Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Week of Exploration.

Finally feeling much better, we spent the week exploring our surroundings and venturing out. We did so via several different modes of transportation...walking, water taxi, bus, taxi, bicycle taxi, and motorcycle taxi.

On Monday, we walked throughout town and did a huge circle around the whole point. Must have walked about 3 miles, if not more. Along the way, we discovered a new grocery store tucked into the more commercial area with good choices and good prices. Nice to have more choices. 

We also found Miguelito!! He's a huge Galapagos turtle that lives in a school yard here in town. Even though school wasn't in session by the time we got there, the gate was open and we got to visit with him. Mike even got the nerve to climb the fence and do a photo moment. Not sure how legal or smart that was. But since Miguelito truly moved very slowly, he gave a good pose and the photo shoot went well!

We finished with a gorgeous walk along the complete malecón and a drink overlooking the ocean at La Piedra. Truly not a bad day!

Tuesday brought the energy to go to Canoa, a small surf village about 15km on the other side of Rio Chone and up the Pacific Coast going north.  To get there we took a water taxi for $.50/ea that didn't give either one of us a good comfort level.  It was overloaded with teenagers that had been in Bahia visiting the cultural museum and we sat very low in the water with only a few life jackets, at best.  Any decent wave would have tipped us right over.  I guess I should have more faith, as I've been watching them cross multiple times a day back & forth and haven't seen an incident yet.  But.....

On the way to the ferry, though, we met a new couple in town from CA.  They were just meandering along the walk but we hadn't seen them before.  We all kind of stopped and just started visiting.  Exchanged contact info and decided we would get together on Wednesday evening.  Love meeting new people from all over the world!

Once across the river in San Vicente, we walked up to the dentist's office of Dr. Loor, who had been recommended.  Turns out that I had actually made an appointment with another dentist right in Bahia but was alerted that he charged gringo prices. So Mike called him that morning to confirm his pricing and sure enough, he wanted to charge $60. No way! Dr. Loor answered the door herself and I made an appointment for 4pm at a cost of $20 for my teeth cleaning. That's more what we were expecting.

We waited on the street corner for about a half hour before a bus going to Canoa came by. All of the streets are either dirt roads (just like home) or are under construction, so the dust is quite heavy.  Like I've said before, our life in Kettle Falls did plenty for preparing us to make this journey without having issues with many things that would freak out most. Just take it in stride, relax, and most of all, enjoy the moment!

Once in Canoa, Mike and I headed directly toward the playa (beach) where there are many unique restaurants and shops.  As we were walking down the sandy lane, we heard a toot toot. Looking around there was Don & Diane Murray in their jeep.  They were on their way to the Surf Shak, just like us, for lunch.  And, what a good lunch it was! Plus, we got to visit some more with the Murphy's, who we definitely call "friends" now.

Mike and I continued our exploration through town and along the beach until it was time to catch the bus back to San Vicente for my dentist appointment.  We arrived about a half hour early but she had no other patient so I was taken right into her exam room, which is quite small.  Despite that, she had two students (male & female) helping her. I was quite the "catch" of the day for them!! Having implants, bridges, and a partial besides a few of my own remaining teeth, the teaching began in earnest.  Just so you'll all know, I lost many of my really good teeth because of an actual bone disease, not periodontal issues.

Anyway, the teeth cleaning went well albeit not as technically efficient in the tool department. But, I certainly got my money's worth and wouldn't hesitate to go back.

Suffice it to say, we didn't take the water taxi back although I was actually game. But we waited for almost 15 minutes with no taxi in sight so off to the bus we went.  We had to get off the bus because it didn't go down to the point area, which gave us quite a nice long walk.  Along the way, we found the government tourism office and picked up pointers on our desire to go to Isla Corozon, an island that has a mangrove forest and does tours by canoe not too far from here plus other interesting photo ops.

Passing Coco Bongo on the way home, we ran into several expats and the owner, Sean Carter.  Sean's a great young guy originally from FL who also runs EcuaAssist, a business that helps expats in all things needed while in country. An easy way to end the day out!
Hung out at home most of Wednesday doing chores and preparing for a visit with our new friends, Kay and Wayne.  They arrived around 5pm and we began to get to know each other more.  We had a grand time talking about our travels.  Kay owns an eclectic shop and goes to Bali at least once a year on a buying spree. Oh, so jealous!  Wayne had been a Realtor® and is now a mortgage originator, so we had lots in common and much to talk about. 

Decided to try a new place for dinner, La Herradura (the horseshoe), which is also a hotel along the malecon.  Mike and I had stopped on Monday during our walk to look at the menu and decided it was definitely worth a try even though no other expats have recommended it.  Hmmm, I still have to ask why not.  Oh so worth it!  The atmosphere is charming and the food was excellent in huge portions at a very reasonable price.  My Pollo Ampanado (breaded chicken) with a generous portion of yummy French fries and a salad was only $7. The most expensive thing we ordered was a good bottle of wine, which at $20, was still very reasonable at an average of $5 for each large glass of wine. And, it was GOOD wine, a very important factor to consider here since most wine that's sold at $3/glass is average at best box wine.

