Blog Hits 100,000 Views, Thank You

Well today is a pretty special day for us and the blog. My readers have now viewed the blog 100,000 times as of today. Thank you, thank you, thank you for following our adventure, our little bitty lives in Ecuador. I started the blog July 6, 2010 as a way to archive our stories as well as safekeeping of our photos. When we first arrived in Ecuador to start our new lives was the perfect time to start writing.

That adventure took us to Quito to get our visa applications started, Puerto Lopez just for the fun of it, Salinas, Playas and now to our home in San Clemente.

It has been a wonderful experience none of which we would change.

Thank you again for being a part of our lives. We now consider you our extended family wherever you may be.

Money — It’s a real trip here!

The money used in Ecuador is the US Dollar. That is good for those of us who would have a problem learning about exchange rates – it’s tough enough having what Joe calls “cabeza frito” or “cabeza frita” depending whether he is talking about his fried head or my fried head.  We struggle each day with our Spanish. It’s not that we don’t try — we listened to several different tapes for months on end and only learn by repeating it over and over again in every day life.  Well to add another item to our over taxed brains would be way over the top so we are very happy that the US Dollar is what is in use here.

But you need to know about a few items, if you think you can just walk around with $50 or $100 and pass them out you will quickly get a wake up call.  We found that using $20 in Quito was fine in almost all circumstances and did so to get every dollar and coin we could get our hands on, which I set aside for when we were back on the coast.  Because as soon as you leave a big city and go to, lets say, Puerto Lopez, it’s a totally different money climate.  Most places don’t have any change. If you go into a bank and ask for cambio they won’t give you much more than $10 and maybe a few $5.  Taxi’s want exact change, the small tiendas want exact change even when you go into a larger grocery store and give them 3 – $20’s they ask if you have exact change.

Coins used in Ecuador

Coins used in Ecuador

Ecuador mints their own coins and they are the same size, look and feel of the equivalent US coin. They are also very partial to the $1 US coin which they do not mint.

I have gone to several banks and have asked for change  for a $20 bill I have never once been given a one or a dollar coin they will give me $5’s and $10’s that’s all. Yesterday we went to our bank and got $300 worth of small bills, including 100 $1 dollar bills – this will not last long and they did not have any $1 coins.  If you use a taxi or bus they expect to receive exact change.

Our advice for anyone coming to visit or moving here is to bring a nice supply of singles and some change with you as it will be very difficult unless you will be in a big city to get change.

Prices, Shopping and Services!

We have been in Salinas for a bit over a month now.  I have noticed so many differences between here and other places we have lived and wanted to share our experiences.

Salinas Beach - before

Salinas Beach - Before

Salinas Beach - After

Salinas Beach - After

Lets take buying a plant for instance — they don’t use pots they sell you a plant in a black plastic bag. Cost for a big beautiful asparagus fern $4, house plants around 2 ft tall $2 – $2.50, a large palm $8 and a 30 lb bag of soil $1.70 all 5 plants and soil packed in a cab and delivered and unloaded to our apartment for $3.  Internet seems to be slow but at least it does not go out for hours at a time. The cost is $34 per month.  Here in Salinas we do not have power outages in Puerto Lopez every day the power went out for a few hours and in Dolega we had our share of the power cuts as well but what was worse were the power surges – you needed to have surge protectors on everything especially your refrigerator.  Let’s talk thunderstorms we saw our share while living in Miami but nothing to compare to Dolega it would shake the house and Joe and I would bring chairs and sit in the hallway away from the windows after unplugging everything in the house. Salinas and Quito have a water system like in the states. Puerto Lopez has no water of it’s own and it is hauled in by trucks each day. You cannot drink the water and must use bottled water for cooking, brushing your teeth etc.  You have a cistern in P Lopez and must remember to have it filled or you could find yourself without water.  The sun does not shine every day in Salinas, this time of the year,  it’s bright and it does not rain but the sun may be out for several hours 2-3 days a week and 2 days full sun all day the rest of the time it is nice, warm but not tanning weather but that does not stop you from going into the water.  Veggies and fruits, are inexpensive especially locally grown items like strawberries $1 a pound, blackberries, papaya $.30 for a nice size, pineapple $1 for a large and many other tropical fruit and veggies. We found most basic vegetables were available in Panama but if you wanted mushrooms, brussels sprouts, asparagus or anything a bit out of the ordinary you could not find them often and when you did they were very expensive. The above list is found locally at very inexpensive prices: white mushrooms $1.50 a container, .626 kg which would be almost 1 1/3 lb. container of asparagus $1.90 and brussels sprouts .81 looks to be a pound are just a few of the items I purchased this week.

