Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Hole in the Month

February 22, 2012

I don’t know if it’s just me, or are those “prove you are not a robot” verifications you have to input on certain sites/comments to blogs/etc getting harder???
Thank God I’m not trying to buy tickets on Ticketmaster for a popular concert (when it is a speed test), because I would be lucky to score nose-bleed seats if that were the case – assuming I should succeed to get one of those verifications correct by the third try.

Oh Happy Day when
the beer was re-stocked
after the Reef Classic
Well, we survived Carnavale which just ended yesterday. I have NEVER seen so many people in Olon and Montanita. A few weeks ago, the Reef  Surf Classic was held in Montanita, and I think the official tally for that crowd was 25,000 – so many, that the town ran out of beer (which constitutes a genuine crisis around here)…I thought that swarm was crazy, but just a drop in the bucket compared to the mob of people who came to our beaches these last 4 days.

About a week before Carnavale, I read in our local paper that “500 mil” (that’s 500,000, folks) were expected to descend on the southern Ecuadorian coastal towns. I thought it had to be a typo, and figured the writer meant 50,000. Now, I’m not so sure.
Sunday night, I took a car ride into Montanita from Olon (normally less than a 5 minute chicken bus ride) and it took ONE HOUR AND 25 MINUTES to make the journey. Hell, I could have walked there in 30 minutes. Todd and I ended up pretty much cowering in our home for most of the celebration – not because of the foam spraying, water ballooning (etc.) shenanigans, but because it just wasn’t worth trying to beat a path through the horde.

Most of the visitors were Ecuadorian families on holiday, though of course there were an additional multitude of the young surfers in Montanita. Many of the Guayaquil people come out on the buses for the day and return home at night, though just as many, or more, stay through the weekend.
I honestly don’t know where they all slept; every hotel and hostal room or home rental has been booked for months. I think numerous people camp on the beach or sleep in their cars, though I did spy this enterprising woman sleeping in the luggage compartment of a bus a couple of days ago.

I couldn't get a very clear shot,
but look closely at the bottom left of this picture

Most of the Carnavale photos included with this post were taken last year, because we were hiding inside this year.

It’s been kind of a tough month.   
Montanita Carnavale 2011
Do you ever have one of those days when everything goes wrong, and the harder you try to fight upstream against the bad karma current, the worse it gets? On those kind of days, I’ve learned sometimes it’s just better to “cry uncle”, and go back to bed with a good book. A New Zealand friend of mine here (Jacqui, who runs the Montanita Spanish School) says the Kiwi’s have a term for it:
They call it “a day with a hole in it”…Good saying, I think. In my case, it seems that most of February has been like that.

It started with an unpleasant flu that has been going around here. It took a bunch of us out (and I very rarely get sick). I spent a week in bed with a fever, lethargy and diarrhea. Others also experienced achiness and some had ear problems. I no sooner conquered that when a tooth became infected and painful until it finally fell out. I’m losing so many teeth these days, I can barely gum my way through yogurt (one of our top priorities for the coming month is to schedule serious dental work, since it so much more reasonably priced in Ecuador).

Olon Carnavale 2011

To compound this roll of events, some type of insect or spider bit me on the hand a couple of weeks ago, and the bite was gnarly. I didn’t feel it when it happened (and I am damn glad I didn’t see whatever insect did it), but the bite area swelled up painfully, as well as my whole hand to the point that I thought I might need a doctor’s attention. Fortunately I’ve been able to treat it with lots of hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol and antibiotic ointment and it has now subsided to a slow healing scab and a permanent crater on the top-side of my left hand.

The one really nice thing about this month is that my brother Jack came to Ecuador for a visit (as mentioned before, he and several partners also own a home in our neighborhood). Jack came bearing two new computers for Todd and me, and we were thrilled. This was a big event for us, since we’ve been sharing the same computer for the last year and a half, which hasn’t been pretty at times. Jack’s delivery of those computers is probably the best thing that’s happened for our marriage since we arrived in Ecuador.

And then my brand new/straight-out-of-the-factory-box computer crashed after 4 days of use. I did notice keyboard-locking-up issues from the start, so it went back to the States with Jack a couple of days ago. Todd’s new computer (different brand) is working great. At least, Todd and I have two computers to work on now. I’m back to the dinosaur laptop we’ve had all along, which is older than dirt, bigger than a nightstand and came loaded with Vista (grrr…..). But it’s better than nothing, except I lost most of my February pictures, including photos of the malevolent spider bite, or I would have posted that too.

