Hola chicos. For those of you still with me after the financial lecture from last week, this post should hopefully be much more entertaining (well, maybe not) and will certainly have better pictures as I found an Internet cafe yesterday with faster uploads. Ok, so here we go…
While Manta itself has a very nice beach and pier area, my friend Karen and I thought it would be fun to get out of town for a while so after doing some research we selected the small fishing village of Crucita…about an hour´s bus ride ($1.20) from Manta. This is Karen:
Karen is from NYC…she´s a nurse who will be working in Arequipa, Peru for the next year. I´ll likely spend the X-mas/New Year´s week with her as my sister is returning to Colorado on December 23. Anyway…Crucita is a cute little pueblo whose mainstay is fishing but it is rapidly becoming a resort and tourism area because of the ideal conditions for paragliding, parasailing and hangliding. What is the difference between the three, you might ask? Funny you should wonder as Karen and I had the same question. Ok, here´s the deal:
- Paragliding – A paraglider is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing, whose shape is formed by the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing.
- Parasailing is a recreational activity where a person (two or three people may also ride at the same time) is towed behind a vehicle (usually a boat) while attached to a parachute. The boat then drives off, carrying the parascender into the air.
- Hangliding is an air sport in which a pilot flies an unpowered and light foot-launchable glider aircraft known as a hang glider. Most modern hang gliders are made of an aluminum -or composite- framed fabric wing which lacks moving control surfaces. The pilot is mounted on a harness hanging from the airframe and exercises control by shifting his body weight.
So jumping off of cliffs into anything isn´t really my cup of tea…though I do love to fly so I should have known that I would ultimately want to try one of the three. Since the pickpocketing incident in Quito, however, I´ve been a smidge paranoid and have thus only been carrying enough money for whatever it is I think I´ll be doing. This proved to not be the best plan…more on this later. At anyrate, I wasn´t planning on para-anything and I don´t think Karen was either. Until we met Raul.
View from our hotel room
Raul is the owner of the hostal where we ended up staying…appropriately named Hostal Crucita…Raul is Crucita´s resident expert in all things para. He will take you to the top of the cliff and will paraglide with you in tandem as well as offering lessons in paragliding by yourself and hangliding. OK, so Raul thinks we´re nuts for not wanting to paraglide (en español…volar de parapente) but no matter, we´re off to the beach.
On either end of the beach are row after row of fishing boats like these:
On Saturday the beach wasn´t too busy as it seems many people in Ecuador work a 6 day week and only have a day off on Sunday. The weather was warm and breezy though not especially sunny on Saturday which is probably OK since we´re pretty much sitting directly on the equator (or rather just south of it). I didn´t get in…but Karen informed me that the water felt chillier and the current stronger in Crucita than in Manta. I took her word for it.
By Sunday morning, we were convinced by Raul (and his brother David as well who owns the restaurant that we coincidentally ended up eating dinner at) that volar de parapente was certainly the thing to do. Unfortunately, neither had planned for this extra expense so between the two of us…we had only brought enough cash for one flight. Karen was much more into the idea than I was and is leaving presently for Peru so we decided she should be the one…and at $20 for a 15 minute flight…she reports that it was well worth it.
