Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Southern Coast Adventure

Want to go windsurfing in Ecuador? Read this first.

Tourism development, and particularly sports-based tourism development, has a ways to go on the coast in Ecuador. On one hand, if you want to surf, it is easy to rent a surfboard--but beyond that the options are erratic.

After several days in Puerto Lopez, a small fishing village in the province of Manabi, Ecuador,(here's James, getting his hair cut at the most popular "barber shop" in town), our search for aquatic activities on Ecuador's coast commenced with full rigor....

James and I had looked into the possibility of wind surfing in Puerto Lopez, to no avail, but we had fit in a bit of kayaking. There were a couple SUVs toting windsurfing privately-owned equipment, but none was available to rent.

On the first day of the year we went on a boat trip to "Salanga" Island with three Ecuadorians and an Italian guy.

During the boat trip we saw blue-footed boobies and lots of pelicans, we snorkeled, kayaked a bit, and made an attempt at fishing.

Salanga is the closer of the two islands off the coast of Puerto Lopez. The other, Isla de la Plata, I had visited with the Habitat for Humanity Global Village team of University of Chicago students (see Blue Footed Boobies entry).

The next town James and I visited was called "MontaƱita", (little mountain), which is famous for its surfing. We took surfing lessons from two Spanish-speaking only instructors (I tried to learn and interpret at the same time for James). The English-speaking guide was with an international group. I would recommend the guides we had-we were both standing on the boards in the waves within a few tries! (In this picture I am already a bit tired, but I did make it up vertically a few times to rides the waves in!).

Our next stop on the coast was "Salinas", a pointed peninsula which is considered the Ecuadorian "Miami".

It was here that we thought windsurfing would be likely... and our search was epic! We asked hotel personnel, taxi drivers, people on the street and others where we might find the equipment to windsurf. We looked places up online and finally found ourselves in the lobby of the Hotel Barcelo Colon Miramar which was the only link we could find to the sport.

One of the "concierge" told us he could help us find what we were looking for, although he also was offering sailing, surfing,.... and almost every other water sport. We all jumped in a taxi and we began to meet everyone in Salinas-- or so it seemed! The guy pretty much introduced us to anyone who could get us on the water... in something. We found a catamaran, surfboards, sailboats, paddle boats, water skis, some other water vehicles for which I don't have names, and one windsurf board (which apparently was of the amateur size), at a surf shop. The wind was directed out to sea that day and James needed a smaller, more lithe, board. For anyone looking, it was at a surf shop about two blocks in from the coast near the part of the beach where jet skis and water ski rentals take place.

We ended up taking out the catamaran that day, and the next day renting a jet ski. Salinas was fun, but if you are looking for windsurfing (or at least the equipment to do it) we heard that Manta may have the capacity for this.

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