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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Day 5-7: Chilling out and Carnaval

What should Indiana June do this weekend in Ecuador?
Winning Vote


Carnival & Beach: Stay in Esmeraldas to celebrate the start of 'Carnival' and have a day at Estera de Platano beach with the locals

Suggested By: Zoe in Esmereldas
Winning Vote


Coast & Paragliding: Carry on cycling down the west coast to the village of Crucita and if weather permits - go paragliding

Suggested By: Jose from Canada
      149 Votes VIEW POLL COMMENTS

DAY 5: Camarones to Esmeraldas

Distance cycled: 15km

The quick pace of our cycle tour means we're on the road at 7.30am each morning and normally don't arrive at our destination until after 5pm. That leaves enough time to find shelter, food and lights out by 8.30pm.

I love the physical challenge and the stunning scenery but I felt like I was missing Ecuador.

So I put it to the vote and you guys agreed I should stay in Esmeraldas for some beach time and the start of Carnaval. Before I arrived at the main square I heard a drum beat which turned out to be these kids below, practicing for carnaval. They bang the sticks on the ground and hit the hollow bamboo at different heights for different pitches.


I checked into Trebol Hostal and went for a wander. The big business here is oil which you are reminded of every time you look at the horizon, with plenty of tankers sitting off shore. The buildings and the people are all brightly decorated, most of the architecture is rundown and the streets are potholed but there's a lively pulse to the city.

Esarch  Esrainbow

The lads made a bad decision leaving this town early since Friday evening was the regional Miss Ecuador contest with beautiful women dancing and prancing onstage for the locals. I enjoyed a big bag of popcorn and two bottles of water in the sticky heat as I contemplated what beauty means in different countries.


99.9% of people here are dark skinned with African heritage, yet the clothing mannequins, beauty magazines and even the cosmetics models all have white skin. If it was the other way around and the beauty industry in New Zealand constantly showed me imagery of black women, what would that do to my own sense of beauty?   It's not like any length of time in a tanning booth or under a plastic surgeon's knife would have me looking African. But if anything, the women here seem to be amongst the most comfortable people in their bodies and skin that I've ever encountered. Big or small, tall or short they have a sensuality and wear clothes to accentuate their curves.

Mannquin  Manequin2

There's no point comparing yourself to an American waif on a billboard or an Irish redhead on a hair dye packet when there's no way you could ever conform to that idea of beauty. Maybe that's the secret to beauty confidence - not comparing yourself to anyone else?


DAY 6: Esmeraldas to Atacames

Distance cycled: 0km (Rest day)

Number of tents on the beach: 128

Number of meals that included bananas: 4


If you enjoy eating dinner for breakfast, you'll love Ecuador. Sometimes if I'm lucky I can get eggs, sweet bread and a slab of salty cheese but today all I could find was fish, rice and fried banana. Good fuel when you're cycling 100km but when you're taking a rest day it sits a little heavy in your stomach. I was on a mission to make it to the beach today for a swim and to work on my embarrassing cycle tan. I spent an hour trying to find a bus and in the end had to bargain with a taxi driver to take me to Atacames.    


He said it would be muy tranquilo (more relaxing) and much quicker. Well he was right about the speed but I'm pretty sure I have a few grey hairs after that 20 min cab ride. (The bus takes an hour to give you an idea!) It was like he invented a 3rd lane, that went down the centre line, hoping the car on left and right would give enough space for him to squeeze through. On the straight stretches which were 60km hour, maybe 80 max he was hitting 120km. His dusty dash and cracked windscreen testament to his lack of love for the vehicle, or his life it seemed. He dropped me off at the town square and I found a lovely little bakery that sold the Ecuador equivalent to a hawaian sandwich. (ham, cheese, banana and pineapple) and I walked to the footbridge munching and watching people swim in the dirty river water. Check out my special purple friend I found at the beach.

Swim   Barney 

I walk up the beach and I'm offered everything from a boat ride to hair braids. A girl selling cocoa oil for suntanning walks a few paces behind me for the whole stretch of beach. I love the way the kids stare at me here. So bewildered by the white person in front of them. I ask a honeymooning couple to watch my stuff as I dive into the tepid water. The sand is fine and dark and it and sticks everywhere but the sun drying my salty skin feels good as my body moulds into the beach. I draw a picture and watch a local kid playing frisbee and he's really giving it socks, diving and cartwheeling for every catch.


