Day #11 – On To Bahia

imagesCAYXW6X2Our last hours in Crucita were spent visiting with another expat couple on the morning of day #11.  They live in a gated community right on the malecon, just a few blocks from our hostal, and I was assured they would be home because Andi’s homemade bread was rising.  She bakes several loaves each week and sells them to friends and neighbors.  The lovely houses inside the enclave are owned by internatibeach+bar+land+in+crucita_027onal professionals, some of whom rent their places out on long-term leases.  The community has 24 hour security and a pool.

Andi served good old American coffee and it was wonderful.  No matter how I tried it, Ecuadorian coffee was just not going to be my thing.  While we were there, the fish man arrived with some fresh corvina and another variety.  Andi’s husband went out and scored some for dinner.

imagesCAMSPMHBI wanted  to be on our way by 10am with hopes of being in Bahia by noon so we said our good-byes and hailed a young man with a motorcab to take us back to get our bags at the hostal.  He waited for us and took us to the malecon to catch the bus so we wouldn’t have to drag the big suitcase down the dirt road.  I’d guess that we waited all of 10 minutes before the bus picked us up, they are pretty frequent.  The big bag stored under the bus, we carried the little one aboard and were off to Puerto Viejo which was the connecting point.

I was my plan to get off the bus at the Paseo mall where the cabs are plentiful.  We would get one to take us to Bahia.  I told the bus attendant ‘salida Paseo’ and he gave me the response I’d been getting from everyone as far back as Guayaquil when you say Paseo – “shopping?” he asked.  Si, shopping, I smiled.  The ride was uneventful, about 45 minutes long, and full of beautiful scenery. centro-ecuestre-bellavista Besides corn, the other really prevalent crop is rice and we saw acres and acres of rice paddys.  Chickens, goats, burros, horses, and cows passed our windows.

When we got near the end of the journey, I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss our stop so I tried to converse with a young policeman who had boarded the bus about half way there.  He assured me we wouldn’t miss it.  Shortly afterward the bus attendant motioned to me and said ‘Paseo’.  I was relieved that he was watching out for us too.  Off the bus, retrieve the big bag, cross the street, into a taxi, and we were on our way again…. but Dan was hungry.

We’d traveled about 15 minutes when I indicated to the driver that we needed food.  He was happy to pull into a little town and took us right to a street lined with food huts.  Dan placed his order for civeche to go.  While we waited, I pointed at Dan and said to the driver “come, come, come”  pronounced ‘ko-may’ and meaning “eat, eat, eat”.  He got a good laugh and said ‘grande’! meaning that Dan is big.  Dan got in the car with his food, having heard our conversation and added “no – gordo!” meaning ‘fat’.  The little driver almost popped a gut he was laughing so hard at the loco gringos.IMG_7103

Through the mountains again with that beautiful scenery I would miss when I was back in Florida.  New road construction was taking place in several areas.  The current president is very much into improving this country and it shows.

We arrived in Bahia about 1pm, an hour past the time I had planned, but safe and sound.  The driver found our hostal, La Herridura, after asking only a couple of locals.  We paid the driver, unloaded, and headed to the dining room for lunch.  I had already missed a meet-up time with Aggie who was looking forward to receiving some things I had muled down to her.  We would connect later.

La Herridura is a historic  building on the ocean side of the malecon.  When we arrived it was high tide and waves were crashing against the seawall sending spray high into the air.  The hotel is all open air except for many of the rooms which are air-conditioned, as ours was.  At no time during our stay did I feel hot while in the common areas.  That feature reminded me of being in Hawaii, the trade winds always cooled the heat enough to be comfortable.

After eating, I made attempts to connect with the expats I was hoping to see while in Bahia.  We took a walk but stayed within a 6 block radius of the hostal.  I wanted to find a pharmacia where I could get some topical antiseptic for the stitches on my right hand.  Although I was taking antibiotics, it looked sore since I popped it a second time.  The owner found some spray betadine for me – $6 – and that did the trick.

We arranged dinner with two couples and Aggie that evening at a BBQ spot a couple of doors down from our hostal.  One of the couples and Aggie had chosen to live in condos.  The other couple had a house on an acre because they preferred having some space and animals and a garden.  EC has something for everyone.  It was very interesting conversation.  I love learning from people who are doing, not just talking about doing.

APERTURA PUENTE LOS CARASI noticed that the little motor-taxis I’d seen in other towns were replaced by pedi-cabs.  Bahia became an Ecocity when it was rebuilt after an earthquake caused much destruction back in 1998 or 1999.  The town is noticeably clean, its streets wide and paved.  Businesses along the streets are well-kept.  This is a popular weekend and holiday beach location for well to do Ecuadorians.  Many of the condo buildings are family owned and sit vacant till the family comes on holiday – then they’re  full to bursting.  It was pretty quiet during our visit.

The next day promised to be full, lots to see and do.  I needed my beauty rest so it was time to call it a day.  The bed was pretty comfortable and I enjoyed some reading before my eyelids came crashing down.

Next Chapter – Day #12  Bahia

Categories: Exploratory trip | 5 Comments

Day #10 – From the OR to Crucita

(No pics of the hospital part of the story and pics of Crucita were borrowed from the internet)

I woke early and was ready to go by the time Linda knocked to make sure I was up.  She graciously gave me a ride to Manta again and dropped me off in the care of Dr. Karla for the procedure to set my wrist bones.  Karla was waiting on me when we arrived.

There were things to check, and things to do, and periods of waiting.  When the doctor who was doing the procedure arrived, Karla took me to him to introduce us and to explain the situation to him.  He had been one of her mentors in college and I was glad they had a great rapport.  Finally, I had to wait outside the OR by myself until they called me in.  Karla had work to do on another floor but promised to check on me.

The hallway outside of the OR was filled with people waiting for their own turns and family waiting for patients.  No air-conditioning.  Just a couple of windows open in the hall.  Between nerves and heat, I was afraid I might pass out.  I must have waited about 30 minutes and they called me and about 6-8 other people to enter.  Then we stood waiting as they called one at a time in the order we were in on a list.

