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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coastal Stories

I'm still in Salinas.  BUT, the owners of the house I'm staying in have graciously agreed to reduce my sentence...errrr...ummm....trade our homes back a week earlier than planned.  They are thrilled with Cuenca and now know they want to move there.  So, as one moron president once said "Mission Accomplished". 

I returned to Montanita for an overnighter.   I filtered it down to two places I'd choose from to stay at because both were right on the beach and both had swimming pools, too.   But, when I arrived, the first place I stopped at, Hotel Montanita, was clearly run down and in need of TLC.  The pool was NOT inviting.  So, I went to my other choice, 'Charos'.  It was far nicer.  Nice lush gardens, nice pool AND jacuuzi, and for $30 my room was right on the ocean with a balcony outfitted with a hammock.   The only negative was the shower situation.  You never know what you're going to get in these small towns with poor/outdated infrastructure.  Sometimes you have no water pressure, most times very little hot water.  Well, oddly enough, my water was SCALDING hot (I kid you not) and there was very little cold water to mix in with it.  It's usually the other way around.  The cold water came out of the tap in a trickle.  The hot water was fresh from some rapid boil close by!!!

After checking in early in the afternoon, I hopped in the car and drove just a few blocks out of town and took a dirt road headed for the Canopy Lines (aka Zip Lines).  I really need a 4x4, not a Peugeot hatchback.   About a mile back, into the jungle-like hills I climbed and arrived at a thatched hut.  I was the only customer there (this was a Tuesday).   No one spoke English which seemed odd given this is a touristy town.  But, I was able to extract that they had 9 zip lines and the total cost for doing all 9 lines was $20.  WOW!!!   Anywhere else, I would expect it to cost $100.

This was my first time doing a zip line.  A new adventure to add to my already-accomplished list of piloting my own plane, skydiving, hang-gliding, parasailing, shooting myself into the sky from the roof of the Las Vegas Stratosphere, and other throw-your-body-into-oblivion experiences I've had. 

In case you don't know what it is, I'll explain.  Someone stretches a thick cable between two hills, usually several hundred feet apart and as high in the air as possible.   Sort of like a tight highwire.  You have a harness strapped around your butt and lower torso, which is then connected to a pulley which travels on the cable.  In this case, I was on a high platform and a guy pushed me off into oblivion, and I rode the cable, in a downward slope, to the other end where a rudimentary brake system slows you down to a stop in the last few feet.   Once unhooked, you climb a set of stairs (this was exhausting) to reach a higher point, get on another cable and ride it another direction.  If designed well, the plan is to keep going higher and higher, and steeper and steeper the slope (higher speeds) until you arrive back at your starting point.

After the first ride, they gave me two options for the next line.  Superman or X-Man.   There were two guys...one to go ahead of me so he could check out the line as well as receive me on the other end, and the other guy to follow after me.   The guy who went first, showed me what X-Man looked like.  WHOA!!!   It meant flying across the zip-line upside down (head pointed to the ground) with my legs up in the air, spread out, and my arms spread out pointing to the ground....my body in the form of an 'X'.   Ahem.  Cough Cough.   Well, I was upside down and my legs were spread, but I didn't have the guts to completely let go of both hands...just one at a time....because I didn't understand what would keep me in the harness!!!

Ok, 3rd line.  This time, Superman.   After some kinky/funky body contortions to get into position, involving one of the guys who'd be connected to me and riding with me, I was facing the ground again, but instead of straight down, I was horizontal like Superman flying.  Off we went, me flying like Superman (more like flapping my arms like an albatross).   It was strange because I couldn't see any structure in front of me as the harness and hooks were behind and above me, so I was flying face first.   Then, coming into the landing, I thought I was going to eat dirt as my face came within about a foot of the landing surface. 

One more line and I was finished.  I wazzuhpooped.   9 lines would've wiped me out. 

Then they offered me to do the Tarzan swing.  Huh??  We hiked over to another platform where a cable was connected way out over a valley to another line.  I was hooked up and with a lot of tugging back by the other 2 guys, I was launched.  OMG!!!   First off, the line I was connected to was not taut...it had a long curvature to it.  So, when I launched, I dropped straight towards the ground until the line took up the slack, then swung outward.  !@$#%&*!#!! (expletive).  I swung like a pendulum out and back and side to side with about 100 feet drop below me.  I finally belted out a Tarzan yell that would make Carol Burnett proud.

