The Beach in Olon
It's a laid-back Friday for us, but the beach is starting to get a little busy as Ecuadorians and people from around the world come to the area enjoy the surf, sand and sun. Still, there is plenty of spots on the sand in Olon - there's no need to be crowded.
The Beach in Olon
William and I walked on the beach this morning then watched the first part of Paul and Kara's surf lesson before I decided I had better get out of the sun before I burned. Along the way we saw people camping on the beach, including a guy in a VW bus who is surfing his way from Argentina to Alaska. In the afternoon we all went to our favorite beach restaurant for lunch and cocktails / cerveza's. The seafood dishes are extremely fresh and the blue margarita's quite refreshing. The family who owns the restaurant has now begun to recognize us, and greets us with huge smiles.
We choose the local BBQ place tonight for dinner. There's more restaurant options to explore in Olon and probably 30+ restaurants in nearby Montanita, but all of us really want a second round of a good meal of rice, beans and meat cooked on the grill. The place is hopping with customers at the tables and a line for take-out. We wait a while eyeing the people completing their meals so we can swoop in and grab their seats. Tonight the meat options include credo (pork) as well as pollo(chicken) and chorizo and pollo. All are very tasty. When we ask the owner for cerveza's he points us to the bar across the street indicating we should buy it ourselves and bring it back to the table. We learn from our neighbor that on busy nights the restaurant charges a premium for sitting at the tables rather than taking the meal in a to-go box. Still, for 5 meals the bill comes to just $22. Another $10 for five liters of beer.
Christmas at the beach has a whole different feel than Christmas in New England. Christmas Eve day most people seem to be working. The gardeners show up as usual, the tienda's are open, and everyone is going about their daily routine. In the afternoon we opt for a walk along the beach and stop for a beverage at one of the many small beach shacks that are restaurants and bars. Many serve only cerveza's, water and coke, but this one has a full bar. Between the six of us we try several cocktails, ranging from frozen margarita's to laguna azul, which made William's tongue turn blue (at least by the second one).
In the evening we made dinner at the house. Coq au vin with chicken we bought in Montanita on Monday as well as broccoli and fruit salad with some of the incredible white pineapple grown in Ecuador.
After dinner we walk a bit and join up with the Christmas procession. It's lead by a man dressed up as an angel and behind him are three wise men, Joseph, a pregnant Mary, ten women in long skirts and then the townspeople. They stop at various businesses and homes along the route where a song is played on a portable stereo and the women perform a swaying dance. At some locations the owners come out with cups of a chocolate looking beverage and buns. After the procession we head over to Katy's newly relocated restaurant. It's opening night for them and she has hires a six piece jazz band.
Christmas Day is laid back. We start with a walk along the beach before breakfast. There are surfers out early to catch the waves. Later in the day we have planned to grill chicken in the back yard.
One of the attractions along Ecuador's Costa del Sol is Parque Nacional Machalilla and the highlight is Isla de la Plata, commonly known as the poor man's Galapagos. On Monday we make arrangements with Katy, a local restauranteur/tour coordinator for a tour of Isla de La Plata.
We arrive at her restaurant at 7:50 am Tuesday and she walks us to catch the local bus to Puerto Lopez. She strolls at a South American pace and Paul finds it hard to walk sooooo slow. The two block walk takes us 10 minutes.
Katy explains in her basic English that we are looking for a green bus. A little while later one arrives and the six of us plus Katy hop on. It's definitely a local bus - but there aren't any live chickens aboard. :-). The bus twists and turns along the coast for 45 minutes until we arrive at Puerto Lopez, a small fishing town and the port for the boats to Isla del la Plata. Katy hands us off too local tour agent. As we're walking the four or five blocks to their office he gestures asking if we get sea sick. Some reply yes. Two shops down from their office is a conveniently located Pharmacia, where we pick up medicine for three of us.
Across the dusty street is the post with all the fishing boats and the fishmonger stands. Since we have 20 minutes one of the locals hanging around the tour office takes us over. Some of the fishermen are cleaning their catches and others are showing off what they have to prospective buyers.
There are four tour groups going today, and our group of six along with eight Italians and two tour guides are loaded onto a dive boat which holds 20 people. The tour guides do not speak English, and we speak very little Spanish, but we come to understand that the waters are calmer this time of year, but still choppy. Choppy is an understatement! I'm glad I am one of the people who stopped at the Pharmacia. The boat tries to skim across the swells, but often rises up and down and hits hard - this would not be a trip for someone with a back problem!
