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Sarah´s Acting Debut

to be continued too....


Posted by SJS 15:32 Comments (0)

Gone Fishing

Why do the big ones always get away?

sunny 31 °C

Sunday I went down to the peir, to see if I could go fishing on one of the boats that ply the coast. The previous day the owner of the local hotel had said I could likely go out with one of the fisherman for 10 soles or so.

I was standing out there, just watching the sea, when a man wearing a red shirt, on a boat full of people, called up to me. "Tu quieres pescada?" (Do you want to go fishing?) I said yes, so down the stairs to the launch I went.

It seems the guy´s job was a water taxi. All the fisherman moor their boats in the harbour, and this guy circles around and picks them up and takes them back to the peir. They all give him a sole, I think. He was so proud of how much money he is making. A grin on his face, he showed me a giant handful of coins.

He asked me if I would like to go out to see the oil rig, or around the point to see the hotel, Fishing Club, now closed, that Hemmingway stayed at 50 years ago. Away we went, skimming across the sea. I love the ocean. There wasn´t a cloud in the sky, and everything was blue, so much sky and so much water... only a strip of sandstone desert with a tiny little town. The waves were gentle and the motor steady, and I just lay back and relaxed. What a life!

The oil rig, off the coast, was fantastic. Taller than you would imagine, and built of solid steel. The bottom 20 feet was covered in rust, seaweeds and random red crabs that scuttled when you got close.

"Mira, Mira!" He was telling me to look at the base of the platform, near the stairs. A sudden splash and I saw. There were a whole group of sea lions on the stairs! Some sleeping, some just sitting. With their cute noses and whiskers, they looked like really fat cats. The live on the platform, he told me. I was glad to hear some wildlife was actually benefitting from the petroleum industry.

to be continued... i need dinner!

Posted by SJS 15:30 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cabo Blanco, Peru

sunny 31 °C

As you all may or may not know, I left Ecuador in the middle of some political unrest which delayed my trip somewhat. Its all good.

Leaving Ecuador for Peru was (eventually) no problem. On our way out of Ecuador we passed more protesters. This time there was a tank in the middle of the road and I saw four soldiers with giant guns in their hands. Needless to say, we didn´t stop for a photo-op, which would have been cool but unwise! Crossing the border was easy because we were on a really nice bus and they showed us what to do. We had to stop at one checkpoint and get stamped "out" of Ecuador, then drive 15 minutes through no-mans-land before getting stamped into Peru. It was pretty anti-climactic.

I spent my first night in Mancora, a surf town on the coast very similar to Montañita I just left. I didn´t want to be part of that party hardy atmosphere anymore, I want to see the real Peru, not sit with a bunch of gringos every night and drink beer.

I leaved through my guidebook to find a fishing town on the north coast. I was sitting on the beach one day in Montañita watching the fishing trawlers off the coast, and I struck with the sudden desire to be out on the open ocean. So I made it my goal to find a place where I could go out and fish.

So I left Mancora the next morning, and waited by the side of the road with three fisherman. Up and down the Pan-American highway run these vans and trucks that sort of act as taxi-buses. One pulled up and we all piled in. I had nets and weights and buckets thrown on my bag. They nodded when I said "Cabo Blanco" but soon I was standing in a ridiculously hot and dusty town, again by the side of the road. A car would take me further. A traffic coordinator of sorts told me to wait, one of the white cars would leave soon for Cabo Blanco.

So wait I did. Let me tell you, if you are in any way uptight or not chilled or "tranquillo" -meaning calm or relaxed in South America- this place would drive you nuts. There´s no schedules, and no one is ever in a rush to go anywhere. I was hungry, so I stoped by the roadside vendor for some lunch. A plate of rice was covered with a sort of thin stew, potatoes and some unidentified dark meat in a sort of gravy. It was delicious, although after a few minutes the meat, which was springy and kind of soft, like tofu or something, was making me feel a little ill, so I began avoiding it. It cost me 1.50 soles, which is 50 cents. Peruvians use Soles, and you get a bit over about 3 soles for your American dollar, so it works out to be about one dollar canadian for three soles exactly.

After an hour and a half in the blistering sun, with oodles of dust being blown into my face, even I was getting impatient. When was this car leaving? Several times the traffic conductor moved my stuff towards the car, only to find it wasn´t leaving either. Finally, after two hours of waiting by the side of the road, a red car pulled up on the other side of the street, and off we all ran. I was to sit in the front seat with another Peruvian, with four others in the back. Seven in this tiny, tiny little car.

