Oh my darling Montañita. What sweet, secret, untold treasures you had in store for me! After having my laptop stolen, I began writing everything in my journal, and I had nearly finished writing my account of my time in Montañita on the bus ride from Huacachina to Cusco, Peru, when I stupidly left my journal on the bus. I went back hours later to hopefully reclaim it, but had no such luck. All that writing. Gone. So here I am – a month later – once again, trying to recall the incredible three weeks I spent on the beach on the coast of Ecuador in Montañita.
It’s an easy three hour bus ride from Guayaquil to reach Montañita. Anthony and I hopped off the bus and took a cheap cab to our hostel El Ceilo, which is just outside the madness of the downtown center. Montañita is tiny, but it packs a whole lot into just a few main central blocks. Our hostel was about an seven minute walk to the center. It was located at the very end of a dirt road called Tigrillo (just after the bridge), so it was nice and quiet and removed from all the noise of the town. I can’t say enough great things about this hostel, mostly due to the owners, Monica and Daniel, who treat you like family. It’s a cute little set up, with comfortable and very clean rooms, and a kitchen you can use. They have two adorable pups and a two cats who prowl the premises. They are always at the hostel, ensuring you feel safe and taken care of. Monica is an absolute bombshell, a blonde beauty from Poland; tall, thin, tanned, loving and maternalistic, always checking in to ensure you’re doing okay. Daniel was quieter, the handy man, always patrolling the house, fixing this and that. We knew we made a great choice and were excited to spend a few relaxing days beach side.
Anthony had wanted to spend his birthday in Lima, but we kept hearing from people how awful Lima was, and so we made the great decision to stay in Montañita for his birthday instead, extending our stay by about a week. We wandered the town center our first day to get a feel for the town and find some of the good places to eat and then hit the beach. It felt so damn good to be in a bikini again and to just relax and do nothing! Our guts were still a little off, but we felt confident enough to leave the hostel for periods of time. We soaked up the sun, dug our toes into the sand and laid back listening to the waves crash against the shore. Yup, this is definitely what the doctor ordered! We made fast friends with a few of the beach dogs, one in particular that Anthony fell head over hells in love with (okay, so did I) and we named her Ñita, after Montañita, which means little or small. She was some kind of German Shepard mix and looked really well taken care of so we assumed she must belong to someone. But after several days we realized she was definitely a beach dog, and the queen of the beach dogs at that.
We spent those first couple of days simply sleeping in, heading to crepe alley for breakfast, then hitting up the beach all day, suntanning, swimming in the ocean and playing with the dogs. It was absolutely glorious and exactly what we both needed. But then disaster struck- the event which caused Anthony and I to part ways. One of the dogs that was always hanging out on the beach- but likely belonged to someone as it was collared- gave Anthony an accidental scratch on his hand when they were playing catch. Being worried about rabies, he went to the doctor who assured him no dogs here had rabies and gave him some antibiotics. Not wanting to take any risks however, he was unconvinced and wanted to make sure he was safe so he decided to head back to Guayaquil to visit a hospital since they didn’t have one in Montañita. I bid him a sad goodbye and he said he would return hopefully in a day or two.
I went out that night and met up with Carlo, a fellow traveller I had met in Guayaquil – and he introduced me to two locals he met, Monica and Raffael, and we all went dancing. I lost Carlo, but kept dancing with Monica and Raffael all night, having a blast. We would leave the the club from time to time to get some air and sit on the beach watching the waves and playing with the dogs, while they shared a beer. One of the things I loved about Ecuador was the way they drank here. Beers were bought by the litre and came with small glasses. One person would buy a beer and would share it out in the cups with their friends. The next person would buy the next one. It made drinking seem like so much more of a social activity than the way we do it back home. After their beers, we went back in and danced some more. I finally had to bow out around 3am and we promised to meet for breakfast before they left tomorrow. We met around 10am and hit the beach for the ceviche carts – my first Ecuadorian ceviche- I was so excited! There were no words to describe the perfection that was inside that bowl- I was hooked. After breakfast I bid them farewell and they made me promise to try and make it down to Loja to visit, the town where they are from in Southern Ecuador, and said I could stay with them. I felt so warmed by their show of hospitality to this strange Canadian girl they only met the night before. I knew I had to take them up on their offer some day.