After about 75 minutes the captain slows the boat and the guides pass out some banana cake. Off the side of the boat there are a group of six to eight large turtles playing in the water. We approach our landing point on the island. This will be a wet landing, which means we pull off our shoes and the captain backs the boat as close to the shore as possible, then we jump out and walk up to shore.
There is a nice tourist pavilion complete with banos which we use before starting our walk on the island. The island is very sandy and dry. There are some cacti as well as local shrubs - one used to make dragon's blood, a local cure for cuts and bites. Along our walk we are rewarded by seeing blue footed boobies which are nesting. In some cases we stand just three to four feet away from the nest. Our guide explains in Spanish and gestures that as the booby builds the nest they poo around it. That marks their territory and also keeps the insects away.
After hiking back to the boat the captain takes us 10 minutes down the coast to a snorkeling spot. All of us but William took the plunge. I saw some coral and a couple of large colorful fish. He stopped at a second spot as well, but it was close to some rocks and we opted to stay aboard. However, about half of our boisterous Italian boatmates were quickly in the water. Everyone was smiling.
The ride back to the mainland was rougher than our ride out to the island and seemed to take two and a half hours, but against was only approximately 75 minutes. Many of the Italians were singing songs, which helped occupy the time. We stumbled off the dock and made our way back to the street where the bus had dropped us off. We understood that the bus would come at 5:30pm. About 5:35 we were joined in the street by an Ecuadorian woman and her small son. Five minutes later another man showed up who spoke a little English. He also had 't taken the bus back towards Olon before. He had been told by a local to stand here and the bus comes some times. Hmmmmm. At 5:45 we spotted a green bus headed in the right direction on the next major street over. All started running. Luckily all of us made it onto the bus. We paid our $2.50 each as the bus started it's 45 minute journey south to Olon.
We arrived back in Olon tired and a little sore, but all were very happy with our adventure.
You've already heard from William about our packing.
We are on the road again in Ecuador. We land in Guayaquil on time at 4:30 AM Sunday after uneventful flights. Our sons Paul and Jim, daughter-in-law Sally, and Paul's girlfriend Kara are joining us for two weeks, then we will remain in Ecuador for ~ 2 months.
We have hired Patricio with his 12- 14 passenger people mover to drive us from Guayaquil to Olon, and he is waiting for us after baggage claim with a smile on his face. The drive to Olon gives us a small glimpse of the city and suburbs of Guayaquil, and then the sandy soils that lead to the beach areas. Occasionally there is something a little different - coffee plantations, banana groves, even an area where they evaporate seawater and produce salt. Paul is interested in the two separate long stretches of well-developed bicycle paths which parallel the highway.
Arriving at the home we have rented for a week in Olon we are tired but happy. The house is in an area called Jardines de Olon consisting of upscale comes owned by both Ecuadorians and Expat's. It is right on the beach, which is broad and lovely.
The 4 bedroom 4 bath home is very nice, and the caretaker (sister of the owner) is happy to show us about the house and around the town. We make note of the restaurants and location of the tienda's and grocery store.
Sunday evening we try out an outdoor BBQ place. The owner has a small canopy area as well as tables in the streets. The entrees consist of rice and beans along with your choice of beef, chicken or chorizo with either a smaller piece beef or chicken. He BBQ's in front of us on grills fashioned from 55 gallon drums which are cut in half. Amazingly, everything is extremely clean. The six of choose a variety of options. There's a general agreement that the beef is tasty, but the chorizo and chicken are better. The servings of rice and beans are more than ample and quite good. Six entrees with five liters of beer and a bottle of water served al fresco on a very pleasant night totals $28. Awesome.
We're getting ready for our trip to Ecuador. We have the good fortune to be spending the holidays there with our family.
As Anne usually does, she has been planning for months. So, the time comes to pack. Wow! We definitely do not go light. In her defense, we will be gone for 6 weeks. But, do we really need to pack peanut butter?
We pack kitchen knives, spices, and anything she can think of to bring our American Lifestyle with us. I like that but, if we ever decide to make a permanent move, we're going to have to get used to living like the locals.
Well when all is said and done, we fit everything into 3 bags. Still a lot, but very manageable.
This will probably be my last post. Anne will be taking over once we get to Ecuador. I'll be going back to my Photography. That should improve these posts.
Note: After trying to take everything with us, we forgot the WDTV remote control. I guess we won't watch any movies for the next 2 months!
Hi. I'm Anne. I wander around the world with William.
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