Day 10 - Feb 12 - Manta, Ecuador
This morning around 1:30 AM, as we were sleeping, the ship crossed the
equator. There was some sort of gathering, but knowing we had to get up
early we decided to sleep instead. More on this later.
We just woke up and need to get ready for our 9 hour excursion to Machalilla National Park. I still need to post stuff for yesterday as I spent my on-line time fleshing out some of the previous days. Linda is out of the shower and now it is my turn.
This map will show you were we are in South America.
7:10 AM: After eating breakfast with Ralph and Micky, the four of us went to the lounge and got our bus stickers. They called our number about 7:35 AM and we headed out of the lounge. The lounge is on deck 3 and the gangway is on deck 0, so as we got to the stairs I asked if I could use the elevator due to my knees. They let me cross the security ropes to get on the elevator and when I got to deck 0 there was a sign across the door blocking the exit. I had to explain my problem to another Carnival employee before being allowed to exit the elevator. Then we stood for a LONG time before the gangway was opened up for us to exit the ship. So, this was another poorly executed debarkation. On the positive side, the excursion buses were park on the dock only 100, or so, feet from the gangway. I was the first person on the bus and saved seats for the 4 of us.
Carnival: I thought it might be good to start by mentioning that today is the last day of the Carnival Celebration (back home we know it as Fat Tuesday.) For Ecuador this is a 4 day holiday, so most places were close and kids were out of school. As most know, the day after Carnival is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a 40 day period (Lent), which ends at holy week. If I remember correctly, Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. So, today was a bit wild. In Manta it is a tradition to squirt water or throw things on others. I saw a number of people with water canons and cans that sprays all sorts of colorful stingy things. We saw a number of people with painted faces, but no masks. You will see later why I mentioned this.
Our Tour: Where we were going in the Machalilla National Park, was over a 2 hour bus ride away. Our first stop was at the Museo Agua Blanca, an Archeology Museum. In 1997 (I think) there was so much rain in coastal Ecuador that there was a lot of flooding and mud slides. It uncovered artifacts of a civilization that wasn't known to be in the area around Machalilla. A dig was started and some of the findings were placed in this little museum. It is nothing special, but does attract visitors giving the locals jobs working there. After visiting the museum, our tour guide lead a walk around the area on a trail. He is a naturalist, specializing in Ornithology (bird watching.) He discussed the flora and fauna. Linda went on the walk, but I waited by the bus and took pictures of the village.
When the walk was over we were given 5 minutes to shop at the tables setup by the locals for handmade jewelry and trinkets. An interesting item was the tagua nut, that was carved to make all sorts of trinkets/jewelry. It is referred to as vegetable ivory. Linda bought a pair of earrings for $5 made from some sort of shell.
Lunch: We departed Agua Blanca and headed to a "charming hotel," as described in the excursion brochure, where we had a buffet lunch. The food was very good and included a grilled "Wahoo" steak, shrimp kabobs, cerviche, and a rice & Calamari dish that was tinted red with tomato sauce. The Wahoo, calamari and shrimp were caught locally. The hotel was sitting up on a hill or cliff with a spectacular view of the Pacific. I got a nice picture of it. Note: The fishing industry along the coastal area is very big. Most men are involved in either fishing or farming. Every village or town we passed had fishing boats sitting in their harbor. In the bigger towns, or cities, the boats were very big and were used for catching tuna. Roberto, our guide, said that they went as far as Asia to catch tuna as the local waters were fished out.
Beach Break: After lunch we drove south, towards Manta, to Playa Los Frailes for a swim, a drive of about 25 minutes. This beach was like a resort and had a gate through which you entered. As we approached the turn-off we noticed cars parked on both side of the road and orange cones blocking entrance into the beach. The bus stopped and Roberto got out to investigate. He learned that the place was FULL of Carnival revelers. He, said we would continue on to Plan B. We rode along the coast for a long time until we got to the last beach before turning east to head over the hills leading to Manta. It was nothing special and was very crowded. Most of us decided not to go in the water, but I didn't even walk on the sand, instead I walk up the beach road looking people. I bought an ice cold Coca Cola Light for $1. (BTW the U.S. dollar is the official currency for Ecuador.)
Here is a picture of the coastal area that we drove along for 2 hours. As you an see it in not flat.
About Ecuador: I wish I could post pictures to show you what this place looks like. The countryside is green and lush with hills and mountain all along the coast. The towns and villages that we went through are like shanty towns. Most of the streets off of the main highway are dirt. Vehicles ran the gamut from newish cars and trucks from such manufacturer's as Kia, Chevy and Toyota to a 3 wheel taxi that looked like a rickshaw on the rear with a worn out motorbike on the front. Some houses had rusted tin roofs while others had a type of thatched roof. The restaurants and bars along the beach were make-shift structures that were often open on one side with white plastic chairs for seating. BUT, everybody was happy! Few of the locals spoke English. At the restaurant someone at the next table left a few dollars for a tip, the young man busing the table picked up the money and looked around for the person. Not seeing them, he brought the money to us wanting to return it. We explained that it was for him and a big grin spread across his face as he stuck it in his pocket.
We learned some interesting facts when I asked Roberto about the literacy rate. He said that only 7% of the people could not read, but all could sign their name as it was a law to collect services. He said that those that couldn't read were most likely indigenous people who just didn't want to learn. He explained that to graduate from high school a student must spend 3 month teaching someone to read and to plant 100 trees. I was impressed with this practice.
Back on board: We were dropped right at the gangway and re-boarded around 4:00 PM. I downloaded pictures from both cameras and we picked one each to turn in for the Snapshot Rally Disc. We had dinner at 5:50 PM with Ralph and Micky. After dinner we met them again at 9:00 PM, on deck 3, for a Mardi Gras party, but it was so crowded that we left. We got seats on the Lido deck to watch the Equator Crossing Ceremony that started at 10:00 PM. We had crossed the equator at about 1:27 AM, but since it was a port day, we had to wait for the ceremony. So, we are now Shellbacks and have certificates to prove it. Thus ends another busy day.
Our Cruise History: I've moved the stuff over a year old to > My Ticker Page <
Carnival Freedom - B2B Aug 25 & Sep 2,
Carnival Breeze - B2B 10/25 & 11/6/2012 Med & TA
Carnival Splendor - B2B2B South America 2/2-3/21/2013
Carnival Legend – B2B2B Norther Europe, Great Britain, & Northern Route TA