Monday, June 30, 2014

Odds and ends

This post will be a collection of things that haven't made it into other posts. I've got some weird fruit to share, 

We've established this is Dragon Fruit, the most common variety in the States is pink.

This was labeled pepino in the grocery store, looked it up on Google translator, and it told me cucumber! But then when I googled the image, I found out it tasted slightly cucumberish, but was closer to a melon.

This was taken in Manta with Fernando, I google imaged droop fruit, and this may be a variety of mango. Mango season isn't til November, December, January, but I'll keep my eyes open for more of these strange looking trees.

Speaking of Fernando, he sent me this picture he took, while we were eating our new favorite breakfast encebollados. His website for Visa help, and all around new comer help is or email sosmantaguide@ Fernando Monroy is a treasure. While we were with him the other day, he got a call for help hooking up DirectV and getting a new cell phone, so he will pretty much help you with everything! Fees are very good, and his English is great!

I mentioned Ceibo trees the other day, and thought many of you may not know what they are. 

They can grow up to 230 ft, they only leaf out in the rainy season, and bloom once every 5 years or so. Their bark is green with chlorophyll so they can "do their thing" without leaves during the dry spells. They have seed pods that are filled with "cotton" that is used for floatations, and life jackets. They aren't protected, but locals won't cut them down, because they are said to house natural spirits, that have roots to the center of the earth. The Mayans celebrated them, and there are many folklore stories about them. Their wood is soft, so they aren't used for furniture or other woodworking, some have big thorns on their bark. They certainly look like hobbits or trolls are close by, maybe something out of a Disney movie...another interesting thing in Ecuador.

Went to the beach yesterday, it was the busiest we have seen it. The Peter and Paul festival was still going, so I'm sure that brought some people in to town.  Glad the festival is over, they like to party...til 3am! Not even the earplugs could drown it all out, luckily it was was pretty good music, with only a little  bit of drunken talking on the microphone (which we couldn't understand anyway) but I'm glad we got to see it. Not as many vendors as we expected, it was more block party style. 

Another pretty sunset from the porch, just thought I'd share.

We went down to the Malecon this morning, to see if we could get some fish or shrimp. Saw one man gutting a fish that was 4 ft long, and found a pound of shrimp for $5, probably a gringo price, would have been cheaper if we spoke better spanish. Also got 4 tomatoes,4 onions,4 potatoes, a pepper, milk and butter for $6, cookies and dog food for $4. Saw a pineapple, but decided we would use our small bills for lunch at our new favorite Yolita's. 

Mikes in the hammock, and I'll work on my tan before it gets too hot. Lunch, then another walk on the beach before siesta. Life is good ( and bootless) in Ecuador. It's been almost a week since I wore my boot, last time it hurt, so I've been going without. Trying to stretch the muscle that runs down the top of my foot, so I can get my range of motion back. The ankle is still swollen, and tender to the touch, but I'm getting better everyday. 

Enjoy your day, take time to be still and dream or plot an adventure, you'll never regret it! Hasta luego

Saturday, June 28, 2014

[2014-06-26] Big Day

We did all kinds of stuff yesterday. We rode the bus to Manta to get our 180 day visas. Went to the Manta fish market, we saw where they work on the boats, swam in the ocean and saw them setting up for a huge party. The Party is the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (Fiestas de San Pedro y San Pablo)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Manta waterfront

Thursday we caught the bus bright and early at 7am to ride into Manta and meet with Fernando for pick up of our official Visa. The bus was almost empty, since we were getting on at the start of the route, we picked a seat in the back, and got to watch everything. Thru Crucita, past Cruz Verde (Jaimes fruit stand) into Rocafuerte, where many people got on, loading boxes and bags of goods in the luggage compartment underneath to take into Manta to sell. Then again past Cruz Verde and into Manta, there's not much between, except Ceibo trees and some cactus, but you know you're getting close when you start to smell the tuna canneries, and see the warehouses.

Manta is Ecuadors largest seaport, it's number one export is tuna, exporting to US (BumbleBee) and the UK, and second is vegetable oil. They are well known for diving, sport fishing, windsurfing and said to have some of the best beaches in South America. Manta's sister city is ironically Long Beach, California (Paige's hometown). In September they have quite a large International Film Festival, some say rival Cannes. Fernando was hired by Discovery Channel to help with logistics when they were there filming a show on Extreme fishing last year.

