I was counting on serendipity, and I was not disappointed. We first heard of Agua Blanca during our bus journey from Guayaquil to Puerto Lopez. A friendly passenger started conversing with us, and I took the opportunity to ask about his favorite place and food in the region as a local. Agua Blanca was highly recommended, and I soon realised that he is a guide in the settlement. I was impressed by his dedication and passion in his work, which was shown through his enthusiastic sharing even when he was off-duty.
He was the first of many to recommend Agua Blanca (White Water).
Agua Blanca comprises an indigenous community set within the Machalilla National Park. There’s a church, museum, archaeological site and nature trails. Depending largely on community based tourism, a visit would typically take about two to three hours for one to learn more about pre-hispanic cultures, one of which belongs to the Manteño civilisation (Los Monteños) – one of the most ancient civilisations in South America dating back to more than 8,000 years ago.
Tracing one’s roots through archaeology
Archaeology plays a huge role in tourism development for Agua Blanca. Besides providing employment for the local community, it has helped to foster a greater sense of identity and awareness of the importance of heritage preservation. The inhabitants of Agua Blanca consider themselves descendants of those who lived in this region centuries ago, and the more that they uncover and learn from these residues of the past, the more they take pride in who they are.
This reminded me of my Chinese heritage that stresses on the importance of remembering one’s roots. I was constantly struck by the similarities of different cultures across continents, time and space.
Interesting finds at the excavation sites gave food for thought, as it seems that twin urns of child skeleton (if I didn’t remember wrongly) were found buried in the foundation of the houses. This suggests ceremonial rites that were conducted before one moves into new premises… …
Excavation works are currently still in progress and there are new discoveries and questions everyday. Unfortunately, our time in Ecuador was limited, otherwise, we would have taken up the chance to join the excavation under the guidance of the archaeologist. At 5 USD per person, one can uncover some mysteries of the past and help the community in the village (financially and sociologically).
An admirable aspect of Ecuador is her efforts in creating and maintaining sustainability, especially in tourism development. The socio-cultural sustainability of Agua Blanca is heartening, and if one requires a good reason to visit Agua Blanca, this would be it!
Otherwise, there’s always the not-so-smelly sulphur pool with natural health and beauty benefits in Agua Blanca.
Agua Blanca Sulphur Lagoon: A natural mud bath spa
To be honest, I still have no idea the exact composition of the lagoon in Agua Blanca that supposedly contains 70% sulphur. What we knew from our guide is that this is a sacred pool for the community, and it has health and beauty benefits. After a short nature hike, it was refreshing to take a dip in the temperate sulphur lagoon in spite of the fallen leaves and murky water.
We were also given a small container of mud (retrieved from the bottom of the lagoon) to apply over our body. Well, monkey see, monkey do. I like to believe that this natural mud bath spa treatment did its job well – I was rather happy with the photos taken in the later part of the day (at Los Frailes beach), so something must have worked somewhere!
The sulphur lagoon is located in a cosy sanctuary that include toilets and changing facilities. There are public shower facilities for one to rinse before and after soaking in the pool. Massage services, and food and beverages are available too, though the latter is considered pretty pricey in Puerto Lopez.
How to get to Agua Blanca?
Entry to Agua Blanca is a mere 5 USD that includes guided service, visit to the museum and archaeological sites as well as access to the sulphur lagoon. It is a minimal cost that goes a long way towards helping the community. One can also camp overnight in Agua Blanca at extra costs.
Note: Agua Blanca is self-managed and self-financed. Any amount of donations are always welcomed.
The above information is based on the author’s own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, do check out the following sites: https://ecuador.travel/
Further reading on sustainability at Agua Blanca: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1414-753X2015000400015&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en