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Published: January 14th 2013
Ft. Lauderdale to Manta, Ecuador
We successfully boarded our ship and found our luggage in our stateroom, and all is well. The seas were a little rough between Ft. Lauderdale and Cartagena, Colombia and dinner that evening was sparsely attended although we were able to make it. There are seven people at our table – one couple who cruises all the time, and another who cruises slightly less, and the tour director for American Express customers on board. He has been all over, too. So, it is an interesting group. The staff is wonderful. They are very helpful and charming, too. Most of them are Indonesian and are looking forward to stopping there to see relatives.
Our first stop in Cartagena was brief. We took a tour around the town stopping at a fortress and the Navy Museum. Nothing too exciting, but ok. We were told the drug cartels are not powerful any more. Perhaps they have all moved to Mexico. The traffic was awful! There were people, small cars, motor bikes, and busses going in all directions at once with not an inch to spare. I don’t know how our bus driver did it. He maneuvered that bus through tight spaces and around corners with ease. We returned to the ship by noon and left for Manta, Ecuador. We have two sea days, so I will play bridge and hope to do better. My partner is much better than I, but very patient with me and I hope to learn from her during this trip. Bruce is working on a project involving various cities of the world we will visit. He has found lots of information in the ship’s library.
Manta, Ecuador is an interesting city. There is a strong American influence here, and the US dollar is the currency. The people are very friendly and like Americans – and, of course, their dollars. It is close to the Equator, so it was quite hot.We had a tour with a Cruise Critic friend, Karen, who has arranged several tours we have signed up for. There were only 18 of us instead of the 40 plus on a Holland America tour. We headed up the mountain to Montechristi, the place where” Panama hats” are made. The story goes that when Teddy Roosevelt came to Panama City, Panama, someone gave him a hat. When he returned, someone asked him where he got the hat and he said, Panama. So although the hats are made in Ecuador, they are still called Panama hats.
We did some shopping and found the little carvings from the Tongue(sp?) nut to bring back. Then, we climbed higher and came to a place where we watched the hat making process and found out why some of the hats cost as much as thousands of dollars. It could take several months to make one hat depending on the fineness of the stalks and tightness of the weave and the overall softness and pliability of the finished product. We watched as women bent over a device much like a back massage thing and worked hours every day on one hat -- the coarser the weave, the cheaper the hat. One can buy a hat for as little as $10 and up. They are sold rolled up and in a wooden box.
From there we went to a charming restaurant where the breeze was cool and the food was wonderful. Manta is the tuna capitol of the Pacific coast, and as such it is the man industry in Manta. We had a shrimp cocktail, then tuna with crab, clams, and calamari in a light cream sauce on top, and a lemon dessert. Just delightful, and the ambiance made it special. We sat with another couple and got to know them a bit more. She started by saying she wasn’t very adventuresome, but as we talked, we learned they had lived several years in both Mexico and Italy where he had worked, and now own a summer home in France where they are going after this cruise. We said if their life weren’t adventuresome, we didn’t know whose was. Their children were young, and picked up the languages more easily than they, so they gained a great deal from the experiences of living in different countries.
After lunch we headed for a beach where local fishermen in small boats go out and bring their boats right up on the beach to unload their catch. They roll the boat up onto logs and roll them back on the beach. People were cooking their catch right there. Talk about fresh fish!! We then headed back to our ship where a tuna boat was unloading its catch dumping huge nets full of fish onto trucks. One huge fish fell off, and a man had a hard time picking it up. The fish is frozen aboard, so these fish were solid, but he held it up for us to take a picture. We are having problems with the internet connections here in Lima as it is very foggy. (We sailed two days to get here) When it clears and I write from Lima or Pisco, I will try to upload it here.
We sailed that night for Lima and arrived today, Monday the 14th
. More about Lima later.
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