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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Salinas...Good, Bad, & Ugly. First...Bad & Ugly.

As I said in my last blog (Montanita), I am in Salinas which is a beach town on the coast of Ecuador.  Salinas is referred to by many as a 'Little Miami Beach' because of its white, beach-hugging, condo highrises.  Salinas is the popular beach get-away for everyone in Guayaquil, (the largest city in EC) about 2.5 hours away.  So, weekends the place is jammed, weekdays it's a snoozer.

Oh, why am I here?  Well, I responded to an ad by an expat couple (from Seattle and BC) who wanted to see if Cuenca might be a viable place to move to from their home in Salinas.  They don't like the heat and humidity here.  They wanted to swap homes, for a month, with someone who had an interest in the coast.   I hadn't been to the coast yet, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to do so, and minimize the travel costs since I wouldn't have hotel expenditures.  So, the couple and I agreed to swap (houses, that is) but I suggested 3 weeks as a month seemed too long.

I should've opted for LESS!!!

Quite frankly, I don't see what the draw is in Salinas.  Yeah, nice beach...but that's entertainment for a few days.  If you lived here, who goes to the beach day after day after day?  BORING!!!   The best months are Dec thru May.  June thru Nov tend to be cooler and less humid, but the cloud deck hangs just off the coast and, so far, hasn't let the sun through once (ok, it did...for 10 minutes) in the week I've been here.

Aside from the malecon (mall-eh-cone), which is Spanish for the boardwalk...which isn't, in this case, made of boards....there isn't much to do in Salinas.  Once you've walked the malecon and seen the so-so restaurants and dives, and hole-in-the-wall shops that seem to only sell women's beach gear (ho hum), and viewed all the vendor stands selling trinkets (necklaces, flip-flops, wood-carved key hangars, etc), and scoped out all the fatties on the beach (darn near begging to see ONE hottie)....you've pretty much done Salinas.   So, I have 2 weeks and 6 days left!!! 

The 'Miami Beach' condo highrises, I predict, will not weather well.   Check back in 10 years and they are going to look sad, which will pull Salinas down.  They are big white blobs, sans any architectural interest, and will not age well.  Drives me nuts when architects and developers build something that doesn't contribute to the future of a city.  Look how the architecture of places like Cuenca, Quito, London, and San Francisco, for example, have lasted a hundred (times over in some cases) years?  Noooo...they gotta put up these inexpensive blobs and we all have to look at them for the next 50 years as they die a slow death.

Dammit....I digressed again!!

Just one or two blocks off the main drag that follows the beach, the neighborhoods become grim looking.  Side streets are dirt.  Everything is dust-covered.  Houses are poor.  There's little greenery.  Garbage is strewn everywhere.  There's a mall.  Whoopee.   Otherwise, it's dirt, dust, dirt, dust.  I haven't seen one sign of any culture, or the arts.   To pay homage to that old game show "The Gong Show", Salinas gets a GONNNNG!!!

I did do some side excursions.   I thought maybe there might be some hope out there.  But, I found (over and over) more dirt, more dust, more rundown poor homes, more abandoned construction projects.   Ok, but wait, there's a thermal hot springs not far out of town.  YEA!!  I drove down a long paved 1 1/2 lane road, dodging a zillion potholes, passing drryyyyyy scrubbrush, to arrive at San Vicente....another dust bowl.  But, I was in the mood to lay in the sun, soak in the baths, slather on some mud.   Wow, only cost $2 to enter and they offer $4 mud massages.   YEEEEE!!!

I walked through the gate and....well....I'll let the photos do the talking.  Thermal hot springs...GONG!!!

Ok, so I was told there was a casino in the local Barcelo hotel...an upscale place on the beach.  Well, let me put it this way.  It was about 1 1/2 times the size of my living room.  No one was playing the card tables.  The slot machines, a surprise to me, were the 'old' fashioned kind that you drop coins in the slot to play.  All the slots were 5 cents.  But, the max you could play was 3 bets....15 cents.   Ohhhhhkaaaaay.   I found a machine I liked.....the bars and cherries kind...that had a joker space (of sorts) that, if you got one, the machine would automatically spin itself until it paid out.  I got the joker a lot.  It would spend maybe 10 or so times and I would get a pay-out....two credits.....10 cents.  BIG EFFIN DEAL!!!  I got so tired of feeding the machine 2 coins for every play that I eventually gave up and bailed.  No one around me was winning anything either.  Casino....GONG!!!

