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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Social Swing in Bahia

Bahia de Caraquez is in full holiday mode in this month. The beaches are packed with people any day of the week, not just on weekends; we've seen jet skis, kayaks, ski boats, a wind surfer, a Sunfish sailboat, and even a pontoon party boat skimming through the anchorage. It seems everyone in Ecuador is taking their summer vacation this month. Even tienda Yanina is better stocked than usual to accommodate all the condominium vacationers. This month also saw the kickoff for the Saturday Summer Nights in Bahia. Parts of Bolivar (the main commercial street) are closed off and everyone comes out to eat street food and home baked goods sold on the sidewalks; people watch and mingle in the crowds; and listen to live local music and entertainment. It doesn't really get going until 8 PM which is a little close to cruiser midnight for us, but it's a fun way to run into people we know from the local community.

In spite of a summer head cold spreading through the cruiser community, we are also having a whirlwind month. Marcie and David of Nine of Cups (http://www.nineofcups.com/) kicked things off at PA with two presentations on cruising South America. They recently completed a circumnavigation of the continent and helped get Jeff and Debbie of Sailor's Run off to a good start on their passage with a talk on Peru. For the really adventurous they also gave another slide show on cruising Chile. It all sounds absolutely wonderful - except for the getting there. Sailor's Run got nervous about the visa issues in Ecuador, and Jeff had a huge itch to go sailing so he conned Debbie into sailing down to the Peruano YC in La Punta, Peru (near Calloa/Lima). Because Jeff is one determined sailor their route ended up taking them over 500 miles offshore, they covered 1,825 nautical miles, and they only burned five gallons of diesel fuel. They finally arrived early on the morning of their 16th day at sea. The inshore route would have been less mileage, but with more obstacles like ships, fishing boats, and oil rigs, and Jeff didn't want to fight the 2 knot current going against them (they were never able to find the elusive inshore counter current). We hope they have a wonderful time visiting Peru from their new base, but it isn't likely that Nakia will be making a trip like that any time soon!

The visa issue continues to perplex everyone. The latest scuttlebutt is that anyone arriving in Ecuador prior to June 20 (when the no renewal rule went into effect) can leave the country to get another 90 day stamp, and that anyone arriving after that date is limited to 90 days after which they have to be out of the country for six months before they can get another 90 day stamp. But who knows how this will actually be implemented. For a real horror story of boundless bureaucracy in Ecuador take a look at the story of S/V Dosia (http://ssca.org/DiscBoard/viewtopic.php?t=6713). Back on the local front, we learned yesterday that no one (including the local population) is allowed to purchase more than two gallons of fuel at a time in a jerry can from the local gas station. Apparently multiple trips are okay. This is an additional restriction on the previously implemented rule (since we arrived here) that only one jerry can per person is allowed. Of course we can still buy fuel in quantity from PA and have it delivered to the boat, but when all you want to do is fill up your five gallon outboard tank...

I tagged along with three other women recently for a shopping day. We split the cost of a private taxi ($60) to make multiple stops in a few of the surrounding towns, each of which is known for a specific craft. Our first stop was a Tagua (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagua_nut) workshop and gift store in Sosote, just outside of Portoviejo. Run by the Covena family, the workshop gave us a much better understanding of the nut's origins and the processes involved in turning it into jewelry and figurines. Our next stop was La Pila where we saw some clay reproductions of local antiquities. We had to search inside the open air shops for these because they were overshadowed by large gilt tchotchkes and other gewgaws displayed out in front. We made one more souvenir stop at the workshop of Jose Chavez Franco (386 Rocafuerte) in Montecristi, a town known for its Panama hats (http://www.ecuador.us/montecristi.htm). Here we also got to see a hat in the process of being made. Prices started as low as $15 and probably went up beyond $100, although we didn't ask about the super fino hats. By now it was 2 PM and time for lunch which we enjoyed at Cevicheria donde Cecilia out on the beach in Manta. We finished up our day with a quick stop at the SuperMaxi grocery store for a few things that are hard to find or more expensive to buy in Bahia. I enjoyed the shopping expedition very much since the store keepers were kept busy by the other women in my group, and I was left alone to browse and window shop to my heart's content. I wasn't any pressure to buy anything, which is my favorite kind of shopping!

Linda and John