Mar and Gar's Adventures

Just another weblog


So Much to Tell… so little time

Wow, it has been a very busy few days.   Our last couple of days in Manta with H&T were fun filled and we drove to a few new places for a day outing..   I’ve lost track of days, but I think it was Saturday we drove south about 45 minutes to a little restaurant.  We drove through a very tropical area and it was very pretty.   The owner of the restaurant speaks great English.   He just happens to be the brother-in-law of H & T’s neighbor, the very wealthy Ecuadorian’s wife, the owners of Isabel Tuna.   His menu was in English, so we knew what we were getting.   Howard, Tanya and I went out in the ocean for a time after lunch… then more margaritas… then finally home.   We went out to the movies that night and saw the Valentine’s movie with Julie Roberts, Taylor Swift… don’t know the name because it was in Spanish.   The title.. but the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles.   Had to put warm clothes on because of the air conditioning, but we were sweating like pigs til we got there.

Sunday – last day in Manta – drove north to a town H&T had never been to before.   Another beach town..with a restaurant way up on the hill.  This restaurant and the surrounding development is owned by a guy named Jim Cheek, from Wisconsin.   Great view and location… but it took him 1 hour to get us our drinks and a total of 2 hours for entire meal experience.   We then drove the beach road, got lost, got found, got confused, then found our way again.   Pretty funny.   Made it back to Manta.  Gar and I were going to take H&T out for dinner, but all good restaurants were closed on Sunday night so we bought things and bbq’d burgers at their place and watched the Olympics.  Tanya and I were in heaven and Gar & Howard seemed to have a good time going thru 2 boxes of wine.

Tanya is a wonderful artist and for my birthday she had taken a smooth rock from the beach and carved two fish in it for my sign (Pisces).   It is gorgeous and I will always treasure it!!!

We had to get up at 5:30 a.m. Monday for our flight to Quito.   It was hard to say good bye, but we were starting to think of home alot.   We decided to splurge for the last few days and we got a room at the Hilton on the Executive level with lots of perks, but the best is the customer service people who help get reservations, taxis, offer advice.   Very nice.  It was like Anita in our first days here, but in a larger bedroom and our own tv, etc.

Yesterday was a great birthday…   we had an English speaking taxi driver thanks to the Hilton and he took us to local flower vendors and Gar bought me some gorgeous flowers.   A huge arrangement for $10.  Then we went to the new cable car ride to the top of a mountain to look at the city.   You all know me and heights… we went from approx 9,000 feet to over 13,000 feet in 20 minutes.  I sat with my back to the view and eyes closed most of the time.   At the top we got out and walked around, then had to go back down.   I got very brave and sat facing forward and watched most of the time.     Back by our hotel we walked thru the local market that has many vendors for various areas and bought a few light mementos to bring home.    Then we went to Los Troncos Argentinean Steakhouse for dinner.   Had champagne,  great steak (Ecuadorian steak not so good… this was very tasty, but still a little tough).   They brought me a surprise birtday flan with a candle in it.    Gar had also done a b-day card in spanish and he had someone at the hotel help him write romantic things in Spanish on the card to me.   So romantic!!!   When we got back from the dinner the hotel had delivered a small birthday cake to our room.   It was a great day.

Today… our last one… Gar had read about a place that was supposed to be about 45 minutes away where they grow roses to export and you can tour the plantation.  Did you know that Ecuador is the largest exporter of roses in the world.   We had another english speaking taxi driver, but the drive was 2 hours due to traffic and a bad accident.   The place we toured has been growing roses for about 17 years, but that is only part of the story.  The owner is a lady and her family.  Her grandfather bought the land in the early 1900’s.  It was originally a Jesuit church and all the surrounding area owned by the Jesuits.  When they got to powerful, the government made them disband, and so land was sold off.   The owner’s grandfather came from France and built his home there in 1919.   The also have the chapel and the old grainery.  