Each person had to go behind a screen to take off street clothes and put on a hospital gown.  The nurses took the bags from each person which contained the things they were told to bring from the pharmacia and checked them off to make sure nothing was missing.  Then the patient and their goodies was ushered into the ‘waiting for surgery/recovery room’.  All I had was 2 little vials of pain meds that the hospital supplied.  I was told to lay on the bed until it was my time in the OR, I prayed a lot.

A wheelchair was brought in for me.  I climbed out of bed and got in.  They rolled me into the OR where there were about 6 people in scrubs, 2 of which were reading newspapers.  I was told to climb onto the operating table and lay on my back, which greatly hurt my ribs.  Within a minute they were covering my nose and mouth with a cone and telling me to breathe deeply.  The first inhale made me cough, it smelled terrible.  After the second breath I was out.

I woke up when someone was calling my name.  Still groggy, I had to slide from the OR table (which had been wheeled back into recovery) to the bed I had occupied earlier.  I must have had all of 15 minutes to regain consciousness and they had me up and back out in the hall behind the screen getting dressed.

As I exited the OR hallway back into the family waiting area, there was Karla.  I was never so happy to see anyone.  She had the telephone number for Linda and di5411971302_44500923e8aled it, then handed me her cell phone.  Linda was on her way to get Dan after some errands and told me she’d be there in about 30-45 minutes.

Karla had finished her work and walked and waited with me until I was picked up.  She is a true angel and I will forever be grateful to her for her care and kindness.  I gave her a print of one of my paintings to remember me and we exchanged email addresses.  I had arrived about 6:30am and I was leaving about 10:30am … not bad.

imagesCA5MCXMHSo, loopy as I was from pain meds, Dan and Linda and I were now on the road to Crucita to meet a large group of expats for lunch.  This part of the journey really is fuzzy but I do remember getting there, going through town, and parking in front of the restaurant on the malecon.  The group was waiting on us in the upstairs dining balcony of the restaurant.

I met many people and hadCrucita 006 a lovely lunch.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember names so please forgive me.  Louise and her husband were ready to give us a tour of the area after we said our good-byes to Linda.  (I’m having dinner with Linda in June when she’s back in Florida again).

Crucita is a village that will be doing some serious growing in the next five years.  We drove along the malecon, through the town, out to the mouth of the river and up on the hill.  I’ll describe each to the best of my recollection.

crucitaThe beach road is presently dirt and fishing boats pulled right up to the road limit the amount of useable beach.  I’m told that with the coming of the new malecon, the fish cleaning huts and the boats will be moved elsewhere.  The road will be paved and a beachwalk will be built.  A new marina is part of the planned improvement.  Sounds very nice.

The village is pretty typical in constructionhostal-cruzita, types of businesses, and types of Ecuadorian homes.  There are motor taxis but no yellow cabs.  The busses come through regularly though so transportation is readily available.  I expect that with the planned progress the taxis will be here in numbers as well.

The area near the mouth of the river is prone to flooding and pretty removed from the center of actcrucita-maleconivity.  Crime is more common there too, perhaps because of the remote nature, but that could change soon.  A bridge to span the river is planned which will give far more access to this spot.  Right now its very rural but with better access may come hostals, condos, and more business.

The hill provides lovely views.  Several homes and a restaurant sit there now.  It appears that there is lots of room for more building.  This is where the new road toMARINA-13 Manta will come through.  The route will be about 12 miles, greatly increasing access to the airport and the hospitals.  For this improvement alone, I believe Crucita will be quite the resort town.  All of the other things I’ve mentioned are gravy.

Our hosts dropped us at the hostal after the wonderful tour they provided.  The owner was out of town so we weren’t able to meet her but the lovely lady in RENDER03(1)charge took good care of us.  We had a comfortable room, internet in the dining room, a pool, and a laundry.  For a single night stay we had more than we needed.

Crucita is definitely on my radar.  Knowing now that the nearness of hospital and airport are very important to me, this will fit right into my needs when the new road is complete.  It’s also near to some other larger towns which are great for shopping.

Next Chapter – Day #11   On to Bahia

Categories: Exploratory trip | 4 Comments

Day #9 – Pain and the ER in Manta

2013-04-23_12-07-28_178This will be the most painful (and lengthy) of my posts to recollect, with the fewest pics.  As I sit now, my left arm in a heavy plaster cast and sling, I can almost feel the pain incurred – but let me not get ahead of myself.

I woke early and read till about 7am.  Everything was quiet.  By 7:45 I was showered, dressed, and ready to go.  We were anticipating Pat’s arrival about 9am so we had plenty of time to pack and check out before then.  I woke Dan up and he was in the shower when a hostal employee knocked on our door to say our friend was out front.

We had apparently gotten our signals crossed on the time – no problem.  I told Dan to speed it up and I’d go out to tell Pat we’d be ready in about 10 minutes.  Walking to the gate I was thinking about packing.  Pat said she had to go get gas and she’d be back shortly to pick us up.

Ok.  I hurried back to the cabin to get things packed while Dan was finishing.  As I approached the cabin, I wasn’t paying attention to the path or where my feet were going.  I read one time that if a step is only 2 centimeters higher than the normal step the brain is used to negotiating, that is enough to make people trip and fall.  Well, the gravel dipped in front of the tile porch and my toe caught on the edge of the tile.  I fell forward into the wooden steps.

The stitches on my right hand popped open, I rebruised my whole right side from the shoulder to the knee, and I broke (smashed) my left wrist.  At the time I hoped it was only a sprain but it immediately began swelling in odd places.  Dan ran out and helped me up.  Then he finished the packing (cursing my clutziness) and left the bags in the room to pick up later.

I went in to pay the bill and told the owners that we would be back before check-out time and that I had just fallen.  Frankly, I was quite disappointed at their lack of concern or sympathy with the injury of a guest.  But, law suits in EC are practically non-existent so I guess their attitude was more one of assuming I didn’t take very good care of myself.

Pat loaded us up and we were off to her house, my arm throbbing.  When we got there she pulled out the frozen veggies and iced my arm down for over an hour.  I enjoyed a couple of cups of American coffee as we sat on her roof watching the beautiful morning unfold.  I still had some pain pills and antibiotics from the first fall but had left them in the bags.  Pat had some pain pills on hand so I popped one to dull the ache.  She also wrapped my wrist in a stretchy sock to immobilize it for me.  Expat friends are the best!  She and her son, Jeremy, were a couple of fun and nutty people – like us.

