I have a confession to make. So far on this trip we haven’t seen monkeys in the wild. This seems pretty ridiculous given the countries we’ve been through, and it has become a bit of a running joke in the brown bus. We’ve definitely felt their beady eyes on us though, mocking us through the jungle.
Finally, the wildlife viewing stars aligned for us when we stopped in at Sendero Pasaje del Monos, a wildlife reserve on the pacific coast. We were guaranteed monkey sightings and if we were especially lucky, we might even see a sloth. Sloths are particularly hard to spot because they are well camouflaged and as to be expected, don’t move around much. We spent a few sweaty hours in the jungle, grinning from ear to ear and hanging out with a group of cheeky, camera shy monkeys and a very laid-back photogenic sloth.
We found a section of private beach near Salango and set up camp for the night, where Mark was able to do a few repairs and adjustments on the van. It was also the perfect place to drink some whiskey around a driftwood fire.
Just as we were settling in for the night, the cops crashed the party. I looked at Mark “shit, we’re in trouble”. We went through the usual routine, the where are you from questions and the checking of passports. Of the three cops, two looked to be about 18 years old and were grinning sheepishly the entire time. I pointed to the fire “una problema?”, no problems there. Our campsite on the beach was fine too.
Turns out, you can’t drink alcohol on Sunday in Ecuador (this was contradicted at the tire repair shop earlier that day, where everyone was wasted before noon). The police pretended to confiscate our whiskey, then returned it promptly saying “para Lunes” (for Monday). Why thank you officers! As my Granny once said, “it’s not a good party unless the police show up at least once”.
As we were back on the coast, it was time to look for waves. We eventually rolled into Playas, which on first impression is a rather uninspiring town. It’s the quiet beaches on the outskirts, that are the draw card here.
Dusty desert landscapes, friendly people, good seafood and great camping about sums it up. There are also a cluster of right-hand point breaks along this stretch of coast, but they were a bit scary for me. If possible I think my surfing got worse. I don’t think I’m ready to graduate from the bunny slopes just yet.
Nestled between two point breaks, this campsite was one of the best. It was perfect for watching the waves and the sunset. After two nights here we were told by some locals that robberies are common near this beach. We saw no signs of trouble, but being unable to claim ignorance anymore, we thought we’d do the right thing and move on.
Checking out break numero dos.
This other little fishing village seems almost deserted, until you gaze out at the foreshore where over a hundred boats cluster together in organized chaos. It was captivating to watch the fishermen preparing the boats in the morning, and then launching them out to sea.
Men shuffle under the weight of their outboard motors as they lug them on their shoulders down to the beach. The launching process then requires a lot of rhythm and some rolling logs placed under the boats as they are pushed out to sea. They really seem to take a lot of pride in their boats. They are handmade, and painted brightly, usually with biblical names emblazoned along the sides (Jhonny Alberto was our favourite, and one of the few exceptions).
Around 2pm the boats return with their first haul of the day, prawns. We cooked up a delicious feast with some of these tasty suckers for a steep $3.
This village is also the home of a pretty decent right point break. These photos don’t really do the waves justice, some massive sets were rolling through and the take off was precariously close to the rocks. Mark snapped these pics and it wasn’t long before he had a list of names, and the email addresses of excited locals who wanted copies of their photos.
For one night only, the clouds lifted and the sky was alight with a magical burnt orange sunset. On the coast, this is definitely my favourite time of day.
At night the fishermen return late. This time with fish, their second haul for the day. We camped right on the point and watched the action. Our new campsite also meant that Mark could hit the water for an early morning/smaller wave session. I went for a run on the beach and caught a fish. With a stick. A pretty tasty fish stew was on the menu that night.
It was time for one last push to the mountains of Ecuador, where we drove up through the clouds to Parque Nacional Cajas.
We finally made it to Cuenca and went out for a delicious meal at Salvia, a newly opened restaurant, owned an operated by an English couple in a restored antique house. The setting was beautiful and we were transported back to the English countryside, where we indulged in a phenomenal three course meal and a bit too much wine.
There was much to celebrate though, Ecuador has been truly amazing. Such friendly people, good surf and awe-inspiring vistas. Oh, and it was pretty easy on the old purse strings too.
So once again, and hopefully not for the last time we yelled “ECUADOOOOOR”. Next stop, Peru.
Posted from: Lobitos, Peru.