Exploring Ecuador’s Coast – Our Trip to Manta Part II

If you should ever find yourself in Manta, the Hotel Perla Spondylus is a very nice place to stay. It sits about a block back from the Malecon, on a road that runs directly from the famous Tuna on a Stick statue, which makes it easy to find. In fact, when our cab driver wanted to pretend ignorance of the hotel name and drive us around a little, I just said “cerca de la estatua de atun” – which may not be the correct Spanish, but it got the point across.

It is a nice, modern hotel with comfortable rooms – ours had a balcony – at a reasonable rate, which included a fantastic breakfast.

Our first evening in Manta we just went out and walked around, getting the feel of the place. We walked along the Malecon, past the Yacht Club and docks, and took our first look at El Murcielago, one of the large public beaches. We were enjoying ourselves, but then discovered how spoiled we have become from living in Salinas.

It started to rain.

We were completely caught off-guard. Salinas is in an arid place, with an annual rainfall of about 4 inches (to be fair to Manta, their average is only about 10 inches). When it does rain, it is usually a mist or very light. Sometimes we are not sure if it is raining or not until the streets start to look a little wet. In two years, I could count the number of times it has rained hard enough to need a hat or umbrella on one hand.

We ducked into a place for a couple of batidos (milkshake, sort of) to see if we could wait it out, and pondered the significance of what we had done. We had set out from home on a three to four day trip, and had not packed any type of rain gear at all. No umbrellas, no jackets, no shoes even, just sandals. Closest thing to foul weather gear we had was a baseball hat.

That’s a pretty impressive blind spot. The concept of being prepared for bad weather has completely flown out of our minds. As we thought about it, we realized that our only weather-preparedness thoughts before we go out now are related to how sunny it is or isn’t. Do I need sunglasses, should I wear a Panama hat to keep the sun off, and which pair of sandals should I wear are about the extent of it.

Of course, although we did have to walk back through a pretty decent rain and arrived back at the hotel drenched, it still was not THAT big of a deal. After all, even though the sun was going down the temperature was still in the mid-80’s and the rain itself was warm, so it was like walking through a very long shower.

Back at the hotel we dried off, changed into a different set of shorts and t-shirts, and decided to try the hotel restaurant since the rain was showing no signs of stopping. As Manta is the Tuna Capital of the World (at least according to the tuna on a stick, and why should it lie?), we were thinking we should be able to get some sort of tuna dish that would be nothing short of spectacular.

Sure enough, there were two different tuna entrees on the menu, and both sounded wonderful. We ordered one of each, and looked forward to sharing our meals to see which one we liked best.

Imagine our surprise when the waiter told us they had no tuna tonight. “En serio?” I said. “Sin atun en Manta?”. Always a mistake to talk to a waiter in Spanish by the way, since they then are free to assume you understand everything they say. He explained (I think) that since it was Sunday evening they hadn’t gone to the market, or the market was closed, something along those lines.

I wasn’t sure how that mattered much in Manta – after all, during our walk not 30 minutes ago we passed a guy standing by a street lamp with four tuna, each about 5 feet long, leaning against the post. This was like going to a restaurant in New Orleans, and being told they have no hot sauce.

Anyway, a little back and forth with my bad Spanish, and I gave up and asked him what kind of fish they did have. “Corvina!” he said proudly, with is sea bass, and a very tasty fish.

The only problem is, in Salinas you can’t walk 5 steps without tripping over someone selling corvina. It’s in every restaurant, served seven or eight different ways. I’ve never seen a corvina batido on a menu, but I’m sure f you asked for you, someone would be happy to toss a corvina, ice and coconut into a blender and charge you $2.50.

Dinner was still very good, and the next morning they made up for it with the breakfast. It was great, the waiter just kept bringing stuff out. He started with coffee and juice, then came back with a plate of fruit for each of us. A few minutes later, he was back with plates of bread and cheese. Then the eggs came out. Just when we thought we had reached the end of the breakfast food parade, one more trip out with our bolones, a fried tennis ball sized lump of cheese, plantains, egg and sausage.

We waddled out of breakfast, and went to consider our day.

A great thing about travelling with my wife, is that neither one of us is very schedule-oriented. For example, our original plan for the day was to get our rental car and drive north up the coast as far as Canoa, stopping at as many towns as we could along the way. However, since it was still raining, we called an audible and decided to get the car and explore Manta instead, maybe head south down the coast to San Mateo and San Lorenzo.

Now it was time for the next adventure – driving a car in Ecuador.

To Be Continued ….

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