Dan wandered around the beach and their beautiful property taking the pictures I could no longer manage.  I’m so glad he was with me.  Although I wasn’t afraid to make the trip alone, once there I was very happy to have his company and help.

It was time to go back to get the bags and be on our way to our next stop in Manta.  Instead of the initial plan of taking the bus, we found a cab while going through town and the driver was very happy to have a fare so good, even though it would be a 4 hour round trip for him.  This fare would be the equivalent of 2 solid days of work.

He followed us to Mandala and Dan went to get the bags.  We were off, again.

32791665I don’t remember a lot about that drive.  We went through the mountains instead of following the coastline.  No pics, although we took some, they were on the little camera that we no longer own.  In some areas it was raining and visibility was short, and those drivers still passed each other on narrow roads with drop-offs on one side!  Yikes!  We had to slow and use caution to go around a small landslide.  The scenery was beautiful.

I do remember seeing throughout the countryside that they grow lots of corn.  Even the almost vertical slopes were covered with tall stalks in neat rows.  In small towns where we had to slow down, the inhabitants stood at the roadside cooking and hawking their corn dishes.  We didn’t stop though.  Maybe another time, it looked wonderful.

The initial plan had been to go to the Paseo mall in Manta for the free internet in the food court to contact my expat friend, Linda.  Then we’d get directions and head to her hostal in Santa Marianita.  With the injury, I now directed the driver to take me right to the hospital.  He indicated that there were two, which did I want?, and I left it up to him.  After a 2 hour ride, we pulled up at the community hospital and the guard waved us through the gate toward the ER door.

30082011_114349There were people on benches outside of the ER.  Dan unloaded the bags and paid the driver while I headed inside.  Another guard and a gate.  The little reception room was full to overflowing.  The guard opened the gate door for me but made Dan wait out in the hot reception room.  I was led around a corner to a small (14′ square? but air conditioned) room that was the ER.  Three or four other people were already there being treated and more came through during my stay.

A very nice male physician who spoke little English asked me what happened.  I explained about the fall.  Then a sweet young lady doctor took over.  Karla spoke English very clearly and stayed with me through the rest of Sunday’s procedures.  I went for x-rays, they were read, and it was confirmed that the big and smaller bones were broken just below the wrist joint.  She took a list of things out to Dan which needed to be purchased at the pharmacia.  He went and got them, spending less than $10 on a sling and the materials to make a temporary partial immobilization for my arm.

She fashioned the temporary partial arm cast and took me out to Dan so we could get a taxi to the mall.  I still hadn’t made contact with Linda.  Karla set me up for a visit to the OR early the next morning.  I had to go back to be put to sleep so that the orthopedic surgeon could set the bones and put a real cast on it.  They aren’t on duty on Sunday afternoons.  I asked Karla hesitantly, what all of this would cost me …. nothing!  That’s right – zero.  At the community hospital, the services were free, covered by the government, even though I was just a tourist.  Wow!

On our brief ride to the mall, our taxi got a flat tire.  Can you believe the time we were having?  The driver called another driver to get us.  After we had changed taxis and been dropped off at the mall, we realized we had only been a block from the mall with the flat tire.  Geez!

Finding the food court, I pulled out my tablet to use the internet.  Sunday afternoon, it was packed, and I couldn’t make a connection – circuits busy.  I was able to open my email though to see what had sync’d when I’d had a connection back at Mandala.  Linda had left me a message with directions – bless her heart.

We trudged back out front and hailed a cab to Linda’s hostal, The Donkey Den.  It was much further than I thought.  After a 20-30 minute ride, we were at the beach in Santa Marianita.  The driver found her place without much trouble (turn right when you reach the beach road and look for the sign).

IMG_7034The numerous guests/volunteers welcomed us and made us comfortable until Linda returned from an errand.  What a fascinating group.  Some from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US. It’s normal for her to have a real international flavor going most all of the time.  We relaxed in hanging chairs (I sat in a regular one lest I fall out and break something else) and hammocks, under a palm roofed palapa (please correct me if this is the wrong word).

After a bit, Linda returned and about 5pm we all decided to go down the beach for dinner.  Some walked, Dan and I rode with Linda.  There were 10-12 of us in total, and one of Linda’s dogs ran along beside the car the entire way.  All of the food was fresh and cooked from scratch as we waited.  Most of us had seafood, my choice was a shrimp dish.  It was very good and the portions quite generous.  I’m thinking mine was about $5?  We talked and ate and drank (water for me) for what seemed at least a couple of hours.  Then everyone broke up to head back to the hostal when the sky was dark and the stars were twinkling.

Given the day I had and the early morning facing me, I hit the sack.  Dan stayed up to party with the others like normal people.  I think he really enjoyed his time there with so many people who were closer to his own age for socializing.

I never really got to see any of Manta except for the hospital, so I can’t comment on it.  Santa Marianita however is small but a lovely stretch of beach and hostals and homes.  Linda’s place would be wonderful for a stay in this area.

Next Chapter – Day #10 From the OR to Crucita

Categories: Exploratory trip | 2 Comments

Day #8 – Puerto Lopez

IMG_6988We slept good in the little cabin with a ceiling fan and a floor fan.  I could hear the surf in the distance but we weren’t close enough for the salty dampness in the air to affect us.  I could see porch lights from other cabins through the trees only enough to know that others were near.

The goal for theIMG_6980 day was to explore the town.  Freshly showered and dressed, we headed to the dining veranda for breakfast.  I forgot to mention that the owners had five (I think) huge dogs.  I thought they had to be at least part great dane but they gave me the name of the breed and it wasn’t familiar.  These big babies wandeIMG_6979red and lounged among the guests at their own will.  It was quite obvious that they felt they owned the place.

A lite breakfast of juice and toast for me was sufficient.  Another unique thing in EC was the juice.  We’re used to Orange and apple as a rule.  In EC you’ll get whatever fruit looks good for that day from the previous day’s open maIMG_6983rket purchases.  Passion fruit, papaya, melon, etc.  They squeeze/blend it for you right then so it can’t be more fresh.  Most I liked, a few – not so much.

