Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Coast is NOT Clear

Grab this related post Widget!
At least it wasn't in Salinas where we spent several days over a long weekend. We'd never been to the coast at all so when some friends invited us to go, you know us by now----por que no (why not?).

Off we went early Friday morning. The drive soon took us through Cajas National Park, which is absolutely breathtaking. Wish I had some pics to share but we were all anxious to get to the beach and didn't stop. Oh, well, another trip I guess.

The drive was also back-breaking, brain-shaking, and last will and testament-making (I think I'll go for a world record in this blog for descriptions using dashes). Cajas is HUGE--it took two hours to get from beginning to end. Two hours of incredible scenery mixed with long stretches of tooth-rattling (off to a good start), unfinished roadwork; curve after curve after curve after---you get the idea; vehicles insanely passing each other on those curves.

Next we passed through Guayaquil. Ecuador's a tiny country (about the size of Colorado), the smallest in South America. This crazy city's got 6 million+ citizens! Who knew?? The downtown area looked pretty nice, but there are miles and miles of frightening slums surrounding it. Not planning to spend a lot of time there.

After about 5-6 hours we arrived in Salinas, the premier resort town in the country. You might accurately surmise from the name that salt is produced here. Therefore the surrounding vegetation is somewhat barren. It's winter here now, so while it's not really cold because of the proximity to the equator, the weather in this area turned out to be quite overcast.

Our friends made all the arrangements, so we were surprised to learn we were staying at a hotel on a naval base right outside of the resort area. The great news about this was that, as opposed to the beach area where the hotels are all across the street California-style, we were right there, up close and personal. And while our immediate area was more NE/NW U.S.-looking (the dash record is in sight) with a rocky coastline, we had our own private, deserted beach a 5 minute stroll away.

I've got to tell you, our Ecuadorian friend is a cookaholic. She's inviting us up for a shrimp breakfast (sorry, SC friends, no grits) one day, a fish breakfast the next, lobster for dinner--the woman never stopped, God bless her. She said it was relaxing for her. Um, OK--------.

But she also got really ill, so a trip we had hoped to take to Isle de la Plata (Poor Man's Galapagos) that would involve whale-watching (there's another one!) coming and going got derailed. Oh, well, the whales come every year; h-m-m-m---another trip--------.

We still had a blast, though. Since the weather sucked, we basically did a lot of eating, drinking, sleeping (we slept SO much it was unbelievable; had no idea we were that tired), and walking on the beach and around town.

A number of people have already asked me, "What did you think of Salinas?." Honestly, we were underwhelmed. Please don't misunderstand, there was nothing enormously wrong (although the bumpy dirt roads everywhere but the main stretch along the beach were a definite turnoff); it just kind of reminded us of Myrtle Beach without the putt-putt (does that count?) courses and pancake joints.

Before we returned to Cuenca Tuesday we set out chasing some sunshine. Turns out it was only 30 minutes north of us all the time, across the bay in San Pablo. Why sunny there & cloudy in Salinas? Like most everything you could possibly ask me about most anything in Ecuador, my answer is, "I have no idea."

But sunny it was in this nutty little town with a mile of wall-to-wall (surely I've got the trophy) beach shacks selling super-fresh, super-cheap seafood right on the beach. And a mile of jaw-dropping (he's pouring it on down the home stretch!) slums directly across the street. Who cares? I'm not here to save the world. The sun's shinin'; the waves are crashin;, I'm body surfin', eating shrimp and drinking huge beers for a buck twenty five each. Life is good!

And then there was the drive back. (Sigh)

Guayaquil again--oof. Cajas again. Double oof. At night this time with the clouds rolling in, creating impenetrable fog around all those damned curves (but still people were honking their horns and passing). Long delays through the unfinished stretches where the traffic is one way and alternates. Funny thing about that though. While you're sitting there, out of the fog emerges this throng of people trying to sell potato chips, chocolate, who knows what. Bless their hearts, it's really cold in these mountains at night; it's dark; yet here they are, delay after delay, hoping to make a few bucks. Understand in Ecuador the minimum wage is $240/mo.

That's not the funny part. Their sudden appearance oddly reminded me of the "Thriller" video with MJ and all the ghouls. And then I thought, "If they'd all line up and do that choreography for tips they'd probably make a lot more money than trying to sell this crap nobody wants." But that's just my warped mind churning away.

We somehow arrived back in Cuenca with no apparent disk problems and all teeth intact. Cynthia and I are already mentally planning a bus trip up the coast sometime next year. Backpacks, maybe $1000 in our pocket, no time limit, just go till there's no more dough. I've been told there's awesome surf in Montanitas and that the tropical flavor of Esmereldas is intoxicating.

Anybody-want-to-join-us? (Just in case)


zootenval said...

We'd join you in a heartbeat...

only 1,769 days, 58 months, a tad under 5 years until we get to be Johnny Paycheck...

Great blog, Edd...I appreciate your "tell it like it is" narrative..

David L. Akins said...

I enjoyed every bone-jarring, teeth-rattling, hair-raising (scratch that last comment...just to folically challenged to have that experience)description of the trip. The Thriller comment was great!

David Akins

zootenval said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

Nice post! I agree with your comment on the road-side sellers. They come out in droves in the traffic in Quito, too. If these people would do something creative or fun beside try to sell me knock-off Trident in the rain, I'd be more than happy to slip them a few bucks.

I'm looking for the best coastal trip - so many have said that Salinas disappoints, though, that I doubt I'll ever make it!