After the Immigration office, which was pretty quick and easy, ($250 plus $4 and some photo copies, we have our official 6 month Visa "sticker" in our passports, and one step closer to residency)

Fernando took us on a tour of the waterfront. I took pictures and Mike shot video, so this is very well documented, as it should be...because it was AWESOME! 

The boats that catch these big fish (shark, marlin,swordfish) stay out three days, 

It looks like they do the gutting out in the water, so it's pretty much all meat when they bring them ashore. Guys were wearing rain jackets and just had these monsters slung over their shoulder bringing them from the boat, others had gurneys they used to bring them ashore.Then someone would start hacking them into 2 foot chunks, and load them onto a truck, probably for restaurants. We then walked over to the fish market, these huts are where the cleaners work, the get the smaller fish from the boat, scale and gut before sending to the market.

This market is open everyday from 6-12 noon. They had everything, some were already fillets, cubed, steaks, strips, or whole. 

It's crab season, and this monster he was selling for $10! There were shrimp, of all sizes, cleaned, uncleaned, pre-cooked even, you name it.

Hopefully some of these images are on Mikes video, because they are pretty dark. We weren't prepared to buy anything and take home on the bus, we would have brought our insulated tote bag, next time. ( or find one closer to home) Fernando suggested breakfast, fish soup that is huge with the locals, we had heard of it, and hadn't had anything we didn't like so far, so we were game. 

For $1 we got a big enough bowl the three of us shared! I was too busy eating to get a picture, maybe it's on was excellent! Definatly something we will have again, tasty broth, cilantro, yucca, onions and big chunks of fresh tuna, YUM!  From here, we left the fish market and went to see the boat yard.

Here's one they are repairing/rebuilding, the only power tool they use is a chainsaw. You can see the worker on the bamboo scaffolding,(right in the middle of picture) using the chainsaw to cut out the bad wood.

Bamboo scaffolding again being used. These were some massive boats. Next is kinda "before and after". I tried to ask Fernando about the different shapes, and he said they were just different models, but I'm guessing their usage is different too.

Close up of the rutter of one of these big boys (or are boats always girls?) 

These next pictures are of a boat getting fiberglass. The "frame" is wood, with plywood, then fiberglass sheets on top. 

The tarps on the side are to keep sawdust (from the other boats being worked on) from getting stuck in the fiberglass, it smelled like a nail salon, so I knew what they were doing, even before I saw the workers. I don't know much about boats, but I'm pretty sure some of these would be considered garbage in the States. These are truly craftsmen, they call them Maestros, and for good reason! It was an amazing day, and it was only 11am!

We bid farewell to Fernando and Manta, and boarded the bus back to Crucita, napped a little on the way, and arrived refreshed and ready to go. We realized as we got off the bus that the road was closed again, we had heard of a Peter and Paul festival that was getting ready to start, but couldn't be sure that this wasn't still part of the PortoViejo province party. We relaxed at home a while then got on our bathing suits and headed to the beach.

The water was rough but we both got in for a while. Sat on the sand, and enjoyed the wonderful day we were being blessed with. Decided we were hungry and thought we'd go to Yolita's for al muerzo again, if she was still serving. It was about 2pm and we can't always be sure who takes siesta, but we found her watching wrestling, and happy to serve us. Today's soup was chicken and rice, and we added hot sauce, which made it almost too much, yikes ! The main course turned out to be octopus fried rice, it was very tasty, we figured it was seafood, and by the texture of the "meat" concluded it was pulpo, which she corrected me, as calamar. I deduced that the "animal" is pulpo, but the "food" is calamar. We missed not having the wonderful pan fried fish, but always excited to try something new.

Home for an outdoor shower and siesta, then after sunset we'd walk down to see the festivities. Two tents were set up, they both had bandstands, and a fancy dinner set up. It turned out this was the beginning of the Peter and Paul festival, the "founding" families, or the most prominent in town throw a huge party, and are recognized for their service and contributions, as well as them showing appreciation of the "workers" or the little guys, It'll go on all week. We walked as they finished dinner, and paraded (with band) down to meet the other tent of people, then parade into the church for a short service. We wondered down to the beach, then back home. Tried to stay awake, but couldn't make ourselves go back down for the party, but they partied til about 2am. Today we will have some hammock time, then go down to see what's going on after we hear some music, and if there's music, we will hear it! The bandstand is about 1 and half blocks away. Life is noisy and fun in Ecuador! Stay tuned...the adventure continues

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Government office closed

So yesterday our lesson in being flexible just kept playing over and over...when we got back from the beach we lazed around a bit til it was time to make something to eat. I went to wash something, and there was no water, what the heck?! 