You must have reservations to go to this place… most won’t give tours.   It was just the two of us (and our driver).  We toured the greenhouses, then the sorting and packing area, then went to the house and given a wonderful tour of the house.   All the rooms were filled with thousands of roses.  There was a fountain out front with a pond filled with rose petals.    We had food served to us out there, then a wonderful Ecuadorian lunch in the dining room.  We were treated like royalty.     We then went to the grainery that they had just restored and opened a week ago as a display area for roses.   Then we got to got to the old chapel.  All the art, furniture, etc is the original from 300 years ago.  Gregorian chants were playing.   It was beyond fantastic.   You will not believe the pictures when I can send them.

This place exports 1,800,000 roses per month to the U.S., Holland and Russia.  These countries then wholesale them out.   And this is not the largest exporter in Ecuador.   Gar has this grand idea that we will become rose sellers in Washington now.   All I can say is that it was a wonderful day and a great way to end our trip.

OK –  lots of things that I didn’t cover that I will try to post once we get home.   Plus lots more pics to share..  Long day tomorrow, but looking forward to home!


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Fun Factoids

1.  If you are on the equator and the stars are out it is the only place you can see all of the northern and southern constellations.   Too bad we haven’t had any clear nights.

2.  Most bathrooms (banos) are very clean, but if multiple stalls, be sure to look for toilet paper out by the sink area or you might be surprised.   Many have just one large roll out there.  I always went prepared.

3.  Very few smokers in Ecuador regardless of income levels.   Never saw smoking in or around most places.   It became something to point out if we saw a smoker.   Saw 2 at lunch today and they were either Korean or Chinese.


The Port of Manta

Fish Market in Manta

Tuna Capital of South America

Hey, don’t forget to look for all posts.  Sometimes I post more than one a day, and this neat new wordpress thing shows me that lots have read my last post but no one has read the 2 before that….

Anywho…. I think I told you Manta is the Tuna Capital of South America.   There are a gzillion small little blue boats that go out fishing every day and bring things back to the local fish market on the beach.  There is also the larger commercial fleet where the fish goes to the local processors.  The owners of those deals are pretty wealthy.  The local fisherman are not.

Yesterday Howard to us to the local fish market and gee… I must have looked like a tourist with my camera so a local glommed on to me and started taking me around and explaining every fish and seafood in Spanish.  It was pretty funny.   They also build and repair boats on the beach.   There were some guys using a chain saw to cut a 2×6 to patch the side of a boat..   I took pics.

We then tried to get into the Manta Yacht Club for lunch.  Thanks to our nice Commodore Tom, we had a letter of introduction and even tho the guard spoke no English we got in.  Our waiter didn’t either, but we stayed for lunch and had a good time.   Eventually we found the manager and he spoke very good English.   Gar was interested in going fishing, but at the price of $800to $1000 for the day, lost interest pretty fast.

I am going to go to my photos and see if I can figure out how to postsome on my blog.   Wish me luck.


Cuenca and Carnival

Well, I think Carnival in Cuenca is more like what I was expecting.   You got bombarded with water from buckets, balloons, colored foam, other things… if you were in a taxi and saw a wet spot anywhere, you rolled up your window.   People in the double decker bus tour who sat at balcony level got soaked.   We were smart and took the tour on Wed.   It was all in good fun, and those that got upset should have read up more before venturing out.

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday but most places were open and so we took the 2 hour sightseeing tour.  We had the top 4 seats in the front.   They would sound a horn and warn us to duck when we were to close to power lines and tree limbs.   Very very close.   It was a great tour of the city.   This is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador – population approx.  250,000.   We toured the Panama  Hat museum and got to take pics as they made hats.   It was great. 

We have watched some of the Olympics in Spanish in our rooms when we take little breaks from walking and eating and drinking.  We make up our own dialogue.  

We had dinner our last night in Cuenca with 4 of H&T’s friends.   Hazel and Wally, Lynn and Sean (Shawn?), and us.   Hazel and Wally had been renting in Manta since March and moved that day to Cuenca and are renting a 3 bedroom condo for another couple months.   She is British and used to do book safaris in Africa.  He was a CSI…. don’t know where… maybe when they were in Florida or maybe in Georgia where they have a home for sale.   They were mid-50’s.   Super nice and easy to talk to.   Wally and Gar traded ankle surgery stories.

