Beach Time

Puerto Lopez and Manta, Ecuador

We arrive in Puero Lopaz after dark. Our noon flight gets us to Guayaquil around 2 PM and the next bus to the coast is at 3:30, which really means 4:15, and it takes 4 hours, not the advertised 3 1/2, and the bus stops for anyone on the road who flags it down, and then stops to fill up on gas just 10 minutes before the trip’s end, etc, etc, etc. You get the picture. It takes forever!!!!

Thankfully the Hosteria Mandala’s kitchen is open until 9 so we can get some dinner. And our cabana is set in a gorgeous garden. We are off to a pretty good start.

The next morning it is raining. We walk on the beach anyway. And, as the guidebook suggests, it is a very nice beach. Would be great on a sunny day.

The town is rather grim. Lots of garbage. Skinny scrounging dogs. Dreary looking restaurants serving up mediocre food. It is a fishing village and the beach is covered in fresh fish when the boats come in, so you’d think the fish served in the restaurants would be fresh and tasty. And it was probably fresh before it was cooked to death, rendering it rubbery and tasteless.

Even Craig – he of the rose-colored glasses and glass half full approach – complains that the recent earthquake is no excuse for the condition of the town.

Frankie and Annette had their beach blanket bingo. Ours is more like beach blanket bust! We’ve booked 4 nights. Yikes!

But as every traveler knows, not every destination gets a gold star, and this one definitely falls into the “coulda skipped this place” category. We make the best of it with good books and a great covered deck. We catch up on sleep. Walk on the beach. Eat seafood. Read. Sleep. Repeat.

Hoping the clouds and mist will clear, we book a boat excursion to Isla de la Plata. Also known as “poor man’s Galapagos”, it is 42 km off-shore, which means an hour and a half in a boat each way, which means a heavy dose of Gravol for me. Off we go.

Okay, Isla de la Plata is not even close to being anything like the Galapagos. But we do see a lot of blue-footed boobies. Mating couples. Females tending eggs on their nests. Males and females tending to babies. Juveniles. A few untended eggs, abandoned. Some frigate birds. We snorkel with colourful tropical fish. See lots of gorgeous coral. Lots of huge sea turtles. All in all a good trip, except on the way back the sea gets rough. Two people get sea sick and one other spends a lot of time in the bano. A few more look very ill. I hang on to my lunch. Just barely. But am so drugged with Gravol I can barely hoist myself off the boat when we reach the dock. I drop into bed at 8 PM and it takes 10 hours to sleep it off.

Our last stop in Ecuador is up the coast at Manta, a port city with some very nice beaches and better weather. A two hour bus ride gets us out of the cloud and into blue skies. Our hotel is on the beach and the infinity pool is a great way to refresh after stomping around town looking for lunch. Not a lot of restaurants. Not a lot of tourist infrastructure period. Might have to spend time pool-side. Aaaahhhhhh!!

Trip advisor leads us to a couple of fabulous restaurants – El Faro and La Martinica especially – that we would not have otherwise found. Our dinners there are memorable. But … a lot of fish! We fantasize about the farmers’ market lamb sausages in our freezer at home!

We watch the Chicago Cubs break their 108 year losing streak on Fox Latin America. With the almost incomprehensible commentary in espanol as background noise, we focus more on the plays. And learn a few new words. Strike is strike in both languages. Ball is bola. But the baseball is la pelota. Who knew?!

A Vancouver friend emails complaining that it has rained 30 days out of the last 28. Maybe a typo, but apropos of how wet it has been. Glad to have missed out, but it is still early November and we have no illusions about the next few weeks. We’ll fade from sun-kissed to pale by Christmas.

Nevertheless, after 7 weeks on the road, we are ready for home. A different and clean wardrobe. Home cooked meals. Toilets that work. Pico and Cleo. Yoga. Dancing. Friends. Routine. Travel serves many purposes, but perhaps most importantly it reminds us of how fortunate we are to live where we do. It’s home! YAY!!

Today we begin the long journey northward to Vancouver. First a short flight to Quito, where we will retrieve the bag we stored at the airport and then board a midnight flight to Dallas, where we will have breakfast and wait a few hours for our flight to Vancouver.

Travel and Leisure magazine has named Canada the #1 travel destination for 2016. Paradoxically, many of us who live there spend our vacation time in distant lands. But we are always happy to come home. Even in monsoon season!

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