Friday, January 25, 2013

The Cloud Forest of Pacoche

We went to the Pacoche forest with our friend and Attorney Roberto Moreno di Donato. We thought we were just going to see a property that is being sold by one of Roberto's friends, but it ended up being the most wonderful day I've spent here!

Roberto picked us up at our apartment and drove us south along the Ruta del Sol, also called the Ruta del Spondylus. The Ruta del Sol roughly follows Ecuador's Pacific coastline north and south of Manta, and winds through several different Eco-systems.

Riding in a car with an Ecuadorian driver is an adventure in its own right. The rules of the road, or lack thereof, are much different than what we are used to in North America. In our experience to date, turn signals aren't used much but a loud car horn is a must. It seems the bigger vehicle has the right of way, and pedestrians have the right of get out the way. One lane becomes two or three, depending on how many rows of slow cars there are. But here is the shocker, with all of the apparent recklessness of the drivers we've yet to see an accident! The small statues and medals of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and various Saints that adorn many of the dashboards or hang from the rear view mirror must be working.

Our destination for this drive was the Pacoche Lodge & Reserve (Lodge):

We met two Russian women at the property, the Real Estate Agent and her friend. Interestingly there seem to be quite a few Russian Expats living in and around Manta, as we've met at least four so far.

The Lodge is nestled on 24 acres within the 33,223 acre Refugio de Vida Silvestre, Marino y Costero Pacoche, a protected forest, wildlife, and coastal marine refuge. The Pacoche forest is one of the last remnants of semi-tropical dry forest along the coast of Ecuador. One hundred and fifty two species of birds have been recorded, along with countless species of butterflies, insects, and reptiles. It is a haven for plant lovers, with over three hundred and seventy four species of plants. 
Previous information was loosely translated from the Pacoche Lodge web site provided above

Impatients, recognize these
from the local nursery? 
It was fascinating to walk along the trail through the forest, and I identified several plants growing wild that we use in our domestic gardens, or as house plants in the U.S. 
 A troupe of Howler Monkeys lives on the property, and we were fortunate enough to hear and see them!!! At first we heard rustling in the trees above. As they moved closer we began to hear their calls. My tree hugger heart was beating along with the pulse of their voices as they moved through the canopy of trees overhead. 

I didn't want to leave this amazing place, and if we had the money to buy it we would. Unfortunately the asking price of $320,000 isn't in our price range. If only...

Click to view video of Monkeys:

Our next stop was San Lorenzo, which is a sleepy little fishing village further south on the Ruta del Sol. Roberto drove us onto a bluff overlooking the village so we could take in the view and snap a few pics. Then he drove us down into the village to walk on the beach.
Village of San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo beach is a Green and Ridley sea turtle nesting ground, and there were wire cages around the nests to protect them until the eggs hatch and the tiny turtles make their way into the ocean.    
Sea turtles are threatened worldwide, with some species on the brink of extinction due to lethal fishing practices and destruction of their nesting habitat. 
Sea turtle nest

We headed home from San Lorenzo and Roberto dropped us off at our apartment. Thank you Roberto for the amazing gift of that lovely day!!

Hasta luego, P.

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