E C U A D O R

Just a short edition this one because I reverted back to being a surf bum and therefore my four weeks in this beautiful little country was in the main spent paddling about avoiding getting smashed in by giant beach breaks.

It took me two days on buses to reach Montañita. My desire to get here was based purely on the need to buy a surf board. Other than one recommendation from a guy who I have now worked out to basically do the opposite of anything he says, suggested this surf town was horrific. Just a place to party and fight over waves. 

Low and behold on arrival the town looked like it had been covered in shit! There was mud everywhere from torrential rain the previous few days. It looked a mess.

I found my dream second hand board, tested it out at the point break whilst getting threatened by an angry Brazilian who then realised after splashing water in my face and screaming abuse at me in Portuguese I was mistaken identity.

I left the town shortly after that and headed for the more chilled Ayampe 20km north of Montañita. This place could not be more different than Montañita. Super relaxed, hardly any people and better uncrowned waves.

I checked into my little cottage and stayed here for two weeks.

I’d fill my days surfing twice a day, reading, eating healthily, doing a bit of yoga and other fitness and sleeping like a baby, it was a class couple of weeks of complete societal dislocation. Just me and the waves. I hardly spoke to anyone for two weeks, there just weren’t that many people to converse with. The water was pretty empty too.

This was the perfect spot for me to crack on and advance my surfing quickly. That said the waves were pretty rapid and it took almost 10 days to come to terms with the speed but still, it was class being out in the water surfing to these phenomenal sunsets most nights.

I didn’t surf any other spots in Ecuador but if you wanted to come here to surf this has got to be one of the best spots. Consistent waves every day, I think I missed one day due to bad conditions and no crowds make it an absolute pleasure. Also looks quite good for beginners as well. I think Ayampe has a wave for everyone. There are multiple take off points along the 1.5km bay.

As a town Ayampe doesn’t have too much going on other than a couple of nice little cafes selling top notch carrot cake and muffins and all the shit I go berserk for. There’s a couple of nice restaurants but they felt heavily over priced compared to what I was whipping up for myself every day.

I made my way to Vilcabamba for some time in the surrounding Andes mountains. This is also a super chilled place. The locals are friendly and alway greet me with a smile and an acknowledgement. It’s infectious and fills me with happiness. I really wish everyone did this in London. Just imagine when someone gets on the tube and you just smile at them and say “hello, good day” and then they reply with a beaming smile! Wouldn’t this be a cracking start to the day. 

I read an article which said the average age of Vilcabamba residents was into the hundreds and it was not unusual for someone to live to 120 or older. I’m not sure how valid this article was but based on the happiness level of the average oldie cruising the streets they certainly hold the secret to a healthy and happy life. Their diet of organic food and water straight of the Andes mountains is one of the reasons for this longevity of life apparently.

It was noticeable that there was a heavy American expatriate population. It kind of felt a little bit like Eastbourne, it’s like Gods waiting room. I met several Americans in retirement looking to buy up here. 

Given the expatriate population there did feel like there was a dearth of local residents and consequently the food scene whilst being really good felt like it was slightly Americanised and I can’t begin to tell you want Ecuadorean food is. Most probably tortillas, frijoles and platano!

There’s a nice little street art scene with a few cool pieces scattered around the small colonial square.

I spent my time here continuing the theme of maxing the relaxing by walking in the countryside lots. No organised trips, just me, maps.me and nature.

My favourite walk was up Cerro Mandango, or The Sleeping God. This is a really odd rock formation up a steep mountain side with several peaks running across the top. To me it looked a bit like an Egyptian Mummy lying on her back.

It didn’t matter where I was I felt like she was always in my view. There was something quite magical about her, I could feel the energy of the goddess.

I’d been told it was quite dangerous to walk up there because the path was so narrow and after a lot of rain it would simply wash away. So I waited for a mini dry spell which was about half a day here. It hadn’t stopped raining since I arrived four days before.

I chose the nicest morning of the week and made my way up to the mirador which was about 7/8ths of the way. Here there was a mirrored crucifix and some benches to take in the view. Mandango rises above this and there was no way that I was not going to complete the final leg of the walk.

It was so hot I stripped off my t-shirt and jacket and left them folded up on the bench so not to blow away. I took with me a banana, an apple and some water, I’d have a picnic at the top and stay up there taking in the views for a while.

The walk up wasn’t tricky at all but I could see that if it rained heavily it could become problematic.

I got to the top and walked across the four or five peaks. The views were incredible and I spent two hours up there soaking it up. Several condors circled above which I found fascinating. They literally do not flap their wings at all, they just glide in the hot air currents. It looks so effortless.

I started to get really hungry so made my way down. I got lost a little bit but eventually found the path leading round the back of Mandango. On arrival back at the mirador someone had pinched my jacket. They did kindly leave my $1.50 t-shirt though which was nice of them. I didn’t have to walk into town semi naked and frighten all the OAPs.

I wanted to continue surfing before meeting a friend in Hauraz in Peru in two weeks time so I made the overnight journey south to Pacasmayo. 

The journey got off to a great start when I didn’t have enough change for the $1.80 bus, I was $1 short. I offered the attendant a $10 note but he didn’t care and just let me in the bus having not paid 55% of the fare. I protested. I wanted to pay but he was having none of it. Where else in the world would that happen. Amazing.

Told you it was a short edition!
Enjoy Tune of Ecuador:

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