We called Wolf and he said he'd be over soon, when he got here, he looked around and said "here's your problem, the valve is turned off, who did that?" And we said, "what valve? Nobody turned it off!" We are on city water, we have a cistern (like a well) that gets water supplied to it sometimes twice a week, since this valve was turned off, closed, no water was able to be filled into the cistern. Before we got here they cleaned the cistern, they closed the valve to do that, just in case the city tried to supply water while they were in it cleaning. They then filled it with a water truck, and somebody forgot to turn the valve back on. This is the only scenario that could have happened, unless we have some jokester that scaled our 10 foot spiked walls to turn the valve off...hmmm.

Wolf got the cistern cleaners to come again, husband and wife team that showed up with their tools...a 5gallon bucket, and for $10 he climbed down into the cistern scooped out the remaining water and handed the bucket to her up the stairs, she emptied it, and the process continued. They swept out the mud and sediment and made the tile sparkle. After they were done, we turned the valve to open, but the city did not resupply last night so this morning we got a water truck to deliver and fill us up.

So while this was all going on yesterday afternoon, we asked Wolf about a taxi into Manta for our new Visa appointment, and he informed us that the office would be closed due to the holiday...the same reason for the parade, I called Fernando to confirm this, and after he checked with the website, said yes that the government offices in Manabi province would be closed. Good to know! Geez!!

We decided to make the best of our "free day" and went to lunch and the beach, and now I write this from the hammock. So we had the water delivery this morning, checked email and such and tried a new place for lunch. It was a $3 al muerzo (lunch special) and will certainly tide us over til late evening, 

  The soup is Viche, a peanut based broth, with a plantain dumpling, like a meatball, these were filled with cheese, very good,  then the second course is rice, beans, these were like split peas, ( the other day we had lentils) and a pan fried fish. So tasty, nothing needed salt, too much food, but the fish was so good I was sad when I was at the last bite. The fried plantain still has a little sweetness to it, so I save it for last and it suffices as dessert (would be great with vanilla Ice cream). Today it came with a small soda, I would prefer water, but it was cute.

We then walked some of it off, went to the beach, Mike went swimming, while I sunbathed on the sand. Since it's a holiday, there were more families today than on a usual Wednesday, but it was not too busy. The tents were up and it looked festive,  the marine layer was still hanging on, so it wasn't blazing sun and the breeze was great. We thought about sharing an ice cream on the walk home, but it was siesta and all the tiendas were closed for their naps. Sometimes we think we need a watch, and then we smile and think, flexible!

Our reward for being flexible yesterday was this amazing sunset. We'll catch the bus into Manta in the morning, meet with Fernando and have another adventure, stay tuned. Buenos tardes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A lesson in being Flexible

We had an appointment this morning with Fernando to get our final Visa, in Manta, last time we tried to take the bus, and were late, so this time we hired Richard to take us. We wanted to be IN Manta at 8:30 when the immigration office opened, but Richard said he couldn't pick us up til 8:30, so we said ok. At 9:06 we called Richard wondering where he was, and he said he was stuck behind the parade...they had closed the road leaving town, and he couldn't get to us. He thought maybe 10 minutes, but in 10 minutes he called again and said it wasn't happening. He was stuck. 

We've been hearing the marching band practice for weeks, so when we heard it this morning we didn't think anything of it. But this time it was a parade, so we walked down to the main road to see it. I mean, who doesn't like a parade? 

This was the end of the parade route, maybe 3 blocks from our street. The commentator was under this tent with loud speaker. Richard was stuck at the way other end of this street. The Malecon is 2 blocks to the right, parallel to this main road, and that was where all the cheerleaders and bands were lined up waiting, so Richard couldn't go that way either.

We stood here for a minute, then walked down to see if we couldn't meet up with Richard, which we did finally. I took some video, and after Mike works his editing magic, he'll post it.

When we found Richard he told us that the reason for the parade was having to do with Crucita being "adopted" by the city of PortoViejo, kinda the reverse of Independence Day, but this is the anniversary of that. Many of the schools were from PortoViejo, we didn't see the beginning of the parade, so we don't know how many schools were in it, but most of the parade was kids and bands. There were school children in their school uniforms, and the teachers wear uniforms too. 

