.