Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011 – Manta, Ecuador – Mostly Cloudy – 70s

Distance traveled from Lima, Peru: 770 Nautical Miles

Visiting Manta is like a pilgrimage because this port city of 250,000 is the Tuna Capital of the World.  There is a huge tuna fleet in the harbor that delivers 600 tons of tuna per day.

Manta is named for the Manta Indians who lived here in Pre-Columbian Ecuador. 

For some strange reason, this part of Ecuador is also known for its handmade Panama Hats (you would think they would be made in Panama).

Even stranger, Ecuador’s currency is the US Dollar – I can’t even imagine how that system works.

We are on tour today: “Manta and Montecristi”.  The bus is nice and the guide is Moe.  We head away from the port along the Pacific Coast.

 Departing Manta Ecuador (Small)

Leaving the Port of Manta

to our first stop – A cultural museum located right across from the beach.  Two problems with the museum:  No A/C and the elevator can only take five people at a time to the fourth floor.  Most people braved the stairs and at least they had fans running.  I was happy to get out of there. 

Our next stop is a Tagua Ivory factory.  The guide pointed out the very prominent Kapok tree (below).  This tree yields a seed covered by a cotton like material (kapok) used to fill pillows and mattresses.  

Kapok Tree (Small)

Kapok Tree Grove (Small)

As we pull into the Tagua Factory, we are cautioned about the dust generated during the production of the Tagua Ivory.  The nuts (about 3 inches in diameter) are dried in large outdoor fields (below).  When dried, they look a lot like bird eggs.

Tagua Seeds Drying (Small) Tagua Seeds Drying1 (Small)

The nuts are “shaved” to remove the outer layers.  The resultant white hard center is shaped into flat irregular disks.  A machine punches out a coin sized piece of ivory as the final raw product.  This disk is used to make buttons and figurines.  It looks just like ivory and is called Taguan Ivory.

Tagua Seed Factory (Small)

Taguan Factory Workers

Tagua Ivory Buttons (Small) 

Taguan Ivory Buttons

On our way to Montecristi, the guide points out a vendor selling furniture made from recycled cardboard (below).

 Furniture from recycled cardboard (Small)

Our next stop is the La Pila artifacts store where the passengers can shop for replicas of Pre-Colombian artifacts.

The final stop at the quaint town of Montecristi to view the art of handmade Panama Hats.  The starting material is from a tree (looks like straw).  It is hand woven and can take up to a year to complete a single hat. Most hats are not made of that fine a material and run about $20 or so.  After the demo (performed by three local women), we are on our own for a while.

There is a flea market located along side the Main Square.  The square contains a church and monuments to President Alfaro (national hero of sorts) (below).

Montecristi Main Square (Small)

Montecristi Cathedral and Alfaro Monument (Small)

I check out the flea market but I am eager to find an internet hotspot so I can contact the kids.

Montecristi Flea Market (Small) 

Flea Market (above) and Main Street (below)

Montecristi Main Street (Small)

Both internet places are totally full of kids and they do not look like they will be off the computers for a while.  Instead, I try a local beer ($2) and spend some time chatting with some of the folks on my bus.

From Montecristi, we head back to the pier.  The Celebrity Infinity is visible as we approach the harbor.

Returning to pier - Infinity (Small)

Many of the tours arrived at the same time resulting in a very long line to get back on the ship (below).  From this vantage point, we got a good view of the loading of tuna from the fishing boats onto refrigerated trucks.

 Long line to check in (Small) Tuna being loaded from ship to Trucks (Small)

Tuna being loaded onto transport trucks

We watched the sail away from the open decks.  The Infinity moved through a sea of tuna boats.  Also visible were the tuna loading platforms (three pictures below).

Manta from Ship - Tuna Ships (Small) Tuna unloading from ship (Small) Sailaway Manta (Small)

During dinner in the Ocean View Cafe, we were treated to one great sunset (“red sky at night…).

Sunset Manta (Small)

At about 9:00 PM or so, the Celebrity Infinity crossed the equator and moved into the northern hemisphere.  We documented the event below.

Passing Equator (Small)

Showtime time featured guitarist and singer, Caesarios.  This Chilean performer used videos to back up his music – pretty entertaining.

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