Day 7: A Tour from the Heart
by Tara, Julie, Lindsay, and Melissa (Team Malarone)
Our group awoke this morning in an over-the-top, ship-themed hotel in the town of Ballenita. Seeing the sunrise was the perfect way to start our adventures on the Ecuadorian coast. Prior to breakfast being served, one of the owners, Señora Dillon, gave us a brief tour of our accommodations. Some of the items we viewed were treasures from the Capitana, a galleon that sank off the coast of Ecuador in 1654. Captain Dillon, a merchant marine captain at the time, was involved in the discovery which took place in 1997.
Before we knew it, it was time to board our trusty bus. Next stop was the community of Chanduy. For over 1,500 years, fishing has been a way of life for this ancestral community. Three years ago, the community asked Heifer for support with fishing materials. We arrived on the coast and witnessed the impressive bustle of the artisanal fishing community. It quickly became obvious that everyone in the community was accustomed to marine life, including the fresh scents of the day’s catch. Ducking under fish-thieving frigatebirds, our group was divided into four boats, which were then cast off into the Pacific Ocean.
Immediately we spotted large industrial fishing vessels aligned along the boundary of their legal fishing limit. The dispute between the commercial and local fishermen continues because the commercial fishermen push the limits of their fishing boundaries and their catch quotas. On our way out to the fishing location we were overjoyed to come across three ballenas (Humpback Whales) and sea turtles! Our fishermen were accommodating and allowed us to eagerly observe, photograph, and film the magnificent sea creatures for a time. Saddled with our bright orange life preservers, we bobbed up and down on the ocean and observed the local fishing methods.
As we watched the fisherman expertly deploy the 1,500-meter-long nets, we were amazed at the skill and strength it took. After a while, we watched as the men pulled in the net, revealing the diversity of the fish in the catch. As we headed back into the marina, the morning’s hustle and bustle had virtually disappeared as the workday came to a close. Up next was a local lunch of fried plantains, plaintain chips, fried Trumpet Fish, langostina (similar to a large shrimp/crawfish), rice, ceviche, and a potato salad. The locals warmly welcomed us with their incredible hospitality.
After lunch, we were honored to meet with the president, secretary and treasurer of the cooperative bank that the community had established for the fishermen. Besides providing low-interest loans to its members, the bank also makes emergency funds available at no interest. Every 15 days, the bank’s members meet to participate in volunteer projects for the community, such as putting together food baskets for the elderly and less fortunate.
Today left our hearts full and our minds much more aware and sensitized to the hard work and life of an Ecuadorian fisherman and the community that supports this artisanal industry.