Thursday, October 21, 2010

Playa, Paella y Protesta

For the second Sunday in a row, we did not go down to Parque Calderon and Brian did not get roast pig.  Instead, we dropped by the hospital to visit a friend.  That's it (!) No more of our friends are allowed to get sick!  Upon arriving home, Fredi & Brian went for a walk and Shelley started packing as we planned on going to Salinas for a few days.  The last holiday we had we went to Vilcabamba with friends.  This time we just wanted to be alone, sit on the beach, soak up some sun and be quiet for a few days.  Hopefully, that's what we'll get. 

Up bright and early Monday morning, Brian took Fredi for a walk while Shelley made sandwiches and put together a package of welsh cakes to take on our road trip. We were on the bus and leaving the terminal by 7:10 a.m.  Just for interest sake, we arrived in Guayaquil  at 11:20, wandered around the mall there for a bit, caught the bus to Salinas and arrived in Salinas at 2:00 p.m.  The trip itself goes through several ecosystems.  You start on the streets of Cuenca and then progress to the suburbs.  Gradually the houses get fewer, the cows get thicker and you're into verdant grass, cultivated fields and pasture land.  After that you head up into the mountains and through Parque Nacional Cajas where the landscape turns into a duller green and the grass turns into scrub.  Up through the mountains you go gasping at the breathtaking drops and winding your way through thick fog (or low clouds) and finally you hit the summit (almost 2 miles up) and then down you go into mountain jungle.  After leaving the mountains you hit the coastal plains with mile after mile of banana plantations and rice fields and then you cross the bridge into Guayaquil.  It's such a shock to step off the hot bus (the temperature rose from 17 C early morning in Cuenca to 29 C by the time we hit Guayaquil) and go into a modern mall, air conditioned, bright airy and busy.  Back on another bus we went through the West Side of Guayaquil with mounds of garbage lining the road and unpainted hovels rising up into the hills.  Once you leave the city though, you're into dry forest (bosque seco) and then coastal desert.  Finally you reach the ocean and the beach (playa). 

Just Before Parque Nacional Cajas

Banana Plantation

City Bus Terminal Guayaquil

We checked into Coco's on the Malecon and paid for 3 nights accommodation ($109).  Fredi ran around sniffing the entire room making it hers and grumbling quietly under her breath.  We went out and had a beer to celebrate arriving and then returned to the room and had a well needed nap.  That evening we ate at Cevichelandia.  Brian had arroz con ostras (oysters & rice) and Shelley had breaded fish.  We walked the Malecon and right off the bat noticed the giant sand castle that they used to have there was missing.  We suppose during the high tides a few months ago it went back to the ocean. 

That evening when Brian took Fredi for her walk he came back to the room highly distraught!  "I feel so bad!" he exclaimed to Shelley.  He'd taken Fredi onto a small batch of scrub grass on the beach and she was loaded with burrs.  We had to borrow scissors from the Hostal in order to get them all out.  We had to cut her beautiful hair awfully close in a few places.  Shelley teased Fredi, now she looked like a poodle.


Up at 6 a.m. the next morning, Brian took Fredi for a walk down the hard beach near the water, far far away from scrub grass.  In the fresh morning air, with only a few people around, Fredi was able to free run and had an absolute ball.  Back at the room by 7 o'clock, he arranged to meet Shelley at a restaurant for coffee as soon as she could drag herself from the bed.  She promptly fell back asleep and ran to the restaurant arriving at 8.  Brian was all finished but indulgently waiting for her.  We hit the beach at 10, rented two chairs and an umbrella for $3 and spent the next 2 1/2 hours enjoying the sights and sounds. 

Close your eyes and you hear:  a nursing mother in the next set of beach chairs, cooing at her baby, vendors selling their products (swinging chairs, lamps, coconuts, ice cream, jewelry, tattoos, boat rides, lamp shades, carved wood boats & cars & trucks) a group of children playing down the beach, screaming & laughing, an airplane flying in circles overhead, and the ever present wave action, back and forth, back and forth. 

Then, of course, it was nap time.  For dinner that evening Brian had an extravagant Seafood Paella with shrimp & lobster & scallops & clams & mussels & fish & rice in a red sauce, all served in a searing hot iron skillet.  It was way too much for him to eat but incredibly delicious.  Shelley had (guess) breaded fish. 

More of the same on Wednesday, up early in the morning to take Fredi for a beach walk, breakfast, another walk up the Malecon, beach time (Brian went swimming) & lunch.  It was cloudy but warm the whole time we were there.  We've previously been to Salinas in February when its HOT (32+ C) so we quite enjoyed the temperature this time.  In fact, we never turned on the air conditioner in our room.  It was quiet on the beach with fewer vendors.  We had several naps and attributed our sleepiness to the change in altitude.  That evening we found a place that served burgers for dinner.  It was a nice change.

Up once again at 6 o'clock on Thursday, Fredi got her walk and then we caught our bus at 7.  Just outside Guayaquil there was a protest of some sort.  There were tires stacked 3 deep and flaming (!) all across the highway.  After a while, our bus driver made a couple of calls and then eventually advised us to walk until we saw bus # 6, well on the other side of the barricade, which would take us on to Guayaquil.  We walked past the burning tires and down the middle of the highway, looking at the lined up cars for about 1 k.  There we were, carrying our possessions, trudging in the hot sun and Shelley turned to Brian:  "I feel like a refugee" she told him.  He laughed.

We trooped onto our # 6 bus and headed into Guayaquil.  At the mall once again, we stopped at McDonalds and had a McFiesta burger and fries since we'd missed breakfast.  Shelley and Fredi, with our luggage, then settled down under an air conditioner, while Brian went in search of clothes big enough for him in the mall.  Mall noises:  the babble of Spanish thick in the background, the vendors from the bus kiosks shouting their destinations, salsa music and intense drumming, a young couple talking in Chinese (believe it or not) and a rooster crowing periodically.  Brian came up empty in the large clothes department. 

West Side of Guayaquil

Our trip between Guayaquil and Cuenca was longer going back as there were lots of delays for road construction.  We missed most of them on the first trip.  We wound our way past banana plantations and scrub grass, waited patiently at several places, passed a myriad of trucks & buses on blind corners in the fog, passed the breathtaking drops & llamas and finally hit the outskirts of Cuenca, pleased to be home but happy with our holiday. 

More pictures of Salinas can be found here.

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