Out at the front gate there are usually IMG_6990a few motorcycle taxis waiting and a cab too.  We got into one of the motorcycle contraptions for a bumpy 50 cent ride to town.  Make sure you have correct change because these guys are really good at telling you they don’t have any and getting you to pay a dollar.  Part of the road had washed out and these drivers just zoom through the gully.

He dropped us at thIMG_6986e intersection of the main road and the malecon as we’d asked.  We wandered up the street toward town for a bit taking pictures but it was pretty typical.  My bigger interest was on the malecon, the beach, and the fishing boats.IMG_6994

I saw this sign for real estate sales, clearly written in English.  Wonder who they are hoping to snag as prospective buyers?  These are probably Craig’s list advertisers too.

AgaIMG_6997IMG_7016in I will warn you that the terrain is VERY uneven in Ecuador.  The malecon was breaking apart from tree roots and missing chunks of concrete and pavers.  Enjoy your walk but pay attention.

We took a southerly direction toward the pier and boats.  The east side of the street was lined with businesses, the beach side with food and beverage huts.  This sunny day brought many out to the shore line for Saturday fun and family activities.

Wandering and taking pictures took up the rest of the afternoon.  A stop at one of the beach huts for agua and cervesa gave us the opportunity to converse with the locals and make more new friends.

Please take a close look at the sidewalks in the pictures.  IMG_7017you can click on the pics to make them larger.  You can see how they undulate and have numerous levels, cracks, and holes IMG_7015just waiting for you.  It was a lovely walk on the malecon though, under the shade trees.

The man with the bucket of fruit was  selling fresh produce to the vendors in the beach huts.  They make all kinds of fruity concoctions with or without liquor at your request.  Sitting under the palm roofs, with a cold glass in your hand, watching the beach activity, and feeling the Pacific breeze was an idyllic vacation moIMG_7012ment.

I hope that our new friends get to see themselves in this blog.  We really had fun at their place and enjoyed meeting them.  If you’re travels take you to the beach in PuertIMG_6998o Lopez, please look for these smiling faces.

Again, the street dogs that belong to everyone.  They will adopt you too as Dan found out when he sat with his cervesa.  Reminded me of my own pup at home and how she just curls up wherever I am, satisfied just to be near.  There were many I could have scooped up and kept but that wasn’t reality.  If you’re a dog lover, this will certainly tug at your heart.

IMG_7023When we were throughly hot and tired we started to walk back to Mandala.  It was further than I thought so we hailed a motor-taxi and rode the rest of the way.  Not yet time for dinner, I chose a shady and cool spot on the veranda to plug-in and do some internet work.  A short time later we were surprised by an expat friend and her son who stopped by to see if we wanted to do dinner in town at her favorite street vendor’s corner.

We loaded into her SUV and headed to the center of town.  IMG_7026Pat explained that the local open market was being moved and renovated.  Many of the vendors had been shut down and even a short break in business was an economic struggle for them.  We dined at a little plastic table on the street corner and Pat’s friend served up freshly grilled meat and veggies – quite tasty.  After dinner, we rode back to the malecon and found a hut where we could enjoy some of those fruity drinks until way after dark.

Speaking of dark, in Ecuador there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of dark year round.  It’s on the equator so the only thing that varies is the sunrise and sunset times from about 6:30 to 7 depending on the month of the year.  No need for IMG_7031daylight savings time in EC.  It is always on EST, being directly south of Florida.

When Pat dropped us off back at Mandala, we agreed that she’d pick us up the next morning and take us to her home to see the unusual place she and her sons had built.  After the visit, she’d take us to the bus station for the next leg of our trip.

Puerto Lopez was colorful and an interesting stop, but it didn’t impress me as a place I might like to live.  Especially since it’s a 2 hour drive to get medical help as I found out the next morning.

Next Chapter – Day #9 Pain and the ER in Manta

Categories: Exploratory trip | Leave a comment

Day #7 – Puerto Lopez

IMG_6958It was time to move on again.  We were scheduled to be in Puerto Lopez by early afternoon.  I spent a lazy morning reading and taking more pics while Dan slept in.

We met up with Leigh for a few minutes before our taxi arrived.  Leigh moderates the FB Ruta group and I had looked forward to meeting her in person.  If your travels take you to Olon, you should make it a point to tap her knowledge.  She’s a very nice lady.

482717_4991152889793_517081524_nI chose the taxi instead of the bus for our transportation because of my injuries.  I did spend a lot more on the overall trip because of this but was more comfortable in the long run.  The ride from Olon was pleasant as it continued to show us more of the coastal countryside.  I found it interesting that there are speed bumps as you enter and leave little villages where they want you to stop and shop.  Locals ofIMG_6959ten stand beside the road trying to get you to buy freshly cooked foods or hand made items as you drive by.

Hosteria Mandala was on my list of things to see because of its artsy decor and construction.  The town of Puerto Lopez was like many IMG_6962other towns we’d seen, typical homes and businesses, nothing notably different.  When we arrived at the front gate of the hosteria, I knew I was in for a number of visual treats and surprises.  We checked in, got our key for our little cabin, and dragged our things back to unpack – again.

The main buildings of the hosteria are for diIMG_6964ning, playing games, reading, playing musical instruments, and using the internet.  Behind these buildings are extensive gardens with paths leading to each guest cabin, and each has a name.  Ours was ‘flying fish’.  The door of each cabin is decorated in its theme.  Inside our cabin there was a nice sized room with mosquito nets over the beds, a little table and chairs, and a lovely bathroom.  There was even a small front porch with a 17416_4991158569935_1830231569_nbench and a couple of hammocks, all shaded by tropical trees.

In talking with the owners, it seems that they have created all of the designs and art themselves.  Quite an accomplishment.  This a big production.  Sitting on the porch makes you feel like you could be lost in a tropical jungle somewhere and you’ve stumbled into Robinson Crusoe’s home.

The Pacific was beckoning.  We grabbed a lite lunch on the dining veranda and then crossed the dirt IMG_6973street and walked across the sand.  There are several palm roofed shade huts with hammocks for the use of guests.  Dan ran for the water and within 20 minutes was somewhat sunburned.  We live in Florida and know what the sun can do but on the equator it happens faster.  Use your sunblock!!!!

