After another big mission, this time from Lima to Ayampe in Ecuador, we were ready to hang up the boots for some chill-out time and some warm water.
We scored well with accommodation in Ayampe this time. Beachfront, a self-contained house with four rooms up for grabs. BAM! The downside was no waves! Waiting for and waiting for waves has been a severe issue for us recently, and after six nights here and still no waves, we hit the road again and said goodbye to Triff. Our hitchhiking days started the day we left Ayampe. Fed up with waiting for a bus that never seemed to arrive, we soon took up throwing the thumb out to anyone passing by. This practice became our travel mode when there was no bus in sight and delivered us many memories and experiences with locals.
After talking to Keith from La Buena Vida about surf spots on the coast, we bunked down in Puerto Cayo for the night before adventuring off to find the infamous barreling beach of San Jose. We found San Jose with little difficulty; the hard part was the lack of transport and the scorching sun. We kept heading north to San Lorenzo. On the way there, we noticed a right-hand wave near Las Pinas, and it was peeling perfectly. Our main aim was to find accommodation, which we thought we could find at San Lorenzo. Instead, we faced three options over US$140 a night. Feeling sunburnt, lacking money and tired after riding around in the back of pickups and a dump truck, we pushed on to Santa Marianita and San Mateo with no luck finding accommodation. We then turned around and hitched back to Las Pinas to where I thought I had seen somewhere to sleep; when this failed, we managed to hail a bus that was headed back to Puerto Cayo. Luckily for us, there were some local people on the bus who ran a "hostel." Having mixed feelings of suspicion and desperation, we took up their offer and followed them up the hill to their accommodation. They were very accommodating people for whom we are grateful for their help. Our hosts showed us the prize-winning fighting cocks and even put them on display for us.
The following day we grabbed our belongings and made our way for San Mateo. We were hoping for waves, but when we arrived, they were too small to bother. We walked back into the remote and dirty fishing village and stuck out our thumb to the next passing car. The following car that pulled over had a longboard hanging out the back. "Sweet," we thought. This moment was when we met our friend Jorge, the owner of the Beachcombers restaurant in Manta.
The day we met Jorge, we had lunch with him in Manta at a tasty cervicheria, found some accommodation and then drove back to San Mateo for an afternoon of surf (surprisingly, the surf had picked up). We have fallen in love with the city of Manta and the waves that are on offer nearby. It is rare to see another gringo here, and the food on offer is terrific for South America. We found some excellent accommodation at the Centenario Hostel, which is run and owned by another friend from Manta called Pepe.
For the following ten days, we caught rides with Jorge to San Mateo and San Lorenzo. Bronnie experienced her worst accident on our trip at San Lorenzo when letting her board go when in the shallows. She dived under the oncoming wave, and the board stretched out on her leg rope, then projectile back at her head. This accident left Bronnie with a cross cut in her ear. Bronnie was attended to by a doctor who stopped the bleeding and sewed three stitches into her ear. On another occasion to San Lorenzo, people were clambering out of the water with cuts, bruises and broken boards. San Lorenzo is shallow, hollow and powerful and all on a sand base as hard as concrete.
While in Manta, we hired a car and drove it down south to Playas. We stopped at Ayampe for the night and had some beers with Triff. Unlucky for us, the swell that was supposed to be at Playas had turned slightly and left little evidence for us to use. We hadn't travelled south of Ayampe, so it was worth the drive. We had also surfed San Jose twice, once with the tide in that produced big peeling slabs and once with the tide out. This location delivered some of the best hollow waves we have seen all trip.
With a big northerly swell arriving soon, we dropped the car back off in Manta and headed for Mompiche with a stopover in Canoa. With the lead up to Carnaval, Mompiche was becoming packed, and prices were becoming expensive. So when the swell dropped, we high tailed it out of there back to Manta. Mompiche has been the wave I have wanted to see working since we first saw it seven months before. Yieeew! Feeling stoked, we experienced it when it was working and caught many waves that took us from the point of take-off to the shore.
Arriving back in Manta, we took up our room in The Centenario Hostel and started ten days of Español lessons. We broke this up with a trip down to Ayampe to catch up with Triff and Keith. We then hired a car as there was going to be decent swell in San Jose. We caught up with Triff and Keith in San Jose, where they had just scored a sweet session. Bron and I managed to catch the tail end of it. We took one last trip down to Ayampe to say goodbye to Triff, who was heading back to Australia shortly. We were able to give our wetsuits to him, which has lightened our luggage considerably. On this last trip to Ayampe, Bronnie and I scored our last night nights accommodation free at Keith and Marilyn's La Buena Vida Bungalows. This stay was luxury with a perfect mattress, air con, bath mat, soaps, and the list goes on. If there is a heaven, we were there!
Not wanting to leave Ecuador, it was time as we were already three weeks over our tourist visa that had expired and have a deadline to meet Jo and Bruce, my parents, on the 13th of April in Bogota, Colombia. We jumped on an overnight bus from Manta to Quito, where we spent the next two nights relaxing and catching up with our "Ecuadorian Parents" for almuerzo.
We would have to say that Ecuador tops the list for us in the countries we have visited in South America at this point in our trip. Ecuador has plenty of activities from the jungle up to the Andes and down to the coast. There are plenty more things for us to see and enjoy on a returning trip.
Adios Ecuador! We will miss you!