“The brakes don’t feel right,” Ann said as we steeply descended from the Lago Quilotoa mountainous region above 12,000 feet to our kiteboard destination near Manta at sea level.
I wanted to visit the kiteboarding destination Santa Marianita on the Ecuadorian coast but since April’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake caused massive damage in Portoviejo and in Manta just a few kilometers up the coast from the Santa Marianita we thought it may not be possible. The news footage looked so devastating but according to local intel the roads had been repaired and this was the best season for good wind so it was a go.
But about those brakes…once again on this trip we meandered through seemingly endless curvy downhill mountain passes but this time we sensed something wasn’t quite right. As we drove through a small town we heard a very loud clicking noise coming from under the car. Unbelievably, right where we stopped there was a mechanic who had heard Amelia’s (our truck) distress call and beckoned us to his shop. He took a brief look at the car and noted that the lug nuts were loose on one wheel. On further investigation, two of the six wheel bolts had broken off AND we needed new brake shoes as ours were worn to the nub. Four hours and $70 later we were back on the road with new shoes, new bolts and relieved smile on our faces. How fortunate we were!
Driving through Portoviejo on the way to Manta we could barely get through the city as street after street was closed. Remnants of the huge earthquake on April 16 were still everywhere. Midrise buildings remained partially crushed by the earth’s movement. It was quite eye opening. In the next few days we met people living in Manta and Santa Marianita who had experienced the quake first hand. We heard stories from two different people who were caught on the 6th floors of two separate apartment buildings each of which had stairs that collapsed in the first seconds of the quake. They were forced to ride it out until the shaking stopped. The quake lasted 73 seconds which might not seem like very long. But just imagine- deafening noise with glass and walls crashing around you in total darkness as your house shifted back and forth while counting down 73 seconds! It was an eternity we were told. Newer homes built to withstand an earthquake with 24 or 25 columns embedded deep in the ground and tons of concrete and rebar tying it altogether suffered no damage but the fear factor was still very high. The beach apartment we rented sustained no damage but the water sloshed back and forth in their pool so much that 4-5 inches spilled out over the top. Manta is in remarkably good shape considering that it happened just over three months ago. Still however there is a rotation of closed roads changing daily as buildings are demolished and carted away and utility lines are repaired or replaced.
With continuing good fortune we received an introduction to Manta’s welcoming and gregarious expat community at breakfast on our first morning. Clueless that lodging was completely booked due to the Ironman competition scheduled over the weekend it was helpful to have some new contacts. We landed in a brand new, not yet advertised, fully equipped beachfront apartment owned by Judy and Peter, the most gracious and generous hosts imaginable. Spending the next nine days meeting people, we were invited and escorted to some of the favorite restaurants in town. Everyone was so welcoming like Steve and Patty and her 90 year old mom Ginny (known simply as “mom”) who was a sharply dressed firecracker with an acute sense of humor. The kitesurfing was pretty good too.