The high tide line of the beach was full of wood and debris but the water seemed clean.  It’s a crescent shaped bay with mountains on each side and a fleet of fishing boats floating at the south end, very picturesque.  While I sat in the shade I watched a beautiful horse run across the road to the beach side.  It kicked up its heels, spraying sand 551295_4991961390005_1967909968_nas it ran, clearly happy to be free.  Before I could reach my camera, an employee whistled and clapped his hands and the horse was off, running back into the fields behind Mandala.

The town is at the south end of the beach and the hosteria is toward the north end.  Certainly within easy walking distance, but there are numerous motorcycle cabs to give you a lift for 50 cents.  This is a good place for your home base while visiting any of the Machalilla Park attractions.  I had planned on a hike through the park IMG_6977and a visit to the island, Isla de Plata, but my energy level was not up to par with the bruises and rib pain still haunting me.

Enough sun and water so we set out to survey the property.  The woodworking is what really took my breath away.  Creativity and craftsmanship just oozed out of everything.  Paintings, murals, hand crafted furniture, woven things, molded things….the artist in me was in heaven.  There were multi levels in the main building, raised gardens in the back, and artistic surprises everywhere.

Tomorrow we would explore the town.  Tonight I indulged in some home-made ice cream.

Next Chapter – Day #8 Puerto Lopez

Categories: Exploratory trip | 4 Comments

Day #6 – Olon and Montanita

IMG_6793Recapping the ending hours of the previous day, we arrived at the Sea Garden about 1pm and enjoyed a wonderful seafood lunch (corvina and prawns) cooked by the owner, Lolo.  Having had such a wonderful trip, we treated Miguel to lunch before he started back to Salinas.  He had allowed us to turn a 2 hour ride into a 4 hour adventure.

IMG_6796We walked out on the beach, attempted to make contact with some expat friends via the internet, took more pictures, and settled into our second floor room with a view.  The sunset was beautiful.

For dinner, we walked a couple of blocks into the tiny picturesque town and had a pork steak and rice at a little corner grille.  IMG_6794We’d been told that several of the local expats would be meeting at their hangout so we went looking for it, only to find it just 2 doors down.

It was fun meeting so many people from other countries who’d chosen to make Ecuador their home.  My energy level after dark is nil so I made it an early evening.  Dan made some friends and almost watched the sun come up.   IMG_6805Too bad this mama has no pity because I rousted him early for our next excursion.

The food we ate at the hotel was quite good but it didn’t come cheap.  Breakfasts are at least $5 and lunches were $10.  Eating in town or at the cabanas will save you money.  Lolo will cook a lite dinner if you request but isn’t really into cooking late – lunch is his specialty.  The daily rate for a double with 2 beds was $45.

Dan ate but I was good with a glass of juice (juego).  Lolo and one of the other IMG_6802guests from Sydney, Australia were going to take a taxi to Montanita so we shared the cab.

It’s just a few minutes between towns.  When we got there, it was apparent that the construction of all of the streets was underway and it was a huge project.  I think they wanted to have it finished by the start of the surfing competition but I saw no way that could happen.  IMG_6809The entire town was a trip-trap for this clutzy lady.

We walked down the main street, skirting hazards, toward the beach.  It is a colorful place and I’m sure that in normal circumstances, it is a mecca for backpackers and surfers.  A kind of place I would have thought totally cool when I was 18.

The beach was nice; children and adults were playing and enjoying the warm water.  Something about a beach just begs you to turn into aIMG_6824 little kid.

IMG_6819We walked to the far north end where the competition was to be held.  Preparations were frenzied and local media was already covering what wasn’t even happening yet with great excitement.  They took footage of Dan and me walking IMG_6839along with our cameras so I thought it only fair that I return the favor.

A handful of local surfers were out practicing but no one of fame was visible yet.  Watching the wave action, I hoped that it would pick up soon or it promised to be kind of a boring competition.

Finding a shack for some agua frio and a seat, we watched the bustle for a bit and then walked back to the road for a taxi to return us to Olon.

IMG_6851Lunch was already underway.  Evan from Sydney was getting a cooking lesson in SpaIMG_6951-2nish from Lolo.  We watched with fascination as the veggies were chopped and diced into a salsa and a sauce was created for the fresh mahi.  It was better than any show on TV and I got to eat the end result.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent with photo ops and reading.  I had my tablet with me and had downloaded several books so that I could occupy my quiet time when I was just resting.  I was also trying to get a good pic of a hummingbird but was able to capture only some blurred images.  Those little suckers are really fast!  I did get a treat though when 3 burros wandered past the gate and down the beach.

IMG_6871Although our hosteria was at the edge of the sand, there were many bamboo food shacks in front, lining the beach.  Most of them were closed because it wasn’t a weekend or holiday.  Dogs, children, chickens, and vagabond backpackers used the shelters for play and sleep on days when they weren’t occupied by foodsellers.

Nearby, there were some activities to be had for a fee.  Horseback riding on the beach was popular.  One of the local expats was being visited by her daughter and the young ones talked about going zip-lining and hiking in a forest where there were parrots and monkeys. IMG_6919-2 And I said to myself – next time.  Age and injuries had taken their toll.

We took a walk through the tiny town for pictures.  One of the pet dogs frIMG_6921-2om the hosteria accompanied us as if she was our guardian.   There is some newer construction, some renovation, and some typical EC construction scattered about.  The bougainvillea was in full bloom in all of its vibrant colors.  A quaint church sits on a corner with a white picket fence enclosing the lovely yard in front.  And no matter where you go, you can at least faintly hear the waves on the beach.

Speaking of dogs, let IMG_6864me mention that there are street dogs everywhere in EC.  Some areas have pretty healthy looking pups.  Some areas have pups that look mangy and grossly malnourished.  There are volunteer groups throughout EC which are trying to improve the situation and they may slowly be making some headway.  It’s a complicated issue which has no simple solution.  Just know that these little creatures depend on scraps and garbage for their existence.  I took our table scraps across the street from the restaurant to feed one.  No one minds as long as you don’t feed them in the restaurant or at your table.

IMG_6886-2Another glorious sunset needed to be photographed.  I walked the beach for a bit until the last of the orange in the sky was gone.  There were still children playing in the waves when I gave it up for the night.