We were told that toothpaste in Ecuador was $5 a tube – that is not a fact, what we found was Quito, P Lopez and now Salinas you can get almost any brand of toothpaste at a reasonable price. What is most common is Colgate and the cost is as low as $1.50 a tube or if it is for sensitive teeth maybe as high as $3. Don’t buy it on the malecon as the price will be double these shops are for the tourists go one block off the malecon and you can find good prices.  Bathroom tissue in Panama was $2.35 for a 4 roll pack equivalent to Scott’s here I get Scott’s brand in a 12 pack for a bit over $4.

Telephone local service is $6 a month with .01 cent a minute for local calls, .02 cents a minute for the region, to call cell phones is .145 cents a minute.  I opened a PO box yesterday it was prorated for the balance of the year to $12.50 in January I will pay $20 for the year. No home delivery of mail in Ecuador I think you could get overnight or express type mail delivered but I have not looked into that yet. I understand that if a package is over 5 pounds it must go through customs in Guayaquil where you must pay customs fees and pick it up yourself but if it’s under 5 lbs it will be delivered to our local post office with no customs fees.

Clothing shopping here compared to Panama is better for us because I can find sizes that are similar to the US. In Panama everyone seemed to be shorted, thinner and both Joe and I could not fit in any of the clothes.

Going out to eat is very inexpensive we go to Cevichelandia which is around the corner from our apartment, for lunch we order almuerzo which means lunch for $2.50 each we get a bowl of shrimp soup, a plate of fried fish, rice, a few pataconies (twice fried green plantains) and a salad with a glass of fresh fruit juice. Dinner ranges from $3 for a fish dinner to $4 to 6 for shrimp and there are street vendors that sell many different items for a few dollars or very nice expensive restaurants where you can get great steaks. It just depends upon what you are interested in.

A picture tribute to Puerto Lopez

Itapo Hostel, Puerto Lopez

Itapoa Hostel, Puerto Lopez

Cocktail time!

Cocktail time!

Striking a deal on a fish, Puerto Lopez

Striking a deal on a fish, Puerto Lopez

Hostel Mandala - Whale tail sculptures

Hostel Mandala - Whale tail sculptures

Whale that died and washed up on shore

Whale that died and washed up on shore

Fishing from shore with a net in Puerto Lopez

Fishing from shore with a net in Puerto Lopez

Joe waiting on breakfast at Hotel Pacifico

Joe waiting on breakfast at Hotel Pacifico

Now to the most beautiful sunsets that I can remember – Enjoy!

Puerto Lopez revisited

After arriving in Puerto Lopez on June 1st we found the weather to have changed quite a bit over the three weeks we were in Quito.  There was less sun, more cool breezes and a bit of rain.  Of course, we were told that this was not the rainy season but it still rained a bit the week we were back.  We again walked the beach, had lunch at Centro and enjoyed the quiet peacefulness of Lopez.

Lopez was a hive of activity – most of the malecon kiosks were under repair – they had been moved off the sidewalks and pushed back onto the beach.  This was an excellent idea because it was impossible to get around when town was busy.  The vendors were painting and varnishing, replacing the palm frond roofs and doing some major renovations all in anticipation of the start of whale season.

We made several trips to the fish market area of the beach, watched as the workers removed large buckets of fish, shrimp, crab, ray, shark as well as squid and octopus.

