We desperately needed some sun. After 2 days of torrential rain everything was soaked. Raincoats were dripping, clothes were damp and shoes were soggy. The inside of the van had that dirty sock aroma. We turned Vanna toward the coast.
The Ruta del Sol runs along the west coast of Ecuador, from Esmeralda in the north, to the southern town of Salina. One long stretch of rocky cliffs and soft sand beaches, secluded bays, fishing villages and touristy towns. Occasionally we would see a gated community with manicured yards and large beach houses, often accompanied by a billboard announcing lots for sale.
How much? Just $65000 US.
We spent 10 days enjoying all that this coast road has to offer, walking on the beach, searching out seafood, and playing in the warm waves of the Pacific. No work got done.
We camped at Playa Escondida, a one mile strip of beach, with rocky cliffs on each end. A few people would show up during the day to swim or explore the beach, but we had the campground to ourselves.
In her younger days, Judith the owner, had driven around Nigeria in a volkswagen van, buying local crafts to sell at her store in Vancouver, Canada. Now retired she purchased this piece of paradise, and constructed a little campground. There were about 8 palapa roofs, each with table, hammocks and a yellow lightbulb for the evening.
With a fire pit and a pile of cut wood, we felt very much at home.
Our next stop was the small fishing village of Bella Vista. We camped on a large grassy lawn bordered by a white wood fence, with a gate that let us out onto the beach.
All day long small blue and white boats were going out to fish or coming in with fish. A medium sized Blue Holland tractor was used to pull the boats into the water, then drag them back up the sand when they sped in over the break. It was all very interesting.
We met a family who owned a restaurant, a two story house painted in pink and yellow. One afternoon we stopped there for lunch. They pointed to the narrow second floor veranda. As we climbed the wooden stairs, the teenagers peeled themselves off the couch, and scurried around to clean the long dining table. Grandmother appeared to take our order. The menu was in her head and seemed to be shrimp, shrimp, or shrimp. While she fried and blendered, grandson Brian took this opportunity to practice English with us. At 19 years of age, he had studied at university for two years, but could not afford another year. He told us about the family, how they live off the sea, raise chickens, and grow fruits and vegetables organically.
The meals were delicious. The food was fresh, topped off with green juice from the lemons growing in the backyard. (Lemons here are green)
In the evening the restaurant served wood fired pizzas. Daniel, from Switzerland, had come for a few days but had stayed for 6 months and at some point he had built a brick oven. We promised him that we would be back for pizza in the evening. When we arrived he had started the fire, and the dough was wrapped in a towel on a bench. There were 2 tables. We sat at one for at least an hour, chatting with the family while we waited.
When our pizza was ready, we were ushered up to the roof top over the bar. They turned on purple rope lights and lit a candle for our table. Ambiance. We looked out over the water, listened to the pounding waves, and ate wood fired pizza. It was quite perfect.
Further south in the small village of Machalilla, we camped at the home and hostel of Lydia and Cristóbal. Cristóbal had built the house using glass bottles surrounded by cement. The side and front yard were terraced with layers of bottles topped with sod. We parked out front and had use of a communal kitchen and hammocks. The couple were very friendly, giving us suggestions for day trips, and making arrangements when needed. They were clearly proud of this part of Ecuador.
Their 2 younger boys were scamps, forever playing with the manguera, the water hose. It would start with spraying each other, then escalate to something getting wet that shouldn’t, and then they would be in trouble. The punishment seemed to be chores like taking out the trash, or mopping the floor. Or maybe that’s what they were supposed to be doing in the first place. They would slowly complete these tasks taking furtive looks at Mama and looking very grim. But the next day it was back to the manguera, laughing and running until it all went south and Mama was mad again.
The Machalilla National Park includes a small island called Isla de la Plata, which has some of the birds found on the Galapagos. Our day tour started with a taxi ride to Puerto Lopez.
From there we took a one hour boat ride to the island. There were 10 other tourists on our boat, families from France and Germany. When we arrived at the island Bob and I were the only ones who wanted the longer hike so we were allocated to the Spanish speaking guide while the Europeans got the English speaker.
Oh well, it did not really matter what he said because we just wanted to see the Blue Footed Booby.
With their bright blue feet they look hilarious. Right out of a cartoon – with a voice to match. They make a wheezy quack, like a duck that’s been crossed with a donkey. Unassuming, they are not frightened and just stood along the trail totally uninterested in our presence.
The Frigatebirds with their long curvy beaks turned out to be interesting as well. It was mating season. The male inflates his red chin pouch and vibrates his wings. The female stares at him, flapping and squawking her feelings. Pleasure or displeasure, we could not tell.
Another day we hiked the jungle trail to Los Frailes beach, stopping at several bays along the way. Too dangerous to swim, they are remote and gorgeous.
At the trail head we met a Canadian couple from Ontario and we spent the afternoon with them, lazing in the shade of the mangos, enjoying descriptions of their recent trip to the Galápagos Islands. Los Frailes beach was long, and pristine.
The waves were strong allowing for good bodysurfing. Which ended when I got the grand slam, face plant in the sand. Embarrassing coming up and trying to pull my bathing suit back into place.
Our last stop was the tourist town of Montanita, famous for good surfing waves in February and March. The beach was strung with sunbathers under red and yellow umbrellas. In the water, boats pulled parachuters, driving in and around the swimmers looking much like an accident waiting to happen. Whole families were being pulled through the water on a long yellow plastic banana.
We took walks down the beach which stretched for miles in both directions. The sand was soft on our feet and we noticed that the beach was pretty much garbage free. In the afternoon, we rented a surfboard but struggled to stay on, never mind stand up. Pathetic. We blamed the waves. Bad waves.
The Plan Head to the interior for some hiking and hopefully a visit to Banos.