Now that I was on my own, I decided I had put off signing up for a surf lesson long enough. I was pretty nervous and so had kept procrastinating, but that was the whole reason I came to the coast- was to try my hand at surfing once more as I had in Gigante, Nicaragua (read about that lovely little gem HERE!). I asked Monica at the hostel to set something up for me as she had all the connections. I said I needed someone patient and who could speak English as my Spanish just wasn’t that great. She said she knew the perfect person and would call him to set up a lesson for the morning. I was nervous but excited to get back out on the waves. I wasn’t nervous in Gigante because I was going with friends, not in a structured lesson. There is always something about my performance being judged that really sets me on edge and makes me feel like I’m under scrutiny to do well, and if I don’t, I am somehow a failure. I tried to set those old fears aside and simply get excited for what would surely be a blast in the water.
I woke up the next morning and on my way to the school I thought to myself “Please don’t be a hot instructor, that would just make me that much more nervous to perform!” I arrived and gave my name in Spanish and the guy at reception welcomed me and said “Karolo! Tu estudiente esta aqui!” ‘Karolo’ hopped up from the couch and came over to introduce himself to me in thickly accented English. My heart leapt in my chest, my cheeks flushed and I cursed inwardly. Damnit. He was a total babe. He had a thick head of perfect, sun kissed, brown ringlets clinging to his head and down the nape of his neck. His huge smile stretched across his face revealing an adorable gap tooth. His dark, honey-brown, heavy eyes smiled as big as his full lips. How in god’s name was I supposed to learn to surf when this shirtless babe with his flawless body was teaching me?!
I did my best to calm my nerves and we got down to business, signed some papers, paid, got changed in the back, selected a board and hit the street to walk down to the beach, chatting along the way. He was super easy going and easy to talk to even though there was a language barrier. He could speak English better than I could speak Spanish, don’t get me wrong, but his English needed a lot of work and sometimes I wasn’t entirely sure what he was on about. But I was also pretty easily distracted by his toned, tanned body and those damn ringlets, especially when they got wet…!
Karolo was an exceptional teacher. I could tell he was wildly passionate about surfing, and not just because he enjoyed it as a sport, but as an entire way of life. He took our lesson to the next level by explaining surfing to me in terms of what it means to him: how I had to respect the ocean and my board, how I had to become one with the waves and my meld with my board. If I was distracted in my life, unbalanced in my life, I would be the same on my board. I couldn’t stop thinking that the way he felt about surfing was the same way I felt about yoga, and I knew we were going to get along just fine.
We spent a lot of time talking about the more spiritual side of surfing and then we moved into the theory. We started with stretches and warming up and then moved to the sand to practice the techniques. He made me practice over and over and over and OVER again until I got it right. At first I was feeling a little frustrated and just wanted to get into the water. But what the hell do I know about surfing?! So I set my eagerness aside and let the teacher do his thing. Finally we got in the water. The waves in Montañita are decently strong and they just keep. on. coming. There is no rest; you get battered by wave after wave every few seconds. When I told people that I was learning to surf here, several questioned why I would pick such a place and I didn’t really understand. After getting in the water, and after having also tried surfing recently in Mancora, Peru, I can fully understand why they questioned my choice now! You get no rest from the constant smashing waves.There is no waiting for a good wave when learning here, they are all good enough and will knock you down without a seconds hesitation, so you always have to be ready.
We got out there, he went over a few things with me about the board and the water and in his thick accent, commanded me: “Up on your board!” a phrase I think I’ve heard about 100 times from him now and brings back happy memories. I hopped up, positioned myself quickly because the waves don’t give you any time, and began to paddle as Karolo told me to. He followed behind me and gave me a mighty shove and yelled at me over the crash of the incoming wave ‘UP!!!” and surprisingly- I stood up! I was in shock that I was able to stand up and ride the wave in to shore before hopping off. I emerged from the water, grabbed my board, and turned around to make my way back through the onslaught of waves with a massive smile on my face. Karolo had a different look on his face- complete astonishment. I found out later that it’s pretty rare for someone to stand up their first time like that, especially the girls. I came back, got a mighty high five and we got back to it. I stood up every single wave that first session and felt like a freaking rock star.
Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t wipe out, because I definitely wiped out! Luckily I only had one nasty wipe out, where the board went out of my control and came back and smashed into me. One fin hit me right in the knee, the other … well let’s say it hit a very sensitive area! It hurt like hell, but I kept going and said I was fine. By the end of the lesson however, my knee was hard and swollen and aching terribly. I ended up with a bit of a limp for the next few days and had a hard time putting my all weight on that knee. The hard swollen lump remained for weeks, and even began to bother me again when I began my Salkantay trek in Peru. But of course I shrugged it off and figured, what’s a surf lesson without a little injury? I met a couple the next day who were so beaten up from trying surfing (massive bruises, near broken/swollen nose, bleeding scratches etc.) that I didn’t feel so bad about my little injury anymore!
After my lesson, Karolo thanked me profusely, which I was confused by. He said I had given him new faith in surfing and his teaching abilities. He said it can be discouraging to give so many lessons and so often never have a student even stand up. So to have me pick it up so quickly was encouraging for him as a teacher and he thanked me with a huge hug.
I felt on top of the world. I just SURFED! And I was absolutely, head over heels for this wild, new sport that had come into my life. Even in the face of the challenge of performing in front of my sexy instructor I still rocked it! I felt a great connection with Karolo, he was such a professional teacher. I had talked with several other instructors in the previous few days along the beach and they definitely didn’t come across as professional, but rather as perverted and crossing the line, so I steered clear of them. I was so glad Monica had recommended him! We sat back down on the beach after the lesson to chug some water and chat. I knew I needed more lessons. I loved this first day and I just couldn’t get enough. He was super excited when I told him I wanted more lessons as we began to head back to the shop. He asked me about my plans for the day and then invited me to go to Dos Mangas, a quick 20 minute trip away into the mountains that afternoon. I had plans with Maëlys, but had a feeling she would love to head into the mountains for a fresh fish fry and some hammocks, so I invited her along and off we went. We hailed a cab, stopped in the next town to grab some cold coconuts to sip on, hopped in the back of a truck of his friends and made our way along the bumpy little path to the spot.
It was the perfect little getaway. It was the complete opposite of Montañita and I could see why Karolo loved coming out here. Montañita was a wild, bustling, raging party hub that was always crawling with people and noise. Dos Mangas was just a few small wooden structures in the jungle with the mountains surrounding it. A man made little pond stood at the bottom of a hill with rope swings atop structures for swinging off into. We put our things down and grabbed a thin rod of bamboo each and followed a little path through a bunch of banana trees. We emerged at a long narrow pond. Small birds were flittering around and diving into the water one after the other- fishing- exactly what we were about to do! We had some line and a small hook on the end of our bamboo rods and slipped on a tiny piece of bait from a bucket and tossed our lines in. Immediately tiny fish darted to the surface to peck at the bait. 90% of the time the bait was lost and devoured by the tiny fish, but now and then a larger one took a bite and you yanked your rod out with the fish on.
I was loving this! Fishing is one of my favourite past times back home, and here I was fishing old school with a stick, a piece of line and a hook! Most of the ones we pulled out were too small for eating, so we kept at it for a good hour, hauling out fish after fish (mostly me, of course!) until I finally pulled out two good enough for eating. At first Karolo was being a gentleman and always taking my fish off and re-baiting my hook for me, not realizing that I do this at home all the time with much larger fish! After letting him remove a few, I pulled out my next one and removed it myself, noticing from the corner of my eye that he was watching me interestedly. I tossed it back in and re-baited. He gave me the raised eyebrow look of surprised approval and I smiled smugly.
Maëlys was a little hung over, so she opted out of the fishing and went to lounge in a hammock. It was just Karolo and I, and the father with his two boys. They were in their own world with their rods, wildly whipping them out of the water every time they had a nibble and laughing vibrantly at their missed attempts. The father was off in a corner of the pond working on something, and only occasionally fishing. It was so relaxing being tucked in the mountains by this little pond with nothing but the birds diving for food every few seconds, and the hot sun keeping us warm as a gentle breeze blew through now and then.
After getting a good catch, Karolo and I began to head back to the main complex together. As we started to walk back, he congratulated me on my catch, clearly impressed, now by both my surfing and fishing skills! We got back and brought our catch to the little kitchen hut where they would prepare our lunch. Karolo and I headed to the rope swings, while Maëlys was content to watch from her hammock. I was terrified. For some reason, jumping into water from heights gives me extreme anxiety and I hate it, but I always try to do it to help conquer my fear (no luck yet!). Karolo had to prod and encourage me to finally agree to do it. I agreed on the pretext that he had to swing from the higher one beside me at the same time. Off we went, screaming and swinging into the man made pit of strangely green water. It smelt a little stagnant, as man made pools always do, but it was a rush to plunge into the water from the rope swing. I got out and was content with one swing, having felt like that was enough fear conquering for one day!
