Surfing and birds in Montañita and Puerto Lopez
Trip Start Jul 19, 2006
22Trip End Sep 19, 2006
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Within 15 minutes of leaving the bus station, we stopped. Brett and I had no idea what was going on. Everyone just got up and started leaving the bus. This didn't seem like a good start to an 8 hour trip.
When we got off the bus, there was one line with all of the adult male passengers and one line with all of the women and children
Upon arrival in Guayaquil early Wednesday morning, we got a bus to Montaņita. This would be about a 3 hour bus ride along the coast that afforded views of a number of small fishing towns. Unfortunately there was a thick blanket of clouds over the sky in the southern beaches of Ecuador this time of year. We arrived in Montaņita later that morning.
Hippies in Montaņita
Just as we had done before in Atacames, Brett and I wandered through the streets in Montaņita with our large red packs marking us as tourists
We searched around the city trying to find a hotel for $3/person/night. Most places were giving us a price of $5, which seemed steep for a Wednesday in August (the peak season is around December-February, when surfing is best). We stopped at one hotel that was charging $6, and the woman at the counter refused to bargain with us. At that point another woman came over to us. "You looking for a cheap hotel?" She was from the US. She was ambiguously in her late 30's or late 40's, but she dressed like she was in her 20's. She started guiding us off the main road towards a place that would presumably be cheaper. She moved carelessly, drifting in no particular direction but somehow getting where she wanted. I ventured to ask "How long have you been here?"
She explained that her daughter did not want to leave, so she had been bumming in this tourist-ridden beach town for some indefinite period of time. Wow.
(Gilmore Girls) + (Hippie Ideals) - (Grasp of Reality) = Our personal hotel finder.
Unfortunately she wasn't a very good hotel finder as still the cheapest deal we could find was $4/person/night, and at a place that was much lower in quality than the $6 place
Brett decided to take a nap (the bus had afforded us little sleep) while I wandered through the city. I found some information about surfing lessons, and then went in search of surfer necklace that would really make me fit in. Don't get me wrong, I could already pass off in this town. I had the beard and hair that was just long enough to not be clean-cut. Around here the length of your beard was a badge of pride. It was a sign that said "Look at me and my long beard! Look how long I've been able to stay away from The Man!" The Man was not keeping me down, and everyone knew it.
I found a booth that had a nice necklace made with coconuts I think. While browsing, I met Cristian Naranjo. Cristian was a jolly looking guy, about my age, from Quito, Ecuador. I met him the same way that I've met most people on this trip: with the simple question "Where are you from?" As it turns out, Cristian had studied Philosophy in the US and was now in Montaņita celebrating his birthday...sort of
Brett and I ended up doing a 2 hour surfing lesson that afternoon. Montaņita is known for its great waves, although we were there during the low season. I had many more problems tackling the waves here than I did at Tamarindo Beach in Costa Rica. This was my second time surfing, but I was only able to get up on the board for very brief periods of time. I'm going to blame the waves. I think Brett agrees.
Isla de la Plata
The next day, we woke up very early to go on a tour of Isla de la Plata, also known as the "Poor Man's Galapagos." I knew by this point that I would not be going to the Galapagos Islands during this trip as that would cost me over $1,200 in total (including $300 flight and $900+ tour boat)
The tour included a one hour bus ride up to Puerto Lōpez, the departure point for the island. We met our guide on the shore where he told us a little about the island and the whales that we would see on our way there (this was the peak season for whale watching). It was about a three hour boat ride to the island, during which we saw many whales jumping out of the water. The ride was extremely choppy and by the end Brett and I were very relieved to get solid earth under us again. Our tour group consisted of a number of people from different countries, as well as a family of Ecuadorian tourists. Before we started our hike, the guide told us we could not bring food with us and we turned back to see that each member of the Ecuadorian family had their hand in their own bag of potato chips/snacks. For once the Americans weren't the ignorant tourists.
During the tour we saw three different species of birds, including the Piquero de pata azul (blue-footed boobie in english, I think), the Piquero de Nazca, and the Frigata Magnifica. You can look at the stories with my pictures to find out more about the interactions between these birds
After walking around the island for a few hours, we took the boat to a nearby cove to do some snorkeling. We met an Australian girl on our tour named Rachel who spoke English and French but no Spanish. She was traveling with a friend who she had lived with while studying in France. Her friend spoke French and Spanish but little to no English. This made for some interesting conversation/translation.
On the boat ride back I saw a few whales, however I ended up spending most of the trip focusing intensely on the distant horizon. My stomach was not moving well with the ocean. I was not alone. Rachel, who was sitting right beside me, leaned over the edge of the boat to feed the fishes. A few of the Ecuadorians also made deposits in the Pacific Recycled Food Bank. Fortunately I was able to maintain my focus long enough to survive the 3 hour tour, although I was certain that some of the waves were large enough to pull our boat under. The boat finally deposited us back on land, and not a moment too soon for me.
Get your Ecuadorian boyfriends here
That night we ended up going to a few bars
When we were in Atacames, there was a girl from the midwest US staying in the room next to us who had been living in Ecuador for a year. She had an Ecuadorian boyfriend who spoke very little english. The bar was filled with gringo female/Ecuadorian male couples. Sometimes this made for an interesting spectacle because Ecuadorian people in general are rather short. You could see an average-sized gringa (wearing all of her beads and other hippy regalia) dancing with a man 3/4 her size. But he could seriously dance. I guess I should learn how to salsa.
So if you're a hippy girl and you want to improve your spanish, the best idea is probably to just live in a beach town in Ecuador for a little while. You could get a husband out of the deal, too.
The Casa Blanca hotel tried to pull a fast one on us for our Thursday night stay. They tried to increase our rate from $6/person/night to $10, claiming it was some special festival or something
The next afternoon we got out of Montaņita (only after enjoying a few pancakes). We took the 3 hour bus ride to Guayaquil, and from there we caught the only bus that was available going into Peru, which ended up being a 10 hour bus for Piura, Peru that would get us there around 8am.
Ecuador has been nice, but it's time for a change of scenery.
Bus from Esmeraldas to Guayaquil: Trans Esmeraldas, 8 hours, $8
Bus from Guayaquil to Montaņita: $4
Hotel Casa Blanca in Montaņita: $6/person/night
Surfing Lesson (2hr): $12
Isla de la Plata Tour (all-inclusive): $50!!!