We couldn't  tell how long the road would be closed, so we called Fernando and he said tomorrow would be fine, so not only did we have to be flexible, but so did Richard, and Fernando. The parade ended up being 2 hours, but it was going to take awhile to clear out, we said goodbye to Richard and walked to the Malecon, and sat at the beach for awhile. It ended up being a nice morning, good weather, and some culture. Stay tuned for the video. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

[2014-06-22] sanALEJO House

Here is the first look at the house we are going to in August. It's in San Alejo between San Clemente and San Jacinto. It's right across the street from the beach! If you click the youTube logo in the bottom right corner you can make this bigger. Make sure you read the post before this to get all the details. Hasta Luego, Mike

Year lease

Yesterday was a new bus adventure, and an all around big day. We were headed up to San Clemente to meet with Dave and talk about renting his house across from the ocean in San Alejo.

We had gone to lunch at the expat restaurant on Friday, and spoke with her about the apartment, and decided it wasn't for us. Dave's was the one, if he'd have us, and as it turns out he's pretty sure it's a perfect match. So we committed to a year at $450 plus utilities. But let me start from the beginning, the bus.

We had to get on the bus that said Manta/Rocafuerte, and it turned out to be the  second bus that came by, so far so good. Finally got a picture, looks a lot like a Greyhound, some are more decorated than this one. We had to transfer at Rocafuerte to the San Clemente/Bahia bus, and that turned out to be a piece of cake, because as soon as we got off, (looking stunned, I guess), multiple people (vendors) asked where we were going, and were quick to point to the other side of the street where we were to wait. The bus came soon enough, except it said San Clemente/PortoViejo, and it was full, standing room only. It was cooler while standing, so that was a plus, and it all added to the adventure. The ticket guy came around, and told a man that was dozing with his toddler to move over and put the child on his lap so I could sit. Not sure if that was because of my boot, or because I'm a woman, but it was nice. We kept driving, and I couldn't be sure that we weren't going to Porto Viejo first, but it didn't matter, we were being flexible. Finally (20 minutes maybe) I felt the air thru the windows turn cooler, and I figured we were headed back to the coast, we passed a really bustling little town called Charapoto, and saw a huge outdoor market (good to know, sat and sun only) and we recognized that we had driven by there the other day with Richard, so we knew we were close. Soon it all became really familiar and we knew we were to be there any minute. We called Dave, and he had a mototaxi pick us up at the town square. We met Dave and his girlfriend Aida at the house and started talking business.

To make a long story short, we've got a list of items Dave will complete before we move in, stuff we are allowed to do, and free storage for our container if it arrives as expected sometime after June 25th. Rent starts on Aug 1st. Super excited, we'll post pictures as things progress, and a video is coming a little bit later today. The pictures and vidzwe have don't really show the potential. We have vision, and that's Muy importante! Very excited for our upcoming year at the beach! 

We had a great lunch with Dave and Aida too, right down the Malecon from the house. Al muerzo, lunch special was peanut based soup, with shrimp, yucca (thought it was potato) and corn, very yummy and then a plate of fish, rice and lentils, and came with a drink. WAY too much food, and each person was $3! The soup is called Viche, and the fish was seasoned to perfection, pan fried, I couldn't eat it all, maybe next time we'll share. Mike says we could eat there twice a week for sure, within walking distance, and at $3 we probably will.

We will bus into PortoViejo this morning, Dave told us about a new grocery store, so we'll check it out. And we need fruit, so we may stop at Cruz a Verde to see Jaime. The buses are already running, but I'm sure the store doesn't open til 10am. It'll be another great day in Ecuador!

Sunrise from the porch. Buenos Dias!

Friday, June 20, 2014

House hunting

Yesterday turned out to be a great day, we had Richard pick us at 9am, he toured us around Crucita, then we headed north to meet Dave. Richard showed us a couple places here in Crucita for rent, new construction, beautiful, but one shared outdoor space with two other units, and with the pups, that's not what we're looking for. The other, happened to be Richards beach house, was beautifully landscaped, and right on the ocean, breezes were awesome, but it was really a one bedroom, and well sometimes Mike snores, and I need a good night sleep. It had grass for the pups and such nice outdoor space, but really not enough room, 600 sq feet inside. We have an apartment to look at today in Crucita , above a lunch only restaurant that some Canadian expats just opened. They are building a house that will be ready soon, we will go to the restaurant for lunch today and either see the apartment in person, or exchange emails for pictures. In the picture of the fishing boats in my last post, you can make out a car mirror on the left, that cars parked in front of the apartment, so it's right on the Malecon.

