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ROUTE manta - bahia

This short route follows part of the Manabí coastline through dry badlands, past farms and over low hills planted with passion fruit.

From Manta it is necessary to head north-east through a small community into a dry, largely unpopulated area of very low hills scattered with ceibo trees. If you want to go to Portoviejo there is a shorter route which runs almost parallel to the south and features far more roadside activity. It might be better to take this road at night, but there are no problems during the day.

From Portoviejo you have to either bypass or go north out of town, following signs for Bahía and Crucita. A wide, unmarked road leads north-west to the gas station mentioned below. The lack of markings and the occasional change in levels makes it a bit dangerous because everyone drives fast. Along the way are some shops selling interesting jewellery made from tagua.

If you are on the country road from Manta, eventually you come to a roundabout with a turn off for Crucita. It is possible to follow this route a few kilometers and then take a turning to the right which leads through beautiful, quiet countryside to reach the town of Charapotó. Alternatively continue towards Portoviejo for a few more kilometers and turn left at a major junction with a gas station. This road leads to Rocafuerte.

Continuing through and past Rocafuerte you will see a turning to the left. It is clearly signed and takes you on a fast new road to Bahía (if you don´t turn you´ll end up in Chone). This route is quicker than the country way but you have to slow down quite regularly to pass through small villages.

The two roads converge at Charapotó, a small town with narrow streets and a nice brightly-painted church. To the east is a steep, dusty hillside. To the west is the irrigated and fertile coastal strip, where rice, onion and other crops are grown.

Continuing north you will soon come to the next village, San Jacinto. This merges into San Clemente a few kilometers further north. The main road bypasses them both but it is possible to enter San Jacinto and follow a coastal road along the seafront to San Clemente where you rejoin the highway. There are several hotels and a narrow but attractive sandy beach.

From San Clemente the highway cuts inland, through a wide expanse which appears to be a dry lagoon, before going north again through some low hills where you can see maracuyá (passion fruit) being grown. As of November 2010 this stretch was still in the process of being repaved and widened.

At the point where the road starts to descend you can see the Chone river and just make out the shimmer of Bahía´s white buildings in the distance. From here it´s a steep, narrow drop down to sea level. I´m not sure if, when or how this part will be widened.


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