After an hour or so I go in search of real coffee. Weirdly they export a lot of coffee here but only seem to drink instant. I find a beach bar with silver stools that seems to specialise in coffee and icecream. Not content with one of each I decide I want them mixed, it draws blank looks until one of the guys nods and makes me most refreshing caffeine fix I could have hoped for.  


Kids of all ages are spraying silly string and foam to celebrate carnaval approaching. I've been hit by a few water bombs and some people load up the back of their utes with buckets of water and drive the streets saturating their victims.

Silly   Sillyadult

I head back to the hotel to freshen up and I hear drums out on the street. I walk along Bolivar and find a parade in full swing. I watch the different dance groups twirling, swirling, gyrating and pulsing to the different beats.


I am really enjoying being in a smaller town for this carnival celebration, you get to be front row, soaking it up (waterbombs and all). I'm almost worthy of being in the parade, just as I am, I draw so many stares from passersby. I meet a clown from Colombia who kisses my cheek and have a  quarter pollo and rice for dinner before heading to civic square.


I find a possie and watch act after act of traditional music and dancing from different countries and regions. There's dances and stories told about colonisation, slavery and I'm sure a lot else that goes over my head.


I stand next to a guy wearing a bob marley rasta beret and fake dreads with the cutest son with giant eyes that seem to widen every time I glance over. After a few songs he breaks and the ice and introduces himself. My broken Spanish doesn't allow the conversation to go deep but there's a nice connection. I'm sold a cerveza by a ten year old, wiggle my hips for another hour and then hit the hay.

DAY 7: Esmeraldas to Las Palmas

Distance cycled: 10km (Rest day)


Lonely Planet suggested the resort town of Las Palmas was worth checking out so I jumped on the bike and cycled north about 5km. There's lots going on here, each beach hut is playing different reggae tunes and there was a volleyball tournament in full swing.


People hide from the hot midday rays, one guy was even sleeping inside the luggage compartment of a parked bus. Gotta hope it doesn't decide to leave in a hurry... not likely in Ecuador. I got a bit too much equator sun so went back to the hostal and watched the Christian music channel, the only thing in English. Kinda funny seeing pop stars trying to be cool and wholesome.

Hot tip for alcoholics: You can't buy beer here on Sundays.

Unfortunately i found this out after I'd set my heart on the idea. I tried two supermarkets and two corner stores and the last one said no, but suggested I try the rowdy group across the street who had wolf whistled me earlier in the day. I was nervous but approached them, my need for beer stronger than my sense of danger. They turned out to be a lovely, slightly loco family and I bought two bottles. (They put them in a black plastic bag to hide from the police.)

When I got back to the hotel the guy on the front desk walked me to my room. He was being very friendly and told me he was 60, twice my age.

I politely tried to decipher his questions until he went in for the kiss... WTF!

I gave him a short sharp NO but I couldn''t get him to leave my room. Luckily another hotel guest needed his help so he left. I lock the door and a minute later he is knocking, I say through the door I'm sleeping which is a blatant lie because he knows I've just cracked a bottle of beer. Ah the joys of solo female travelling!

I'm off to check out the Carnaval celebrations now. Tomorrow the plan is to catch a 6am bus to Manta and then cycle 60km to Japijapa. It's pronouced happy-happa and that's where I'll hopefully meet up with the cycle crew.

Latest Poll Results
New York: What will Indiana June do in the big apple?
21% Track down and visit Oliver Jeffers:
Renowned Children's storybook writer & illustrator
11% Walk the High Line:
A linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated NY Central Railroad 
11% Be a NYC detective for a day: 
Part game, theatre and tour to discover some of NYC's most off-the-beaten path spots
13% Explore the City Hall Subway Station: 
Abandoned & hidden from the public for 60 years
12% Flying trapeze class:
Hone her circus skills learning how to fly on a trapeze 
30% NZ Flag + Statue of Liberty:
Bodypaint the NZ flag on her body and go up the Statue of Liberty
2% Go to Queens and find a 'Nanny' sound-alike:
Video someone with the nanny accent saying "noo Zealand, i love that place"
Voting closed | 204 VOTES
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