As we wound our way away from the coast and up a steep hill, it became increasingly more desolate. I thought: this is what it must be like on the surface of the moon. It was so dry, nothing grew. Nothing. Not even cacti, which had grown down by the coast. The hills were all this ochre colour, a sort of sandstone in appearance. It was unbelieably hot. The ocean glittered in the distance like a far away aparition. A thrill went through me as I saw, far below, a group of kiteboarders working their way up the coast. And dozens of oil rigs.

We made several stops, emptying out our load of passengers. Finally we entered the town of "El Alto", literally meaning "the tall". It made sense, as we were on the summit of the hill we had spent 40 minutes winding up. I got out of the truck once again. Cabo Blanco was down the hill. Fortunately, this time a truck was waiting there. My stuff went on the roof and I climbed in the cab. Once again we were waiting, waiting for more passengers. But shorty we were off, winding back down the dusty, ochre hill, back towards the coast. Finally we reached Cabo Blanco, the smallest town I´ve ever seen. It was literally only a row of houses, all attached, facing the sea. The town was actually split into two, separated by a point that rose high, with only enough room for a road. A long peir reached into the sea, where about 50 small fishing vessels were moored. We stopped near the peir, in the second half of town. Everyone out.

There was, according to my research, only one hotel in town, a giant cavernous monstrosity that sat right beside the point, in the second half of town. I knew it charged too much money, but no harm in asking. But there was noone there.

Hoisting my giant bag, I wandered town the main street, the only street. I was, at this point, exhausted, thirsty and unbeliavably hot. Who knew noon in the desert could take so much out of you? reaching the end of town and back, twice, took ten minutes. At the end of town, the strip of houses just ended and the rocky desert once again took over. I slipped off my giant pack and let it drop, sitting down by the edge of town. My shoulders were killing me and there were bright red marks where my straps had been. It is much too heavy to be lugging around town. I decided to ditch my big bag, hide it somewhere until I could find a place to sleep. It really contained nothing valuable save my boots and trekking poles. I had already ascertained there was no hostal in town, and the one hotel had noone in it. There was a giant abandoned boat beside the hotel, sitting behing a fence. If I can´t find somewhere to sleep, I´ll just sleep there, I vowed. It might actually be a bit exciting. I ditched my bag near the boat, out of sight, and once again climbed the steps of the hotel to check and see if anyone was there.

This time, someone answered the bell. The cost for one night was too much, something I knew anyways from my guide book. I asked if there was anywhere else in town. Around the point, he said, there is a guy who rents out rooms. But there´s no sign, he cautioned, just ask for the Casa de Mento. I painfully hoisted my bag, winding down around the point, taking the beach route instead of the road.

I asked a man standing there, and he told me to go to the white house right after the green one. I was in the midst of pounding on the door when he frantically gestured for the next white house after the green house. I was lingering outside, unsure if I should knock, when the door opened and a old man emerged. He showed me a room at the front of the house, overlooking the ocean. It was pretty large and seemed pretty nice. He was very concerned that the room didn´t have a curtain for the door, but that was remedied by taking one from the front window.

I dropped my stuff, introduced myself, and that was that. Now, to find food. It was now about 3 pm and a long time since my roadside snack. I went to every restaurant in town, and no one was serving food. Granted, there is only four small places in town, basically women with bigger houses that cook and have a few tables out front. But no one would feed me, and no one seemed terribly friendly. I had no idea why. It was Saturday afternoon, could you imagine anyone turning away customers at home on Saturday? It shows the mindset of South America.

I decided to hit the only store in town. It didn´t have much, but a bottle of water and some junk food might tide me over until they decided I wasn´t a leper. As I was about to go in, an SUV and some seriously fit blond boys jumped out and went in. A quick glance at the boards on the roof confirmed: they were the kiteboarders I had seen earlier up the coast. They were headed up to Mancora.

I got some chips and chocolate and headed back to the house. My host, the gentleman he was, was quite concearned I hadn´t eaten. He walked down the road and talked to a woman in a green house. It was all arranged. She would prepare now, and I would eat dinner there around six.

I spent the afternoon wandering around town, out on the peir, and just looking. I met up with the hotel proprieter again, and told him I would like to go fishing tomorrow. He said it shouldn´t be difficult, just to go out on the peir tomorrow morning, for about 10 soles (just over $3) someone would likely take me out.