We drove yesterday with Richard to "the Boca" (mouth of the river) where the PortoViejo river empties into the Pacific, got some insight on properties near there, and the increased bug population because of the river and mangroves. ( good to know) Dave started the tour there, with a house over our budget at $750, nice house, ample room, nice outdoor space, except it had no shade, and with the bug possibility and over budget it wasn't  "the one". Next we saw a house that Dave actually owns, it is ocean front with only rocks and road between the sand and courtyard, so much potential! It is our favorite and unless we fall in love with the apartment, we will talk to Dave about doing a year lease. 

It's a fixer upper, and Dave has some plans, and we said that we could do some stuff to it too. A coat of paint, and a little landscaping would make this property a winner. It has an outdoor shower and sink, grill area and with some potted plants and hammocks, it could be a nice little yard. Three levels, 2 bedrooms  with attached baths each on the first and second floor, then third level is rooftop terrace. 
It's located in between two little towns the size of Crucita, so we have double the exploring area, a little farther from PortoViejo, but with more shopping within walking or bike distance, we'd only go into "the big city" once a month or so. 

Being right on the ocean the breeze was glorious, no need for A/C that close to the water, so our electric bill would run about $ 20 a month. Internet is ( If I remember correctly) $50 to install then $30 a month, gas tank is $15 every other month, and water is about the same. I think if we do a year lease we can get the rent down to $400, wow! What a dream come true. We will know more after we see the Crucita apartment. Opportunities are endless, we certainly made the right choice coming here, we love this part of the coast, and look forward to more exploring. Stay tuned, our adventure continues!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Evening stroll

We have been getting out more and more now that I'm walking, we try to find the flattest surfaces to walk on, but around here that is not always a possibility, but I'm not letting uneven terrain stop me. We walked down to the Malecon about 5 pm, strolled around and were going to get a light dinner while watching the sunset, these are some pictures we took.

We had never walked this far down before, the paved road ends and it is gravel, but I wanted to keep going. Music was loud coming from one of the stalls, men, probably fishermen waiting to go out, they had to talk so loud over the music, and I thought "if they just turned it down, they wouldn't have to yell", but this is South America and they like it loud. I was shy to snap pictures, but in one of these stalls were two men either fixing or making fishing nets, it was cool.

We found where they sell their fish in the AM, on the very last paved street, we'll have to get out early one morning and see what we can get.

Another example of bamboo scaffolding, this looks like it'll be an amazing place, we'll keep an eye on the progress.

This one looks almost done, they've put the plaster coat over the bricks, just needs windows, and guts.

This one, however needs some attention. Must say, it does have great ventilation!

These condos were nice looking, but every single window was covered, it's probably just too bright.
And this Hostel, I couldn't tell if it was in business or not, again all the windows were covered, but there wasn't anybody around, you'd think with this many rooms ( probably 8-10), you'd see somebody.

It was a nice walk, except for the occasional dog, we had the place to ourselves. We found a fruit tree, don't know what it is, but it must not taste very good, otherwise people would pick it for themselves. The ones that dropped when too ripe looked like aliens, yuck.

Some more pictures, as we walked back towards "town". 

And finally, our sunset. The World Cup was on, so many of the restaurants weren't serving food, so we just got a jugo, (juice, which we learned from Fernando is pronounced Hugo) and watched the sun go down over our little beach. 

Tomorrow we have our driver, Richard ( recommended by the owners of this rental) picking us up at 9am, and taking us to San Clemente, a town 12 miles north. We'll meet up with David Hitchcock, who has 3-5 houses to show us. I found Dave's blog while I was doing research of the coastal towns, so it'll be fun to meet him in person. Got in touch with him, after reaching out to Nan Levin, another blog I followed, she suggested I contact him, as he has his hands in many endeavors. 

I've had a person say they weren't getting emailed when I update, is anyone else having problems? I haven't seen the "site visited" counter change much lately, and wonder if there's a glitch somewhere. Hope all is well with y'all, thanks for following our adventure. Stay tuned!