Posted by: tim ellis | January 10, 2009

Friday 18th July 2008

Once more I had a note shoved under my door yesterday to say my departure is an hour later than originally suggested, so I make myself available in the lobby for 9 am. Shortly after 9 Julio and Debbie arrive. They are to take me to Mantaraya. Julio is driving, and doing most of the talking – in fact Debbie sleeps for about half of the journey! We have been driving for about an hour when Julio decides we should stop for breakfast at a lodge we are passing. It looks very plush, with a swimming pool, a pond with geese, lots of saddles (so presumably horses) etc. Apparently they make their own cheese too, which Julio claims is excellent. He tells me the service here is normally good, but we end up here for almost an hour.

It was cloudy and cooler than yesterday in Guayaquil, and as we reach the coast the cloud develops into a thick mist, then rain, before brightening up a little with the sun finally braking through as we reach Mantaraya at about 1:45. It is a charming place painted yellow, blue and white, with domes and towers. The rooms are not numbered, but each has a different animal on the door – I am in “Shark”. I just have time to drop off my stuff as dinner is served until 2, then I am to meet the guide and two other guests at 3 for an afternoon excursion.

When I get to the dining room there is an American couple and a Spanish speaking family with two young children in there. The Americans are Nancy & Tom, who are on the same trips as me this afternoon and tomorrow. Our guide this afternoon is Alan, who is taking us to the Salango Archaeological Museum. This is quite small, but contains lots of artefacts found locally from a number of different cultures that lived in the area between 3000BC and the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. Although all the labels are in Spanish, Alan explains to us about the different cultures, and when they were around, etc. Many of the artefacts were discovered when foundations were being dug for a factory – Alan remembers the archaeologists coming to recover them when he was a child.

After about an hour we return to Mantaraya to be briefed about tomorrow. We leave at 9, but with a different guide, as Alan is going to collect some more guests. Although the cloud has returned, it is still warm and dry so I sit on the terrace by the pool, where I can look out to sea, in case a bored whale should chance by (none do), and catch up with my diary once more.

We are joined for dinner by Janice, who will be our guide tomorrow – and the plans are already changing. They have decided it will be busy tomorrow, so we will leave 15 minutes earlier, and must bring all of our details and passport numbers down to breakfast so they can organize the national park tickets for us while we eat.

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