We pulled in to the one main road outside the small surf and hippy hangout of Montanita. The clouds were thick and as soon as we disembarked we felt the temperature drop substantially from the inland city of Guayaquil. Damn it. All this time hanging out for some good beaches and after life in the alps we had only assumed that Ecuador’s coast line would be hot and sunny; just like the postcards. Without any signage to Kundalini Hostel where we had pre booked for a few nights, we followed the main road and approached the beach. Passing by thrown together Bambu Huts called ‘Bob Marley’ and ‘Che’ for $5 a night and viewing a few passers by with their dread locks and pin striped clown pants, it was fairly obvious that we had landed in the heart of Hippy-Ville.
We found Kundalini Hostel and checked into our small room on the upper building that consisted of a huge balcony overlooking a paddock of cut grass, straight out onto the beach and the Pacific ocean. As far as the eye could see across the long stretch of coastline, the sky was grey, thickly humid and drizzly. So putting on trusty rain jackets, we walked into the town centre. Along the beach were bambu bars with huge speakers that blasted out the latest pop and drum and bass tracks. Young Ecuadorians, presumably from nearby Guayaquil were crowded around, drinking the cervezas brought from the local street sellers, playing volleyball, parasailing and tanning their voluptuous latino curves. Turning off the beach and walking into the main drag, you were accosted by hippies selling their wooden and feather jewelry, vendors selling fake Ray-Bans and surrounded by bars, restaurants and ****** cheap hostels where sleeping was impossible due to the nearby bars. It reminded us of Vang Vieng in Laos and looked to be fairly typical of a small fishing village transforming too quickly, without regulation into a throbbing party town, particularly between Thursday and Sundays.
Another reason for the towns popularity with the hippy crowed was the prevalence of drugs. Apparently the police turned a blind eye to the locals who were profiting from selling it to the tourists who smoked pot openly durning the day on the beach. One fairly clean cut guy with an American accent continued to offer us ‘space cakes’ each time we passed him on the beach or walking thrown town, ‘hey guys, do you want some spaaace caaakes?’ he continued to exclaim. When you sat on the beach you would have two local surfers conveniently stick up a friendly conversation with you, asking you a myriad of questions about your travels and then launching into ‘hey, want some pot.. for you and your girlfriend?’. This seemed to happen predominantly to Murray when I wasn’t around. Then the same again at the beach front reggae bars. We found one that we thought looked a little more tame and was playing some Damien Marley so sat down. The fairly clean cut looking owner came to serve us and struck up a lovely conversation before again launching into ‘want some hash?’. After replying ‘no’ and that we were happy with our cerveza his friendliness quickly disappeared along with the attentive service.
We meet an English couple that had stayed at the same hostel as us in Guayaquil and to which we had taken the same route to Monantina. They had left England 9 months prior for a world trip up the east coast of Australia, around New Zeland which swimming with the sharks was perhaps their best experience, traveling through the typical South East Asian route and then crossing over to South America. One of their stories that stuck was their dentist experience in LaPaz. Crossing Uyuni, the guys molar tooth broke after a root canal in England. They decided that rather than paying top dollar to get it fixed in 2 months time at home, they would seek treatment in LaPaz, Bolivia. We had seen the dentists that lined the grotty streets of the city which was probably the worst place to seek out any medical or dental attention. However, these guys decided that he would get his tooth removed at one of them. They told us that the poor little Bolivian women had to read a manual on removing teeth from European decedents first and then after 4 anesthetics and 3 hours of pulling from a dirty room with rudimentary and fairly unsanitary equipment and surrounds, the tooth finally came out. They were so happy that they only had to pay $25 for the service, she decided to get her teeth polished while they were at it. What a insane idea. We agreed to meet them later for dinner at the best restaurant in town, but the power cut out moment before and the town was dark and quite for a good few hours.
The weather continued to drizzle over the next few days with some slight short outbreaks of sun. So we spent them wondering in circles around the town, eating delicious meals from the one good Colombian run ‘organic’ cafe in town, munching on chocolate brownies and coffees from a tiny bakery outside of town and viewing the mundane behavior of the tourists partying all night long and writing themselves off. The impact on the beach was also pretty average with left over bottles, cans, plastic cups and butts scattered everywhere. With a sudden craving for chocolate on the second last day, I picked up a block before heading back to the hostel. Passing the hippy jewelry vendors, we were approached by a tall weedy long haired American probably in his mid 50s. He eyeballed us and said ‘You speak English..its nice to finally talk to someone in English again. Would you please help me out? I need a few dollars to get back to Peru. Just check out my jewelry. The people here a cheap, really cheap and you should watch out after dark. Don’t stray far from the light from the fire on the beach, my friend did that last night and we were attacked by a gang. He’s now bid ridden in a hostel with a broken leg!’. This guy was clearly one of the Westerners that had come to a third world, got hooked on the cheap drugs and was clearly out of his mind. His ranting continued about needing money from us to get himself back to Mancora in Peru to get his stuff from a home he owned and a girlfriend he was divorcing. The conversation then changed to his ties with a few Peruvian gangs and another house and wife he had in the Philippines to which she had claimed all of his possessions and left him with nothing. He leered over us telling us one dark story after the next and all the while threatening us to buy his jewelry. We backed out after ten minutes of craziness and got back to the hostel but again seemed to be another example of a negative undertone to the town.
One morning while eating breakfast from our hostel, a few tourists pointed out across the sea. A few hundred meters off shore was a whale, splashing about and probably heading further north to the seas around Puerto Lopez, popular for whale watching at this time of year and our next destination. Done with the hippy’s, the party town, the drugged up locals and the grey sky…we waited on the main road again to flag down the local ‘chicken bus’ that approached every 15 minutes commuting locals up and down the coast line. Jumping on the rattling and rusty old beast, we scooted up the mountainous coastline a further 1.5 hrs to the port town and the Manchilla National Park, hopefully protected and free from the destruction that tourist towns such as Montinita can have on the environment and local perceptions.