Day 12: Tuesday, Feb. 12---Ecuador 9:30pm - 00*55'53"S 80*43'16"W
We stayed up till after 2:00am celebrating Crossing the Equator, then got up at 6:00am as we were coming into Manta, Ecuador. Beautiful, warm morning with a pristine harbor dotted with fishing boats, mostly tuna (Charlie is from here our guide told us) and foothills of the Andes in the background. We had room service for breakfast then went on a 4+ hour tour. Debarkation was MUCH better, but hold that thought.
For our tour of Manta and Montecristo, our guide, Ronaldo, who taught himself English, was very informative and we had a nice bus. Our first stop was a Button factory. We felt like we were in China again with the sweatshop conditions. They have a nut from the Tague tree that is very bulbous and gnarly. About 30 people processing the nut which has the interior like a white hard ivory. Some were sitting in front of an unprotected 8" rotating saw blade thin slicing these nuts with their bare hands. Their fingers were just wrapped in adhesive tape. Then others drill them into disks followed by other shaping and polishing. Guess Ralph Lauren is one of their big customers for buttons on his clothes. They also made various jewelry and nicknacks.
Then we went up in the hills on barely a road to a very small village & market where they were selling Panama hats and lots of alpaca and textiles products. Beautiful and inexpensive. The next stop was a beautiful, relatively new, convention center, crafts market. This site was built a few years ago to house the legislature while they created a new constitution. The site includes an exposition area showing the very labor intensive process of making Panama Hats, from processing the palm fronds to weaving the hats. (When the Panama Canal was being built, Ecuador sent "straw" hats, and the people in Panama sent them on to Europe and the US - thus the name Panama Hats despite being made by Ecuadorians. It's a cottage industry handed down within families for many generations.) Next we had a brief stop in Manta at a museum with fascinating pieces from their VERY long pre-columbian history!
Today is Carnival and a holiday so much of the local population was at one of Manta's 11 gorgeous beaches.
We returned to the ship hot and hungry only to find a 30 min. line to enter the ship; only one gangway was open. After a late lunch we crashed for a while, followed by a bit of housecleaning, brief dinner, and watching the ship pull out in a gorgeous sunset. We watched the State of the Union then attended the official equator crossing and Shellback initiation Party! We got our certificates.
Glad to have a couple of sea days ahead. Friday we land in Lima, Peru, and Larry will take off to Machu Picchu. Bev will do city tours in Lima and Arica and have some quiet (wait, we mean, casino!) days.
We are well so far and, it appears, so are the others. We haven't heard of any illness and are keeping our fingers crossed. Somebody was whisked away today in an ambulance. Heard someone had a heart attack while snorkeling in Cabo! ugh. Guess she was ok when they took her away in an ambulance.
Hey, Marek and Levi we miss you so much. Especially today when we saw all the little boys in Ecuador. Sure would like to give you a big SNAKE kiss!
We have Direct TV from Miami for the networks and a very few other channels, but it is a blessing to keep up with the outside world a little bit. We hear much chatter about the Carnival ship, Triumph, dead in the water in the Gulf. This ship had a similar mess 2 years ago on the Mexican Riviera cruise.
Happy Valentines Day for Thursday.
Quickclipper (Bev and Larry)