I have been in Ecuador for almost one month, most of the time at the beach in Casa Blanca. My mother and daughters are also here. Natalia left a few days ago. It was our anniversary but we both forgot. Father, brother, and son arrive on Friday.
Although it is already the season, there aren’t too many people around, at least not yet. We are happy about that but it is not great for businesses, many of which rely on seasonal tourism. Everyday after having a cup of coffee I go to the fish market in Tonchigue. Sometimes one of my daughters, or Natalia when she was here, comes with me. I am often the only client. There are five vendors who buy seafood daily from local fishermen. Among the fish you find mahi-mahi, grouper, swordfish, and sea bass. They also have clams, “conchas”, calamari, shrimps, prawns, octopus, and lobster. I try to alternate between vendors but I am sure none of them is selling everything they buy. Not sure what they do with the surplus.
There are many other towns where fishing is the main economic activity. Last weekend we drove south to Estero de Plátano, a small town between cliffs that form a narrow bay. At low tide you can see on the beach an installation of natural sculptures made out of stone. While walking there I met a man in his late fifties who was cleaning his net. The net was hanging between two canoe’s paddles planted on the sand. I inquired about the type of fish he finds. He explained that he was not after fish but lobster. Apparently he doesn’t have to go far to drop his net; just around the cliff marking the southern edge of the bay. Therefore, no need for an outboard. “My paddles are the engine” he replied when I asked if he had one. I plan to go back early one morning to buy some fresh lobster. He is one of the few who are still involved in the trade.
Yesterday, Marina and I went for a long hike at Finca San Gregorio. With us were Ramon Cotera, a friend and our guide; Miguel Zambrano who is currently living at the finca with his wife; and Lider, a young man from Pedernales who will start working with us in August. We wanted to follow the perimeter of the property, which meant walking through places where there was no path. Miguel and, some times, Lider walked in front opening passages through the jungle with their machetes. We first walked south and eventually closed a loop with the shape of a gorilla’s head facing west. Some sections of the hike where strenuous. We had to climb or descend steep hills walking over mud; very slippery. You can use trunks and branches to support you or help you climb, but need to be careful. Some secret substances that cause itching others are often visited by the fearsome “conga,” a type of ant, one inch long, that can kill and eat small birds or mammals. At some point we also had to follow a narrow creek between dark and humid stone walls. Most parts were shallow enough to walk through with our rubber boots. But in other parts we had to walk like spiders with hands pushing on one wall of the creek and feet on the other. We couldn’t cover the entire perimeter of the finca. After 3.5 hours Marina wanted to have a break. I have to go back over the weekend to complete the hike and identify places to plant cacao.
We have a few more days here. I need to finish some work and then will drive back to Quito. The girls fly back to Washington DC on the 25th and I return to Ponce, Puerto Rico, to meet Antares on the 26th.