Lynn’s husband is in Iraq, supervising cooks on a contract basis for contract employees for about a year…   I don’t know alot about her but she has a little chihuahua.  She came with a friend, Sean, or Shawn, who is from Nebraska.   We did the whole age game thing and he came in the youngest at 31, then Tanya (won’t tell), then Lynn, Hazel, Wally, Garry and Howard.   Ah, well… we all had a great night and felt very young.   H & T have some nice friends…

Decided to come home yesterday (thurs) to Manta… and decided to take the shorter route… maybe..   Here’s the deal.   It is thru the higher mountains and through a National Park, and when the road is done (remember those words),the trip will be shorter and faster.    Well, it was 50 km shorter and about an hour faster, but pretty hairy construction issues and lots of mud slides.  The National park was at an elevation at times of approx. 13,000 ft.  Many lakes and rivers.  It would be a wonderful day trip from Cuenca.

Whew…. we safely made it back and just before Manta, in Montecristi, decided to go back to the Italian restaurant we almost got kicked out of last week.   Ran into 6 of H & T’s friends….  did not get kicked out and hada wonderful dinner.

Tanya is cooking goulash tonight and we are staying in… probably hit the pool later.   The next post will be about the port of Manta (Tuna Capital of South America) and the Manta Yacht Club.  Stay tuned til tomorrow!!!

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The trip to Cuenca

We took off Monday for the long drive to Cuenca.  3 1/2 hours to Guayaquil, then another 3 1/2- 4 hours to Cuenca.   Manta is considered the poorest province in Ecuador.   As we crossed borders into other provinces, you could see the difference.   Slight better houses, roads, some emergeny services.   Each time we passed into a province we paid a small toll…

The only other time H & T (I am now officially shortening Howard & Tanya to H &T) had driven to Cuenca before they got lost in Guayaquil.   It is actually larger than Quito and very confusing.  It took them 3 hours to find their way out of it.  This time a friend gave them a hand drawn way to avoid that.  T & I did the map reading, H drove and Gar kept watch.   We thought we were doing OK, but then got confused.   Saw 2 motorcycle police, so stopped for help.  No english, but lots of hands pointing.   One finally got on his bike, turned his light on and had us follow him to the correct exit heading to Quito.   He got a nice handshake from H complete with a $5 bill from Gar.

The road maps are confusing as are the signs.   T &I second guess ourselves many times, but knew were on one route to Cuenca.  Just didn’t know if it was a goodor bad one.   Got into lots of rain, fog,  partyers during Carnival, etc.  Mudslides,road construction.   But we did get there after 8 1/2 hours total.  Each little town had it’s own specialties for sale in roadside stands.   One was corn (roasted in the husk,) then the honey town, then the rice town,then the pillow town, then the soda/water town.   Small towns don’t have actual taxis, but motorized bicyles that have a covered carriage for passengers.  We took lots of pictures.

We got to our hotel and the owner Alberto speaks great English, but they had misundertood the reservation and it was still Carnival.  Only one room, 4 people.   They found Gar and me a room 1 block away, and then we moved to the correct hotel on Tuesday, since Carnival was ending and people were leaving.    We had a great dinner fun at the Eucalyptus bar and restaurant by our hotel.  Considered the hippest place in Cuena.   Also, the only place open due to Carnival.  It is owned and run by a British guy… super nice.   Met 2 different couples from Alaska there.

Cuenca is much cleaner and safer and prosperous than Manta.  But very little English spoken anywhere.

Since Tuesday was still Carnival and all stores and museums were closed we  took a taxi ($5) for a 20 minute drive to an area called The Banos which has several spa type places at the hot springs.   T &I did the springs… the guys drank cerveza and listened to the great music.   We did the red lava mud pool, then slathered ourselves in the mud.   You let it dry for 10 min,then back in the pool, then shower and head to the other pools, steam saunas, etc.   T got a massage, too.   Glad I wore my old oldbathing suit, because the red mud may never come out.

