Eight Days of Ecuador…Photography Travel Abroad Class
Ecuador is one of the most diverse travel destinations in the world. It offers rainforest, beautiful beaches, 27 volcanoes, the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon Jungle (La Amazonia) and the Andes mountains. It has wonderful seafood, fruit, chocolate, roasted guinea pig and your choice of monkey, snake, turtle or tree slugs in the Amazon region. All I experienced was the seafood, the chocolate and the fruit on the beautiful beaches….no monkey, snake or guinea pig for me and I am ok with that!
Day 2 – Saturday, April 21
In the morning we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed to an art college specializing in photography named the L.EX.A. Institute. Our host Chantal Fontaine is a promoter, Artistic Advisor and member of the Board of Directors at the Institute. She picked up an interest in photography from her father as a child, with more than 35 years of experience, she has specialized in seminars and photography workshops held in Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba and Ecuador. She is an image consultant for TV, founder and Director of ASOFOCREA and promoter and Director of the Sathya Sai Human Values Institute for Ecuador. Her crew spent half the day educating us about the culture and history of Ecuador. We learned from the locals how diverse Ecuador is and had a chance to see some of the photos from projects the photo instructors from the college were involved in including working with the minority groups of indigenous people living in the Amazon. It is amazing to me that in this day and age there are still tribal people living in the jungle so close to modern civilization.
We soon met Mathew Wijatyk, a freelance videographer and teacher at the college who would join our crew as a translator and teacher while documenting the trip with video footage. We also met our tour guide Norby Lopez the GM of Biotropica Expeditions. After our historical update on the country, seeing the work of some of the teachers at the school and enjoying such a warm welcome from the students and faculty we shared our work with them before heading out for our first day of fun. We were off to explore Guayaquil which included the historical part of town and the boardwalk area.
We first visited Parque Seminario, a park built in the XIX century, in 1868 also known as the Iguana Park, since dozens of iguanas live in its ornate gardens. It also showcases several sculptures and an octagonal pavilion.
Around the outer edges of the park there were street shoe shine booths as well as food, water and newspaper vendors. It was interesting to see how these people earned a living selling their services near the park. Mathew caught some video as we were making our tour.
From there we headed down to the boardwalk area where we were able to experience the century-old uneven cobblestone streets, colorful brightly painted houses, restaurants, bars and shops. All were built around the beach side area of town leading into a winding, 444-step staircase up to the Las Peñas Lighthouse built in 1841. Due to our needing to get some lunch and head to the bus so we could make our next destination by dark we would save the journey up all those steps to see the lighthouse for our last day of travel.
After lunch we were off on our 110 mile journey by bus to Montañita, one of Ecuador’s prime surfing towns. Once there we checked into the hotel Rosa Mística, a quaint and colorful hotel a block over from the beach showcasing colorful hammocks out in front of the rooms. We all got cleaned up to head out for our evening of fun (after a few students had to be rescued from a spider hidden behind a bathroom mirror).
By the time we all got out to the beach the sun had set so we regrouped and sat in the restaurant area on the beach trying to decide what to do next. As we watched a few students walk along the beach we suddenly saw something glow in the surf, we were experiencing the unusual sighting of blue sparkling waves in the surf off of the shore. It is a phenomenon called bioluminescent phytoplankton and it occurs on the tropical surface waters as the waves crest due to a light-producing chemical reaction called chemiluminescence. Certain types of chemicals when mixed together produce energy that ‘excites’ other particles on vibration, that generates light which causes the glow on the water. It was something we were not prepared for and extremely difficult to capture on camera without the proper gear so we all just watched in amazement. One of the locals said they had not seen it happen in 3 years.
We walked down the beach onto the brick covered streets to find some seafood for dinner, the streets almost appeared to look like a movie set. Vibrant colors of blue, pink and yellow were everywhere and many of the buildings were constructed from stiff guadua cane (we call it bamboo) with palm-leaf thatch roofing. There were happy people everywhere laughing, talking and enjoying all the festivities.
The surf town became busier later in the evening and the street vendors all appeared laid back as they enjoyed the visitors roaming the stores. Their spaces offered grilled food on sticks, frozen drinks, alcoholic beverages, clothes, jewelry, travel trinkets and hammocks. The students enjoyed the corn grilled right in front of them on a street corner topped with what appeared to be a special buttery seasoning.
The clubs blasted loud dance music and the streets were crowded with happy people giving off a wonderful beach party vibe. Later that night one of my students decided to get a tattoo….a 50$ lizard AKA iguana. While I was a little unsure how to respond as his teacher he was old enough to make the decision so half of the group went back to the hotel while the rest of us got to experience the crazy nightlife of the town while waiting for Eric’s tattoo time to be completed. We passed the time experiencing the local libations served in 1 liter bottles for 2$ and the people watching was epic.
As things winded down for our group the streets were thinning out but the crowd on the beach was getting busier as the music blasted louder near the 1AM hour. It was apparent that these people had transformed into a drunker and more aggressive group. We headed back to hotel Rosa Mística for the night and I was exhausted. I opted to sleep in the bunk bed after pulling it away from the wall rather than the bed closest to the bathroom because I saw a big roach in there but it slipped away by the time I grabbed my shoe. I didn’t sleep well at all, the AC didn’t work, the window wouldn’t open and there was no fan. I did put my phone right next to me on the top bunk just in case I needed a light to see what was crawling on me in the middle of the night…
Stay tuned for more, please come back in a few days, things are just getting started!
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