After the hustle and bustle of Guayaquil it was time to embrace what I travelled to Ecuador to do – explore the coast and get some serious surfing on the go!
Embrace the Chaos
At this point in time I was very unaware of how to handle transport abroad. Ecuador was most definitely crash course in local bus services!
After finally sorting out which bus I needed to jump on and then the subsequent confusion actually trying to find it in the station (planning wasn’t my strong point on this trip!) I finally made it onto the bus.
What I hadn’t realized was the fact the journey was to take the best part of 5 hours, without air con.
I can certainly say that I got the full spectrum of buses abroad with this trip – we tore across pot whole strewn dirt tracks, narrowly avoided numerous crashes and navigated winding coastal roads.
Don’t let that deter you though – it was great fun!
We’d pull over in the seemingly arse end of nowhere where children with all manner of in transit treats would try and make you part with your cash. Some fresh mango and cold coconut milk certainly helped make the sweaty, overloaded journey more comfortable and at one point I even managed a quick nap!
I survived and found myself in a quaint town on the coast called Montanita, which was to be my base for the next few weeks.
Montanita is slowly growing, whilst not on the backpacking trail by any stretch it is becoming more and more popular with traveling surfers who come to sample it’s variety of breaks – from the rolling beachie through to the steeper and hollower wave which breaks of the iconic headland.
The sands are strewn with beach shacks and small family owned food stalls. It really is a slice of surfing paradise where board shorts, warm waters and perfect waves come at a nominal price.
I was paying just under $4 per night and a 2 course meal with a beer set me back just under $5.
The town itself is fairly small and relies heavily on surf tourism. It’s by no means commercialized, but I can see this beautiful landscape soon becoming dominated by surf resorts – which will be a massive shame, especially for the local surfers who enjoy uncrowded breaks and are more than willing to share a wave.
Living the dream
Days in Montanita are spent surfing in the morning sun, napping in hammocks through the midday heat and feasting on fresh fruit and grenola before hitting the water again for the rest of the afternoon.
In the evenings beach fires and cold beers are the name of the game – and the locals are more than friendly with invites to BBQ’s of freshly speared fish and all manner of dishes. Half the time I had no idea what I was eating but the local mix of spices and marinades made everything a taste sensation!
The main trade in this little town is surfboard shaping. More particularly balsa wood surfboards sustainably made from the adjacent jungle. A few stand out surfers turned shapers create board that are as beautiful on your wall as they are in the water – and it is bringing in a good amount of money for them, which has a positive domino effect for the local community.
Surfers from far and wide come to buy boards, stay in surf shacks and volunteer in the local school – in Montanita every helps everyone, local or not.
A great example of how sustainable tourism can benefit a community without destroying it.
I’ve surfed in many places across the globe but I’m hard pushed to say I’ve found the same “take it easy” vibe anywhere else.
Even if you don’t surf it’s a great place to learn, with the local surfers operating some excellent surf schools. If your feeling a bit more adventurous or want to explore some more then it’s easy to find someone who’s game for loading up a pickup truck and hitting the coastline in search of some new breaks. I even ended up joining a crew of local guys in hiring a fishing boat for the day and exploring some even more remote spots around the cliff faces!
Montanita is a spot which will hopefully feature as a main stopover point in South America during my next RTW trip – fingers crossed it’s still as epic!