So sorry for the lack of posts – we’ve been in the Galapagos Islands and then we took a side trip to Cuba (or 1960 where the internet has not yet found a home…it’s also the spot where we realised that we’re wifi junkies…) but I managed to write a bit so I’ll pop up a couple of posts for you now.
We travelled from Quito’s Quitumbe bus station ($10 in a taxi from La Guayunga Hostel in the old town) to Manta on Ecuador’s coast (I think the company was called Flota Imbalala or something along those lines) which took 9.5 hours and cost $10. There’s absolutely nothing in Manta so we stayed overnight in the Hotel Santa Fe for $45 (saucy for us on this trip but they had really good wifi – I literally streamed episode after episode of The Mindy Project – heaven). Manta had a Subway restaurant so we were sandwiching it up once again. The real reason we travelled to the coast is because we wanted to see Montechristi, the home of the Panama hat (yep!). Since I do enjoy a hat it was obviously a must visit destination.
We travelled from Manta to Montechristi for 40 cents each which probably took about half an hour. Montechristi is a cool little village with a lovely whitewashed cathedral which almost looks like it sits on stilts. The locals are very friendly here and everyone says hello as they pass. Just like Killarney then 🙂
We stopped off at a little café on the main square for some dessert (at like 10am but we’re on holidays so what you gonna do) to get ourselves prepared for the hat-trying-on-expedition we were about to take on. Plus we had our backpacks with us so needed to chill for a millisecond. Our first port of call was the street to the right behind the church to some chaps house (he’s called Jose Chavez Franco) which had a few hats strewn around and was less than impressive to be honest. It’s mentioned in the Lonely Planet guidebook (which we just bought online as the Rough Guides South America just isn’t cutting it for me to be honest). Instead, we popped into Montechristi Factory Hats just next to the church. They have an amazing selection of fantastic quality Panama hats – John looked at one for $400! Needless to stay he didn’t acquire that one…but it was amazing. The hats are woven with toquilla straw and can actually take months to weave, depending on how fine the weave is. John found this fantastic Brent Black website with superb information on what to look for etc. so we had some notion of what to look for in a hat. I bought a lovely little hat (which obviously I’ve named Monte). Obsessed a little. Side note: the other day in Cuba we were on a bus and this Canadian guy was sitting behind us chatting to a women. He was an importer/exporter and John overheard him talking about my hat and saying it was a really good one and it would cost around $400 – $500!! WTF! I paid $60. I love it more now!
We had to double back to Manta to get the bus to Puerto Lopez, a little fishing village on the coast. The bus took about 3 hours and cost $3. We stayed at the Hostal Machilla ($20) just up from the (not so nice) beach. Not sure I’d recomment it to be honest as it was incredibly noisy. The best thing about Puerto Lopez was hands down Mojito from a little shack of a bar on the beach down by the fishing boats – I believe it was called Sadhana – the most delicious cocktail I’ve ever had; yum!
On to Montanita…