Saturday, January 11, 2014

Report # 14 Manta, Ecuador January 11, 2014 Saturday Cloudy, chance of rain, 82 degrees and muggy

Our port of call for today was Manta, Ecuador, the tuna capital of the country. Situated on the west coast, Manta is a lively town that has served Ecuador for centuries as the largest seaport. On past visits, we have seen numerous tuna boats dropping off their heavy loads into waiting trucks. The huge frozen fish are then trucked to nearby packing plants to be processed and shipped worldwide. It is such a big industry here that most of the locals are employed by the plants.

Tuna fishing boats of Manta

More of the fleet of boats
Some other products produced here come from the tagua nut and the cultivation of the carludovica palmate, or the fiber that creates the Panama hats.
Tagua nut items
Did you know that for centuries, the tagua nut was used to make buttons? As these nuts dry, they become hard as ivory and are often called vegetable ivory. Over the years, we have gathered quite a collection of carvings made from these nuts. They even make conversational pieces of jewelry, as they can be dyed many colors. Excursions take tourists to the factory to see how the palm nuts are processed and made into usable products.
The famous Panama hats (made in Ecuador)
When the Panama Canal was being built, there was a need for hats for the workers. So Ecuador , specifically the town of Montecristi, became the place where these hats are hand-woven. The fiber that creates these hats only grows in tropical areas, like here, and once harvested, the reeds are boiled, then dried before weaving. Ladies drape themselves over a piece of furniture created to take the pressure off of their lower backs, as they weave the fiber row by row. Some of the finer-woven hats can fetch a pretty price in the hundreds of dollars.

Manta is also a drop-off point for folks to go to the Galapagos Islands, another unique adventure we may do someday. This trip flys you to Quito, the second highest capital in the world. After touring Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you are flown to the Galapagos Islands, where you board a vessel that sails from island to island to see the unique animals and birds that only live there. The passengers doing this pricey excursion will join the ship in Lima.

Amsterdam docked in Manta

Very close to town
Since the Amsterdam was staying in port until 11pm, we were in no big hurry to go ashore. Plenty of time for a proper breakfast in the dining room. Based on where the shuttle bus took us last year, we had planned our shopping day around going to the Manicentro Shopping Center. Once we boarded the shuttle, which began running at 8am, we realized that the driver had turned the wrong way, and were headed to the handicraft center near Plaza Civica. We hate when they change things on us. Oh well, we cannot complain because the ride was free.
Entrance to the souvenier stands at Plaza Civica
Walking through the craft market, we did find the little leather zippered pouches for holding pills. They are a great value for $1. By the way, the tender for Ecuador is the US dollar. However, if you get change back, the coins are not the same as ours. You need to spend them here......never a problem. Hoping to locate a grocery store, we walked a few blocks beyond this market, and discovered Plaza Civica, and the surrounding park area. All the times we have been to Manta, we never knew this park was here. The only store that resembled a grocery store was the pharmacy. Since they did not have exactly what we were searching for, we decided to walk back past the pier gate and find our way to the other shopping center.
Paintings for sale

Local souveniers include carved gourds, dolls, and purses

Each silver-plated figurine was $22.00 or less if you bargained good

More souvenier booths in the plaza

Local dancers put on a show
Museum of Manta
It would do us no good to take the shuttle bus back, because they do not let you out at the pier gate. In fact, you have to take the bus from the ship to the handicraft center and center to the ship, because no walking is allowed in this busy port area. So we took our time and walked busy Malecon Avenue past the pier gate, the Museum of Archaeology, to the Hotel Oro Verde, and finally to the Manicentro Shopping Center. It was not as far as we had previously thought. We ran into friends Margaret and Keith, who had made their way to the museum, one of their favorite things to do. They were in search of a six pack of local beer to bring back.
Hotel Oro Verde
First, we walked through the very upscale Hotel Oro Verde, and downstairs to the restaurant and swimming pool level. Gosh, that pool looked inviting. Even though it was noon, there were few diners in the lovely restaurant that overlooked Murcielago Beach down below the cliffs. Too early to eat lunch, we looked over the menu to find most of the entrees were fish based, naturally. On our way back outside, we picked up a hotel flyer that advertised the room rates at $85. to $109. a night. That price included the daily buffet.

