Discovering Ecuador, Visit Manta Beach. An Easter Getaway

Lunch on the balcony at the Mall del Pacífico, in Manta Ecuador 🇪🇨

With Covid-19 quarantines, and government travel restrictions in place. It had been a very long minute since I’d gotten an escape from work. Working 7 days a week, 12 hour shifts almost everyday. I was in need of a getaway.

It was a very busy time of year for me, with a lot going on behind the scenes. I started looking for a destination as a much needed break from work. During a time when many countries had travel bans, plus an extensive list of demands that must be met before entry.

I needed to look around for a list of travel destinations available for consideration. That’s when I came across this comprehensive list of Countries Currently Open For Travel by CNN.

THE GAME PLAN

Where to Next?

I had decided upon a South American getaway as my destination. With my choice for locations being: Peru 🇵🇪 , Bolivia 🇧🇴, Brazil 🇧🇷, or Ecuador 🇪🇨. I really wanted to go to Peru and do the Machu Picchu, and Nazca Lines tour, but due to certain travel restrictions, & tour closures, it wasn’t possible at the time.

Bolivia was my next choice, wanting to explore Lake Titicaca, and visit the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku and Puma Punku. After checking what the U.S Department of State currently recommended about travel to the region at that exact time, I decided to hold off until a later date to visit.

Loaded up & ready to Travel. Awaiting departure aboard our JetBlue flight to Ecuador

With the decision made, I packed my bags for Ecuador 🇪🇨. Deciding to fly into Guayaquil Ecuador, instead of their capital city Quito.

Another perk of traveling to Ecuador is that I was able to use my prepaid JetBlue flight credit before it expired. Which came from a forced cancellation due to Covid Travel Restrictions for a trip planned to Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Catch you soon Jamaica 🇯🇲 😜)

Unfortunately I had to work all the way up until time for my flight, and after just finishing a 12 hour work shift. I was extremely tired, but excited to finally escape work. Gearing up for my first international trip in 2021.

Back at home in skies! Next stop Ecuador

My partner and I, weren’t scheduled to land until 11p.m. in Ecuador, at Guayaquil International Airport (GYE). Therefore thinking ahead I pulled up a map of the area and booked the closest hotel I could find to the airport.

Which was the Holiday Inn Guayaquil Airport Hotel. Which was in walking distance of the airport quite literally being in the same parking lot.

Our City View of Guayaquil from the Holiday Inn
The King Bed in our Suite
Our room also came with a separate seating & dining area.
Most importantly, it included an in room Coffee Maker!!! ☕️

Just to make the story a little more interesting, remember what I’m about to tell you.., My throat was starting to feel just a little bit scratchy, and sore on my first day in Ecuador.

After making it to the room and getting situated for the night. We got some well needed rest. The next morning, we got up for an amazing breakfast made in the hotel restaurant.

Breakfast in Ecuador, Day 1

The staff attended to our every need during breakfast, and we needed for nothing during our dine. After leaving on a full belly, we walked back to the airport to get our rental car, and get our exploration of Ecuador under way.

Our Royal Ecuadorian Chariot awaits… Kia Rio

A ROAD TRIP IN ECUADOR

We had a 3 and a Half hour drive to our destination in Manta Ecuador from Guayaquil. Ecuador is known for its strict traffic police. They adamantly enforce the rules of the road.

Knowing this in advance, I took my time enjoying the scenery. Taking in the many colors of Ecuador.

Some of the Colorful homes & businesses along our route.

It didn’t take long to meet the Ecuadorian police during our trip. They were standing in the road at random locations, conducting at random road blocks and vehicle searches.

The Arch of Integration, welcoming you into Manabi, Ecuador. From left to right: The Fishermen, the Field Worker, & the Manabita Weaver woman making a Straw Mocora Hat. They are among 22 shields, each representing a Canton that make up the Manabi Providence.
The Welcome to “JipiJapa” Big Corn. The city is the Namesake of the Jipijapa Hat (a.k.a. The Panama Hat)
One of the many roadside, grazing Burros we passed along our route. (Pictured left Side Center of photo)
Driving through some of the many street side markets of Montecristi Ecuador

As we continued along our road trip across Ecuador. There was tall grass along the side of the road (5 to 6 foot tall grass), a red car 🚗 flew up on my bumper. Impatient with my touristy driving speed, the red car dropped out and passed me in a no passing zone.

Out of the tall grass to both my, and even more so the driver of the red cars surprise. Walked a Police Officer on foot. Who had been hiding in the grass to watch the road. He blew his whistle at the red car, and immediately pointed to the side of the road. Pulling the red car over on foot. Did I mention they take their Traffic Control serious in Ecuador?

THE ARRIVAL

Our view for the next week over Playa El Murciélago Beach in Ecuador!

Our arrival at the Balandra Hotel was every bit as beautiful as promised in the reviews. The staff welcomed us to the hotel, and escorted us to our room.

Our Ocean View King Room at Hotel Balandra

After a long journey, we were ready for dinner. There’s a restaurant called the El Faro on the grounds of the hotel. The food is great, and well prepared. We decided to have dinner on the balcony, and enjoy the view.

Dinner from El Faro

NOTHING BUT RELAXATION

Taking a tour of the Hotel grounds at the Balandra. You can see the work, the staff put into making sure it was an oasis in the middle of a city.

My beautiful partner, posing in the courtyard of the Balandra
The beautiful garden vine, & plant canopy along the walkway to the pool.
Enjoying a refreshing dip in the hotel pool
A view of the Balandra Gardens, planted across the grounds.

A CITY TOUR

Choosing to ditch the car, in favor of a foot tour. We got out to see the sights of the city.