One more trip to the expat hangout but it wasn’t a night for socializing.  There may have been 5 people in the place so I struck up a conversation with the young ladies tending bar.  It’s always so interesting to hear the stories of others; how they ended up right there and where they plan to go next.

Dan walked me back to the hosteria to make sure I wouldn’t do something stupid again, like fall off the balcony.  He was off to party with some young folks while I read myself to sleep.

Olon is a lovely little place.  I like the beach, the proximity to Montanita, the pace, the overall look.  It is 2-3 hours from good medical care or large scale shopping.  I think it’s a beautiful place to visit but it’s probably too small and isolated for me to consider as a permanent location.

Next Chapter – Day #7  Olon

Categories: Exploratory trip | Leave a comment

Day #5 – The Road to Olon

IMG_6723Miguel picked us up early.  I thought we had agreed on 9am but he was there about 8:30, unusual but not unwelcome.  Lorraine treated him to coffee while we packed up and gave her good-bye hugs.  We’ve become good friends and her hospitality was so wonderful.

Off we went up the coast to explore more of this beautiful country.  The first 15-20 minutes was through familiar terrain until we passed Ballenita.  Then everything was new.  We followed the RIMG_6729uta del Sol which runs along the Ecuadorian coast, often right along the beach.  Some areas are as flat as Florida but there are many stretches where we drove through hills and mountains.  You can almost always see the mountain peaks to the east.  There are places where the mountains meet the ocean with a sheer cliff.  I’d imagine this Pacific coast to be similar to California’s but can’t attest to that.

On a particular part of the highway, where it ran along touching the beach, we saw some activity. IMG_6745 Miguel pulled over and urged us to get out, pointing at the men and the fishing boat.  We crossed the road and approached, cameras ready.  They were pulling in nets but had little to show for their efforts.  The colorful scene was great for photography though so we took advantage of the moment.  Less than a dozen fish, including a very grumpy puffer, were all that this haul produced.

On our way again we passed another refinery which had pipes IMG_6735running on supports far out into the water.  We were told that the tankers fuel up at the end of the pipes like a gas station, then carry their liquid loads all over the world.

Occasionally we’d lose sight of the ocean when the road had to snake inland a bit due to the terIMG_6740rain.  But over a hill and around a bend, and there it would be, peeking out to catch our eyes with the sparkling blue waves.

Our next stop was in an area where people pay to fly off a cliff … para-sailing!  This is a popular sport but is only done when the wind is right.  No one was taking flight during our visit but the photo ops were still there.  I have a fear of heights so approaching the edge was not an option for me.  The cliff looks far too high and the drop too deep for someone with my lack of coördination.

I’m told that there is no jumping, that the wind just lifts you and you soar on the currents like a bird.  And I say, then let those who love it have at it.  I’ll watch and take pictures.

IMG_6771Along the way, we discovered a little facility dedicated to taking care of injured sea critters and birds.  TIMG_6747hey charged $2 to go inside for the tour so we happily followed the young man who was ready to show us around.  A couple of adorable young girls tagged along, staring at us and giggling when we talked to them.  I couldn’t help preserving their smiles in my photo journal.

The variety of species was impressive and every animal and birIMG_6763d looked healthy, even if they had been irreparably injured and couldn’t be returned to the wild.  A crocodile, whale and porpoise skeletons, blue footed boobies, sea lions, baby sea turtles, Peruvian penguins and more.

The place loIMG_6769oked like it was run well on no more than a shoestring.  When we’d completed the tour, we were requested to sign the guest book.  I asked a young lady who was using a laptop computer if they used Facebook, and when her smile lit  up I gave her my website and FB addresses.  I hope they get to see their photos and read my comments.

IMG_6775We continued on our journey and came upon a little town where the road was lined with shoIMG_6779ps filled with bright colors.  I asked Miguel to stop at a place for a Panama hat and then at another for a hammock.

Dan tried on hats till he found the one he liked and I surveyed numerous styles and colors of hammocks.  I chose one in shades of turquoise and blues for $20.  Aha!  I have a souvenir!  It should be nice hanging under our pergola at home in Florida.

We were almost at our destination but there was one more place I  wanted to see.  Montanita is a surfer’s town just south of Olon and they were preparing for an international surfing championship.IMG_6782

Many of the streets were blocked and thereIMG_6785 was a lot of road construction taking place so we passed it by.  Miguel said that we would be close and could return for a look-see while we were visiting Olon.

There is a short span of mountains separating the two little towns.  We ascended into the peaks and Miguel pulled over without being asked.  It took only a moment for me to see why.  This is a well-known photo-op spot so we got out and did what photographers should – we started clicking.

Next Chapter – Day #6 Olon and Montanita

Categories: Exploratory trip | 2 Comments

Day #4 – Salinas

IMG_6701Mundane chores continue to exist even when you’re on vacation.  In order to travel light, Dan and I had only packed about 6 outfits each.  We had one large suitcase and a carry-on between us.  My idea was that it would be much easier to do all of the taxi and bus hopping that way.  The trade-off was that we’d have to do laundry during the trip.  While in Salinas at Lorraine’s place, we took advantage of her laundry facilities and started again with everything clean.

We had arranged to visit with another expat who lived on the opposite side of the Salinas peninsula in a small fishing village.  Most places in these towns do not have addresses.  People know them by someone’s name (Casa Ruiz) or by their function (the hospital).  If your taxi driver is taking you to another town, chances are that he’s clueless and will have to stop to ask directions several times.  On this jaunt, our driver asked no less than 7 times and finally got us there.

Susan’s place is a remote lodging for those seeking beautiful vistas and seclusion.  We relaxed for a bit on the breezy porch, wandeIMG_6703red the property taking pictures, and met the local couple who live on the property with her as her assistants.  Then she called her favorite taxi driver, Miguel, to haul us to a little place in town for lunch.

Many ‘restaurants’ are no more than a room in someone’s home where they welcome and feed guests.  This was such a place yet we learned that it is one of El Presidente’s favorites when in the area. I even chose his favorite dish, ceviche mixo, which contains shrimp, fish, octopus, and some other seafood.  We chatted and ate and took our time doing so as is the custom.  No rushing anything here.

