Dear Family and Friends,
Chuck and I headed out last Thursday morning for Machala. We went by bus and it was a comfortable and scenic ride. It takes about 4 hours to get to Machala but the road is good all the way and the pass is much lower than going through the Cajas.
As we went along, the bus stopped at various places to drop some passengers and pick up others. It was at some of these stops that vendors would board the bus and tempt you with their offerings - mostly some sort of cooked food or fresh fruit. This is a picture of one such stop.
We had reservations at the Rizzo Hotel. This is a hotel built about 30 years ago and is in need of some remodeling. When we checked in, the clerk informed us that there was no hot water. Being the adventurous souls we are we said we'd stay anyway. We did receive a small discount from the regular rate.
One thing that is nice about this hotel is that it has a swimming pool and it is only about a block and a half from the main plaza.
On our last visit to Machala, I was not very impressed. The city is not as clean as Cuenca, waste paper seems to be haphazardly thrown away by the residents. The other thing I did not like about Machala is that it was HOT and HUMID. I don't like hot, but combined with humid it is not tolerable.
So, to get me to agree to go back to Machala, Chuck reminded me of the air conditioned casinos they have. He suggested that maybe I'd like to go back and try my luck.
Luckily, Machala was not too hot or humid while we were there this time. The casino was fun and it was one of the first things we did after arriving.
Here is Chuck posing by the banana tree that is right outside the front door of the hotel.
They have a restaurant but we only ate our complimentary breakfast there. Below is a group of men enjoying a beer on the porch outside the restaurant.
On Friday morning (October 9th) we went to the main square. Here is Chuck viewing the church on the square.
The main plaza is very nice. It has a big fountain, water falls and pools of water with koi, lots of trees and benches for enjoying the evenings after the sun sets and the temperature is cooler.
While we were at the square, we heard a band playing. We discovered that a parade was coming down one of the main streets right by the plaza.
We were surprised to find that the parade consisted of just one high school. The whole school. The name of the school is - 9th of October (9 de Octobre). October the 9th is the day that the city of Quayaquil obtained its independence. The school was named for this date.
It is very common in Ecuador to have schools and streets named for important dates. In Cuenca we live on 3 de Noviembre (November 3rd) which is the day that Cuenca obtained its independence.
First came the majorettes and the high school band.
Then came the teachers, first the female teachers
then the male teachers...
Then the students, first the girls...
then the boys....
They were all so wholesome looking. The students were all wearing their school uniform. Even down to their socks.
This was a big high school. The parade stretched for two and a half blocks.
On Friday afternoon, we decided to go to the beach. We took the city bus to Puerto Bolivar (about a 20 minute ride - 25 cents each) to have lunch.
This cute little girl was playing with Chuck by going up and down in her seat. He covered his eyes with his hat and every time she appeared he would drop his hat and look at her.
When we got to Puerto Bolivar we walked one block to the waterfront and had lunch at Pepe's. We ate outside and had a great time.
Chuck had fried calamari....
and I had shrimp...
After lunch we walked out on the pier and looked at the big container ships being loaded with bananas.
We also bought tickets for a boat ride across to the Jambeli beaches. The boats leave about every hour.
It took about 30 minutes to go across. When we got off the boat we walked out the beach. We found a very primitive little beach, not the resort type at all.
We found it quite charming. Many people from Machala just go to the beach for the day. Therefore there are not many places to stay. We checked out one place while we were there and are getting information from our friends David and Christa about others. Chuck and I decided it was a come back to place.
We took the boat back across the water to Puerto Bolivar and then took the bus back to Machala.
The next morning, Saturday, we had planned to go to an old mining town....Zaruma. We got to the bus station early and took the first bus out. We got the bus to Loja thinking it would go through Zaruma and we could get off the bus there. Unfortunately, it did not go through Zaruma. We spent 7 long boring hours going to Loja. It was up one mountain after another, the windows on the bus were dirty, but it didn't matter, the view was not that great anyway.
We arrived in Loja about 3:00 completely travel weary. We decided we deserved our favorite hotel in Loja so we had the taxi take us to the Grand Victoria Hotel. We stayed there once before and it is really first class.
After checking in, we went to see if the swimming pool was open. When we went outside we saw this beautiful setup. Rose petals lining the way to a table for two.
We don't know the story behind this, but decided we didn't really need to go swimming.
Chuck ended up watching the soccer game on a big screen TV put on by the hotel including drinks and snackies. I went to our room and read.
We had a very nice steak dinner in the hotel restaurant and went to bed fairly early.
Here is Chuck reading the paper in the hotel lobby.
Sunday morning we went to the town square to hear the police band play and then we went to the bus station to get a bus back to Cuenca.
The bus ride back to Cuenca was not a long as the day before...only 5 hours. But the scenery was so beautiful we enjoyed the ride.
We got into Cuenca about 5:00pm. We decided to go to the BQ, our neighborhood sports bar, for dinner. We called our neighbors, Rich and Nancy, and they met us there for a relaxing evening of dinner and chit chat. A perfect ending to a whirlwind get away trip.
We had a great time, but are glad to be back home.
Nancy & Chuck