And so my journey makes its way from for the first time out of the Andes and down to Montañita on the Ecuadorean coast! This morning, after waking up at 6:30 to say goodbye to my three youngest siblings before they went off to school, I loaded my four bags into the car and drove with mi mami and Angie to Emil’s house across the river, where we waited for our private bus. These goodbyes were slightly easier; I guess I’m getting better with this whole transition thing. But each goodbye with each member of my wonderful familia cuencana was special, and I’ll miss each of them dearly.
The sixteen-person bus, more like a large van, was just enough space for the twelve of us and all of our luggage, which again appeared to have multiplied since Baños. The first leg of the journey, to Guayaquil, took some three hours but was such a beautiful drive. We drove through Cajas National Park, and at one point we were literally above a sea of clouds. Most of that part of the drive was humid and misty, unfortunately, so I didn’t get to see as much of Cajas as I would’ve liked. Originally we were going to go as a class yesterday, but everyone was kind of burnt out after a long weekend and so I ended up having a wonderful farewell lunch with my family. My mom made her famous burritos just for me, since my brothers had insisted from day one how great they were. It was a really special family-oriented afternoon, followed by a delicious farewell dinner with the group at Carbón near the Calle Larga.
After we passed Cajas, we had noticeably descended in elevation, and it was cool to watch the change of landscape as we went. I was pretty tired though, so I didn’t see as much of the drive as I would’ve liked. I had chosen some good snacks from Supermaxi, though: apples, baby carrots and ranch, mani con ajonjolí (peanuts covered in sesame seeds and honey), raisins, and my favorite chifles. Our driver also let us play one of the reggaetón CDs we had with us, which made parts of the drive resemble our time on the Chiva in Baños, bringing back some good memories for me.
We got to Guayaquil around one in the afternoon…it is quite obviously Ecuador’s biggest and most populated city. And our driver seemed to believe in Guayaquil’s bad reputation for robbery and theft; when we pulled into a parking lot (where some of us had to buy our bus tickets for this Sunday from Guayaquil to Lima), he warned us not to go through our bags, because if we were seen by thieves he said there was a chance that we could’ve been followed and then robbed on the road. So we were discreet as we could, and Laura, Brooke and I succeeded in getting our ticket for this Sunday; it feels so good to have that next part of my journey set.
The bus from Guayaquil to Montañita was another three hours or so, during most of which I zoned out and napped a bit. It was noticeably hotter on Guayaquil, and literally the closer we got to the coast, the more humid it got. We stopped once at a gas station, where we caught our first glimpses of the ocean, and then continued north along the water on the main, two-land highway. We passed through a couple coast towns, and then finally arrived here in Montañita, which is such a hippie touristy but chill and laid-back beach town. That’s the best way I can think of to describe it. We’re staying at this quirky little hostel just off the main drag, with Guayasamín replicas everywhere! I’m on the second floor room with Raquel and Forbes, and here’s some pictures:
We lugged all our stuff up to our rooms, then set out to explore for a bit. The three of us went straight to the beach, with the warm and humid salty ocean breeze blowing by as the decently sized waves rolled in a forceful tide. It was cloudy then, but in shorts and tank tops we were comfortably warm. We walked the entirety of the Montañita shore, and then ate dinner at this place near the church called Wipe Out. I had garlic shrimp, with rice, a salad, and fried plantain; delicious. Four dollars well spent, while the passionfruit juice was sub-par and watery. On the walk back to the hostel (in which I’m planning on staying instead of going out because I’m feeling extremely sleep-deprived), we passed by some more restaurants and stands. I really like the atmosphere here; laid-back essentially encapsulates it. There is a greater variety of types of people here, kind of like Baños, but somehow it feels a bit less touristy and a bit more like a chill surfer beachy summer feel; I think it’s gonna be a fun four days.
It was really surreal last night at our farewell dinner; it’s crazy how fast the program flew by. But after writing my final essay, I felt so completely content with the way things turned out. It was such a learning experience, in so many ways, and I definitely feel like I’ve changed because of it. It’s been so eye-opening, not just to a new culture and a new country with a unique history, but to life itself. I wish I could explain better…if I get a chance, I’ll try and post bits from my essay. I think I did a better job explaining all this in that essay…and it sounds all the more better in Spanish.
Tomorrow, the “plan” is to pretty much kick it at the beach all day. Lying in the sun, swimming and perhaps surfing in the ocean, just a day of well-deserved relaxation. I’m excited. I would’ve gone out to explore the town more now, but I think I’ll be in more of an adventurous mood tomorrow after I’ve caught up on some sleep. And chuta, it’s a good thing I’m on those malaria pills, because I’ve been bit a good three times since I’ve been here…and there’s a darn mosquito in my room right now…ok, so not everything about a chill surf town is ideal. But I can deal. Hello Montañita, hello summertime!