Like I said, it’s been “a month with a hole in it”.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Porque Olon?

February 16, 2012

Most of the small town “grocery stores” along the coast are essentially just a storefront with a barred window, where you stand outside and point to the items you desire. We’ve always been lucky in Olon to have the Oloncito Super Market, which is larger, and one could walk around inside to pick up the things needed.

Our friends, Antonio and Patricia Zamora who own the Oloncito Super Market moved last month to a new location across the street from their old tienda (to read more about them, please see “Trash Truck Groupy” written a couple of posts back). The new store is bigger and better, with several aisles, larger inventory, and – this is a real novelty for our area – actual shopping baskets to use while gathering your stuff and cash registers. We are tickled to have it nearby, and thrilled for Antonio and Patricia, who told us a few weeks ago that this was “a ten year dream” in the making for them. Eventually, they want to add a restaurant above the store.

We really love our little town of Olon, and proud to call it home. Unlike many of the little towns along the Ruta del Sol (Spondylus), Olon’s road’s are paved, we have a beautiful new central park with a stage, a gazebo, and a sandy playground area for the kids.

Along our beach are a number of cabanas that serve fresh seafood (Lolita’s and Tito & Hannah’s are a couple of our favorites), and our beach now has a “cocktail stand”.  More restaurants are opening in town that serve great food at great prices and offer other choices (rather than seafood) such as grilled pork chops, chicken, “chuzos cuencanos” (chorizos). “Leila’s” next to the park is still the most popular; several of their neighbors have recently opened similar eating establishments outside their homes – we haven’t tried them yet – but we hear they also serve yummy food too. 

Another restaurant called “Nettuno’s” is now open; the owners are super-nice (he is Italian) and they serve decent pizzas and cheeseburgers. *
A new Columbian restaurant (along the Ruta, across the street/diagonally north from the Olon CLP station) opened awhile ago (called “Chalen – Country Latino”) and on many nights, a talented Latin acoustic guitar player (Cantautor Guitarrista – Diego Jiménez) serenades with  some of the most delicious music that we can hear from our new back patio.

Also, para-sailing adventures are now available during “the season” on the Olon beach (I think around $45/pp), and it’s fun to watch while enjoying a cerveza.  Todd and I can’t wait to try it (“double sail” offered).

But most of all, the local people of Olon are wonderfully kind and patient and have a great sense of humor.

Some of the pictures on this post were taken last month during the “6 de enero Reyes Magos” (also known as the “Dias de los Inocentes y Reyes Magos”). This holiday is celebrated on the sixth of January in many countries and we enjoyed watching the festivities here.
In Ecuador, the 6th of January is celebrated.  The customs of the “Festival of the 3 Kings” may vary according to each town/traditions here.

In a a recent email comment about Olon:
“The nice thing about Olon, is that it has all the necessities needed for any vacation. There is a wonderful atmosphere in the town, fantastic locals, and an extremely quiet ambience at night…
The best part of the "Jardines de Olon" is that it’s in its own little community of tranquility, and just outside the gates you have one of South Americas most beautiful beaches, and a great little town filled with life and good energy” 

Daisy's Auntie Beth & Todd
Birthday party hats optional.
For the most part, there are some great gringos buying and moving here, many with special talents, skills and passions.
But one of our most favorite neighbors is Elizabeth (aka known as Daisy’s Aunt Beth) who is from South Carolina with a heart for rescuing animals both there and here, and the one who convinced Todd and I to adopt/rescue the Daismeister beach stray when we move here permanently (we think she was around 7-9 months then, hadn’t been through a heat yet, and Aunt Beth paid for her sterilization.

Elizabeth just started a website called, dedicated to the care of the strays in our Olon area. Please see that website, and if you want more details and specifics, please contact Beth directly at
Elizabeth is selling tee-shirts and hats with the logo “Leave Me in Olon” and to quote her website:
“You can help eliminate the needless suffering that results from over-population by purchasing one these products. $10 from the sale of each of “Leave Me in Olon” hat or shirt goes toward spay/neuter in Olon, Ecuador.

We love our new
Olon tee-shirts and Todd's hat.
* Nettuno’s is getting ready to move to a new location, as yet undetermined, but presumably somewhere still in Olon.