Exhausted, I drove back to the hotel and took myself out to dinner in one of the sidewalk restaurants, big burger, fries, and 2 grande beers.  $6. 

I enjoyed some hammock time before going to bed.  I had to drown out the constant roar of the crashing waves with my A/C, but then I had the constant drone of the A/C, so luckily I brought earplugs and all was well.

Next day.  After breakfast, I drove up the coast about an hour.   The topography became more and more jungle-like with large hills that ran down to the beaches.  My destination was Puerto Lopez, a small town on a crescent-shaped bay, known for it's fishing as well as the starting point for whale-watching tours and excursions to Isla Plata, an island about 1 hour away refered to as the poor mans Galapagos Island where unique sea and bird life exist, you can snorkle amongst coral reefs, etc.  But, it was a bit of a gloomy wet day, so I changed my mind and decided to head 'home' to Salinas.  On the way back, I saw two people riding the air currents along the beach in parasails.  I pulled over to watch them.  They landed smack dab in the middle of the 4-lane highway....skidding in on their butts!  LOL!

Today, I had hoped to lay in the sun on the beach after running a few errands.  But, as I drove by the malecon, the entire stretch of beach was lined with police positioned about every 50 feet and NO ONE on the beach.  They were obviously keeping people off the beach for some reason.  I wondered...tsunami warning?   Well, the internet at the house wasn't working so I had no way to research it.   Someone mentioned an earthquake in a neighboring country and the police were worried about large swells.  I haven't yet been able to verify what the real story is.

In lieu of the beach, I stopped by my favorite seafood hut/restaurant/dive/shack.   Seafood is king here.  The place I go is a cluster of eateries taking up the whole block, all under ramshackled roof, and all open to the streets.  Hawkers flash their menus in your face before you even get out of your car, wanting you to eat at THEIR place.  I decided the busiest one was the safest one (food doesn't get old).   I had a plate of 8 large butterflied, breaded shrimp, rice, and lettuce/tomato/avocado salad and another one of those large beers.  Cost?  $6.50.   While 'dining', hawkers wandered through the tables selling sunglasses, bracelets, jewelry, CD's, DVD's, and even fresh lobster (still moving) and jumbo shrimp.   I bought 3 CD's at a buck a piece, and a DVD $1.50.  All of them are piratedcopies but that's essentially all there is here.  Get this...the lobsters (langostas) were $2-$3 a piece and the jumbo shrimp (langostinos) $5 a pound.

I might need to get me some of dem before I leave Salinas!!

I really don't find hammocks all that comfortable.

The dirt road zig-zagging up the hill to the thatched headquarters of the Canopy Line.  That's one of the zip line cables I rode in the picture.


One of the guides coming in for a landing.  Take note of the height of this line by envisioning a car on the road below.

That's me doing my 'X Men' immitation above the jungle forest below.

Amazing the effort it must've taken to set up these lines in the first place.  Each line was several hundred feet in length.

The surf outside my room at night.

Just an hour north of dry, barren Salinas area, the topography morphs into jungle. 

In Puerto Lopez, there are no yellow taxis.  Only these motorcycle-based 3-wheelers.


Puerto Lopez bay dotted with fishing boats which are no more than extra-large wooden dinghies.

Where there is seafood, bamboo thatched huts serving fresh ceviche, beer, and trinkets line the beach.

Looking down upon Puerto Lopez.


Cool beach outside Puerto Lopez complete with a 'shipwreck'

Spent some time examining the rocks and seashells on a remote beach.  Beautiful colors and patterns.  Lots of jewelry and necklaces are made from these.

6 comments:

  1. Great post and even better photos. I see by your first paragraph that regardless of your loony flying experiences, you have good judgment!

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  2. I am enjoying your posts and photos from the coast. I particularly like the way you are "keeping it real". Thanks

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  3. Great posts .we plan to visit the same coast next jan-feb.You really opened our eyes!We have two wives who like the finer things in life.Don't know that we will find those type of accomadations there!

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Hi! Dano. Ifollow your posts from the beginning.I doing some digging about Ecuador for a few years now. I want to be retired there, I have a friend and neighbor who moving in banos.How did you obtient your resident visa and which way is the easier way? which area in Cuenca did you buy your house? I am thinking to rent for 1 year in cuenca before to buy a place.Will it be possible to meet somewhere in cuenca when I will be ready to visit the country? I will need a lot of advises.I would like to stay in contact with you for informations to move in ecuador like a resident.
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About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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