Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Agua Blanca: A Commune in the Desert

After we did turtle captures one morning, I rallied the other volunteers to get out and see something touristy. We settled on Agua Blanca, a traditional commune located in the dry tropical scrub forest (my own name for the biome) a few miles inland from Puerto López. The commune is entirely within Machalilla National Park. It costs $5 to enter.

Here we are, five official turtle volunteers and one interloper!

Normally the landscape would be greener since we're in the wet season, but there has been a prolonged drought.

We passed a group of women doing laundry in the dribbling stream.

These kids were happy to take a break from their game to pose for a picture.

Agua Blanca is famous for three things: the sulfurous mud pool, the archaeological museum, and bird watching. For unclear reasons we chose to focus on the rotten-egg mud.

The sign depicted a blue crowned motmot, a bird I also saw in real life.

The motmot posed in perfect view while I fumbled for my camera but hid in the thicket as soon as I was ready...

Vanessa took the first leap into the sulfurous mud pool.

Soon, we were all mud ninjas.

The mud is supposed to be healing for the skin. We coated ourselves with the thick gray sludge and let it dry into crunchy elephant skin. Then we jumped back into the pool to wash it off. My skin definitely felt smoother, but maybe I was just glad to be clean again!

On the way back, we followed one of our Puerto López friends on a "shortcut." We ended up lost, winding our way through a dry riverbed canyon, but at least we saw plenty of animals along the way.

The majority of the "wildlife" I saw was actually free-ranging livestock from the commune.

An injured mare and her foal rested in the dry riverbed.

These kids suckled like maniacs.

There were also pigs and chickens galore. I kept hanging back by myself to take photos, and a couple times I got nervous when I realized I was alone with the semi-feral livestock. At one point a pack of goats materialized from the hills and starting running down the road straight for me. I felt like Simba during the wildebeast stampede. I sprinted down the road yelling, "GUYS!!!!!!" My hiking partners scrambled up or downhill to let the excited goats pass. Then we realized the goats were harmless -- they just wanted to follow us and get their heads scratched! It was all very hilarious... in hindsight.

These goats just wanted to be friends.
We saw a bit of wild nature, too.

A papery wasp nest.

A groove billed ani.

A yellow rumped cacique.

A long tailed mockingbird.

Two gray breasted martins and two ball mosses.

We had arranged for the pickup-truck taxi to come back for us at 5:00pm. We waited around til 5:40 when the truck pulled up, right on (Ecuadorian) time. I'm glad we took the initiative to see this little corner of Ecuador!

Three girls and three goats waiting outside the Agua Blanca church.

3 comments:

  1. The wasps look a little scary to me. Glad the pack of marauding goats meant no harm. And I bet the pursuit of the mud bath was all worth it to have fabulously soft skin.

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  2. The motmot picture turned out great. A herd of peccaries would be something to worry about ...goats, not so much : )

    The kids appear to be standing on a platform on stilts. Does it flood in that area?

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  3. A herd of peccaries would have been deadly! (Did I should you my Amazon peccary herd footage?) Luckily these were just domesticated hogs.

    I don't know if the area floods... I don't remember many houses on stilts. It might just be the kids' play structure. On the other hand, we hiked through a deep dry canyon which must fill up when it rains, and I bet the dirt turns into a lot of mud!

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