Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Weekend in Olon

We arrived in Olon at lunchtime, just as "Gringo Saturday" was starting to assemble. We ate lunch, walked the beach, and then joined them for a while. Actually, we joined them and wandered away several times. They were there for the day.

We asked for a hotel recommendation and they pointed us to the Sea Garden Hotel. They said the owners spoke English and were fun to talk to. We never met them.

We did find a clean, comfortable room, somewhat rustic, but with the best shower of the whole trip; three very friendly dogs; a delicious breakfast; and a tiny three-display-case "gift shop" that I raided with gusto. At check in, I was asked "alto o baja" and I knew that Tom was weary of climbing stairs, so I said baja. In retrospect, he may have been asking price instead of location, in which case I may have answered differently, but Tom was grateful for the lack of stairs.

Olon definitely wins the prize for best beach; it's long, wide, clean, and walkable. But every rose has its thorns, and Olon's is Bermuda grass. Solid Bermuda grass from the high-tide line to the street behind the houses. And I'm allergic to Bermuda grass. Olon was the only place in Ecuador where I had a stuffy nose.

But what a gorgeous beach!

It even has the tide pools on Tom's wish list.

And beautiful beachfront houses!

Since part of our drive was on the Ruta de Spondylus and the spondylus (thorny oyster) is a big part of the area's history, we'd been looking for a shell to take home. As we ate our last breakfast in Olon, we noticed a spondylus shell on the table and asked if we could buy it. The couple, neither of whom spoke a word of English, couldn't quite believe what we were asking. Why on earth would we want to buy a dirty ashtray? But they showed us the shells they had and we chose one. I don't remember how much they charged us for it, but it wasn't much. 

When the transaction was complete, the man mimed stubbing out a cigarette. I shook my head "no" and mimed holding something at arm's length to admire it. At that, he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and walked away chuckling. It's not the first time anyone thought we were crazy.

We left Olon on Monday morning, heading for Guayaquil and the trip home. We went right to the airport to return the rental car, and then put ourselves in the capable hands of Jorge Lopez. He picked us up at the airport, bedded and breakfasted us, and returned us to the airport in plenty of time for our flight home. What a relief not to have to read any more maps!

I can't recommend Jorge enough. There's a write-up of his services and contact information here:

And so to home. Southern California. Oceanside. Where the strawberry fields are freshly planted and the nights are starting to get cold. Snuggling under the blankets and dreaming of Ecuador.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Night In Puerto Lopez; a Walk Through Salango

Puerto Lopez

We spent night 10 in Puerto Lopez at the Hostal Humpback International, a bare-bones room right across the street from the fish market.

And where there are fishing boats, there are pelicans. Lots of pelicans.

We walked to a nicer hotel on the town square for breakfast, and then walked around the town a little.

And then down the beachfront.

The malec√≥n is under construction, and it looks like it will be beautiful when it's done. But for now, the construction makes it hard to get around and raises a lot of dust.

Shorty after breakfast, we packed up and headed south.


You've gotta love a fly-speck town that has its own museum. That's Salango.

The museum features artifacts from a dig nearby as well as small exhibits on local industries: fishing, chocolate, ... . I have never been on a more rickety flight of stairs. Ever. Tom bought a tee shirt. I think they only had one in each size; he got the yellow one.

We took a walk down by the beach just as the kids were getting out of school and walked a little way with a flock of boys who were excited to meet foreigners.

And then off we went, through the lush green twisty-turnies...

headed toward Olon.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

San Lorenzo and Puerto Cayo

When we first found San Lorenzo, I was feeling peckish so Tom left me in the car to nap while he walked the beach. (We went back the next day.)

I was feeling better after the nap, and shortly later we stopped for lunch along the beach.

While we were eating, we caught a fleeting glimpse of two blue-footed boobies as they flew by. We saw pelicans galore (where there are fishing boats, there are pelicans), but those were the only boobies.

San Lorenzo

The beach at San Lorenzo is long, wide, and beautiful, but the best part is the sea turtles.

Volunteers watch the beach during egg-laying season so they can mark the nests, and again during hatching season to protect the baby turtles from predators and make sure they head in the right direction.

There's a lot of litter on this beach. We both ended our walk with all the trash we could carry, and you can't carry it all.

The houses along the beachfront are gorgeous and probably expensive, and the town of San Lorenzo is tiny.

Puerto Cayo

We spent night 9 in Puerto Cayo at the Hostel Los Frailes. Our room had a balcony with a view of the beach and a screen door! This was the first screen we saw since leaving the states. Unfortunately, that's the only luxury the hotel provided.

Puerto Cayo is a nice little town, a bit on the rustic side and I thought it lacked the small-town friendliness of San Clemente. 

We met a group of young guys drinking beer on the beach. They'd driven out for the day from Jipijapa (that's HippyHahPah).

Towards sunset, we stopped at a little restaurant for smoothies and ended up passing away the evening listening to Spanish guitar on their stereo, patting their overly friendly chow pup, and feasting on Creme Catalan (like Brule but heavy on the cinnamon).

The people in Puerto Cayo keep their patron saint in jail.

And San Lorenzo isn't much better.

It rained overnight the night we stayed in Puerto Cayo.

We packed up to leave late morning, but when we got to the gas station, we were told "No luz!" Evidently, rain and electricity don't mix well and they always lose electricity after a rain. We waited at the gas station a while, talking to a Spaniard who has a plant nursery on the road between Puerto Cayo and Jipijapa. If you're looking for greenery, check out Vivero Jardin de Oliva.

After waiting in vain for a half hour or so for the lights to come back on, we headed back to the beach-side cafe. We were too early for them to be open, but along the beach is a great place to wait and the steamed lobster and vegetable paella was well worth the time.

So with full tummies and a full gas tank at last, we headed toward Puerto Lopez late in the afternoon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

And on South...

Heading south from San Clemente, we stopped in Crucita for lunch.

First heading up the hill for the view.

Then stopping for lunch.

And topping it off with shaved ice. This is the standard, blue cast-iron, hand-cranked ice-shaving machine. I bought ice cones from identical carts in San Clemente and Crucita. Yummy!

After lunch, we headed through the kapok woods...

And back to Manta to the Hotel Maria Isabella for one more night and a decent cup of coffee for breakfast at long last!

While in Manta, we found the mall. No, not the new behemoth we heard tales about, but a very nice two-story mall where we found much to buy.

And before we left the next morning, we went to the cultural museum just down the hill from the hotel. They had three exhibits going - local archaeology, chocolate, and modern Latin-American art. Awesome, but all in Spanish and no photos, so strictly a "look at the pictures" adventure.

They don't take donations, but you can make a purchase in the bookstore, which we did. Now to learn enough Spanish to translate these really cool books!