Pacific Adventure 2020
I had been planning on this trip for years, ever since Dan and Em first mentioned that they were thinking of taking Skyelark to the Pacific. I managed to do a few legs of their first two World ARCs, but I had always wanted to do an extended charter and see the South Pacific. Knowing that I would be retired for this year’s stint I expressed interest in March 2018 and put my deposit down in January 2019. This was going to be the trip of a lifetime and a very nice retirement gift to myself. It has now turned bittersweet as I lost my son, Nicolas, three months to the day of when I was booked to leave. We were as close as any father and son could be, having divorced his mom 23 years ago, he lived with me almost the entire time since. Nick always loved hearing about my trips and seeing the photos I would take on the way, he was proud of his old man being the adventurous type and doing things his friend’s parents would never think to do. I am dedicating this trip to him as I know he will be looking out for me as he always has.
February 22, 2020
I had booked my flight to Ecuador last April and using airline miles on American I was able to get a first-class ticket for just 30,000 miles. It was a round -about route they sent me on; Buffalo – Charlette – Charleston – Miami – Guayaquil, with a total of around 8 hours in layovers. The flight went smooth and with a first-class ticket I was able to check two bags with a weight of up to 70 pounds each, that came in handy as I will be traveling for eight months and will need warm clothes for Australia since it will be winter when we arrive there.
C&I was quick and easy, no cards to fill out, no questions to answer, just walk up to the next available agent, passport stamped, luggage off the carousel and out the door I went.
Taxis rates in Guayaquil are regulated by zones and the fare to my hotel was $6 for the 3.5-mile drive. I’m staying at the Hotel Continental, I chose it for its proximity to the Malecon 2000, a boardwalk along the river, more about that later. The hotel staff is friendly and the room clean and modern, breakfast is included and there is a 24-hour restaurant on site. It was nearly 11:00 by the time I arrived so straight to bed after a long day of travel and copious amounts of drinks on the planes; the small bottles of Bushmills I had in my 3-1-1 made the layovers easier to take also.
February 23, 2020
Breakfast was decent, although the offerings on the buffet don’t change. Lots of corn and potato-based things along with scrambled eggs and bacon; plenty of fresh fruit and juices too. First order of business was to check out the area surrounding the hotel, especially the Malecon 2000 which is a promenade that runs for probably a mile or so along the river. There are a plethora of restaurants and food stands throughout, also an amusement park and theater. A small manmade canal runs on the other side with paved trails, sitting areas, fountains and statues; the landscaping rivals if not surpasses the botanical garden in Kingstown, St. Vincent, one of the nicest in the Caribbean. I spent the better part of the day walking from one end to the other, people watching and taking advantage of many food stands selling ceviche for next to nothing. http://www.traveltalkonline.com/gallery/41/full/5483.jpg
Scenes from the Malecon
A fireboat on the wall
Now Guayaquil is a very large crowded city, the largest in Ecuador I read not really my cup of tea, but since I had to fly through here to get to Galapagos, I decided to check it out. I also figured that it would be an opportunity to try and find a small coastal town that might serve as a future travel destination.
After returning to the hotel for the night, I went to the restaurant and tried the bandera Ecuatoriana, sort of an Ecuadorean sampler platter, very nice with everything from chicken and pork to tripe and blood sausage including some sort of fish dish that had the consistency of watery squash, pretty good. A couple beers from the bar and a snort of Bushmills in the room and I was soon fast asleep.
February 24, 2020
I had inquired on Trip Advisor as to small waterfront towns which are budget friendly and have a mix of tourists and ex-pats in addition to friendly locals. Olon, a small-town west northwest of Guayaquil was suggested and seemed like what I was looking for. My original plan was leave early on Tuesday, but since it was pouring rain I decided to head there today. I had read on the internet that it was two hours from Guayaquil, so I wasn’t concerned that I didn’t get to the bus terminal until 11:00 am. My ticket was only $8, however the “2” hour ride turned into 4 putting me there around 3 in the afternoon. It was a nice ride, the bus was comfortable, sort of like a Greyhound bus with reclining seats and a bathroom on board. We had to pass through a toll booth and on the approach, vendors were standing between the lanes selling drinks, snacks, straw mats, all sorts of things.
