Saturday, August 11, 2012

Road Construction in Coastal Ecuador

The Pacific Coast in Ecuador is undergoing massive road construction.  All of the roads and bridges are being paved and rebuilt, or have just been completed.  One of the really awesome things that the Ecuadorian government does is posts billboards along the roads telling people how much each section costs.  Now might be a good time to direct you to a map of the coast.

Here is the sign for the road between Montecristi and Jipijapa (pronounced hippy-happa) telling us that the 46.89 Km stretch costs $32.5 million US dollars.  This road is just about complete; almost nothing left to do so it's an easy drive.

Between Pedernales and San Vicente (just across the bridge from Bahia), 111.08 Km costs $99.5 million.  This one is underway now.  Some bridges are out, some are being prepared to be taken out, and I don't think there were any that were complete yet in July, 2012.
Between Santa Elena and Bahia, 278.7 Km costs $90.4 million.  There is just the one bridge left to rebuild that I told you about last post.  Otherwise, it is just about completed.
When we drove from Bahia to Canoa, we crossed the bridge beyond this pile of dirt (click on the picture to get a better view).  This picture is taken the very next day - glad we went there when we could take the bridge :) 
When roads are under construction, they let you drive on whichever section they are not currently working on.  Basically, all traffic going both directions are driving in one lane making the drive most interesting and perilous.  Not to mention that rebar is sticking straight up about 2 inches in the area where a curb is going to eventually be installed.  We thought for sure we were going to get a flat tire or two but managed to make it with four intact tires.

Is this bridge really being held up with wood?  I would not like to be one of the workers under it.
How do you make sure no one drives on the completed section?  Rocks of course!
Hopefully you know which way to go at the unmarked Y's :)  We took the left first, only to find a bridge out with no bypass.  The right took us to the new highway under construction.
We were not sure if we were supposed to be driving on this road but the workers waved us on after we stopped.
Even the speed bumps in towns are being moved, improved and painted.  I am so happy to see the paint because a lot of times, a speed bump was not visible until we were already going over it (at full speed).
 When complete, the roads are very nice.
We are really looking forward to living there and seeing all of the improvements full time!

Until next time,
Emily

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Second trip confirms Ecuador is for us!

A month ago, Scott and I returned to coastal Ecuador for the second time to confirm that we want to live there and see some additional areas.  We are definitely in love with the area and are really looking forward to moving there!  It is going to take several posts to fill you in on the trip.

When we booked our flights back in January, there was to be a two hour layover in Miami.  It figures that American Airlines had changed both flight times.  Our flight from SFO was leaving later than originally scheduled and our flight from MIA to GYE was leaving earlier.  The two hour layover turned into 50 minutes (less given the amount of time it takes to deplane)!  At least both flights were in the same terminal but far enough apart that we barely made it to the gate in time.  There is light rail that would have taken us to the gate but we didn't notice it until we were almost there.  No time to grab anything to eat or drink - just get on the plane!  On the flight to GYE, someone had brought their dog and it barked much of the flight.  Poor thing was not happy, nor were those of us riding with it.

We landed after dark so we spent the first night at Murali Hostal Guayaquil near the airport.  I subscribe to the owner, Domenick's weekly email about Ecuador, which is how we learned about this hotel.  Fortunately the taxi driver knew where it was (per Domenick's recommendation, I had written the address on a sheet of paper) and delivered us to the front door and waited until someone answered it to buzz us in.  It's three stories and from the outside, I may have thought it was a private residence except for the small sign on an upper floor.  It is right in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood.  Here's the view from our room:


We paid $49 for a matrimonial (double) room.  Very kind staff (some spoke English and others were patient with our limited Spanish) and they have a nice shared patio area with a table & chairs that we spent the evening at reading and planning the next day.  Clean rooms and they have hot water at designated times:


In the morning, we walked 15 minutes to the airport to pick up our rental car & GPS.  Just like last time, there were no 4x4s so we ended up with a 4x2 SUV again.  The guy at Budget said that they did have a 4x4 available but the permit expired in 1 day.  Last thing we need is to drive around Ecuador in a car with an expired permit.  Budget was out of GPS devices so we rented one from Enterprise.  Then, drove back to hotel to check out & pick up our luggage.

That's when the exciting hour+ driving around Guayaquil began.  I got the GPS all set up in English and pointed to Bahia.  Unfortunately, the road she wanted us to take no longer existed and the area was under construction.  We tried to guess our way to a freeway and ended up going in a lot of circles.  Just kept passing the same things over and over.  GPS kept trying to get us to go back to the non-existent road...  I put it on mute.  Finally at 11:00, we saw signs for a town we needed to pass through and we were driving out of town on the right road!  Yippee!

During the drive, we went through a couple of towns that had a celebration of some kind going on.  Pretty cool but with our lateness getting out of Guayaquil, we didn't stop to enjoy any of them.  Lots of people milling around and selling things.



Bahia is in Manabi province.  Welcome to Manabi!  (it says it in English on the right side)  How cool!



You can see from that picture that it was cloudy for much of the day and sprinkled now and then.

Just before we arrived in Bahia, there was a new bridge being built.  This sign warned us that there was danger ahead (working machines) but did not specify that the bridge was out and we'd be bypassing it using a 15 foot ravine next to the new bridge.  It was the beginning of a theme we'd see many times during construction of new bridges.




 About 20 minutes later, we made it to Bahia!
We drove along the Malecon until we reached our hotel, La Piedra Hotel at about 2:00.  The room wasn't ready so we hung out poolside until it was.  We had an awesome room with a balcony overlooking the ocean.  The view from the room:
 Scott on the balcony:
Check out the elephant made out of our towels - cute!
By 7:00 pm it was pitch black out.  We went to dinner at an outdoor restaurant across the street from the hotel named D'Camerones.  I had grilled shrimp and Scott had breaded shrimp.  Mine was awesome and Scott's so-so.  The sliced fried plantain appetizer was absolutely delicious!  We spent the rest of the evening on the balcony.  People were still swimming in the ocean until about 10:00 pm - we could see them by the moonlight.

What an exciting beginning to our trip!  More later!

Emily