A view of the city as seen from Playa El Murciélago Beach
Out enjoying some fresh Coconut Water 🥥 on the Scenic Murciélago Boardwalk. There’s numerous restaurants, vendors, & gift shops to visit along the boardwalk.
Some of the local wildlife trying to catch a little sun on the sidewalk.

One of the really good things about Hotel Balandra in Manta, is the fact that it is within walking distance of the Mall Del Pacifico. The mall has an amazing food court, with about every kind of culinary delight your heart could desire.

We made more then one trip to the mall. It also had a conveniently located Covid Testing Lab on the 3rd floor which we needed to visit in order to reenter the U.S. It also had numerous banks inside, making it easy to break down larger bills to spend at local street vendors easy.

With scooters, mopeds, & motorcycle being the primary transportation of choice in Ecuador. The Mall includes a local motorcycle Dealership called Japon Motos.
Lunch in the Mall del Pacifico food court

A scenic view with lunch from the Balcony of the Los Cebiches de la Rumiñahui

Walking off a big lunch. We decided to visit the Cultural Center Museum of Manta & learn about the Los Manteños, the last of the pre-Columbian civilizations of Ecuador, which existed between 600A.D. – 1530A.D.

The Museo Centro Cultural Manta is located inside a big Multi Story building.
One of the Stone “Seats of Power” from the Los Manteños. They have been found in only the most important settlements, inside the largest of each settlements buildings. They served as seats of power for the Chief. Effectively raising the Chief above everyone else in his presence.
Some of the ancient metal tools on display, made by the Manteños. With an artist rendering of their metal smelting process.
The Los Manteños mastered the seas, & established extensive trade routes. They were excellent weavers, & makers of silver & Gold. The city of present day Manta, is named in their honor.

HOMESICK

Were we homesick for real? No, we were just plain ole sick. Remember that scratchy throat I mentioned earlier? Well it progressed into a Cough, Chest Congestion, runny nose, and a sore throat.

I managed to get myself into a little predicament, being sick out of the country, in the midst of the Covid outbreak. To make things even worse I gave whatever I had to my partner as well, so now we were both sick.

We had to pay a visit to the local pharmacy, to buy some medication. After talking with the pharmacist, she thought I might have the Flu. Which surprised me, because I had also had my Flu shot, but here I was sick anyway.

The Flu Medicine the Pharmacist gave me in Ecuador

Don’t know what the Flu medicine in Ecuador contains, but it was definitely effective. We both felt better after we took it, then we did before.

Now we were starting to get a little nervous hoping it wasn’t Covid (We had both been Vaccinated as well), we had to get a negative Covid test before re-entering the U.S.

As we walked into the Covid Testing Lab to get our tests, we were both a little nervous, and hoping we weren’t going to have to get quarantined out of the country.

After getting our Nasal Swabs for the Covid Test we waited in silence for the results waiting to see what the verdict was. Finally after what seemed like days, we got our Negative Results back! That meant no quarantine for us!

MY JIPIJAPA

Rocking my new Jipijapa (Panama Hat) on the balcony of the Balandra Hotel.

The Jipijapa, Ecuadorian Hat, Toquilla Straw Hat, also known as the Panama Hat. Is a hat made from the Toquilla Palm Plant, and hand woven in Ecuador.

It became known to the rest of the world as the Panama Hat in the early 1800’s, because the majority of South American merchandise, first passed through the isthmus of Panama. Only then did the merchandise head out to the rest of the world. . Thus acquiring the Panama Hat name from this international port.

The Jipijapa, or Panama Hat really became famous back in the U.S. when President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Panama Canal in 1906 and was photographed wearing a Panama Hat.

Enjoying my new hat. I wore my Jipijapa every morning to breakfast, & the hotel staff loved it.

Wearing my Jipijapa like I like it.

THE RETURN

Alas, all good things must come to an end. I originally took this trip as a much needed relaxation break from work, and to get some business taken care of that I didn’t have time to do whiles working back home.

With my business taken care of, my break was over and it was time to make the almost 4 hour long drive back to Guayaquil International Airport.

What I should have been paying attention to is that 80% of the Country of Ecuador is predominantly Catholic. Meaning I took this Easter trip during one of their most important holidays.

Even after Nuns in the bank, handed me money that I had dropped, and was completely unaware that I had lost. It still didn’t register to me that when I left it would be right before Good Friday.

Ecuadorian Motorcycle Police

After making it all the way to Manta without getting pulled over. I didn’t manage to make it back to Guayaquil without getting pulled over.

I thought we were making good time because there weren’t many cars on the road. Turns out, the reason there weren’t many cars on the road is because the Ecuadorian government was slowly shutting down the road in the Manabi Province for the Good Friday – Easter Sunday holidays.

They phase the cars off the road by tag number, and wouldn’t you know our tag number wasn’t supposed to be on the road. I explained to the motorcycle police officer that pulled us over, that our flight left at midnight on Good Friday.

The officer ended up radioing ahead and telling the police in the next town we were coming through. When we made it to the next town they all watched us, but let us pass.

ADIÓS ECUADOR

The lights of the City of Guayaquil at night as we flew out of Ecuador.

After a narrow escape due to sickness, and finding out we weren’t even supposed to be on the road. We were finally on our way back home.

Our Trip to Ecuador, was definitely not one that will be forgotten. The people showed us kindness, and hospitality. Until next time Ecuador!

Our JetBlue Flight at the Terminal in Fort Lauderdale after safely placing us back on U.S. soil

The Roving Gypsy

Thanks for reading my Travel Blog, I hope you enjoyed this Ecuadorian Adventure as much as we did. Like what you read, & want more, or have suggestion? Follow, Share, Comment, & let me know.

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