Friday, March 13, 2015

A Day Tour with Many R-Egrets

Seven-thirty in the morning is mighty early when there is no coffee maker in the rented apartment. Honestly, these days it is early for any reason. However, we were standing outside of the next-door Wyndham hotel waiting of our tour guide to pick us up. When he arrived, we met Stuart, our guide until the end of the tour at 5:30pm.

Stuart was jovial and had great English. Jovial is not my adjective of choice in the morning. Perhaps by noon, I can handle jovial. Prior to noon, I prefer silent, quiet, non-communicative, or mute.

The initial part of the journey was getting to the boat. What we had anticipated was touring the Manglares Churute

Ecological Reserve where dolphins are prevalent. Somewhere, something was lost in translation. After driving for two hours, we reached the docks where our boat was waiting for us. This turned out to be a tour of two, not a group. At times, this can be beneficial, but other times, you may not get what you are expecting. This turned into the latter.

Boarding the boat, Ron asked Stuart how long we would be on the water. Stuart said about one and one half hours. This gets me thinking, we arrived at the boat around 9:30, the time on the water would get us back around 11am. What are we going to do from then until 5:30pm to fill up the time? This was not a good omen.

Off we go, passing by numerous shrimp farms, but all that is
visible are huge pumps that pump up shrimp filled water, and then release the shrimpless water back into the river. To say this was not breathtaking is an understatement. What did cause some excitement, alarm, and praise for life vests, was the fact that at about 30 minutes out, the engine started smoking heavier than the Marlboro man. If we were on land, they would have rated this as a three-alarm situation. We had to turn back to get another boat.

Now one needs to realize that a mangrove tree is not a thing of beauty to begin with. The bottoms look like something
from a Disney horror movie when brooms made of twigs come to life. With green leafy tops, it really makes for a contradiction in beauty. Imaginably, it is because we are generally not privy to the root system of most trees as obvious as these, it offends our sensibilities.

What these trees are beneficial for as their contribution to this tour is they lend their branches to birds for roosting, resting, and nesting. If the hills are alive with the sound of music, the mangroves are live with our feathered friends. For the most part, there were egrets, but there were a few pelicans, herons, and frigates. Being totally underwhelmed, but the showing of feathers, I could not help but believe that those who raved about this tour have not been to Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, or the Galapagos for starters. Okay, bragging aside, having been to all of the above, bird watching reached an incredible level in any of the above.

About a half hour more of motor boating, we were guided in looking at a couple of islands. Again, big whoop! Then we
spotted dolphins. Okay, now this is getting interesting. I was an avid fan of Flipper when I was a child. Ron swam with dolphins in Tanzania. We like dolphins. There were two small groups of about five to six in each group. Regrettably, no one trained these dolphins like the ones you see in the movies. They did not swim close to the boat. They did not dance backwards on their tail. They did not act all that friendly at all. For one wild minute, I was tempted to jump overboard and feign drowning just to test their level of commitment to their fellow creatures. My sense was that unless I had a fish in both hands, I would have been out of luck.

When Stuart finally called it quits, we reached shore by 11:45am. He asked if we wanted to see a beach. Sure, why not? Well being born on the shore, most beaches do not impress me; this was no different. Sandy colored sand and water. Not much to brag about. I never left the car, but Ron wanted to walk in the sand for a few minutes. Stuart and I waited.

For lunch, Stuart took us to an outdoor food court where they cater to those who work up an appetite from sunning
themselves on the beach. Most of the options were seafood, but we went to one that Stuart recommended. Ron and I chose the same thing. Called cazuelas, this is dish is made from mashed plantains, and then mixed with your choice of fish, shrimp, or mixtures of both with a sauce on top, and then baked. It was heavenly!

So now, both of us are wondering what we are going to get for the outrageous amount of money we shelled out for the day. Stuart was not full of suggestions, so Ron offered that he could take us to the bus station and then guide us in buying our tickets for Alausí
tomorrow. He was amenable to doing this, so Ron pushed a bit further adding that we really could use a supermarket for dinner fixings. The bus station in Guayaquil is like a horrendously large mall or a city unto itself. Not only is it a gigantic bus station, but there are supermarkets, stores for mobile phone, toys, clothing, pharmacies and just about anything else you could possibly need. It was incredible and immaculately clean.

Our tickets for our 4 ½ hour ride to Alausí cost us $5 each. The cost of transportation has blown me away. The shuttle from Cuenca to Loja was $12 each. There were six of us in the van for a total of $70 collectively for a 4-hour trip. I cannot imagine how much the drivers must earn.

We had our tickets, our groceries and directions for where to go within the terminal to get our bus tomorrow. Stuart dropped us off at 4:00pm.

Do I have r’egrets? I have quite a few.

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