Another picture-perfect day in Salinas. May is a great month here, with most of the snowbirds gone, and kids back in school. We have a lot of days with blue skies, temperatures in the low 80’s, and cool breeze coming in off the water. Rita and I took a beach walk in Chipipe yesterday, and plan on going back today for some lunch empanadas and maybe a coco batido.
On our walk yesterday, I was marveling once again at all of the commerce than takes place on the sands. On US beaches, you have people renting umbrellas, chairs, and boogie boards, and maybe a vendor walking around selling those little souvenir pictures of you in a plastic cone, but that’s about it. The commerce is mostly in the shops.
Quite a different picture in Ecuador. They hustle here. The commerce comes to you. There are the umbrellas, big square canvas pavilions, chairs and tables, true. In fact, as soon as you approach the beach, several competing vendors will try to wave you in their direction. When Ecuadorians go to the beach, they GO TO THE BEACH! They are there as a family, usually 3 or 4 generations, and they camp out under their shade and settle in for the day.
To support them, here is a partial list of things we have seen for rent or for sale on the beach.
- Beer and other beverages – This is a big one. Before you can even get settled under your sunshade, at least one beer vendor will stop by to let you know you can just wave or whistle whenever you get thirsty. They have soft drinks and water, but beer is the big seller.
- Agua de Coco – Men with carts of coconuts and machetes will be happy to whack the top off of one and stick a straw in it for you. Can you imagine the excitement at a US beach if men carrying machetes were wandering around?
- Shaved Ice Cones
- Ice Cream
- Food, food, and food – You will also be approacher by beaters from the local restaurants. They will show you menus, and will call in your order via cell phone, and bring it to you. Many will also bring cocktails.
- More food – Empanadas, bollos, bolones, fried plantains, candies, nuts, fruit, or roasted corn on the cob with cheese to name but a few.
- Beach toys
- Clothing – Not just beach clothes, but dresses as well.
- Various face and body creams
- Jet ski rentals
- Ocean kayak rentals
- Fishing trips
- Scenic boat rides
- Banana boat rides – for a modest fee, you will be placed on some sort of large floating rubber vessel, which will then be paddled out and attached to a speed boat. They will then drag you out to sea, and go screaming across the water, making sharper and sharper turns, until everyone falls off. They gather the survivors up, drag them back to shore, and make one more attempt at dumping them all in the surf. Kids love it.
- Tattoos, temporary and permanent – I have seen guys with battery packs doing permanent tattoos on the beach, pausing once and a while to blow the sand away.
- Lamps – both floor lamps, and hanging lamps. Seriously.
- Snack tray table sets – again, seriously.
- Hats – Panama Hats, fedoras, floppy hats for women, wicker hats, and hats woven before your eyes out of palm leaves
- Wicker napkin holders, placemats, and baskets
- Handmade doll furniture
- Hair braiding
- Souvenirs – wooden key racks, ships made from shells, etc.
- Lobsters – “Langostas, langostas” you hear, as men with cardboard boxes filled with squirming lobsters make their way up the beach. You can buy them to take back to your place, or if you like they will whistle someone over to clean and cook them for you, right on the sand.
- Timeshares – No getting away from these people.
- Movies or Music – Bootleg copies of current movies and music CDs, typically $1 each, but you can get discounts for bulk purchase.
Then there are the things that are hard to explain. For example, men dressed as caricatures of women, with two balloons for breasts, and two behind them for their badonkadonk. Or someone in a Barney the Dinosaur suit, no doubt melting into a puddle (I know, I used to wear one – a story for another time), selling candies and trinkets and posing for pictures. There are also roving guitarists, drummers, dancers, and jugglers.
Yes, the beaches in Ecuador are beautiful, and never boring. It’s a great place to get a tan, enjoy the ocean, and support free-enterprise.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear those empanadas calling ….