Saturday, February 20, 2010

At the Beach with Camp Director Uncle Bob

We were up bright and early (5 am) Thursday morning to catch our van going to Guayaquil. The bus left at 7 am. It was mostly an uneventful trip; there was some fog in the mountains and some construction but nothing too delaying or frightening. Our driver was great! He didn't put fear in our throat even once. We arrived in Guyaquil at 10:15. The van put us out about 5 blocks from the bus terminal so we had to catch a cab there. We asked the van driver how much we should pay for a cab to the terminal and he told us $1.50. The first cab driver that arrived asked for $5 and when we said "No, uno cincuenta" he growled at us, slammed his door and roared off. The second cab driver asked for $2 and we got in. Upon arriving at the Mall adjoining the bus terminal Brian immediately went off to book our tickets to Manglaralto (where Bob & Rox live) and Sammy & Shelley waited in the cool air conditioned Mall for his return. The next express bus was due to leave at 1:00 pm so we trotted off to the McDonalds in the Mall for a McFiesta Burger.

Fortunately we were able to get seats right in the front of the bus and the trip took 3 hours. Shelley & Sammy sat together and Brian sat with a young man (18) who was off to visit his sister in Olon. Brian & he chatted the entire time. The young fellow had recently applied to go to the University of British Columbia so was very interested that we were originally from Vancouver and wanted to practice his English which was excellent. He'd also applied to a University in Spain and had been accepted but really wanted to go to UBC if possible. At the end of the trip, we wished him "buena suerte" & thanked him for his help in getting the bus driver to let us off where we were to meet Bob at the south end of Manglaralto.

Brian had phoned Bob when we were about half an hour out from their place and Bob had advised us that unfortunately he'd left the key turned in their vehicle and thus their battery was dead so he met us on the road just a block away from where they live. We happily walked the rest of the way, glad to be exercising again & at the end of our journey.

Upon arriving at their "estate" we settled in, had an absolutely wonderful meal of chicken with bacon & cheese, a fresh fruit salad & roasted potatoes. We spent the evening watching Coco & Fredi renew their friendship, admired their sea view, listened to the breakers throwing themselves at the beach & gloried in the fabulous sunset. Now that Fredi & Coco are both a little bit more mature, their play was somewhat less frenetic but they are still obviously the best of pals & really enjoy each other's company. The humans enjoyed each other's company too!

After living in Cuenca, the heat & humidity of the coast was a bit of a shock but we managed to sleep well and spent a leisurely morning the next day catching up with each other. Sammy was however, bitten by 49 bugs. We had a breakfast of Ecuadorian buns & jam & coffee, all the while watching the ocean & listening to the pounding waves. Sammy finally said that being on the Coast was more "foreign" and we all kept a look out for iguanas for her.

Breakfast over, we hopped in Uncle Bob & Rox's car (their battery having been recharged at the local station the night before by their "help") and took a ride around the countryside taking in the sights. We saw the Escuela De la Mar, a school built in the shape of an Ark but unfortunately on a cliff that was now eroding to the point where the whole thing was in danger of tumbling into the ocean several hundred feet below. We went to a wonderful park where we saw the bones of a whale set up in skeleton form and a set of signs pointing to all the major cities of the world. We drove through the Machalilla National Park and had our pictures taken with leaves the size of elephant ears and finally ended up in Puerto Lopez where we had lunch at a spanking clean hotel with a very charming inner court yard.

Brian was making grumbling noises about his nap, so we returned to "Wistful Vista" (Brian's name for Bob & Rox's home on the ocean. This is a reference to Fibber McGee & Molly) We all got to rest for awhile before we headed out that evening for Montanita to eat supper at the Casa Blanca (Bob & Rox's favourite restaurant). Following dinner we once again sat on their balcony, taking in the roaring of the ocean, chattering & just enjoying their magnificent view.

Next morning after another breakfast of rolls & jam, Uncle Bob decided it was time for the gang to go for a swim. Brian & Sammy & Rox all got on their bathing suits & took out their boogie boards & played in the surf while Shelley & Bob took pictures and tried to keep relatively dry. We had a lunch of chicken salad (absolutely enormous!) and then left Rox babysitting the 2 puppies and drove to Montanita so Sammy could explore some of the shopping there. After that we took a drive on the Olon Beach and admired some of the luxury homes, mostly owned by old money from Guayaquil. We also stopped and got some pics of the surfers riding the waves and did a little bit of beach combing. Shelley picked up a shell cluster from the beach as a souvenir.

Once again, poor Brian was late going down for his nap. When it finally did happen, Fredi found it too hot to sleep on the bed with him and actually chose to nap under a table in our room on the cool of the floor.

For dinner we had home made potato salad & fried hotdogs. Doesn't sound like much (?) Well as a matter of fact it was like a gourmet meal! Once again we settled down on their patio, watched the sun set and chatted with each other and then tried to bed down in the heat fairly early.

Our bus left for Guayaquil at 9:45 so we were all up and at 'em by 8 o'clock in the morning. Hot rolls & jam again fortified us for our trip, with a bag-full to go. Bob drove us to the bus station at Olon in order to get ahead of the surfer mob which piles aboard at Montanita. The entire trip from Olon to Cuenca took about 8 hours with a 45 minute lay over in Guayaquil for a bite to eat. We travelled through a 6 lane highway system, into banana fields, rice paddies & avocado groves; up and through thick green jungle like foliage until we reached Cajas National Park which is a highland desert. We managed to see several llama herds in the Park and Sammy actually was a little bit interested. "There were chickens!" she pipes up.

Bob & Rox are extremely gracious and did everything they could to ensure that we got the most out of our visit. Uncle Bob did act like a bit of an exuberant camp counsellor from time to time but in the end we got all the appropriate pictures and saw all the highlights of the area. Thanks Bob & Rox!

All the pictures on this blog were once again taken by Sammy. A link to pictures from this trip and previous trips to the Montanita area can be found here.

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