Manta and a warm Pacific Ocean

After a great six days spent in Cuenca, we took two 4-hour bus rides to get to Manta, a large port city in the south. There, we would meet up with Chaui, the Ecuadorian step-mother of one of Craig’s frat brothers–a stroke of luck and timing, as she hadn’t been back to Ecuador in 10 years. I consider it extremely fortunate that we somehow managed to be in the same country at the same time.


Craig and I at the beach in Manta.

Our movie selection for our long travel day was, as always, a very interesting array. The first, Facing the Giants, looked like it would, at first, be a small-town high school football movie. But it quickly devolved into a God movie. The moral of the film, if you haven’t seen it (and I’m almost sure you haven’t… it looked like a Lifetime Channel production), was that if you believed in God, “nothing was impossible”–not a free new truck, a raise, impromptu high school revival meetings among teenagers, coaching your team to a state championship, or even… a BABY, despite fertility issues. [Side note–I wonder about this kind of religious conviction… doesn’t it detract from the pride you can take in a job well done? If you think you were just given all these things because you believed in God, doesn’t that kind of lessen the achievements? It’s all very strange to me.]
The second movie was even more Lifetime than the first and I thankfully fell asleep for most of it. The third movie took a 180-degree turn from the all of that feel-good into the truly horrifying subject of human trafficking. Movies on the bus are usually a miss–rarely have I ever really enjoyed them (Paul Blart: Mall Cop not withstanding), but they pass the time. And who knows, perhaps all of the dubbing is improving my Spanish!
Coming from the Andes to the coast, we lost about 7,500 feet of elevation. The air became hotter, and much more humid. By the time we checked into our hostel for the night, we were sweating through our clothes.

We’ll miss Cuenca–such a beautiful city! We felt like it was  city we could really live in, if we wanted to become ex-pats.

Manta is not a pretty city. We were a bit disappointed after Cuenca’s amazing colonial architecture and its wonderful parks. Still, you can’t complain when you have a sandy beach with a warm Pacific ocean only a 10-minute walk from where you’re staying. And after getting in touch with Chaui we were staying in some nice digs. Her family lived in a 14-story apartment building in two different units, one of which was only sometimes occupied by a brother, Fabian. We were allowed to crash in the guest room of the empty apartment unit. His nephew, who showed us the place, apologized for how “dirty” it was and how it wasn’t much, but we thought it was great. First of all–it was empty. I haven’t been able to roam around in my underwear since we left the States, and I was missing the freedom of it. Second, it was on the 10th floor with a view of the port. Third, it was FREE!
Free accommodation has got to be one of the holy grails of long-term travel. We haven’t been so lucky with couch-surfing, so something like this is greatly appreciated.

The view from our apartment’s balcony (Yes! It had a balcony!). The port is to the right and the beach and boardwalk straight ahead.

We arrived to Manta when Chaui’s family was in the midst of some serious celebrating–the reason why she had returned to Ecuador in the first place. Her sister’s son was graduating from college that week, and the next week, the daughter was getting married! If we had known before we bought our Galapagos tickets, we might have been persuaded to crash the wedding. Weddings are always a good time, and the way the family partied for just the graduation (two nights of heavy drinking, karaokeing, and dancing), we knew the wedding would have been even more of a bender.
Unfortunately (or not, depending on the opinion of our livers), we’ll have to miss the epic celebration. We will be in the Galapagos, though, so we have that to console ourselves.

Craig dancing with Chaui as the karaoke blares in the background. Reminds me of my own childhood parties, except with much more intergenerational mingling and dancing.

Manta has been a lazy city for us (what hasn’t been, really, in the last month?). We’ve just filled our days with going to the beach, eating seafood and ice cream, and swimming in a warm, warm ocean. We haven’t been able to swim much in the Pacific since we started our trip since it’s been too cold. I’d forgotten what a deep and wonderful joy it is to swim past the break in the waves and then float in that peaceful, but slightly thrilling, edge of the endless sea.

Sitting in our $3 beach rental chairs. We thought it was worth it to get some shade.

Don’t worry, we also have not been neglecting the World Cup, and we’ve been able to watch the games fairly easily, as there’s almost always a TV playing it wherever you go. In fact, in Cuenca, we were able to watch one match almost entirely by peeking through shop and restaurant windows as we walked around the city. We’re a bit disappointed that Chile, Ecuador, and Columbia haven’t made it as far as we’d like… but we’re contented that two South American teams have reached the semi-finals. Hopefully at least one of them will make the final–we’re rooting for Argentina at this point!
Just a few more days of hanging out on the beach before we head to the Galapagos… I’m uber excited! I just imagine all of my days spent being mesmerized by the marine iguanas and dodging mosquitos. I’m sure Craig has other ideas, but if I can successfully do both of these things, then I’ll be pretty happy.

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