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Some random thoughts about Montanita and Four day holidays...

This last weekend, Ecuador celebrated for four days running, so this weekend we think that our weekly dinner out at the Casa Blanca will be a little more sedate.

The weekend began slowly with some folks attempting to create a "Halloween" type of holiday on the 31st, but that is not catching on too fast.  Then we fast forward to the "Day of the Dead", which is a Memorial Day, but not for soldiers exclusively, it's to remember all the departed family members.

The Day of the Dead is interesting here at the Coast, in that each house buys or cooks special "pan" or bread baked in various shapes, ie, fish, people, etc.  Then, the families all cook the favorite meals that were enjoyed by the people who have died.  It gets more interesting as there is also a tradition whereby the locals wander from home to home, where they are given some of the special bread and a shot of rum.  My kind of Trick or Treating...

Then the next day is the celebration of the independence of Cuenca (Nov 3rd marked the 189th anniversary of Cuenca's independence from Spain in 1830).   This is not such a big deal to the locals except that they get the day off from work, and that is a huge deal!

So...here it is, off season, and a four day holiday hits right at the end of the month (payday), so it seems that everyone in Ecuador decides to take a trip to Montanita...Now this is great for Montanita, but it is a small town that has no ability to handle humongous crowds.

It was just another little village on the Coast a few years ago, until Surfers sort of put in on the map (for other surfers).  Surfing is still pretty big, but it has been eclipsed by plain old non-surfing tourism.  By far, the vast majority of visitors now come for the atmosphere, to see and be seen, to see if "sex, drugs and rock and roll" still live, and to see all the other stuff that never happens in their home towns.

Now, all of this notoriety is coming in a very helter skelter manner--certainly it was not planned by the city fathers, and, in fact, they are completely out of their element in dealing with the skyrocketing popularity of the town.  These guys are just officials in a small town comuna and completely baffled by city planning, zoning, engineering, and infrastructure improvement.

For example...if you look back about 12 months ago, we featured a piece extolling the fact that the town was putting in colored pavers on all the muddy streets--well and good...but then, they tore them all out to put in sewer and water pipes.  So, for a year the pavers have been stacked up on the side streets, and they sort of "walk away" to be used in other home projects like bookcases, etc.

But, that isn't all...they discovered recently that the new sewer pipes are not deep enough for gravity flow of sewage from the houses and restaurants and hotels.  So...everything is on hold...I presume until the high season ends sometime in May 2010.

So, right now, when it rains, the streets are pretty darn muddy.

Also, there has been a frenzy of building new hostels or little hotels and a zillion new restaurants...all with no overall plan.  Plus a disco on every corner...

I have always regarded the Planning Department in any town in the US as a necessary evil, and one that might be circumvented if possible, but this kind of friendly anarchy is resulting in gridlock in a little town totally unprepared to be the the number one tourist attraction in Ecuador.

Last weekend, we had the "perfect storm" of tourism and gridlock...I would say that a minimum of 20,000 extra people streamed into Montanita each day.  A whole bunch of them drove cars...and did you hear me mention anything about building Parking lots?  No...so the total town was a parking lot...and muddy, and full of vendors, and full of people, and most could not get lodging...so a bunch slept on the beach...not bad...but...

So...finally the government is getting interested in this little tax paying goldmine, and the first thing they are doing is trying to cope with gridlock.  They are sending in platoons of police on each big weekend just to get a handle on traffic.

Guayaquil is rearing its ugly head, in that it is sending some petty crooks along to prey on tourists, so the police are also watching for these guys, and even inspecting buses, and some cars, to check for weapons and for bad guys...all good...

In addition, our friend Alfonso, who is a bank guard right next to the Casa Blanca and the Montanita Hotel, tells us that much of the police presence is now going undercover to stop too much drug dealing.  It used to be that a little dope smoking was tolerated, if nobody flaunted it...sort of like nudity...

The undercover guys are masquerading as waiters, street vendors, and tourists...so leave your dope at home folks--if you are so dumb as to travel with it at all...

So what's the upshot of all of this?  Well, Rox and I love the place, and are going to be there at our Head Table, as usual, at 6:00 at the Casa Blanca--where else???

And, as a fitting conclusion to this entry, I took this photo of a new billboard greeting you as you make your way to Montanita...

it says: 

"We will find you"   If you take part in the traffic of drugs, arms, and drug making stuff (like ingredients for meth, ice and the like), you will be procecuted.

Also...If you know of anybody doing this bad stuff, call us, and your identity will be protected.

Ecuador is serious about getting out of the "Third World Country" status, and also eliminating corruption and drug dealing...not a bad goal...

Posted on Sat, November 7, 2009 at 09:55AM by Registered CommenterBob & Roxanne | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

Hello Bob and Roxanne,

My name is Andrew Grubb and I'm a 20 year old student from Vancouver, B.C.and I'm studying abroad in Quito right now. I'm doing research on Community Control in Tourism and I'm using Montanita as a case study. I came across your blog while researching the Comuna. I would love to interview you both or just chat about your experience as expatriates in Montanita and your views on the Comuna and other aspects of tourism. I just got back to Quito, to do some more reseach and I'll be returning to Montanita on Thursday, December 3 for 10 to 11 days. Could you please email me at andrewjgrubb@gmail.com if you'd be at all interested in chatting. We can grab lunch as Casa Blanca;)Best of luck in your travels.

Hasta Pronto!


November 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Grubb

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