Ecuador ama la vida

Jun 13, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Activities, adventure, Discover, Events, Spirit, Surfing

Montanita Sunset

Ecuador is unique.  Bordering Columbia and Peru, its the only country that has stunning Pacific coastline, the towering Andes, Amazon jungle AND the Galapagos Islands.  The physical characteristics alone are enough reason to visit, but it is the people of this country that really make it special.  There must be something in the water, or the tropical air, because nearly everyone is friendly, happy and concerned to ensure that you are having a good time.  The motto for Ecuador is “ama la vida” (love life), and the people there live it.

The beach is a popular gathering spot, especially as the regular spectacular sunsets approach, and it is some of the best people watching on the planet.  Kids and dogs alike roll around in the sand and surf, the 80 plus degree water leaving little temperature variance between being on land or in the ocean.  Couples stroll hand in hand.  Groups sit drinking amber ale as the sky turns the same color.  Aspiring models pose for photographs, hoping their careers will not set as quickly as the sun behind them.

One of my favorite sights during my time in Montanita was a family completely rapt in their own experience, with no care or acknowledgment of passers-by.  The father sat on the water’s edge, the small waves occasionally washing over him.  Three kids, between the ages of 3 and 6, wrestled in the sand and then in the water.  The mother lay stretched out on the sand beside her husband, her lower half in the water, the upper half on wet sand, with a very young baby fastened to her ample, brown bosom.  Nature and human interaction at its best.

Montanita itself can be a bit of a trip, which is appropriate given it came to prominence during the 60s hippy movement.  It still holds that vibe today, complete with street musicians, food trolleys and brownies being sold off hand carried trays (both “happy” and “regular” versions).  On party nights (which tend to be every night except Monday) dozens of cocktail trolleys compete for alcoholic creation and consumption, and the bars blare music as loud as their speakers will allow, with the theory that the loudest gets the most customers.

If you don’t like doof doof dance party music until 4 or 5am, then its probably best not to stay near the town, but it is a scene one should experience.  On a Saturday or Sunday morning the beach is littered with the human debris of the night before, with some completely passed out and others still just hanging and drinking.

Activity wise, Ecuador has as much as anywhere.  The surf is very good, and Montanita is a world class point break.  There are more remote miles of beach than anyone could fully explore in a short time, and I’m sure you could quite happily surf alone for weeks.  Craft wise, you see everything from short boards to male to bodyboards, but there is one very special piece of surfing heritage in Ecuador – balsa boards.  The aboriginals of Ecuador sailed the ocean using boats made from balsa over 4000 years ago.  Ecuador started exporting balsa wood in the 1940s, and in the 70s “Gringo” Andres Kozminiski started making light weight balsa boards.  He passed on his skills to Cesar “Rasty” Moreira, who is now waiting for his first planted crop of balsa trees to mature (3-4 years) to develop  a sustainable method of surfboard production.

Zip line tours, mountain biking, and diving are all available to the intrepid traveler. For the most adventurous, there is the highest active volcano in the world to scale, Cotopaxi at nearly 6000m.  The Ecuadorians recognize that sustaining the environment is important to the country, and so its the cleanest of any country I’ve traveled to in South and Central America. There is rich cultural history, with pre-Inca archaeological sites, and UNESCO recognized cities of Quito and Cuenca.  With the largest biodiversity per square mile than any other country in the world, there are also plenty of critters to see if that’s your thing.  There is also a hint of deep spirituality, not just from the Catholic influences, but with a large yoga loving and growing international community, as well as a general vibe of pantheist lore.

Certainly, plenty to come back for.


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