“The beach is good, we need to get back to the beach” was what Sara and I were saying to each other during our final days in Colombia. The beach in Central America was rough living, mainly because we were camping most of the time. In Central America the heat was torturous, the nights were long and breezeless, the bugs unrelenting, but the surfing made it all worthwhile. Now we are in South America, about to enter Ecuador. Ecuador is on the equator. The equator must be hot. It was shockingly cloudy, cool, sweatshirts and pants, and pleasant ocean water. Maybe it is just the time of year? Either way, we will take it.
The Colombia/Ecuador border was a breeze, making it through in record time. So far the border crossing situation in South America is more contemporary and user friendly compared to the outdated circus show that Central America had to offer.
Driving the smooth camino, smiling at the signage of the gas stations displaying $1.48 a gallon, we had our destination in mind. We still have hours until we reach Mompiche. Mompiche might have the longest wave in Ecuador (too bad it is not the season for surf), but we head there anyway. We drive in to the night, through the hectic outskirts of Quito, spotting a snow capped mountain on the horizon at sunset. The view is pleasant and comforting, the vibe is mellow, and the roads twist through the mountains similar to a hiking trail. We see an uncrowded gas station, fill the truck for only a few bucks, roll to the edge of the lot and set up camp for our first night in Ecuador.
The next day we arrived in the small fishing village of Mompiche. The waves were fickle, but we still got plenty of water time and hung out for a couple weeks to kill some time before entering Peru.
After camping on the beach for a week in Mompiche, we spent the second week working as volunteers at a hostel. As volunteers, we painted some signage, built furniture, created a promotional video, and did some gardening for a few hours a day, in exchange for one of the private cabins (The Mud House). It turned out to be a great way to familiarize ourselves with the village, spend little to no money, and live in in an actual domicile (instead of a tent). Our time at The Mud House was enjoyable, and we highly recommend the place to other travelers (or overlanders). Mendee and Andres were warm, welcoming, and they make amazing sandwiches, and they were super cool with Lupe, which is a big plus.
-check out the video I made for the Mud House
After Mompiche we planned on doing another volunteer job in a beach town called Canoa. As soon as we rolled into town we were uninterested in the locale. The surf was bad, people were partying, and lost hippies roamed the streets. We spent the first night camping on the beach on the outskirts of town. The next morning we wandered to the hotel where we were supposed to work for the next couple of weeks. The people were friendly, but unorganized. We did some work, discussed the unpractical projects at hand, and waited for several hours for some woman to bring us to where we would be living.
Finally, long after sunset, we meet up with the semi-intoxicated woman (at a 4th of July gringo party) and it is understood that she will be bringing us to our house (where we will stay for the next couple weeks in exchange for the work we will do). We waited longer, she offers me a beer, to which I respond that I don’t want one, but she proceeds to bring me one anyway. After I drink the beer she says I need to pay $3.50 for it (which is more than three times the amount beer usually goes for down here). Fire works start bursting. Lupe is in the truck startled from the close by explosions. I calm her down. We decide this whole situation is bullshit, and to top it off these people expect me to build a number of structures on multiple properties which seems completely impractical for the 4 hours of expected daily work. The whole situation seemed like a can of worms, so we decided the best thing to do was to just drive away. In the cover of darkness, not notifying anyone about our departure, we drove away and didn’t look back. And no one messes with Lupe. That was the broken shoelace.
After escaping back breaking labor for minimal compensation, we slowly weaved our way down the Southern Ecuador coast. We camped in fishing villages, purchased fresh fish from locals, partook in solo surf sessions with not a soul in sight. Eventually after another week of nonchalantly driving, and stress free living (nothing to do, nowhere to be), we look up at the signage and it seems that we have made it to Peru.