3 – 7. September
Manta: Learning to Kite Surf
Life on the road came very abruptly and suddenly when we found ourselves back in the chaos of a South American bus terminal. For 7 days we had not needed to worry about security, travel logistics or food and suddenly we had to be aware of all three. We had also spent the week with foreigners, so I had not needed to rely on my primitive Spanish and all of a sudden in the bus terminal I felt as though I had forgotten everything. Everyone is shouting a destination and you just have to hope that you are saying yours in a way that is understandable. Someone pointed us to a window, I bought two tickets for Manta and then there we were - no snacks, no water and we needed to pee. I think Patrick managed to sneak back out into the terminal and I bought water from one of the vendors. It would be a long ride.
We arrived in Manta, late and in the dark - something we usually tried to avoid. A taxi driver recognized the name of the hotel I had picked in the book and soon I was checking us in. The name on the marquis was not exactly as it was in the book, but perhaps it was the same place. (The hostel ended up being just around the corner but it was closed). We were in Tarqui, the part of Manta, that never really needs to be visited, for any reason whatsoever. We were famished and even though the guy at the desk said that neighborhood was fairly safe, as soon as we had walked a few blocks through very dark and deserted streets, we called off the whole search for food, bought some pastries and yogurt at a bakery that was closing for the night and headed straight back to our hotel room. It certainly won the "worst place to stay award" and remained in the top 5 for the duration of our trip. We were already missing our beds in our little cabin on the Guantanamera.
The next morning we went of to find a better place and succeeded to do so (although this place had the disadvantage of being close to a very stinky canal). So it was better but not 100%, yet. Around noon we went out to Santa Marianita Beach (7-8 Kilometers south of the city.), where I was supposed to meet up with my instructor from the Kite Surfing School. Vladimir was his name, owner of the XYZ school. It turns out that I was actually emailing with his girlfriend (a true kite surf chick) who was able to speak English very well, while Vladimir did not. At the end, I ended up learning from a very friendly Columbian named XYZ. They asked us where we are staying and when we told them they winced and said that that is bad part of town. We got a few recommendations and ended up moving yet again to a better place, cutting our losses on the already paid other hotel (by the lovely channel).
Now, when I say better place, I have to invoke the power of relativity. All is relative, and Manta is a right out ugly town with no reason to stay there unless you want to kite-surf, so when I say a better place I mean a better place in an ugly city. And so I ended up spending the next 3-5 days learning to kite surf. Two of the days I learned the important lesson of patience as therr was not enough wind. All in all, the spot was a great spot to kite surf as the wind came from a very good direction and was quite persistent. There were only a few surfers as this was a spot just recently discovered. I ended up doing surprising well and was able to get up on the board and ride for 100 - 200 meter before I loosing it. (which often ended with a painful face hitting water first experience).
On the last day of kite surfing (it was a Friday) we took the taxi back to town and I had a bit of a crazy idea: Alex always wanted to see the huge market of indigenous goods in Otavalo (2-3 hours by bus north of Quito; 12-14 hours from Manta). But this market was only on Saturdays in the morning and it never had fit our schedule to go there, which was a bit of a disappointment for Alex. (and for me too). So the market was the next day and I said to Alex what if we were to go to Otovala this night? She looked at me like I was a little crazy but then again, she does that quite regularly. We went to a travel agency, found out that there was a plane leaving in 2 hours, went back to our hotel, packed, checked out and took a taxi to the airport. We bought a ticket (which was extremely cheap for it being 30 min pre-flight; ~ $40 per person), boarded the airplane and flew to Quito.
In Quito, it was 7:00PM, we grabbed our bags off the conveyor belt and headed out to the street to get a taxi to the bus terminal. 30 min later we arrived there and looked for a bus that would take us to Otavalo. It seemed that this time we were out of luck. Where ever we asked, the last bus had already left. We gave up and resigned ourselves to the fact that we needed to spend the night in Quito and started to think about how to solve the problem of finding a hostel. Just at that time we asked at one last both (it didn’t even have Otavalo advertised) but had a bus that drove through Otavallo, and was leaving in 5 minutes. We got tickets and were one step closer to our destination.
Now the reality hit us that this bus would not drop us off in the city terminal but at the highway outside of the city. I personally was a bit nervous about that as well as actually finding a place to stay since it was market night and we would arrive around mid night. But I calmed myself down and we ended up getting dropped off and by coincidence an empty taxi drove by as we were taking possession of our backpacks. Alex had three names and phone numbers and our kind driver patiently drove us around as we worked to solve our last challenge of finding a bed for the night. It took a few no vacancies, but soon enough we fell into bed wondering what a interesting adventure this was. We were excited to go explore the market the next day.