After a few at sea days which I think everyone needed after the 3 day trip to MP, we landed in Ecuador and the port of Manta. Once again this was a working port and not a lot here but the walk to the beach area wasn't too far. We elected to do the Manta and Montecristi tour which took us to the museum and into Montecristi which is where the Panama Hats are made.
Our first stop was the museum, which I will say was excellent and I learnt a lot about the history of Ecuador, the displays where vibrant and of excellent quality, it was a pity everything was in Spanish and while I appreciate these are to educate the local children the the Ecuadorian culture it would have been good to read more about many of the items. The guide here was once again excellent and easy to understand, but I do like to roam around and get away from the tour group so often miss out on the commentary and like to read about the items I am looking at. I enjoyed this part of the trip immensely and was quite surprised.
After this we headed through the country side which was quite desolate and barren to go to the TAGUA or vegetable ivory factory, where we where given a demonstration on how they make buttons and sculptures from these seeds - probably spent too long here for my liking but it was interesting to see and learn about, to be honest I don't know if I ever knew how buttons where made and apparently they are a large exporter of these ivory style buttons to the world.
Our next stop was onto Montecristi, where the Panama Hat is made, yes folks, the Panama Hat is not made in Panama but in Ecuador and was call the Panama Hat given one was made for the President of Panama. This village is very nice and the demonstration of making hats was quite incredible as they are still made by hand. The process can take months depending on the quality, but it was very interesting. Yes we did both buy a Panama Hat from here primarily because they are nicely boxed up. At this part there are some lovely views from the top of the hill called El Centinela, where you look down onto Montecristi and the Mausoleum General Eloy Alfaro Delgado which is fantastic.
There are a lot of souvenir shops here for all your Ecuadorian shopping needs, and all sell hats - they do range in price so don't be fools like us and buy at the first one, as we paid $25USD for each, but others where selling them for $18 around the corner.
We were unable to get into Montecristi city itself as there was a festival on however after our El Centinela visit we then went off to another village area where they process agave leaves to create straw like products. At this village there is a good amount of shopping available as well.
The drive back took us through the beach area where we saw one of the last places where large wooden boats are still made by hand out in the open, this was lovely and there were some incredible boats in various stages of completion (well worth a look at if in this area).