Soon lunch was ready and we sat down to an absolutely delicious meal of a whole fish deep fried in a light batter, and Karolo showed us how to eat the crunchy, yummy fins. We picked every little bit of edible flesh off those fish and savoured each bite, which came accompanied with platanos (pieces of crushed and deep fried plantains) rice and a salad- typical Ecuadorian food- yum! After lunch, Karolo split open our coconuts and we feasted on their soft, meaty flesh, the juices dribbling down our chins. There was nothing left to do but relax in a hammock.
After a nice snooze in the hammocks it was time to head home. We bid farewell to and thanked the family that ran the place and walked the path back to the town instead of taking it by car. We hopped in a communal taxi and made our way back to the hustle of Montañita. Karolo mentioned an amazing sushi place to me and suggested we all grab dinner there, and we eagerly agreed- mmm sushi! I met Karolo at the school and we took off for the beach to walk to La Punta which is where the sushi place is located, about 10 minutes down the beach.
Since he knew the menu, I told Karolo to order for me and I would be happy. I made the right choice letting him take the reigns as we ate the most incredible dinner – skan-dalo rolls and tropical rolls. The skan-dalo rolls come rolled in shredded coconut, which then has flaming triple sec poured on top of them at your table and the fire roasts the coconut. Inside the rolls is a tempura shrimp and cream cheese mixture. I’ve never tasted anything so perfect in my life.
I basically began having foodgasms at the table. My dear friend Sally once said to me on the road “Brittany! Stop having sex with your food!” because whenever I enjoy the food I’m eating I can’t help but moan in pleasure! I thought maybe the food tasted so good that night because I was simply ravenous, but I proved this wrong by going back for sushi- again and again and again- and nearly died of food ecstasy every time!
I tried to get a good nights rest in anticipation of my surf lesson the next day. When I arrived at the school, Karolo grabbed me as came in and started to salsa dance with me – laughing, I begged to be let go- I didn’t know how to salsa, I was terrible! Astonished, he said “What?! I must teach you then, I am a salsa teacher as well”. Oh god, of course he is ha ha. He then took the next ten minutes and gave me a crash course in salsa until I got the basic steps down. I was terrible, but finally started to get it towards the end.
Karolo wanted to start me on a new board, to advance me up a level- I was in doubt, as I loved the stability of the last board, but teacher knows best! We hit the beach and walked down to a quiet spot and to my great relief began to stretch. We spent a good deal of time stretching. My body was insanely sore. I had practiced yoga for the first time in 6 weeks and I was paying for it dearly. Couple that with the surf lesson from the day before and my body was a mess. We hopped back in the water after some more practice on the sand and some more techniques. This new board was definitely not as stable, but I was still able to get up. I wasn’t quite as good as my first day (I blame the board!), but I still had a blast and felt like I was learning so much. Karolo was as professional as ever; I felt so safe with him out there. We finished up another awesome lesson and made plans for the rest of the day.
Anthony was supposed to return from his journey to Guayaquil for the rabies vaccine today, but I had not heard from him before I left the hostel in the morning. Karolo and I went to grab lunch and then I was heading to take part in a beach clean up one of the yoga instructors was putting on, so I wouldn’t be home until later to see if he was returning. Karolo and I ate ceviche from one of the beach carts, my new favourite go to meal here in Montañita, and then I went to meet the crew at 4pm for the clean up. I met a really awesome girl named Tessa on the clean up who was from the states and liked to practice Acro yoga. I was ecstatic- at last, someone to practice with! We made plans right away for the next day to meet and play. The teacher who organized the clean up just so happened to teach Sivananda yoga and was leading a free meditation after the clean up. This day just kept on getting better and better!
