Ecuador - Bahia de Caraquez

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August 4th 2017
Published: August 4th 2017
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Suzanne here...

We were sad to leave Puerto Lopez, but grabbed a tuk-tuk ($1 this time which is probably the going rate, but I can't say I begrudge an extra 50c) to the bus station. We were not entirely sure how to to Bahia de Calaquez. At the bus station they had told us we'd need to get a bus to Manta. It was a Sunday and the bus station was somewhat deserted. Luckily the one bus in was going to Manta. Five minutes later we were on our way.

I'll admit that the beach cocktails and beers did not seem such a clever idea at this point. Luckily I was able to open the window slightly, so I did ok. The journey was longer than expected and it took just over three hours to get to Manta. We got off the bus and asked a guy about Bahia. He pointed at his bus, which was just starting to pull away. We hopped on and once again were on our way.

When we came to pay we discovered that the bus did not in fact go to Bahia. Rather it intersected with a highway where Bahia bound buses could be found. This was not a huge shock as I'd read a blog where someone had done the same. I think there are direct buses from Manta, but perhaps they are not very regular. Anyway, when we arrived the bus attendant pointed us across the road. As we were crossing we could see a Bahia bus. We waved at him to wait. Once again we were on our way within moments.

The Bahia bus station was out of town, which meant yet another bus. We picked up onward tickets to Quito first, then went out to the main road. A no. 8 bus soon came along and for 30c each it took us into town. In fact the whole day of travel went very smoothly. But I am glad that at the start of the day we had not realised that it would take a tuk-tuk, four buses, and six hours!

We knew Bahia had suffered a major earthquake last year, but had heard that rebuilding was going well. This may be true, but they have a long way to go. The area around our hotel looked a like a building site. Still, the hotel, Casa Hey-Sol, had received good reviews, and we'd paid a little more for it, so we were sure it would be fine.

We were greeted by a random man who spoke no English. Fair enough, the responsibility is on us to try Spanish. But he didn't understand our Spanish either. Even when we showed him the confirmation he had no clue what we were on about. Clearly he was not expecting us. No matter, he showed us to a room. It was scruffy and shabby, but I was willing to be generous and call this 'character'. I felt slightly more concerned when he swiftly removed some dirty towels from the bathroom, which suggested it had not been cleaned.

I looked around the room. I was prepared to overlook the mould and bits of plaster on the floor. I was less keen on the litter - a random wire thing and an empty wine bottle. But it was the cobwebs, caked-on dirt and filthy bathroom that did it for me. David agreed, and we picked up our backpacks and left. Tellingly, the guy was not even suprised. This is the first time we've ever walked out of a hotel, but it was a grimy dump. God knows where the good reviews came from.

We were now left with no hotel and no internet access. Bahia was not what we'd hoped for and I was regretting buying the Quito bus tickets for three days time. Luckily we'd already downloaded a map of Bahia, so found another hotel we'd originally considered. We tried it, but at $69 it was out of our price range (and frankly ridiculous for a mid-range hotel in Bahia). But they did recommend Coco Bongo Hostel around the corner. The room was not exactly spotless, but it was acceptable and nowhere near as disgusting as Casa Hey-Sol. It was far cheaper too, so we took it.

We'd not planned to drink that night, but we needed a beer after all the trauma. Plus the hostel did a beer called 'Rock City' (our local rock venue in Nottingham) which seemed like an omen. There was no internet acess in our room, so we had to sit in the bar area anyway. It was still spotty, but we did at least find somewhere for dinner. By this point we just wanted comfort food. So even though we'd vowed that we'd given up on South American pizza, we gave Pizzeria Claudia a chance. It was fine. Not exactly Italian standard, but just what we needed. I still don't get why they don't put tomato sauce on the base though.

