Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Scouting Trip: The Coast

Before arriving in Ecuador the coast was our primary target for a home. Upon arriving we learned that services, particularly schools, were fairly lacking in any of the places we wanted to be. So, though we’d already written it off as a potential home, hey look, we’re done scouting and we’ve got some time. Vamos a la playa!

Since I’ve already put road travel in Ecuador through the cynicism grinder in this blog, let me do penance with air travel in Ecuador. After the ridiculous airport security measures put in place in the U.S. by the people who work for the lobbyists who sell airport security services, air travel changed from being considered part of a vacation experience to how many actual days got sucked from your vacation just to deal with flying. In Ecuador, not only is it inexpensive ($65 each to the coast from Quito), the service is quite good, you’re pretty much in and out of the airport on both ends, and flights are never more than an hour long. I won’t even discuss the long delay we had in getting out of Quito, because anecdotal evidence suggests it was an anomaly. And enough of logistics and big words, to the playa!

We arrived late in the industrial port city of Manta and had apparently grown spoiled by the persistent spring weather of the mountains. Stepping off the plane on the tarmac was like a large fat man falling on me in the steam room, all squooshy and hot and slippery. We paid high dollar for an actual hotel room, which is always good to do occasionally to remind yourself what lousy values traditional hotels actually are compared to hostels, B&Bs, and ma & pa hotels (here called “hostelerias”).
No one there...

There’s nothing like an industrial port city with sweltering, sticky heat that even your pants try to escape from by clinging to your skin like saran wrap, to make you think, “Hey, let’s get on a crowded, noisy, sweaty bus for three hours.” The price you pay for la playa. The ride south, though, definitely reveals an unspoiled, fairly undeveloped, “primitive,” and beautiful coastline. International Living declares the coast of Ecuador a great real estate opportunity as the government is building road infrastructure to make it more accessible, primarily from Quito. So there you have it, folks, last chance to see Paradise.
...or there. The beach at Resort Alandaluz

For our first couple of nights we opted for something a bit off the beaten path. Outside a small town with a couple miles of empty beaches is Alandaluz. We seem to have gotten lucky in arriving in the peak season at some off-peak days. There was no one there, and this little eco-resort (whatever that means) was muy tranquilo, man. It even has a saline swimming pool that (uh oh…) the kids would just love.

Thus begins the Great Missing of the Children. We hadn’t ever been away from the kids this long, but we did our noble best to carry on and try to enjoy the cool water, empty beach, tranquil forest, delicious food, and cold drinks.
Raw ingredients for fresh ceviche in Montanita

We next lugged a bit farther down to the anything-but-tranquil surfer town of MontaƱita. We relieve there were Ecuadorians working at some of the hostels and maybe in the kitchens of some restaurants. Mostly, though, it was Americans, Canadians, Israelis for some reason, and other South Americans. Of course they all have tattoos, piercings, and dreadlocks in order to be different, just like all the other different people they wanna be like. And they all sell hand-woven bracelets and clay pipes, do henna tattoos (for the alt-curious), and play hacky-sack until pulling a few-hour shift at a restaurant before sitting at tables in said restaurant and drinking away half of their tip Money. The other half goes as they find themselves empty of drink while walking home but finding themselves conveniently right next to a mobile bar on the side of the street. Fortunately for the young traveler, there is not a curb after dark not obscured by a booze cart. Oh, young traveler to be you again, and let the world cater to my every lurch.
Alternative Nutrition in Montanita

Damn shame I caught a little local gut bug and was too laid up to throw it down with the youngins. We’ll come back here with the kids, though, and really show this town a thing or two about bedtime.

Yep, still missing the kids as we moved to our next spot on the coast--to meet up with our Guayaquil friends at their coast house in the little town of Ballanita. But by that time we had gotten proactive with our homesickness and discovered we might be able to fly home a couple days earlier. Our friends were sympathetic and, as usual, incredibly generous, and we drove back to Guayaquil with them that same day.

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