When we were finished, Miguel took us on a short tour of the coastline where the fishing boats bring in their catch and it all goes to be processed.  In the midday heat it was quite odoriferous but the scenery was beautiful.155790_4978526094131_888861694_n

When we returned to Susan’s, we negotiated with Miguel to take us back to Lorraine’s and to pick Dan and me up again the next morning to take us to Olon, the next stop on my list.  For $40 he agreed to take us on the 2 hour trip but also to stop as often as I asked for photo ops and to take as long as we needed.  The normal fee was $35 for the trip so I was happy with the deal.  This trip will be a post of its own because it was so interesting.

On the way back, we passed shrimp farms and salt ponds on one side and the pounding Pacific surf on the other.  All are common sights along the coast of Ecuador (no pics due to stolen camera).  All we could think with all of that open coastal land is how it would make US developers salivate!IMG_6712

Dinner was a simple fare at Dollar Pizza just off the malecon.  The pizza I’ve seen in Ecuador has far less tomato sauce but plenty of cheese and toppings.  Mozzarella is one of the cheeses that is easy to get.  Many other types are only imported and thus are pretty expensive.

We then walked a few blocks to hail a taxi and proceeded to an American owned expat hangout bar where some expats were possibly going to meet up with us.  One thing I learned in EC is that locals and many expats alike are on a totally different clock.  Thats why I say ‘possibly’ meet up with us.  This is the land of ‘go with the flow’ and ‘do something if you feel like it’.

The bar was pretty quiet.  No one we knew showed up but we met half a dozen new people from the US and various other places.  A couple of hours of conversation was enough for me so we called it a night and took a taxi back to home base.

Salinas is a little too big and chaotic for me.  It has a lot to offer as far as the mall, plenty of businesses to obtain goods you may need, the malecon, restaurants, etc., but I’d rather live outside of the hubbub and be able to access it when I want. IMG_6722

I read a review by a backpacker passing through which was very harsh.  She was apparently there during a weekend or holiday and didn’t like the crowds or the fact that a couple of blocks off the malecon you will see typical EC construction.  It was pretty quiet while we were there but a bustling beach wouldn’t have been a problem – I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale!

The typical construction of homes is what causes the biggest culture shock, I think.  In the US, we place a high value on curb appeal and amenities.  We’re into ‘stuff’, and landscaping,  and the latest everything.

Ecuadorians live much more basic lives.  Their block homes are often unfinished and unpainted on the exterior.  Wood and bamboo are weathered and worn looking.  There are bars on windows and high fences topped by wire and broken glass.  Few homes have air conditioning or heat or garages.  Hammocks hang in trees and on porches, and if you went inside you’d probably see them used as furniture.  Kitchens are basic, most without cabinets but you may see open shelves.

IMG_6719It’s unfair to call these working class neighborhoods anything derogatory.  This is the norm and these people are proud of what they have and do all they can with what they’ve got.  Minimum wage is $3.18.

If you come to EC expecting showy homes, you need to visit the affluent neighborhoods of the small percentage of the wealthy, or the private communities of international expats.  You will see the occasional nicer homes scattered among the less fancy because there is no building code or homeowner association telling people how they must comply.

My own mantra has been: Embrace the differences!  If you can’t do that, you don’t belong in Ecuador.

Next Chapter – Day #5  The Road to Olon

Categories: Exploratory trip | 2 Comments

Day #3 – Salinas

IMG_6699The neighborhood rooster went off about 4am.  We learned that he is actually a round-the-clock alarm.  Now, roosters crowing and dogs barking don’t bother me but they could be a deal killer for someone else.  I understand that car alarms and partying locals into the wee hours are also common night noises.

555489_4976627606670_1697750792_nBy this time my hand looked like something dead and bloated that had washed up on the beach.  We used the old faithful frozen veggie bags and massage to bring down the swelling and that seemed to be working.  The puffy part was moving down my arm and the colors were covering every inch of skin from my elbow to my fingertips.

I wasn’t abl67221_4976623406565_452993497_ne to connect my tablet to the internet so my contact and blogging got pushed aside for the time being.  We took our time getting ready to go out and by noon we were headed down the road on foot to grab a taxi to the Paseo Mall and have lunch.  Since I’d been asked by friends at home if there are washing machines in Ecuador, I made it a point to take a pic of some for sale in a mall store.

The food court is a great72828_4976632246786_56394181_n place to run into other expats who live in the area.  While there I was introduced to some I’d chatted with in the FB groups.  It’s always nice to have a face-to-face with FB friends.

Dan chose to order food from a vendor with local dishes on the menu.  Rice (arroz) and plantains (plantanos) are staples in Ecuador and are common sides to most main courses.  We each had some form of seafood and all choices were doled out in large, delicious portions.  While sitting there enjoying our meals, I couldn’t help but laugh at the lines in front of the McDonald’s and KenIMG_6693tucky Fried Chicken spaces.  There’s always something to remind you of American big biz and how the desire for the big buck is more important than poisoning the digestive systems of a population.

Ecuadorian food is fresh and contains no preservatives.  Maybe that’s why I found myself eating so much less and still being satisfied.  Also, still no indigestion and no cravings!  When meat or seafood is purchased, it needs to be cooked or frozen pretty quickly or it will go bad.  Those preservatives are probably killing us daily in the US and we just keep shoveling them in.

Lunch was over and it was time to move on.  My agenda called for a visit to Ballenita.  A couple of expats live in this little town about 15 minutes north of Salinas.  IMG_6677This is also the location of Hosteria Farallon Dillon, home of Douglas Dillon (in the Ruta FB group).  His father was a captain and he brought countless interesting items home from his many sea travels.  The hosteria is not only a highly rated lodging and restaurant on Trip Advisor, it is also a nautical museum.

Driving through Ballenita, I could see where the present malecon is located.  I had learned recently that a newer and bigger malecon is goinIMG_6671g to be built soon.  Along with much road improvement, many malecons are also being built and bettered.  Shrewd locals are jacking up the prices of land to go along with the improvements.  I had inquired about a property in Ballenita which I’d found on Craig’s List.  While in the middle of the email interaction, the owner (American) upped the price by $20,000 when I mentioned the new malecon.

