Day 59 – Friday, March 4 – Manta & Montecristi, Ecuador

Manta is a mid-sized city in Manabí Province, Ecuador. It is the second most populous city in the province, the fifth most populous in the country and, economically, the third most important city of Ecuador. Manta has existed since Pre-Columbian times. It was a trading post for the Mantas. According to the 2001 census, the city had 192,322 inhabitants. Its main economic activity is tuna fishing. Other economic activities include tourism and a chemical industry with products from cleaning supplies to oils and margarine.

Manta has one of the most solid city economies in Ecuador. The main industries are fishing and tuna canning and processing. All of the major International tuna corporations have sizeable factories in Manta.

Montecristi, Ecuador – In Montecristi, Ecuador live a handful of master weavers, the creators of the finest straw hats in the world “Montecristi Panama Hats”. Hats so fine, they almost defy description. Montecristi panama hats are made from toquilla straw, hand-split into strands not much thicker than thread and woven so finely, at first a panama hat appears to be made from linen. Masterpieces of detail, the edges of these panama hats are woven back into the brim never trimmed and sewn like lesser quality panama hats. Each Panama hat is woven by a single artisan, hand-blocked, and can take months to complete.

Montecristi is internationally renowned for the high quality of the “Panama Hats” they produce (yes, you read correctly, Panama Hats are and always have been from Ecuador and not from Panama). Lying at the foot of a large hill called Montecristi, the small town of the same name has many attractions such as Eloy Alfaro’s (an ex-Ecuadorian President) house and museum.

We arrived in Manta, Ecuador early, about 6:00 AM. I awoke and managed to get a couple of early morning photos of the bay. It was filled with fishing boats, large and small. Manta is the world capital for tuna fishing.

Our tour was not scheduled until 9:10 so we went to the Lido for breakfast. Docked next to us was the commercial fishing vessel Uranus. It was in the process of unloading its catch.

I must say I have never seen so many fish in one place! Yes, that truck is loaded with huge containers filled with tuna.

We began our excursion with a tour of the town of Manta. It is an interesting small city with a very congenial population. The city is built on hills which boarder the shore. It is a mix of the old and new.

This was a typical power line post. Well maybe not typical, I saw many which appeared to be much more in disarray than this one!

An interesting residential building window

I am not sure what they were waiting for, but it made an interesting photo.

I was struck by this depiction of Ursa Major on the side of a building (with a Texaco sign). I have no idea of the meaning or the reason for the sign. At this latitude (we are about 0.4 degree south of the Equator), I don’t even believe the constellation is visible year-round

From downtown, we proceeded to the fishing beach. It is this area where the local fishermen bring their catch. These are the small boats which go out for several weeks to fish then unload their catch to larger mother boats. This is pretty much an unregulated business. The quality of the fish do not meet commercial standard so they are sold only to the locals. It was very interesting and smelly.

A boat has come in and is about to be unloaded.

Carrying the catch to shore

Fresh fish anyone? Well…. Almost fresh

A small one man vendor

One of the more interesting industries in Manat is the construction of the fairly large “mother boats” for fishing. This construction is done on the beach, with the work done by hand. The primary tool used is a chain saw. There were row after row of boats in various stages of construction and reconstruction.


The lumber stack at the beach

From the beach we made our out of town and up the mountain to Montecristi. This is what I was looking forward to. This town has been know for over a century for it’s fine Panama hats. As noted in the introduction all authentic Panama hats come from Ecquaor and the best come from Montecristi.

We had the opportunity to watch the crafting process of these hats as well as the opportunity to purchase a few.

Crafting a Panama hat. I can’t imagine a more uncomfortable position to spend the day working.

The individual palm fibers are separated by hand into thin strands. The finer the strand, the closer the weave and the more finished and costly the hat.


Hats for SALE!

This is the lady and her daughter Kay and I purchased our hats from.

While in Montecrist we also visited the General Eloy Alfaro Delgado Mausoleum and Museum. Alfaro is an ex-president of Ecuador who advanced the country tremendously in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Alfaro Mausoleum

Statue of Alfaro in the Mausoleum

When traveling in foreign countries you must always expect the unexpected. This is especially true when in less developed countries. Things the locals take for granted can be pretty shocking to the uninformed American tourist. Upon our arrival in Montecristi, several of us needed to respond to the call of nature. Upon inquiring with some locals, we were directed to the banos. We first noted there was not an outside door, secondly the men’s and women’s stalls were in the same room and finally if you wanted to use the urinals, they were located in the open large room and you could pull a curtain. Also there was a charge of 25 cents, which was not unusual except this was the lowest price we had seen (thank you Janet for paying for everyone). When you paid the gentleman sitting at the desk inside the door, he then gave you some toilet paper. It was an interesting experience, but the facilities were very clean.

Kay exiting the toilets, note the “man” on the stall just inside the door J.

Tonight we dined in the Italian restaurant on ship. The food was very good and a nice change of pace from the formal dining fare. We finished dinner around 8:00 PM and our next “event” was not until 10:00 when the scheduled entertainment was a comedian. Then at 11:00 the Indonesian crew was performing a production they have been rehearsing for the enjoyment of the passengers.

Kay and I came back to the cabin; she took a nap and I worked on the blog; we then started our evening activities. The comedian Elliot Maxx was incredibly good. I don’t believe I have laughed so hard in a long time. The Indonesian crew show was fabulous. It was produced and completely performed by the crew. The Indonesian’s are primarily dining room staff; everything from busboys to dining room managers. It also included the ship’s florist and several bell boys. There were traditional dances as well as singing and the accompanying band was also crew. I was pleased at the large turnout for the show; the showroom was almost full and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the production.

The crew lined the exit doors and we all had an opportunity to speak to those we knew. They were very appreciative of our attendance. It is hard to explain how hard the guys and girls work and still remain so attentive and pleasant. The several whom we have got to know more personally are all wonderful people. They are almost all college educated, have families (many times wife and children) at home and often are independent small business owners. They make the sacrifice of being away from home for 9 to 12 months in order to help obtain their goal which varies from individual to individual. As Thom, our cruise director, has said these are the people who make the Prinsendam so successful. Holland America Line has the highest repeat rate of any cruise line and the Prinsendam has the highest repeat rate in Holland America Line; despite the fact that she is the oldest ship in the fleet.

We have a sea day tomorrow and then we are at Panama City on Sunday and start the canal traverse early Monday morning.












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2 Responses to Day 59 – Friday, March 4 – Manta & Montecristi, Ecuador

  1. Carol Gentle says:

    Very interesting tour. Janet, I guess that was less expensive than springing for wine!!!

  2. Linda Serrano Brown says:

    very interesting history about your trip I enjoyed reading this and I thank you for such a nice comments about Manta since I am from Manta and live in Simi Valley Ca my name is Linda

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