Sunday morning brought excellent, sunny weather (and a bit of sunburn for Stacey) and we enjoyed ourselves on the beach with significantly more people out and about. Now, one topic I have been neglecting here in Ecuador is that of food. I´ve mentioned the existence of ceviche (sea critters in lime juice)…but we also had an awesome seafood paella at David´s restaurant Marumbo (David, incidentally went to school in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin some 30 years ago). And on Sunday before returning to Manta we enjoyed the following Concha Asada (roasted clams):
Here in Ecuador, one doesn´t have french fries (I´ve yet to see a potato. Actually, I´ve yet to see many vegetables at all.)…we have deep-fried bananas and in lieu of potato chips we have plantain chips. I´m not sure if either is any healthier but they sure are yummy. The clams were also yummy though unfortunately I was a bit too anxiety ridden to enjoy them as much as I should have. You see, after paying for Karen´s flight we had only just enough money for lunch and our bus tickets back to Manta…but we weren´t paying attention to the cost of what we ordered. We figured we´d be pretty close (like, within a dollar) until they brought out an extra plate of plantains and fried bananas…mistakenly thinking that we wanted more when in fact we were simply trying to ask the name. At this point I´m in a mild panic and feverishly trying to figure out how to say “We don´t have enough money…can we wash dishes?” in Spanish when they brought the bill….after adding in the tip…we had 35 cents to spare. It has been quite some time since I felt that poor. Fortunately this situation was temporary as we simply hadn´t brought enough cash to Crucita, but in light of this…now may be a good time for my tips on money while in a foreign country.
Stacey´s Best Tips for Not Ending up Homeless and Starving in a Foreign Country
Always bring both Mastercard and Visa credit cards. In every foreign country I´ve been in it seems that frequently a store or hotel will only take one or the other. Or sometimes, one or the other network has been down at a time so if you only have Mastercard and that network is down you could have a problem. On this trip I brought two of each and keep them separate in case of theft. This proved to be fortuitous after I was pickpocketed.
Call your credit cards and ATM cards before you leave the country. Always call the CC and ATM companies to let them know you´ll be traveling and to not shut your card down. Sometimes even then the card won´t accept charges but it´s worth a try and it is certainly easier to call from home than somewhere foreign.
Traveler´s checks are obsolete. I haven´t carried a traveler´s check in more than 10 years and the reason is because they´re a pain-in-the-ass to convert into currency and frequently fetch poor rates. With the advent of world-wide ATM networks it´s much easier to just take cash from the ATM machine. The one time I would recommend TCs is if you need to pay for something fairly expensive in U.S. dollars and don´t want to carry a large amount of cash (eg. paying for a deposit or rent on a vacation rental in Argentina). TCs can be replaced if lost or stolen whereas cash clearly cannot.
E-mail yourself the phone numbers for your credit and ATM cards. The access phone numbers that you need are printed on the back of your cards though if you lose the card or it is stolen…no number. Compile the list of phone numbers and e-mail it to yourself…fortunately I did this and it was much easier to deal with the stolen cards.
Get PIN numbers for cash advances from your credit cards. Even if you think you will never do this (eg. you´re using your ATM card) get the PIN numbers for your cards several weeks in advance. In an emergency you can get a cash advance from the CC though the interest rates and fees are substantial. Unfortunately, I did not do this so was unable to get cash via the ATM machines after my ATM card was stolen. But no worries….here´s Plan B:
You can get a cash advance from any bank without a PIN. I did not know this until I arrived here in Ecuador that a person can walk into most any bank with their passport and a credit card and get a cash advance. The limits vary and the fees substantial (eg. my fee to pay for my Spanish classes was $27) but in an emergency who really cares.
You can send yourself money via Western Union on a credit card. I did not try this but it appears from the WU website that you can essentially wire yourself money by putting a certain amount of money on your credit card via the WU website and you can then go pick up the cash at a WU office (widely available worldwide). Fees again are substantial…to wire myself $500 would have cost about $50 dollars plus cash advance fees on my CC.
Carry U.S. dollars in small denominations and in good condition. When traveling in most places outside of Europe (especially in 2nd and 3rd worldish places like Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, etc.) always carry a supply of U.S. dollars in good condition in low denominations ($1 and $5) as often cab drivers and some small shops will accept both currencies. Also, when carrying cash in South America to convert to the local currency…always bring money in U.S. dollars in bills no larger than $20 due to problems with counterfeiting.
We don´t know what this is, but we took a picture anyway.
Tags: 8 - Ecuador, beach, Crucita, Ecuador, paella, paragliding