A good companion shortens the longest road. Turkish Proverb
Our travel companions had lived in Ecuador for four years as expats before moving back to the US, where we first met them. Returning to Ecuador for a visit in 2006 and 2007, we traveled with them both times. During that period we were able to experience the country through their eyes as well as accompany them as they revisited old friends and favorite locales. We couldn’t have had better guides or companions. After spending one night in Manta, Ecuador, and visiting the local fishing families the next morning, we drove along the beautiful Pacific Coast taking in the views. The advantage of renting a car allowed us to go at our own pace.
It wasn’t a particularly clear day, but we headed for Puerto Lopez for lunch. Robert, our friend wanted to eat spondylus which is the meat from the spiny oyster and this town was noted for it. Local fishermen harvest it from off the coast, sell the meat and then the shells are turned into beautiful jewelry. Whale watching is also a tourist attraction along this portion of the coast. The street became wider as we entered the Malecon area and numerous restaurants spilled out onto the side walks.
After a scrumptious meal of ceviche, grilled shrimp, spondylus, (Robert was not disappointed) fried plantains and rice, all topped off with cervezas, we took time to stroll through the shops. The town was quiet, not much activity, so hoping to make a sale from us gringos was their priority. Today, spondylus is on the endangered list and can not be served any more.
We then headed for the Alandaluz Ecological Tourist Center near Puerto Rico. This is where we would spend the night. I had read about this place in Moon’s Handbook of Ecuador. It was described as being an environmental friendly establishment with composting toilets, solar hot water, organic gardens and a full recycling program. I like the self-sustainable and ecologically sound philosophy it was touting plus it had even received numerous awards.
The large private bungalows were constructed from bamboo and the roofs were thatched. They had their own verandas outfitted with bright, colorful, hand woven hammocks, each overlooking the gardens or the ocean. Ours was ocean view.
The dining room was in a separate bamboo building with a high, geometric, round ceiling. Each seating area provided its own cozy, intimate, atmosphere. Probably the best meal I had in Ecuador was here: we chose corvina (sea bass) with peanut sauce. Turning in early, the pounding surf was all the medicine one needed for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we were served pancakes with homemade mora (black berry syrup).
Wearing slickers, we walked down to the beach. Pure solitude. No one around but the four of us. Empty palapas dotted the beach.
In the other direction were the magnificent cliffs, formed by the seas.
Being a shell collector, I found none. Instead, I picked up and came home with numerous smooth turquoise rocks that had washed ashore. They remind me of fun, laughter, good times, good food and lots and lots of driving and exploring beautiful Ecuador, together.
Next stop on this road trip is Salinas, then Guayaquil.
** In preparing this reminiscence, I looked up the Alandaluz Ecological Tourist Center and sadly, it doesn’t seem to be in business anymore. If anyone reading this post knows anything about this, I would like to know.
All photographs by Ron Mayhew.