Panama hats do not come from Panama. Perhaps that is a shock to some but they actually come from Ecuador. Apparently they were popular with those working on the Panama Canal and so were dubbed Panama hats. The real name is Sombrero de Paja Toquilla after the Paja, the straw used to weave them which comes from a specific palm—not the leaves but actually the stems.
We had no excursion planned for Manta, Ecuador, so we had a leisurely breakfast in the Lido Buffet and sat by a window to watch the unloading of a tuna boat on the opposite side of the dock from our ship. Huge nets of tuna were lifted by a crane and transferred to a waiting truck to receive the frozen cargo. One tuna was so large and the truck so full that the men had to wiggle it and stick their foot into the fish pile to rearrange the smaller fish in order to get it to fit.
After breakfast, I hurried to our room to get my camera. I was sure that they would be done unloading soon. But no, more trucks lined up and were filled. I can’t imagine how many fish were in the belly of that boat or how long and how much work it took to catch them all.
We decided that we would rely on exploring the area where the ship’s shuttle bus would drop us off so after a few pictures of the tuna boat, we went down and out onto the dock to find our ride into town. It was an interesting morning to say the least. The shuttle dropped us at a square along the waterfront and in the middle of a business area that had a lot of banks. We figured the tuna business must be good.
The square had free WiFi which was a draw for many but by the time so many visitors logged on, it slowed down—a lot. The WiFi was a good way to keep people in the area though while the merchants tried to attract shoppers. And yes, almost every booth had panama hats. One lady was bent over a stand demonstrating the weaving of a hat. We put a dollar in the basket and I took a picture for the blog—Bob took another to send to his brother. ‘Nuf said.
I found an artist who painted, or claimed he did, on feathers. I saw this once before in Costa Rica. They were very nicely done and I purchased one for myself and one for a lady who is confined to the ship in ports where it’s not easy to get around. Her husband is going to Galapagos for a day trip and she’s hoping he brings back pictures of blue footed boobies. The feather I bought has a great painting of a blue footed boobie on it just in case he doesn’t succeed.
The shuttle was also said to make a stop at a mall and since we saw nothing we wanted to walk around to look at where we were, we got on the next bus and went on to the mall. It was still early by Ecuador time, 10 AM, and the little mall where we were dropped off had few shops, most of which were not even open yet. We did a quick walk around, opted not to go through the grocery store (although those can be very interesting sometimes) and hopped on the next shuttle that arrived to go back to the ship.
All in all, we spent almost two hours in Manta but that was okay. There was plenty to do on the ship and we were casting off for bluer waters at 1 PM. We speculated that there would be tuna for dinner.