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Ecuador’s Pacific Coast Sunshine Route

Ecuador's Pacific CoastWe leave the beautiful crescent-shaped Bay of Salinas, with its skyline of high rise condos along the Waterfront and its splendid beaches, already teeming with people, in spite of still being relatively early in the morning.  A blue sky, bright sunshine and deep blue ocean frame the postcard…  We are headed a short distance east of Ecuador’s most popular beach resort in the southern coastal stretch, to visit a small and little known, yet impressing archaeological site: The Museum of the “Sumpa Lovers”…  It is a small and unsophisticated building constructed over what must have been a cemetery of the Las Vegas, Pre-Columbian Culture, settled near Salinas, on the Santa Elena Peninsula, some 15.000 years ago… The centerpiece of the small cemetery-museum-site is the open tomb showing two skeletons, attributed by archaeologists and experts to a young male and female couple, slept forever and entangled, on a tight and touching embrace……  A fascinating experience to be in front of 15.000 thousand years of history…..

As we leave the site, Cristina, Alex and myself comment enthusiastically about the antiquity of the civilizations which populated Ecuador’s Pacific coast, thousands of years ago. Christian tells us, while he drives the Van, that we are now headed north, back on the Coastal highway, along the beautifully scenic Route of the Sunshine… And, yes indeed, there is plenty of sunshine as the morning progresses and we devour kilometers of paved road… Following stop is at the small and quaint town of Ballenita (meaning “little whale”), where we drive up a side dirt road to the Farallon Dillon Nautical Museum.  This is a private collection of a retired seaman, one of those novel or movie-type, bearded Captains, a true “old sea wolf” who sailed the seven seas and collected a fantastic amount of the most amazing objects of all kinds, sizes and colors, from around the globe, all related with ships and nautical instruments.  The property is atop a cliff, right above a long and wide sandy beach, providing great views of the sea, the endless stretches of beaches towards the north and far in the background, looking south, the skyline of Salinas…  Douglas, the owner’s son, shows us around and after visiting the unique collection, we make a short break to enjoy a snack of fried green plantain patties, the locally popular “patacones” and a cold beer.

Now we are back on the coastal highway, with the sea pounding over the sandy beaches a few meters away from the road.  Next is the picturesque fishing village of San Pablo, teeming with a multi-colored congregation of fishing boats, the open fish market and the frantic buying and selling of the catch of the day, fresh and still dripping seawater… The scene is enhanced by the noisy company of pelicans and frigate birds, trying to get something for them, after all it is market day…..

Always headed north, we go past small fishing villages, quaint towns and patches of tropical dry forest along the east side of the road, opposite to the sea… Now we arrive into Ayangue… The bay has a perfect crescent shape, flanked by high brown cliffs and a brownish sandy beach leading to a natural swimming pool of calm turquoise colored waters, carved by the Pacific itself…. The beach and the sea teem with visitors, mainly Ecuadorians, enjoying a weekend by the sea, playing in the sand or swimming on the shallow and calm waters…  We decide to venture into the northern cliffs with masks, snorkels and fins, looking for coralline formations and beautifully colored tropical fish, which we do find, in fact abundantly, at the bay’s edge where shoals create a reef and the habitat for some interesting marine life….   Back from the snorkeling trip, we don’t have any trouble in finding a place to eat… The entire beach is practically covered with small kiosks at the upper edge, offering mouth-watering delicacies of Ecuador’s coastal cuisine, mostly related with fish and sea food.  I go for a mixed fish, octopus and shrimp typical ceviche; followed by a true feast of a delicious braised lobster tail…. The occasion calls for one more ice cold Ecuadorian beer while my travel companions equally enjoy other seafood delicacies….  The sun shines intensely and tells us why the area is called the Sunshine Route…. The lunch break and a relaxed stroll along the beach will ready us to continue further north, following the Sun……

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