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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ecuador - A World Beyond Cuenca!

I do confess that we've spent a lot of time just wandering around Cuenca - well really El Centro. In fact that's pretty much all we've done over the last 10 months that we've been here, except for a minor excursion here and there and one fairly serious bicycle trip.

Having visitors is an excellent way to break out of a retirement rut and get out and see what's going on in other parts of the country and that is exactly what we did.
Prerequisite floral photos

We took a day trip to a place called Chobshi in the province of Sig Sig. It has a wealth of information about  the Cañari people. The Cañari have been in Ecuador for a ridiculously long time; well before the Incans and are noted for their diplomacy, Socialism and trading skills. They actually had no leader and kept peace by bringing a diversity of South American goods in trade to an enormous region of the continent. This made them popular and converted potential enemies in to trading partners. Cue the Incans. Their political philosophy wasn't quite as...shall I say liberal? While the Cañari were able to build a friendship with the Incans and infiltrate (if you will) the blood line, they eventually had to capitulate to Incan rule, eventually gaining power for themselves in the process. That's the Cole's notes version of the history of the Cañari people. There is a cave in Chobshi where they found proof of habitation that was 12,000 years old. This find is believed to be the beginnings of the Cañaris. If you're interested in learning more here are some useful search terms: Huayna (or occasionally Wayna) Capac, Dhuma, Cañari, Chobshi, etc.

Canari Fortress Ruins

Traditional Canari Farmlands

Map Rock (outlining the local rivers)

The red earth reminded me of PEI

Ron and John enjoying lunch

History lesson over.

As this is winter both Ron and I and our guests were eager to head out to the coast in search of warmer climes and hopefully some more sunshine. Alas and alack, though we found warmer temperatures, sun was (literally) not in the forecast. What we did discover is the rather remarkable beaches of Ecuador. We visited both (la Playa de) Olón and Salinas and also enjoyed the beautiful trek across country. We wended our way through the Andes, past the rice, banana, cacao and mango fields, past the salt "mines" that are actually lagoons filled with ocean water and down along the Coast.

Olon - Life Guard Teddy is on the job!

Cloudy, but warm enough for shorts

Nearby cliffs

Little Blue Jellyfish - there were tons!

Close up of the cliffs

The towns there are a bit "rougher" than what we're used to in Cuenca and it was a gentle reminder that while Ecuador's economy is improving, there is still a lot of work to be done. The people are just as friendly and helpful and also seem to enjoy life just as must as those in our little paradise, which is always humbling and heartwarming at the same time.

Olón is the place to go if all you really want to do is chill out, read a book, take in the surf and relax. There are a few attractions about 45 minutes outside of the pueblo, but it's a town made for surfers, hippies and those in need of a serious break from any type of hustle and bustle. There are crazy little crabs that spend the afternoons digging out new tunnels from the sand and I could have watched them for hours. There was also an amazing assortment of coloured rocks, shells and various remains of sea creatures to make a stroll interesting. The surf provides a steady thrum that can make conversation difficult, but is somehow completely soothing. Accommodations are "rustic" and if you're used to 5 star hotels, you may want to look elsewhere. If you're a beach bum at heart (and not overly fussy about how rooms are constructed), go down and check it out.

Bougainvillaea in Salinas

Teddy lunching on the restaurant patio

Ice Cream Vendors

Paddle Boat Rentals

Need a chair & table??? You can buy that, too.

This guy was selling temporary tattoos

Teddy chilling out, watching all the vendors go by

Well deserved R&R

Salinas is a tourist city. There's tons of hotel and condos lining the beach in three different sections of the city. There's a great selection of restaurants and clubs. If you do opt to hang out at the beach, I would recommend finding a quiet stretch at either end of the city and not the part in the middle of the action. We spent two hours sitting on beach chairs watching (and occasionally being accosted by) the endless (and I really do me ENDLESS) parade of vendors. It's something that must be experienced if you go, but I could only tolerate it for the 2 hours, any more than that might have made me do something crazy.

I really think that the coast of Ecuador has something for everyone, you just have to take your time to find the place that's right for you. When selecting a beach location pay particular attention to who is reviewing the place and what their likes and dislikes were (more so than usual), you really need to read between the lines on reviews.

We aren't sure if either Olón or Salinas is the place for us, but we know there's a beach that has our name on it and we'll enjoy taking the time to find it. Be well, appreciate your loved ones and, if you can, find a moment of joy in every single day.

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