More about that in a later post.
Yesterday, I ventured up the coast to see what I could see. At first, it didn't look so good. Yes, a nice 4-lane highway followed the coast, but in this part of the region, everything is dry, dry, dry, dead, dead, dead, dirt, dirt, dirt, and ugly, ugly, ugly. As with any drive in this country, you invariably travel through small villages along the way, with the customary speed bumps through town to make sure you go sloooow. Contrary to where I've been in the past, these villages were primarily comprised of small houses (more like shacks) made of concrete 'cinder' blocks that rarely were finished with any coating or paint. Just gray concrete blocks and mortar...that's it. The primary street through town was generally paved, but all side streets were strictly dirt, rock, and potholes. Amazingly, everyone I saw was very much the Ecuadorian standard...well-groomed, clean, and nice clothes. Still don't know how they do it.
The topography was just rolling hills (more like mounds) and dry dead-looking scrub-brush. I felt like I was outside Victorville or Bakersfield, Calif. None of the towns were impressive enough to stop and get out of the car.
Along the way, I constantly saw projects that started, then stopped, and have been frozen in time ever since. Clearly, people sought to create developments maximizing the beach locations. There were many fancy entrances and walls surrounding the land, but nothing beyond that. Never got off the ground.
After an hour of all this, things started to green up as I entered a tropical zone along the beach. I arrived at Montanita, the town I had been hearing and reading about. This is the surf capital of EC. Here, surfers from around the world (from what I hear) descend during high season (Dec - May). Think of a village with thatched roofs, bamboo construction, surfers with their boards, hammocks and more hammocks, bohemia, 60's hippie, and partyin. Shake and mix well. A very unique environment in the middle of nowhere on the coast.
The narrow streets are dominated by vendors of hand-made crafts (ie; beautiful jewelry, necklaces, braces) that line the curbs in front of outdoor dining and various shops. The street itself is occupied by people in shorts and flip-flops, boarders, dogs, and tourists and once in awhile a car passes through...if the pedestrians let them. When a bus arrives, there's a fresh batch of backpackers hitting the streets looking for their hostel.
Luckily, the town has a limit on the height of buildings, so no high-rise beach-clinging condos here. Bars line the streets, too. I don't mean the kind you walk into, I mean the kind like a coffee cart that you walk up to on the sidewalk and order a cocktail or beer, then take it with you while you wander around town. At night, the clubs come alive and the partying starts, inside and outside.
So, with all that said, here's photos to back up my writing. I'll be going back there a few more times, since I have 3 weeks to kill.
|Olon beach, just north of Montanita|
|Cemetery next to Olon beach. Looks old, but based on dates, it is still used today. Lots of lillies growing about.|
|Saw this amazing enclave from the road and pulled over to take a snapshot. Can you believe how close they are to the edge?|
|Take a good look at the structure in front. What does it look like? (answer up ahead)|
|Big cross, next to the enclave, on a bluff overlooking Olon beach.|
|Yes, I climbed up that mound (in previous picture) to take a better shot of Olon beach. Straight down....and I was wearing flip-flops!!!|
|Here's your answer!! Viewing the other side, this was built to resemble (or is it the REAL thing?) Noah's Ark.|
|Club/Bar/Disco in Montanita.|
|One of the bars lining the sidewalks.|
|Interesting new construction in Montanita.|
|One of the many hostels (hotels) in Montanita.|
|Bicycle vendors are everywhere in EC. This (and many others) sold fresh ceviche around the village of Montanita, and even on the beach.|