The sun was setting over the sea, lighting up the cliffs with golds and reds, the fishing vessels bobbing in the current, and a cooler breeze was blowing when it was time for dinner.

The lady was very sweet, but it still felt a bit weird eating in someone´s house. The dining area faced the sea, and her baby, a curly haired angel, sat in the doorway. Other kids were gathered outside, kicking a soccer ball in the street. It looked like fun.

Dinner was fish, rice, and half a banana, sliced lengthwise and fried. Seemed typical peruvian and ecuadorian, even. The fish was great but I am still not a huge fan of the fried bananas. A girl of thirteen or fourteen, shyly came up to the table to show me the earrings she had made and was selling. They were so pretty, with bits of shells, some dyed and some plain, in interesting designs. I could imagine her spending hours on the beach, scouring for perfect shells. I told her my ears were no longer peirced, but how much were they? Two soles. About 60 cents a pair. I couldn´t resist... I have sisters and a Mom, right? She looked delighted when I bought three pairs... 6 soles, two dollars was a lot to her.

Dinner cost me 3.5 soles, just over a dollar. I went outside where the sun was still lighting up the clouds. Finally, with a place to sleep and food in my belly, I could relax a little. It had been a hard day. I am not ashamed to admit that after the van, car, truck, the waiting, not finding a place to stay, or food, I had been close to tears. But now I was content.

Outside the kids were still gathered. I picked up the soccer ball and soon me and three boys, 8, 10, and 13, were playing barefoot in the street. Its the simple stuff that makes you happy. Working up a sweat playing soccer in the street in your bare feet with bunch of kids, the sun setting and lighting up the boats and the cliffs... can it get any better than this?

Soon we were all sitting on the curb talking. They asked about my family, and I told them the names and ages of all of them (theres four). The girl I had bought the earrings from was named Lady, and she was 14. She is so pretty. Dark, glossy hair and big dark eyes... the face of girl on the body of a woman. When I asked if she had a boyfriend, she giggled like a little girl, but here, girls get married when they are 16 or 17. Such a paradox.

I asked them about school. One of the boys told me it was three hours away. I wondered how they got there, or how often they went, but my spanish language barrier prevented me from asking. Lady said she was almost done school, that she wanted to go to university next year to study medicine. I hope she can go, that she can have a better life than getting married young and just having babies. This town used to be the best fishing spot in the world- but now the townsfolk make only enough to subsist on, none for export. Its no life for an idealistic young girl.

The ten year old boy asked if I was married. Then asked if my 28 year old brother Mike, was married either. I was surprised. He remembered the names and ages of my siblings, from talking 40 minutes ago. I was put to shame. I couldn´t even remember the three boys´names. Such attention to detail and memory... and again, likely no chance for a real education. We take everything for granted at home. A great (comparatively) education system and every luxury in the world, and yet our kids have ADD from too much TV and sugar and no exercise, while kids halfway across the world have nothing but amazing brains.

Anyways, I still have to write about Sunday! But later. Getting bored of this internet cafe. Which is actually just a lady´s house with some computers in it. She´s mopping the floor as I type this.

OH! And the reason I picked this town is that it is supposedly the inspiration for Hemmingway´s " The Old Man and the Sea". And yesterday I met the old man! Which is another story. Unlike the novel, he was 50 when it was written, and is 80 now. He even has a big box of cuban cigars, given to him by Hemmingway, and photos of him and the author. BUt again, another story!

Bye for now.

Posted by SJS 10:49 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Next Stop: Peru

sunny 28 °C

Hi all;

Just thought I would let you all know that I am leaving Ecuador and going to Peru. I am catching the 5 am Montañita to Guayaquil express, which takes about three hours. From there, I will catch a direct bus to Mancora, Peru, another surf town similar to this in N Peru. Of course we will have to stop in Tumbes, Peru, at the border to do customs. I was not nervous about the border crossing previously, but I have heard so many horror stories, it will be a relief to be across safely. I am sure it will be no problem- I am crossing in daylight with a busload of people, and besides, nothing exciting ever happens to me... lol.

Posted by SJS 14:57 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

I Heart Surfing

sunny 28 °C

Need to retype this blog as it got deleted after i spent two hours writing it!

Posted by SJS 14:53 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

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