Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Once More Unto the Beach, Dear Friends

Life does not suck
Yes, we've stiffened our sinews and summoned up the blood again to face the relentless relaxation, the torrential tranquility, the pounding peace of the Ecuadorian coast.

The S.S. Gringo Mover
We went a bit easier on ourselves on transit this time. As opposed to the nine hour trek to Canoa, the trip to Olón is less than six. And we made it even easier by stopping over in Guayquil for a bit to pick up my dad, his wife, and my stepsister and her family in for Spring Break. And the trip was further eased by the luxury liner we ended up in for the 2.5 hours from Guayaquil to Olón. Though we didn't ask for the wide-body cruiser, it's what we got for just $120 each way. (Ecuadorian Bus Charter - 099.755967, if you're interested.)

We rented a house, natch, which is the only way to go with ten people (four of whom are pre-pubescently insane). It was in a quaint and quiet gringo relocation camp called Jardines de Olón with almost half of the seven completed homes for sale. I think some owners are happy to cash in on the gringo gravy train and take the money and build a nicer house on another plot of land. (Our particular house is going for about $145,000, if you're interested.)

Having a house also allowed us to take advantage of German Mike's professional culinary skills. Damn shame we didn't get any pictures, because, though he married an Ecuadorian woman, he is not married to their cuisine. We specifically requested lots of veggies, those having been traded for meat and sugar as staples some time in Ecuador's past. Along with those, a very un-Germany German potato salad made with yogurt and roast chicken from Mike's front yard. His services even came with a dishwasher, all for $60 for the ten of us.

Fresh fish
But the food from the beach shacks in Olón is also delicious and even cheaper. And it's also fresh off the beach. Boats such as the one in the picture pull up to shore late morning each day with their catch. They blow a conch shell and guys on bike-carts and motorcycles rush the beach to buy their stuff, turn around and sell it to the restaurants and families.

You will also notice the unfortunate day these guys had in setting off for a catch. Not sure if this was a training run for some or all of these guys, but one would presume this sort of thing can't happen too often, given that they do this every day, and the waves never stop. But timing is everything when plowing out into big, breaking waves, I suppose.

Optimism abounds
Nearing escape velocity
On the wrong side of the surface
There's a party beyond the rocks

After our week in Canoa, Olón is notably much cleaner, more orderly, and more tranquil, though the long, shallow beach (perfect for kids) is the same. It has about the same waves as well, which was nice for we novice surfers. But though you can get your crowd action one day a week (Saturdays), you can also get it the other six days five minutes away in the international surfer mecca, Montañita. And you can also scratch there your cosmopolitan food itch, or your shake your booty itch, or your drink till you drop itch, presuming of course that you have someone to watch the kids, or they're at least watching a really long movie. So all that is right behind the big privacy curtain you see on the southern beach.

Water, water everywhere
We also did a day trip to Parque Machalilla, which is a curiosity as an arid coastal area, especially now during the rainy season drought the coast is experiencing. It's got beautiful preserved beaches and beautiful, if forlorn, landscape. It also encompasses Isla de la Plata, called the poor man's Galapagos, but given our short-strided companions, we opted not to do that strenuous four-hour hike around it in the heat of the day.

We did, however, visit the ancient village of Agua Blanca further inland. The small community is still inhabited, but its first records of habitation are thousands of years ago, so there is a museum based on the archeological digs that continue there. All sorts of snakes, bugs, and other ickys in jars are also there to be sure that audibly bored children have something to freak out about for five minutes.

But the highlight of this visit is the natural spring. This is a sacred spring that doubles as a tourist draw. I'm not sure the locals believe it, but they tell the tourists that the black mud at the bottom of this spring has healing properties and invigorates the skin. I felt more muddy than invigorated, but then it's hard to compare one's experience with, say, soap in cleaning the skin.

At the end of it, we loved Olón. Kinda wish we had the wherewithal to buy a chunk of land here before the prices get too Gringo. You gringos can just ignore everything I just said.


1 comment:

  1. My wife and I will be in Cuenca around May 16-19 hope to run into you!