The hotel we moved to is over 100 years old and has been in the Ortanez family the whole time.  Alberto converted it from a home to a hotel in 1996.  Small, quaint… old fashioned skeleton keys to the rooms, tiny bathrooms, but immaculate and beyond friendly and helpful.  Alberto drove me around tofind an ATM thatwould work as many were out of cash due to Carnival..

Whew.  fingers are tired.   I will tell more of Cuenca and the very interesting trip back to Manta after a little siesta.

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Six Degrees of Separation

Many of you know how I think that it is really more like 3 or 4 degrees, but supposedly we all are connected to each other within 6 connections of with other people.   Here are the ones so far on this trip.   The obvious first one was when we met Justin at Anita’s room rental place and he knew Howard.  

Then on Friday when a real estate friend of Howard and Tanya’s was showing their condo to a potential buyer, we found out they live in Asotin, near Lewiston/Clarkson.   Garry’s uncle Leo (his mother’s brother) lives in Asotin.

Then we met two nice ladies from Anchorage in Cuenca and Howard knows someone in Anchorage they know.

Then we had dinner in Cuenca at a restaurant with friends of Howard and Tanyas.  One of the ladies, Lynn, was born in Wyoming and has lived all around the U.S.   She has been to Baggs,Wyomng, where the Weber ranch is and was going to see if her relatives have ever met Wayne and Peggy’s family.

Not quite as close a connection, but the 31 year old friend of Lynn’s at dinner that night was from Omaha, Nebraska…


No Tell Motel and Carnival

I forgot one most interesting tidbit.  The difference between motels and hotels here is that motels rent by the hour and have very high concrete fences around them.  Place like the Sexy Inn, Oh Poalo… you get the idea.   There are many of them..   We passed about 4  on our way to a party yesterday.  

But again, I digress.   Yesterday we slept in and then took a short 20 minute drive to Montecristi.   It is a little town in the foothills where they are best known for making wonderful Panama Hats.  Which have always been made in Ecuador.   Panama took them to the  1855 Worlds Fair in Paris and everyone has assumed, since then, that they are made in Panama.  Not so.   The majority are now made in Cuenca, where we are going tomorrow, but Montecristi has the true artists.   We went to a little Italian restaurant for lunch and almost got kicked out thanks to Howard and Tanya.   They didn’t get what they ordered, and no one, including the owner/cook spoke  English.  He (the owner/cook) was highly offendedwhen they tried to explain.   We think he thought they didnt like the food.  They just wanted it with the camarones (shrimp) they thought they were getting.   Gar and I just kept eating our lunch.   After about 1/2 hour we asked for the bill, but the owner came out with new food for Howard and Tanya.   Not what they wanted but it had shrimpso they smiled and ate and he was all happy.   Whew!   Then we toured a museum… were the only people there.  Then went into the little town and did some shopping.  

We were 4 hours late for the Carnival party atLinda’s place down the beach about 20 minutes.   But it had rained and rained and rained, and so many locals never went to the beach yesterday.  When we got there, instead of hundreds of people, there were a couple dozen, plus a dozen or so at Linda’s party of Gringos and Ecuadorians.   We bbqd burgers.  Gar grilled onions for them…. met some very nice people and got home around 10:30.   Tanya and I hit the pool while the guys had some wine.

This morning Tanya and I walked the beach toward town.   Sunny, hot, no rain and hundreds of people onthe beach.  More like what I expected yesterday.  Carnival goes thru Tuesday, so many shops are closed.

We had champagne and fresh squeezed oj for an early Valentine’s treat, then went to lunch at Mr. Frogs (owned by an American with an Ecuadorian wife).   Tanya and I got a rose and we had a wonderful lunch/breakfast.

Tomorrow we are leaving for 3 days or so in Cuenca.  It is supposed to be very beautiful, but is about a 6-7hour drive to get there, so are leaving fairly early.  Howard will probably take his laptop, so if there is time I will update the blog while we are there.  Otherwise, not til back here inManta;

Happy Valentines Day to you all!