Buses, beaches and cevichelandia

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.

Salinas beach looking towards La Libertad
Salinas beach looking towards La Libertad
Apartments at Salinas
Apartments at Salinas
Never miss an opportunity for a bit of advertising!
Never miss an opportunity for a bit of advertising!

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).

Cevichelandia
Cevichelandia

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.

Ceviche lunch
Ceviche lunch

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?!

Oil tankers at Ballenita
Oil tankers at Ballenita
Ballenita beach
Ballenita beach

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.

Pelican like big birds of which there were many at Ballenita
Pelican like big birds of which there were many at Ballenita

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!

Cliff top buildings at Ballenita
Cliff top buildings at Ballenita
Another sunset
Another sunset

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!

A very wet Guayaquil

On the Malecon
On the Malecon

My anticipation of a sunny blue sky day was very short lived as I awoke to a grey sky and torrential rain on Wednesday. I procrastinated the sight seeing and sat on the patio, under cover, having breakfast and catching up with the world. When I deemed that it had stopped raining sufficiently for me to venture out, it was about midday.

I meandered along the Malecon, which had been part of an urban revitalisation project and is now a very pleasant place to walk. The theme appears to be sails, as there are various sail like towers along the promenade for people to climb and admire the view. They seem to be extremely popular with courting couples, Ecuadorians obviously not having any qualms about demonstrating their affections in public.

At the end, I had a quick look at the Artisanal Market, which proffered the same products as every other one, and then decided to take the double decker sightseeing bus for the one and a half hour tour. Whilst there was an English commentary, it was hard to hear and distinguish the words, so I am non the wiser about the city. There were very few passengers and we got our exercise by climbing up and down the stairs during and after the rain showers.

By the time we returned to the Malecon, the rain was torrential once again and we were getting quite wet just sitting in the downstairs deck of the bus as the water poured through the (closed) windows!

Nothing like a drop of rain!
Nothing like a drop of rain!

I waited for some time before getting off, in the hope that the rain would ease. It didn’t! I eventually ran towards some shops that offered some shelter under the veranda and made my way up the street until the veranda finished. And there I waited for about 3/4 hour, along with hordes of others, watching the rain pour down. The drainage system obviously couldn’t cope and the water was rising in the street. Eventually, I decided it wasn’t going to ease and I was just going to have to take the plunge and start wading (literally) my way back to the hostel.

In a very short space of time, I was extremely wet and, by this time, also hungry, so I stopped at a pizza place and ate a couple of slices, sitting in the shop, with water pouring down my face. I also squelched my way into the Cathedral for a quick look and then into the park outside, to see the land iguanas that live there. There are very few places in the world where iguanas live in the middle of the city! Once back in my room, I warmed up in the shower and then had a beer on the terrace. At least I had seen a little of Guayaquil.

Land iguana in the park
Land iguana in the park
My room
My room

Thursday wasn’t exactly brimming with sunshine but it wasn’t actually raining as I caught a taxi to the bus terminal. I was heading for Ballenita, a small village on the coast, but wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get there. I needn’t have worried. There was a very luxury bus to Santa Elena, which has a large bus terminal, from where the local buses run every 5 minutes to Ballenita. The journey to Santa Elena was quite boring, through flat, very dry countryside. I had a young Ecuadorian man next to me, who attempted conversation but, unfortunately, my Spanish failed me and I wasn’t really in the mood for in depth conversation. Bus journeys are for quiet reflection, as far as I am concerned! We also had a loud, fairly silly, Spanish dubbed American cop film showing, which he thought was hilarious.

View of Salinas
View of Salinas
Road down to the sea
Road down to the sea

Once in Ballenita, I had a hot walk to the accommodation I had booked for, by now, the sun was shining. Within 200 metres of the bus stop, I was asked for money by 2 people, which did not endear me to the place immediately. I had wanted to stay in a non touristy place and this was certainly one although they must have encountered a few as they knew to ask for dollars.

The studio room, however, is wonderful, with a full kitchen and bathroom and distant view of the sea. The most important appliance in the whole place though is the fridge. This means the ability to make tea and coffee at any time and to have cold wine, water and beer. What luxury!

After settling in, I walked back down to the bus stop, via the Malecon, which had seen better days, and caught the bus to La Libertad to do some shopping.

This has a long Malecon and quite a few local people were under umbrellas on the beach. I would have to say though that neither the Ballenita nor Libertad beach appealed to me. I am far too spoiled by New Zealand beaches.

I stocked up on a few essential supplies and then caught the bus back to Ballenita and ‘home’ where I was able to sit on my small balcony and admire the sunset over the distant Salinas, through the many electrical cables that adorn the streets, with a glass of wine in hand. Excellent!