Soooooo, decided to check out the buffet.  It had a nice outdoor space to eat, overlooking the beach.  Cost?  $19.50  Steep for this area.  I asked, 'is there seafood on the buffet?'.  Ohhhh YES!!!   So, I indulged.  UGH.   Lame salads, rolls with no butter in sight, fish, rubber strips of something (probably calamari or octopus), pepper steak, and chicken.  That's IT??   GRRRRRR!!!!  Not one crab, not one oyster, not one clam, not one shrimp!!.  GRRRRR!!!!   Oh, but hey, it came with one glass of wine for free.  GONG!!!!

I've had better at a Chinese buffet place in Port Angeles, WA (USA) for ten bucks!!!

Let's add a little more visuals to this story.  When I first moved to Cuenca, I was getting bites on my arms and legs but didn't know where they were coming from.  We don't have mosquitos in Cuenca (they don't fly that high I guess).  But, after a few months, it stopped.  Then, my houseguest arrived and she got a few bites, too.  In Salinas, I've managed to accumulate a population of about 25-30 bites on me.  WHERE ARE THEY COMING FROM?   The varmits seem to like my elbows and underside of my arms a lot, but not so much anywhere else.   They itch, Itch, ITCH!!!   Is this Salinas's welcoming committee??

I don't think I'm gonna make it the full 3 weeks!!!   ;-(

Enjoy the photos....I need to go scratch myself.

The malecon in Salinas, looking one direction.

The malecon in Salinas, looking the other direction.

Lots of bouganvilla everywhere.  I love how they mixed the colors!!!

Local fisherman in Aconito

Opportunistic pelicans waiting for opportunity


Stunning topography.

Lush landscape.  Takes your breath away don't it?

Only God could create such beauty!!

San Vicente Thermal Hot Springs.  People in Beverly Hills would pay THOUSANDS for a day at a lush spa such as this!!!

In that thar dome over thar is a pool of hot water.  Kids can frolic in the dirt play yard!!

8 comments:

  1. Wow, it looks soooo...ummm..."brown". After some consideration of living on the coast, I think we have decided the highlands sound better, hopefully fewer bugs, less humidity, and more to do. Speaking of things to do, I am hoping the thermal springs in Banos look better than the ones in the pic.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You owe me a new white shirt. I was laughing so much, my coffee came up through my nose, all over my nice "Key West" shirt.

    I loved your comments and photos. I can tell you don't write for International Living or Katheryn Peddicord. Thank goodness you don't. Tell it like it is....LOVED IT !!

    Joseph

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  3. I'm always amazed when people talk salinas up so much, I never get it because I've seen what you've seen too.

    I've heard better things of beaches up north, but for me montanita is the only good beach in the country.

    thank goodness I prefer mountains than beach.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dan,

    Truly hilarious. It describes my thoughts as well, although I have never been to Salinas. Who needs to spend time in a tourist trap with little to offer. The beaches are fine, but after a few days of smelling salt water, watching sunsets, and soaking up sun; what else is there to do? You can find bars and good restaurants right here in Cuenca. I really enjoy Waikiki in Hawaii. It really has so much more to offer. Yet after a few days, it's just more of the same.

    Also, why are the beaches so narrow and the high-rises so close to the ocean? Has anybody given thought that one day they may all be washed out into the ocean?

    I hope for your sake, the Salinas folks staying in your home in Cuenca are willing to give it back after three weeks. Good luck. Jim Mola

    ReplyDelete
  5. AHHH Cuenca! Is my most favorite Cuenca blog! I adore your sense of humor and the way you write. I try to visit everyday to see what's new in beautiful Cuenca. I now know I have absolutely NO desire to visit Salinas and WILL be moving to Cuenca in 4 years.

    Though I do want to drive that coast some day.

    Maybe that's how you could waste 2+ weeks! Drive up the coast to Montecristi to see the Panama hats being made. It looks like a lovely drive. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your writing is pure gold! Thanks for the great views and opinions on what you have observed in Salinas.

    ReplyDelete
  7. You sense of humor is as tart as mine. I love your piece … it is outstanding! My wife thought it might be a good idea to give Salinas some consideration. Thank you … you saved me the effort.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Its good to see someone stating the facts, Salinas
    is one place I will not bother to visit when I visit Cuenca next year

    ReplyDelete

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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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