My name is Andres from Quito and let me tell you, here in Ecuador we have a lot of beautiful places. Firstly the Highlands, the Ecuadorian Coast, the Jungle and of course the Galapagos Islands. Another unique place in the world, apart these Islands and one of my favorite places in Ecuador is without doubt the Puyango Petrified Forest located one hundred kilometres south of Machala City. It is spread over a dusty, semi-arid river valley close to the Peruvian border and this place is the largest of its kind in South America. It contains dozens of enormous fossilized tree trunks, which are up to 120 million years old. You can see many of them 8 km from the marked paths away, wending through the mineralized wood.
When you go to this magical old place, you need to enter the Visitor Centre first, where you have to pay the entrance and register fee for your visit. There you can hire a guide (usually one of the warden’s sons) to show you around the site; they don’t speak English, but they will point out many hidden fossils you would otherwise miss, such as the imprints of ferns concealed by riverside plants. The most impressive relics are the giant tree trunks, types of araucaria, which grew in the region millions of years ago; many are in fragments but a few are almost intact. The largest is 11m long and has 1.6m in diameter. The area is also inhabited by more than 150 species of birdlife, including beautiful red-masked parakeets.
A small museum (usually locked; ask the staff for entry) near the Visitor Centre houses a stash of incredible exhibits, including many marine fossils from the time, when most of the region was covered by the sea, which is now 50km away. The collection includes fossilized pieces of fruit, including a Chirimoya (a custard apple – you can still see the pips), a ray, small tortoise and octopus with clearly visible eyes. Perhaps the most intriguing pieces are the large, perfectly oval stones you can hold in your hands, from which the staff believes are dinosaur egg fossils.
When you walk through the forest it is like travelling back to the past, it´s a unique experience.
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