We spent 2 1/2 weeks in San Alejo, a small fishing village between San Clemente and San Jacinto. Here are a few final notes about this area.
A week ago I had a small matter I needed medical assistance with. I contacted our travel medical insurance as required and then asked our accommodation host if there was a doctor in one of the villages. She made a call, and Dr. Cristina was scheduled to arrive at the hotel in an hour (unnecessary, as we were quite prepared to walk into town!).
I looked up and wrote out my symptoms in Spanish, since I doubted I would be able to communicate them effectively without a little pre-study. Dr. Cristina arrived, examined me, administered one shot, and left me with a prescription for 4 medications, which she said I should be able to fill in either of the nearby villages. Her charge: $35USD. If I wanted a receipt, I would have to go to her office on another day.
I picked up one prescription in San Jacinto, the closest village: $1.20 (10 cents per pill, no dispensing fee). No receipt available. We walked the 2km to the village at the other end of the beach, and found the other two prescriptions I wanted to fill: $14 for both. Again, no receipt available.
We never did find Dr. Cristina’s office, though we tried a couple of times with instructions from two different people. So, I am unable to claim any of the costs. However, I am not complaining about the care or the cost of the services provided.
There is a well-connected expat community, mostly living in San Clemente, but they visit and travel among the three villages. They pulled together post-earthquake to assist each other and the Ecuadorian locals, providing food, shelter, and helping to rebuild. While we were there, they held a fundraising event where individuals could sign up to purchase various items to complete the houses of five local families. This was held in conjunction with a big family fun day in San Clemente, with games set up by expats all along the main road. The kids came and participated by the hundreds.
Safety and security
We felt safer in this trio of villages than we have felt anywhere else in Ecuador so far. Everyone is incredibly friendly–every single person you pass responds to, or initiates, an hola or buenos/as dias/tardes/noches or some combination (holabuenastardescomoesta). Interestingly, in Quito nobody used hola, but here it’s the norm. We walked between villages at night, and always felt comfortable.
We had no problem walking to and from the other two villages on this strip. There is also a very frequent bus (50 cents) that you can flag down anywhere along the route if you prefer to bus. The same bus takes you to Charaputo for other shops and especially for the Sunday market. Several blocks back from the water on the highway, you can pick up a bus to go to Bahia de Caraquez or Manta. Some people take the bus to Manta for a big shop, and then taxi back (~$20), though we didn’t feel the need. Taxis are also easy to come by on the highway or the waterfront road (malecón).
Home sweet home?
Though we are fully committed to living nomadically, we have also said that if some location strikes us as a place we’d like to live, who knows? Just because a city or town isn’t “home sweet home” doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy our time there, just that it isn’t the kind of place we feel we could settle down in.
Is San Alejo that place? It is by the ocean, which we really enjoyed, but it’s not the ocean of our dreams. The crashing waves were dramatic, but meant the water was sandy and the swimming was limited. On our last couple of nights (during the super moon), the waves and tide were so high, they crashed over the boulders lining the shore spreading smaller rocks and bricks across the malecon, creating little rivers in side streets, and even flowing over and into a neighbouring hotel’s reception area. We learned that the properties that are currently waterfront used to be one row back. I don’t know how long ago that front row of buildings was eliminated, but I would not want to worry about whether my home was next, as those new waterfront properties surely will be.
Our accommodation was a beautiful oasis of color, but it was positioned along a sand-swept dirt road with few trees or other foliage. Some buildings were painted with bright or pastel colors, but many others were just weathered wood with only a bit of dusty green here and there, which just didn’t satisfy our need for colour and greenery.