Vendors at the toll booth
The countryside was sparse, few houses some banana plantations, no real towns that I could see, at least along the main highway. Upon arrival I immediately tried to purchase a return ticket, however the gentleman said none were available until tomorrow. Now I only had about $50 on me and no credit cards, but I had seen many hostels with signs advertising shared rooms for $7 and private rooms for $10 so I wasn’t too concerned. My Spanish is limited to ordering drinks, asking where the restroom is, the common pleasantries and promising young Chicas a green card; as in Guayaquil, it was rare to find someone who spoke English. I lucked out however, as I was heading to the beach, I found another bus company that had one ticket remaining for travel back today (thanks Nico!). Ticket in hand I headed walked the two blocks to the beach, I could soon see that this was going to be my kind of place. The beach was inundated with all sorts of debris, including large sections of trees and brush; I later found out that was very unusual and the result of the previous nights storm. Being close to Carnival the beach was crowded with visitors; there is a long row of food stands selling pretty much the same thing. I found one that looked reasonable and had a lunch of ceviche de pulpo, octopus ceviche, accompanied by a plate of rice, with two 24-ounce beers the bill came to $10, nice! American dollars are the official currency of Ecuador so no need to bother with exchange rates.
A typical street in Olon
Umbrellas and chairs on the beach
The beach restaurants and a typical menu, the food and drinks are very cheap here
A mobile ceviche vendor
And they worry about sargasso weed in the Caribbean
There was a public restroom, 10 cents admission, 25 cents if you need toilet paper, seems to be a common thing here. As I wandered the town I ran into some guys from the US (finally someone who speaks English!), they were visiting long term and one of them owns a house on the beach. We chatted and joked, and they gave me some pointers, who knew that being over 60 I was entitled to a 50% discount on the bus ticket, oh well I’m not going to cry over $3. I looked around for accommodations that Kim would be comfortable in and found a nice place where rooms for two people were $45 a night with A/C, $35 with a fan; I got a card from the lady for future reference. The town is popular with surfers it appears from all the surf boards adorning the bars and a “surfing school” on the beach; basically, a jury-rigged tent with a surfing school sign hanging on it. I really like the vibe of the place, laid back, friendly and cheap.
Doesn't look bad for $35 a night
Even in a sleepy little town there are some touristy things
I had a chicken Caesar salad before boarding the bus for the long trip back. Taxis were readily available at the bus terminal, so I was soon back at the hotel where I had a few beers at the bar before turning in for the night.
February 25, 2020
I’m not one for touristy things, but I do find when in a large city for the first time the hop on hop of bus is a great way to get a feel for the place and see the high points. As I said it’s a large city and not for me, but there are many parks, museums and churches to visit if you care for that sort of thing. After the bus tour I went back to the room to relax in the A/C before venturing out to the Malecon. I tried to find some reading glasses but to no avail, I brought six pairs with me but lost one on the bus already, I’ll have some sent to one of the guests on Skyelar coming from the US.
Photos from the hop on hop off bus trip
Like I said, not really my kind of place
More strolling the boardwalk and people watching, just enjoying the day. This is not the place for someone on a diet, the pastries in the coffee shops are decadent and very reasonably priced. There is a “pirate ship” that plys the river, $7 for approximately an hour tour; again, not something I would ordinarily do but a fun way to kill some time and get photos from another perspective. I had hoped to treat myself to dinner at a nice restaurant but couldn’t resist the urge to have one last bowl of shrimp ceviche; except for breakfast ceviche was the only thing I’ve eaten here.
Nighttime along the river
Back at the hotel I called Kim and started to work on my trip report; I also rearranged my luggage to get me large bag under 50 pounds, the limit on the local airline, stuffing all the dense things like toiletries and such into my smaller checked bag. Finally hit the hay around midnight, tomorrow it’s off to the Galapagos Islands for a week before setting off across the Pacific on Skyelark.