This a good place to mention what a bad idea it is to shop for real estate by internet.  Nothing looks the same in pics as it does in peIMG_6697rson.  There are no ‘full disclosure’ laws in EC.  Listings on the internet are bound to be super inflated and could have detrimental factors you’ll never know about.  Walking around in a neighborhood you will see many signs that read ‘se vende’.  If you wisely rent in an area you like, go looking for these signs and have a local make the inquiry.  You’ll probably find the price far different than if you had asked yourself.  For myself, renting for 12-24 months would be my minimum.

Off the coast and riding on the horizon are several tankers.  There’s an oil refinery a few miles away anIMG_6674d these tankers haul Ecuador’s oil around the world.  They don’t take away from the view and at night they provide twinkling lights on the distant water.  As far as I could tell there is no beach damage from the process either.

The taxi ran out of paved road and bumped along a rough dirt road that twisted and ascended pretty fast.  The view of the Pacific just kept getting better and we were fortunate that it was a clear, bright afternoon.  We pulled into the parking area and I caught my breath.  Beautiful!

I had hoped to meet Douglas in person but he was away so a very nice gentleman showed us through the museum.  We took our time and many pictures, then enjoyed cold cervesas from the deck while we soaked in the views.

They called a taxi for us after a lovely visit and we headed back to Salinas for a rest before dinner.  This siesta thing was really growing on me.

Later that evening we walked to the malecon and met up with two other expat couples for dinner.  I think the restaurant wIMG_6691as called Luv n Oven.  The dinner I couldn’t wait for?  A 12 oz. filet mignon, wrapped in bacon with mashed potatoes and a wonderful mushroom sauce.  A perfect way to end a great day – good company and good food.

The walk back to Lorraine’s through a balmy tropical night gave me much to think about.  Salinas was a nice location.  Less humid and less formal than Guayaquil, a real beach resort atmosphere but still quite a large city.  Ballenita was slightly removed from Salinas with a small town feeling but close enough for convenience.  So much more to see and learn.

Next Chapter – Day #4 Salinas

Categories: Exploratory trip | 2 Comments

Day #2 Goodbye Guayaquil – Hello Salinas

IMG_6632We woke on day #2 with a half day left to view and photo Guayaquil.  Then we were taking the bus to Salinas for a couple of days of exploring and visiting expat friends.

IMG_6654Breakfast at the on-site restaurant where we ran into an Americano we had met at Resaca’s.  Then we took a taxi ($2) to Las Penas.  This is a hill (mountain) under which run two highways.  On the hill exists a mass of colorful homes and businesses accessed by climbing stairs – I think about 800 steps in total.  I’ve seen many pictures of this place and wanted to see it for myself.  It wasn’t a disappointment.  WIMG_6653e made it up to about #150 and I got weak-kneed.

We climbed back down and, once again, followed the malecon from the far west end back toward the hotel.  When we reached the naval sailboat, Dan wanted to check it IMG_6659out but was told that tours didn’t start for a couple more hours and we’d be on the road by then.  The next and last stop was the iguana park and cathedral.

The park was full on Easter Sunday morning.  It’s residents were out showing off to everyone, much to the delight of most but to the terror of some little children.  I love the IMG_6602architecture of the cathedral and the overall setting was kodak perfect.  With slightly overcast skies, the temp was low 80s and still comfortable.  We spent quite a bit of time in photo mode.

Florida, where I live and south, is full of iguanas so these critters aren’t foreign to me.  In fact, a childhood friend raised two and we played with them frequently.  Having hundreds in a park setting though was different.

IMG_6629They are tame enough and are interesting to watch.  The interaction with humans; our staring and following, their total nonchalance.  It’s a spot to put on your things to see list, just because.

Now, the cathedral is really something to look at closely.  You can go in, but I’ve heard that it’s disrespectful to do so in shorts.  Take a look  at the locals and how they’re dressed and follow suit.  I don’t know about taking pics inside either so we didn’t.

522416_4958672597806_1031242195_nWhen we’d had our fill of lizard photos, we packed up and headed to the bus station.  The taxi was about $5 and didn’t take but about 10 minutes to get there.  I have no pics of the station or the journey since they were on my little camera which was lifted on our last day in Otovalo.  But this info is very important and will save you a lot of frustration.

The station is actually a mall on the floor where you enter.  We were dropped off at the far right end.  Walk toward the left end.  When you see the 2 escalators which both go up, turn right into a wide hallway.  Backtrack if you need to, it’s the last hallway on that side.  There are vendors in that hall, and stores too I think, but on the left side are 2 long isles and that’s where you buy your bus tickets.  It was $3.55 each for tickets to Salinas.

525248_4958675397876_1446256554_nOnce you have your tickets, go back to the main mall and up the escalators to the 3rd floor.  As you get off of the escalator, turn to your left 180 degrees.  Follow that walkway to the entry to board the bus.  They’ll put your big bags underneath and you can hold on to your carry-ons.  Settle in and enjoy the next couple of hours of scenery.  They do sell food and beverages on the bus should you require.  WARNING:  Do your potty trip before the bus trip.  The one on the bus is out in the open and reminded me of childhood nightmares.  No need to go into detail.

When we traveled on March 31st, the terrain was still very green.  That was at the end of rainy season.  You might find it very brown at other times of the year.  Some of the roads were quite good and others were awful.  408109_4958673157820_2073449138_nThere is much road construction underway throughout Ecuador.  Just hold on and embrace the differences.  They do show movies – in Spanish – on the bus.

When we got to Salinas we found that the bus was dropping off people along the way.  This is common.  Just stay seated till you get to the station if that’s your destination.  Its located about 2 blocks off the far left end of the malecon.  My expat friend lived about 3 blocks from the station and she was there to meet us.

Another suggestion….don’t buy new luggage for this trip and I wouldn’t borrow any either.  With the many busses and taxi’s we took, and the 4 plane rides, and the dusty streets we dragged it down and back again, my luggage got beat to hell.

Lorraine had dinner ready for us so we stayed in that evening to get some rest.  Many places along the coast are not air conditioned but the evenings do cool down and with floor fans, we were quite comfortable.

Next Chapter – Day #3 Salinas

Categories: Exploratory trip | 6 Comments

Blog at