The following day we headed downstairs to find the hostel in total darkness, which was a bit disconcerting as it wasn't particularly early. We'd hoped for a coffee in the cafe area, but no luck. The cafe around the corner was shut too, so we had to make do with a diet coke. I was a bit sick of Bahia at this point, so was glad we'd planned to get a bus up the coast to Canoa.

We had no idea how to get to Canoa, but headed to the on-ramp leading to the bridge that went that way. Sure enough a Canoa bound bus came along almost immediately. It cost $1.25 each and took about 40 minutes. Well, there is not much at Canoa either. But there is a nice beach and we did in fact manage to fill the day. For lunch we had a delicious cerviche at Cevicheria Saboreame II, right on the beach. Then we had a couple of beers on the beach. All very pleasant and before we knew it, it had gone 4pm.

The bus journey back wasn't quite so smooth, as it turned out the one we jumped on was not direct. We sat there oblivious, until we twigged that we we'd long passed our turn-off. Oh well, it was just a matter of getting another bus back to San Vincente and Bahia bus from there. Only cost us an additional 45 minutes in time and $1.50 in money.

The hostel was still all shut up and deserted. Very odd. Nobody had bothered to tell us it was shut on a Monday, or what to do if we needed anything. We let ourselves in and tried to go online. Again, no internet in the room. I did hover at the top of the stairs for a bit. But all I could hear was an arrogant American guy in a foul-mouthed rant about Ecuador and Ecuadorians, and some British guy lapping it up. Look, I know we moan about people a bit in this blog. Sometimes, I concede, it might be a little unfair. We just get so wound up by inconsideration. But this... well frankly it was racist, or at the very least, xenophobic. I have no time whatsoever for racist arseholes. In another situation I might have tackled him on his views. But I didn't much fancy arguing with two strange men in the dark so I removed myself from the situation before things escalated.

Back in the room we showered and discovered we were sunburt again. We never learn. Luckily not too badly. We went out for dinner and found most places shut on a Monday. Thankfully Puerto Amistad was open. With a deck right over the estuary, and fair prices. The food was very nice too (steak for me, fish for David). On the way back we saw dozens of bats flying around a couple of trees near our hostel.

We'd not really given Bahia much of a chance, so the next day we had a good look around. It wasn't great. Our guide book described it in glowing terms. But actually it is rather forlorn. I don't want to be too harsh. They had a big earthquake last year and are obviously still recovering. Many buildings showed signs of severe damage, or were in fact just piles of rubble. The earthquake must have been devastating and I wish them well for the future. But for now the tourist infrastructure just isn't there, and there is very little to do. Even the city museum was shut. In the end we filled the day. The weather was lovely, we had an excellent lunch (ceviche and fish) at Muelle Uno, and a beer on the beach. Not exactly a hardship, but we were still glad we were leaving the next day.

Back at the hostel we were suprised by a massive iguana in the corridor outside our room. We've seen iguanas before of course, but either from a distance or ones very used to humans. This one was big, wild, scared and just a little intimidating! He was also clawing frantically at the very door we needed. We managed to get into our room unscathed though.

Dinner was a burrito at El Rey del Burrito. It had good reviews but I was disapointed. The tortilla wasn't totally cooked, and my request for 'picante' had been ignored. Worst of all for me was the margarita. Tasted like pre-mix, with no discernible tequila. It was $5. You can get lunch for $3 in Ecuador, so I expected a decent slug of alcohol and some fresh lime. It wasn't terrible, we've had worse meals, but we've certainly had much better.

In the morning we let ourselves out and caught the no. 8 bus (outside the Tia supermarket) to the terminal for our 8am Quito bus. We were early as usual of course. Bahia has not been the best stop of the trip. The hostel wasn't great - it's clearly a hub for American expats (the kind that like to gather and tell lies to each other) - and our room wasn't cleaned once. Still, it was spacious and better than the one we booked and left. It provided an ok base. In any case Bahia has not dampened our love of Ecuador. In the main we ate very well, and it's always nice to be on the coast.

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