Walking towards a nice hotel

Lower lobby of the hotel

Swimming pool at the Oro Verde

Murcielago Beach with ship in the distance

Really inviting restaurant at the hotel

Wish we could take a dip
Heading uphill, we made our way to the bustling shopping center. That is when we realized why the bus did not bring the cruise passengers here. The central courtyard on one side of the mall was empty of all the local vendors that sold the fun souveniers. 

Supermaxi - Manta's large & convenient grocery store
Of course, the grocery store, Supermaxi, was still there, and our main reason for coming here. We were able to locate most all of the items we were missing from home, and at very reasonable prices, we might add. 

Flowers we bought at Supermaxi ($8.00)
Our best bargain was a large bouquet of fresh flowers with dozens of brightly colored blooms. All that for a mere $8. The only item we found outrageously expensive was their suntan lotion. Some of the popular names of lotion were as much as $20. a bottle. We highly doubt that the locals ever use sunblock items, so these products must be targeted for the tourists. What this store has is a nice floral department that sells potting soil, vases, and plant containers. We needed to add more pots to our window sill, and now we have a complete garden. The sunflower seeds are up over an inch already. So fun to watch.

Lugging four bags of our purchases, we thought it best to go back to the ship, eat lunch, then perhaps go out again later. What was not printed in the daily newsletter was that smaller mini vans were being used to take folks to the gate from the ship and back again without ever leaving the port. We spotted this happening when we passed by the gate on our way to the shopping center. That way, we did not have to go all the way to the handicraft area to catch the bus. If this had been announced, we must have missed it.

All the times we have been here in the past, we never took the time to walk on the beach. It was really close to access it from the pier gate. The beach was quite busy today, filled with kids and families having lots of fun. The water must have been cold, because when the toddlers ran towards it, they stopped dead in their tracks. Along the boardwalk, there was a series of tented seafood restaurants. They were more like open-air cafes, which we know, many of our buddies have recommended over the years. Again, the bulk of the menus contained seafood, not what we were craving today. Nope, there was no pizza......

Beachfront at Murcielago Beach

More souvenier stands on the beach

Series of shoreline restaurants on the beach

Many families enjoying the beach today

Mary Ann enjoying the scenery

So was Bill

Handprints signified something

Lounging in the wet sand

The water looked cold, and probably was

Chairs under umbrellas for rent

Busy beach today

A tiny hermit crab

No need to go thirsty
We ran into a group of some vendors selling souvenirs on the beach. We ended up buying a tagua nut palm tree with a monkey climbing the tree. It will be a miracle if it makes it home in one piece. In fact, it sort of got dropped on the way back to the pier gate, but nothing that a little gorilla glue could not fix. Gosh, we wish we had invented that crazy-like glue. It does really work like it says it does.

Football on TV was on the agenda for the remainder of the day. Before we knew it, dinnertime had arrived. Savory pot roast and spaghetti with meat sauce was high on our list. It was unusual for us to look outside and see the lights of the city surrounding us. This is the first time we remember staying here past 6pm. Still don't know why we did not leave until well after 11pm. The shuttle to the pier gate had ceased at 6:30pm, so what was the point of staying here if you could not get off of the ship anymore after 6:30pm? We did bunker fuel here all day, but that rig was gone in the late afternoon. There was a Manta sailaway party, but it was held in the Crows nest at 10:30pm.....way too late for us. One good thing, it never rained today. The clouds blew away and the sun actually appeared in the afternoon.

We have two days at sea now before we arrive to Callao for Lima, Peru.

The pier in Manta, shared with the active fishing boats


Fishing boat

Post office at the landing

Plaza Civica

Surrounding park

Jacaranda trees in the park

Pretty blooms were a shade of violet

Much traffic on Saturday morning

Palm trees helped make the area nicer

The tuna is the town's symbol

Central fountain of tuna

Workers being transported to and from the fishing vessels

Buses and mini vans were for us - no walking out of this pier area

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