Thursday was a totally hang out day but we got a wonderful long walk along the beach at low tide.  This tide was what is called a zero tide, which means it really is AT sea level.  So many sand bars everywhere in the channel that we'd never seen before.  So we were able to walk and walk on the sand and found some great shells to bring back for decoration.  Love walking on the beach!

Then off to Booz Run at Coco Bongo for more Malbec at $5.50/bottle.  I've found that there isn't any decent dry white wine so I've been drinking mostly tinto (tinted instead of rojo - red).  My red wine only friends will be very happy for me!

On Friday we decided to take the bus up north to Pedernales to see the Equator. Haha!!  Our bus was late leaving San Vicente, so by the time the bus arrived after a very long but beautiful 3 hour ride it was already 1:30pm.  The final bus back south left at 3pm so we decided lunch was much more important than taking a motor taxi to go to the marker.  We walked through town, which is quite a bustling place, and headed down the hill toward the beach. 

As all of the quaint thatched roofed huts on the beach were all bars, we found a hostal restaurant and sat ourselves down.  OMG, my Arroz y Pollo (rice and chicken) was to die for!  The best I've had in Ecuador and it rivaled the best I had in Central American.  Mike's Camarones Encocado (shrimp in coconut sauce) was really good also but not as good as what he had in Montanita.

We had enough time to walk along the beach a bit and look at some of the chotzky kiosks. It was definitely warmer the further north we went and the sun was glorious but strong. Catching a motortaxi, up the hill we went back to the same bus that we rode in on. Oh well, all in day's exploring!

Before we had left Bahia, we had looked at several maps to see exactly where the Equator was going to be on this trek.  Well....they were all different!  But, they all said it was south of town.  I had looked for it, or at least a sign, as we got closer to Pedernales but never did see one. Pam and Bob Harrington told us that they took a motortaxi from Pedernales 30 minutes back south. So on our way back, Mike finally spotted a very small sign on the highway acknowledging the spot.  So that meant, we actually did cross the equator twice and had lunch in the northern hemisphere.  That was good enough for us!  Funny, though that today there have been postings on Facebook with links on the "elusive Equator".  Come to find out, most of the markings in many places in Ecuador are actually wrong, which the locals and natives have always known!  We might try again north of Quito....

Friday night brought us the very first sunset and moon sighting since we've been in Bahia and the very first moon we've seen at all since leaving the states on July 6th!

We were really looking forward to Saturday, as 3 master guitarists were supposed to be playing and I simply LOVE good classical guitar!!  They were actually supposed to play Friday night at the municipal theatre but we were then advised by an expat that the venue had changed to on stage during the last Hot Summer Nights event at 8:30pm.

So Mike and I left and had $1.50 yummy hamburgers at Pepito's with wine and beer for a total of $7!  We then walked a bit further down Simon Bolivar to the "dessert lady".  She sits out on her porch with her homemade scrumptious creations and sells them at incredible prices!  I had lemon cake and Mike, chocolate torte, of course.  Total $2.50.

Moseying down a bit further toward the stage and food vendors, we stopped for another drink at Mojito's.  Mike loves mojitos and he was NOT disappointed!! His favorite place for them was in Puerto Vallarta but they closed over 2 years ago and he has been searching ever since. Looks like we'll be going back!

As it was getting a bit past 8pm and the crowds started to gather around the stage, we went and found our friends, Susan and Karl Heer, who had already staked out their spot.  Then the fun began!  Marching bands with dancers and drummers, Indigenous Ecuadorian dancers dressed in full true colorful dress (the first we've seen), and, then the beautiful Posofino horses dancing and prancing so beautifully!!

Then on stage, we were treated to more beautifully dressed and dancing Ecuadorians from the Cotopaxi region. So much fun and gorgeous!!


All was going well and we were quite enjoying ourselves until the next performance.  Don't quite know what was going on but it sure seemed like a teenage Victoria Secret fashion show with each of them having a different set of "wings" on their backs!! And, it went on and on and on.  By then we were exhausted, hot from the pushing and shoving of the crowds, and sore backs and knees from standing so long on the concrete streets that we decided to leave at 10pm. It appeared that the guitarists were never going to make it on stage!  Will never know if they did.  Sad and disappointed!

But the locals were having a blast last night!  Seems like the perfect hang out on the beach is right under our bedroom window and they drank and partied until almost 4am. What's really sadder though is that these young adults are mostly from Quito who come here for vacation and they leave all of their trash of bottles and garbage all over the place. Bahia is a designated GREEN city and prides itself on this. Those that come to visit don't have the same respect or appreciation.  I shouted out a big Thank You to the garbage man this morning (yes, even on a Sunday) for picking up their garbage. 

So this coming week, we're hoping to explore some more and we have Mike's BIG event of paragliding on Wednesday. So we'll keep you posted of our comings and goings as our journey continues....