Fish Market Puerto Lopez

Fish Market Puerto Lopez

We met some new friends who will be moving here in August or September.  Tom and Karen Wine who currently live in Atlanta stopped in Lopez while on a several week visit to Ecuador.  We found them to be good people and we hope to be seeing more of them after their move to Cuenca.

Karen & Tom Wine with Joe at Jimmy's Malecon Lopez

Karen & Tom Wine with Joe at Jimmy's Malecon Lopez

We happened upon a group of horses that were just grazing on the beach – as well as another strange creature that was totally unexpected on another of our walks around Lopez.

Horses on the beach in Lopez

Horses on the beach in Lopez

Piglet in Paradise

Piglet in Paradise

The days flew by and we were no closer to finding a place to live so we made arrangements for Hector to drive us down to Salinas.  We will surely miss this beautiful tranquil area and the many people that we met and count as our friends.

Joe & I enjoying one last drink in Lopez

Joe & I enjoying one last drink in Lopez

New friends

We were fortunate to meet a lovely family who had been living in the Puerto Lopez area for almost 2 years.  The Creasey’s took us under their wing and proved that Americans, especially those from the South, are a wonderful giving people. We had the opportunity to become familiar with Scott from his involvement in one of Ecuador forums that we were monitoring before our move.  As we did more research on areas that would be of interest to us Puerto Lopez popped up over and over again as a place that may be worth a look. We contacted Scott who was very gracious with his knowledge and answered numerous emails on our multitude of questions.  For the weeks that we spend in Puerto Lopez we were treated with the finest in Southern Hospitality by this gracious family.  We were sad to leave the area.  But our travels will always take us back to Puerto Lopez for all the wonderful things it has to offer especially to visit our new friends Scott, Pat and Jeremy.

Las Tunas Sunset at the Creasey's home

Las Tunas Sunset at the Creasey's home

Let’s talk FOOD

Now to the food — how wonderful to have fresh fish every day sometimes twice a day — yes, I am fish deprived and I admit to being in love totally with fish and seafood of almost any type – I found Puerto Lopez to be my Seafood Heaven — We located several places that fulfilled my seafood fantasy!  We loved going for lunch to Centro. It’s the local market that sits about 4 blocks from the malecon.  It had a wonderful outside eating area where several vendors served lunch during the day.  The meal consisted of soup, a main course and a glass of juice.  Most days it was either shrimp soup or a fish soup, made with mani ((peanut) sauce which was outstanding. The main consisted of fried or sauteed fresh fish, rice and a salad, some days they even had congrejo (crab).  The cost was $2 each after they got to know us it was $2.50 before.  What a treat!!!  Then we must talk about Mayflower Restaurant what a find… Joe would order the Fried Shrimp with papas fritas and I would get fish in mani sauce a peanut sauce used by the cooks of Manibi province.

Fruit salad and the beach what could be better
Fruit salad and the beach what could be better

We found the people to be very friendly some spoke a bit of English most did not. We have never really had an issue not speaking the language. It seems if you are kind and smile a lot people are just so easy to deal with no matter what the language.  We met Jhony the MotoTaxi driver who spoke a bit of English and took us on hair-raising rides around the countryside.  The beautiful management and staff of the Hotel Pacifico, especially Sofia who made so many phone calls and walked me all around town looking at properties and talking to people on our behalf.

Hotel Pacifico, Puerto Lopez
Hotel Pacifico, Puerto Lopez

We stayed at the Pacifico for well over a month and they took care of us like family – they even made me oregano tea and a very simple chicken broth one evening when I had suffered with a stomach issue that day. Our driver Hector who chauffeured us back and forth to Manta.  Senior Carlos who washed our clothes and smiled every time he saw us.  We also met the owners of the Whale Cafe who are from the US and have been living in Ecuador for many years, we spent many an evening drinking vino tinto and enjoying their vegetarian pizza or the best Spicy Thai Noodle dish I have ever had.  They also have a book exchange so bring your books if you plan on eating there.

I can’t say that I learned how to cook any of these wonderful dishes but both Joe and I truly enjoyed each morsel and will be back in Lopez soon to help ourselves to this culinary treat!!