In Mid-February, while the students were taking their first semester exams, I took the opportunity to explore some of the coast region of Ecuador.  It’s a long ways by bus… 10-12 hours to get from where I live in the north to coastal areas deemed safe for Peace Corps Volunteers.  (We’re not allowed to enter coastal provinces near the Columbian border.)  When I was announcing my plans at school, one of the student teachers, who has become a dear friend, jumped at the chance to join me.  Sindy and I had a great trip together exploring the cities of Manta and Puerto Lopez.  I was very impressed with the beaches and sweet little towns along the Ecuadorian coast.  
We took an overnight bus and arrived in Manta by 6:00am.  It was neat to watch the town and the beach come alive with the sunrise.  Luckily, the restaurants were already open.  We had a steaming bowl of Encebollado, a rich fish and onion soup that is eaten by fisherman upon returning 
from their day’s work.  The best restaurants sell out of it by 7:00am.  

A fruit stand on the beach
I opted to sip on a coconut!

This man definitely has the right idea!  I know, I live at the equator, but I live high 
in the mountains where it is chilly at night.  At the coast, it is hot and humid,
 especially inland from the beach away from the breeze. 
The sunset over Manta was beautiful.
The next morning, we took a $2.00 boat ride to see the shipping harbor. Manta is one of four major ports on the Ecuadorian coast.  And just in case you are wondering, I asked Google about Ecuadorian imports and exports: 
Ecuador’s main export commodities are petroleum, bananas, cut flowers and shrimp. Its main export partners are the United States, Panama, Peru and Italy. Its main import commodities are vehicles, medicinal products, telecommunications equipment and electricity. The main import partners are the United States, Columbia, China, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Japan and Mexico.

Manta is also a cruise ship port.  On this day, there weren’t any cruise ships in dock,
only tankers and fishing boats.

Fishing is king along the Ecuadorian coast and tuna is the major catch out of Manta.  
After Manta, we made our way 2 more hours south to the tranquil beaches of Puerto Lopez and Ayampe.

The beaches here are so clean and desolate with the most beautiful colored green and blue rocks. 
This is a Mototaxi, and it’s how you get around small towns at the coast. 

Night life in Puerto Lopez was also super fun with restaurants and bars near the beach.  A common trend in touristy towns like this is to try to be more like North America, and the menu at the bar was no different.  In college, I remember drinking a lot of Sex on the Beach, 
but here, the option was “Sexo on the Beacho”. 
Sindy loved watching the animals and she had so much fun chasing the crabs into their holes. 
Being from the mid-west, I’m not crazy about sand.  I opted for relaxing in the river. 
It was a really hot day, and my skin was literally sizzling… 
So, we rented a hammock in the shade for a dollar an hour.
That evening, as I was eating my ceviche, I noticed all the fishing boats at one end of town.  On a hunch, I set my alarm and headed out early the next morning.  Just as I suspected, I walked right into a fisherman’s frenzy and a lively beach-side market selling the morning’s fresh catch.

I’m not sure if this guy is a fishing inspector or just the town policeman
buying his fresh fish for the day. 
Some types of fish commonly caught in this area include bonito, wahoo, shark, red snapper, squid, corvina (sea bass), marlin, tuna, moray eel and shrimp. 

This man’s ready to deliver!  Behind him are trucks waiting to deliver the fish to more distant markets.  In a country that thinks refrigeration is over-rated, 
I was impressed to see trucks of ice as well.
All in all, a great trip to the coast.  Definitely worth the journey.  
I’ll have to go back sometime this year to explore some more.