Monday, January 2, 2012

First trip to Ecuador

 Scott and I just returned from our first trip to the Ecuador coast.  We had an amazing time.  It is going to take more than just one post to detail the trip.  I will summarize in this post and later give more details.  We arrived on December 24 and rented an SUV from Budget.  We also rented a GPS unit - so glad we did!  We got lost WITH it a couple of times - we would have been hopelessly lost without it.  Most people do not rent cars - they just take taxis and buses everywhere.  I understand why since they are readily available and low cost (you can rent a taxi for an entire day for $100) but we wanted our own vehicle on our first trip.

We stayed at the Hotel Pacifico in Puerto Lopez for the first five nights.  Our room had a balcony overlooking the ocean - quite beautiful.  The rooms that face the ocean have air conditioning and cost twice as much ($60) as those that don't have the view or air conditioning.  Totally worth it to us.  Maria, who runs the hotel, and her staff are exceedingly nice and helpful.  All water in Puerto Lopez is shipped in because they do not have a natural source. The view from our balcony:


We drove as far north as Crucita along the coastal roads.  There are a lot of small towns along the coast and for many, it is clear that fishing is their primary source of income.  Fishing boats were very prevalent in every coastal town.  Subsequently, the fish and shrimp was incredible - fresh and so good!  A shot of some kids in Crucita (note all of the birds are there because this is also where the fish are cleaned):


For the last two nights, we drove south to Playas and stayed at the Promenade Hostel.  Great hostel - wonderful family runs it and works hard to make sure everything is the way you want it.  A room with air conditioning was going for $18/person and one without it was $15/person.  We stayed in a room with AC the first night and without the second night because the room had a balcony and view of the ocean.  The hostel is for sale as the family is looking to move to Switzerland.  The husband/father has already moved there.  Playas is much larger than Puerto Lopez, therefore has many more options as far as entertainment, shopping, etc.  Also, fresh water is plentiful because of rivers coming down from the Andes.  View from the balcony (one block from the beach):


Overall impressions:
People - incredibly nice
Some roads - really rough paved and dirt roads with huge potholes
Other roads - brand new and just like a US interstate (the country is in process of upgrading infrastructure)
Drivers - hmm... how do I say it politely... they seem to avoid accidents somehow
Language - I need to learn Spanish because it is not like the parts of Mexico that I have been in where most people know a little English.  Most tourist establishments (hotels, restaurants) have someone with at least limited English but not all.
Weather - mostly 80's F and somewhat humid.  Reminded me of Minnesota in August.  Everyday the weather forecast had some thunderstorms but all we saw were some sprinkles here and there.
Prices - food & lodging low; electronics & clothing high

I did not take pictures of the rough roads because I was hanging on to make sure I did not get bounced around.  Here is a shot of a dirt road heading into San Jose.




Here is one of the new freeways that Ecuador just completed.  Note the nice foliage in the center divide.

Much more in my coming posts!

Emily

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