The Coast of Ecuador: Montanita
Abe and I rolled our luggage through the town of Ayampe along the dirt and rocky road to the main thoroughfare. We had to wait for a passing bus to come by to take us to our next destination. Almost an hour went by as we stood on the side of this hot road, when a nice man offered to give us a lift. Just as we were putting our luggage in, the bus showed up. By that time, we had already committed to our new friend, so Abe sat in the front and chatted with him in Spanish. I could understand some of their conversation, but a lot went over my head. So I faded off into a daydream while looking out into the lush valley of beautiful flowers and trees. All of a sudden I could understand everything that was being said in what seemed like a far distance. As I came out of my dream, I realized the driver had switched to English. He had spent a number of years in New York and was fluent. Now our driver may have lived in fast paced New York, but he drove like he was 80. The bus had passed us up long before and for the first time would reach the town before our ride. But it’s the experience that counts, right?
The driver dropped us off at the top of this well-known party surf town. We checked into our hostel across the river, which we assumed would be much quieter than staying directly on the main streets. Mama Cucha’s was a simple hostel set in a courtyard. The owners were a lovely man, his wife and young son. Our private room was simple, clean and only $15/night. Which was still nicer than the DMCA in Mompiche. Now we have read so many funny rules and translations in the hotels and hostels we have stayed in, but this one was the most shocking. I couldn’t even read it out loud. I made Abe read it for himself!
I thought perhaps it was just the translation, but Abe said it said the exact same thing in Spanish. Never expected that from this nice family! After many giggles while unpacking, we hit the town. There were certainly more people than the quiet town of Ayampe, but it wasn’t as hectic as we had expected. It was very built up, with touristy restaurants and hotels. Lots of young hippie-like travelers selling jewelry and playing music. We agreed that they would be better off trying to sell their merchandise on the buses!
That night as the town was coming alive, we ran into an Australian guy we had met in Canoa that has been living in Northern California for the last 10 years. He was making a little coin by passing out flyers for a nightclub. We chatted with him for a little while, then found a perfect spot to have a few beers. We grabbed the last two plastic chairs in this little corner outdoor bar with almost all locals and enjoyed watching the very excited patrons of the surrounding burger and empanada stands. I was exhausted from our many nights of rum and coke’s with our Euro friends, so we headed back at midnight, which is when the party really begins in Montanita. Instantly, we realized it was pointless to try and sleep. The blaring music from all the different bars and nightclubs reached at least a mile in every direction. There was no escaping it. It continued on until 6am, when silence finally seized this town.
We decided to stay one more night in order to really get the feel for this place. The true reason for going there was for surf, but we were still too early in the season and it was flat as. We explored the town a bit until it was beer-O’clock. Abe found us a table on the beach and with our feet in the sand we enjoyed a couple cold beers, watched locals play soccer, slack-line, dance to the bumping reggaetone music, and lay out under the grey clouds. It was some solid people watching.
As always, I was hungry, so we headed to the main part of town to snack on some tasty nachos we eyed up at breakfast. And what did we find?? Sjoerd, Elio, and Magdalena! Ahh, together again! They had taken a bus in for the day, and had hoped to find us. Abe and I grabbed a couple empanadas to hold us over and we all headed back to the beach for more people watching and mojitos until the sun went down. We told them about our favorite little corner bar and burger stand, so off we went. We sat and watched these awesome burgers get made and couldn’t say no to a $2 dinner. I of course got the chicken burger version, but what else came on them is what sealed the deal. They were all topped with ham, fried egg, queso fresco, lettuce, tomato, and lots of sauces. They were delicious! We talked our friends into staying as long as we could, but it was getting late, so they grabbed a taxi and headed back to Ayampe where they had rented a house for 3 weeks.
We ran into our Australian friend again, so we sat in the middle of the main intersection watching people wander and dance in the streets. Abe and I attempted to go to a club, but really they were just restaurant/bars turned into dance clubs charging $10 to get in. We decided it wasn’t worth it, so we sat and people watched a little longer with others that also refused to pay and headed home by 2am. The music of course continued to blare until 6am, by this time people in the neighboring hostel returned, drunkenly screaming and throwing things off the roof just as the silence fell. This went on for another few hours.
We had had enough of this party town, so we walked down to the bus station to buy an afternoon bus ticket to Guayaquil. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and all buses were sold out for the entire day. Fortunately, a man with a private van was conveniently standing by and said he could take us at 1pm. It was triple what the bus was, but it was our only option. We got breakfast, grabbed our luggage, and squeezed into the van with 9 other last minute planners. It was the day of the Barcelona (Guayaquil soccer team) game and the girl who sat in the front was a big fan. We had to listen to the game, her screaming, and honking the poor drivers’ horn for the entire 3 hour ride. Everyone wanted to strangle her by the end.
Now if you haven’t been to the Guayaquil bus terminal it is quite a sight to see. It’s a giant 3-story mall and food court with about 60 different bus companies operating out of it. We booked our first overnight bus of the trip with CIFA for 11:30pm, getting us to Mancora, Peru by 7:30am. Unfortunately, that meant we had 7 hours to burn in this hectic bus station/mall. We found a less busy waiting area and took turns sleeping until it was time to leave.