The last couple of days have been spent at Ballenita, one of them on the beach itself and the other taking 25 cent bus rides to have a look at the shopping mall at La Libertad (not worth the trip) and then on to Salinas to see what the American retirees find so appealing.
To get to the latter, I hailed a bus in La Libertad that I hoped was going in the right direction. It arrived eventually after a nice tour of, what I assumed, was the poorer side of town, judging by the state of the houses, the piles of rubbish in the streets (although that in itself is not so unusual), and the rutted and pot holed dirt roads (also not unusual).
This was in stark contrast to the beach at Salinas, which has high rise apartments and hotels right on the beach front. One block away from the beach and it is back to the normal Ecuadorian houses and shops and a stench of drains. Somehow, the two were somewhat incongruous as far as I was concerned. And I am still not quite sure why the Americans would want to retire here (although the beach is very nice).
Once I had crossed Salinas off my list of things to see, I walked along to try and find the bus stop back to Ballenita, thinking that I would also have some lunch along the way. I had yet to try the ceviche, for which the area is well known, so sat myself down at one of the first restaurants I came across. Having committed myself to an order, I realised the entire area was ‘cevichelandia’ and I could have had my pick of about 50 cafes! However, when it arrived, the dish was very tasty and full of prawns, so I was very satisfied.
Afterwards, I went on the hunt for a bakery in preparation for the next meal (for I would hate to starve) and once I had found and made my purchases, I hailed a bus to return to Ballenita. I never know where the official stops are, or even if there are any, so now just do what the locals do and stand at the side of the road and wave one down. Usually, they stop, but not always. I try not to take this personally!
It was another scenic route, only this time via Santa Elena. The journey took an hour! It did give me time to solve the puzzle of the ships moored off shore though. I had been looking at these and wondering why there were so many and where they were going. Of course, they are all oil tankers and filling up from a pipeline from the oil refinery located between Ballenita and La Libertad. At one point, yesterday, I counted 18 ships parked directly out from the beach. Environmental disaster waiting to happen?!
Yesterday, I decided not to catch any buses but just to go down to the beach at Ballenita and soak up some sun. For it was a blue sky day! A first for quite some time. The beach was quite busy. I had forgotten it was Saturday. This is what comes of never having to go to work. I walked along the road a little way and then picked my way back across the rocks. The tide was out and there were plenty of rock pools, although I only occasionally spotted a small creature darting across them.
I took up my sun bathing position and tried to relax. First I had to test the water though. It was warm but absolutely full of a variety of red weed, which didn’t exactly appeal. I hate the feeling of bits that I can’t see swirling against my legs. You just never know what might be lurking down there! My swim was very short. After picking off the weed, I lay down and enjoyed the sound of the waves and the heat of the sun.
My lunch was another ceviche at one of the small cafes at the top of the cliff. There are quite a number there and I find it quite mystifying that one or two have to tout for business and are relatively empty, whilst the others are full. I picked one of the ones that wasn’t touting and had a large group dining, working on the basis that seafood requires a quick turnover and you are less likely to get food poisoning in a busy restaurant. The prices all seem to be the same wherever you go. $7 for a shrimp ceviche, which is accompanied by popcorn (to be put in the soup) and a plastic bag of plantain crisps. I haven’t worked out yet if you have to do anything special with them but I just eat them straight from the packet!
Afterwards, I strolled home, buying an ice lolly/block along the way and then carrying the stick and wrapper all the way back to put in the rubbish bin. Despite the fact that the streets are piled with rubbish, I couldn’t quite bring myself to add to it.
I have had very broken nights sleep since being here. It has been very hot and humid, there is no air conditioning and the fan is extremely noisy and only works on a timer, with the maximum time being 2 hours. This is not really efficient for night time! I have also been plagued by mosquitos, even though there are screens on all the windows. I was therefore feeling very weary when I walked down to catch the bus to Guayaquil this morning.
I arrived at the hostel at about 1pm, had a very lengthy checkin as Frederic, the receptionist?/manager? showed me everything and was very chatty. I then had to wait whilst he checked in some more people, before he could show me a map and places to visit. In the meantime, I had started chatting to a Liverpuddlian chap with whom I ended up walking along the Malecon afterwards.
My first stop was for an encebollado, or another variation of fish soup, at a cafe up the road that Frederic had recommended. I was later joined by the Liverpuddlian who had, by chance, decided to do the same thing.
After eating and walking, I headed to the supermarket whilst he went back. It was bliss to come back to a room with air con, something I have been very dismissive of in the past but, after the last few days, I must confess to thoroughly now appreciating!