Manta is a South American city, not a tourist destination, which made it very different from our other stops. It reminded us of towns in Mexico off the beaten tourist paths.
What it is is an important port for coffee and cocoa. The main industry is tuna canning and processing. Nearby is the village of Montecristi, which is the home of the “Panama” hat. Manta’s location gives reasonable access to three- or four-day excursions to the Galapagos Islands and scenic trains into the Andes. We undertook none of those but wandered downtown Manta on our own.
The Panama hat is a Panama hat because the US bought thousands of them for the workers on the Panama Canal. They work very well for protection from sun, heat, and cold but lose their shape when wet. They are made from a very tightly woven natural fiber; price depends on just how tightly woven. We saw them at stalls near the harbor for $25 and in better “stores” for $150. But everything is negotiable.
The best hats are very soft and the acid test for quality is, Can you roll it up and pass it through a wedding ring? We never saw it actually done.
Tomorrow is Callao, Peru, which is the access to Lima.