After the two hour walk along the beach, we had picked up near 15 large garbage bags of trash. The vast majority of it was plastic. If you don’t think plastic is harmful to the environment or to our oceans then please just take part in a beach clean up somewhere and you will be devastated at the obscene amount of plastic that litters the ocean and washes up on our beaches. It was one of those things you do that you feel happy for taking part in and making a difference, no matter how little, but you also feel sad for the realization of how filthy our seas are, how much trash ends up in the ocean, and how careless humans are. Please, I beg you, take part in a beach clean up, or better yet, organize one yourself. And do your part by never, ever throwing trash into the ocean or leaving it on the beach where it gets washed away by the tide. Montañita is a party town and the throngs of people that flock here on weekends seem to leave behind their care for the planet when they hit the beach and leave their trash everywhere. Don’t be one of those people. Clean up after yourself.
The yoga instructor from Kamala Yoga who organized the clean up had fresh iced tea waiting for us, which was a cooling treat after the heat of the beach. Then she led us in a beautiful grounding meditation together on her yoga studio platform as the sun set. I walked back to Montañita with Tessa, and we talked excitedly about acro. I made my way back to the hostel and as I walked down Tigrillo road I saw a handome, tall, bearded man walking towards me and thought… Anthony??!! I was so excited he was back that I ran and jump-hugged him and wished him the happiest of birthdays. He explained that he just got back and was starving and heading for food. I told him that there was an amazing sushi place and if he gave me half an hour to shower so I could get the garbage off me, that I would take him for birthday sushi. Maëlys was at the hostel and so I invited her as well and we grabbed Karolo on the way to make it a party!
Sushi was once again absolutely amazing. Karolo went and talked to the owners while we were eating and when we had finished dinner, they came out with a piece of Maracuya pie with some candles and we all sang happy birthday to Anthony. I picked up the bill for the night as it was Anthony’s birthday and Maëlys’s last day and told her she could take me out for croissants in Paris when I came through. We all walked back towards the town on the beach enjoying the wet sand on our feet and talking about how delicious dinner was. The pie? the best I’ve ever tasted. I am now an absolute die hard fan of Maracuya (passionfruit)- thanks Ecuador!
Maëlys was feeling tired and needed to pack so we bid her farewell after dinner and I convinced Anthony that we needed to go out for a little dancing; it was his birthday after all! It was a Wednesday and so the town wasn’t too wild- it was only 11pm and the Hot Beach club was almost entirely empty- which isn’t a problem for me! I dragged the boys inside and pulled them both onto the dance floor. The three of us danced around and then Karolo and I did a little salsa, refreshing what he taught me that morning. I told Anthony about his crash course and Karolo grabbed Anthony and said he would teach him too, and then proceeded to give him the same crash course he gave me. I smiled warmly as I watched. I was happy to see that even in such a machismo culture he had no qualms about getting close and personal with Anthony to teach him the moves.
We danced until we were hot and sweaty, having the entire dance floor to ourselves. We left to get fresh, ocean air and began to walk along the beach again to cool down. It was near midnight when I had a brilliant idea. ‘Let’s go swimming! Naked!!!’ They laughed and followed me as I ran down the beach. I found a spot out of the reach of the lights from the town and with no one around. I began to strip down and said ‘come on!” as they both hesitated and looked at me like I was a little crazy. I threw down my skirt last and began to run and giggle (and jiggle too, I’m sure!) as I bolted for the sea. I looked back to see them quickly stripping off and following suit. I dove into the ocean and squealed in joy- oh how sweet the sea feels against my naked skin! I detest swim suits and think they are silly things, their sole, evil purpose to keep the sweet embrace of the sea from caressing every inch of my body. The guys joined me and we all laughed hysterically. I ran to double high five Anthony and screamed ‘happy birthday!’ over the waves. We all swam and played in the waves for a few minutes before deciding we should head back so no one stole our clothes. We ran back laughing, hearts pounding from the adrenalin and the cold water, and threw our clothes back on our wet bodies. We walked back towards the town laughing and grinning at each other about our little secret escapade. I bid a goodnight to Karolo and walked home with Anthony to get some sleep. I had another surf lesson tomorrow in the afternoon!
Anthony came with me to my lesson and agreed to snap a few pics for me so I had proof of my adventures in the ocean! We changed boards yet again which I was not expecting and it was the most challenging class yet. But I still got up and rode plenty of waves briefly. That night, I picked up a bunch of supplies with Karolo and he invited Anthony and I over to his friend Papaya’s place for a bbq of traditional Ecuadorian food made by Karolo and Papayita. I was glad I had Anthony to speak English too since none of Karolo’s friend could speak much English, and they were all chatting in Spanish at top speed. It was a nice evening and I felt really lucky to get to have dinner at a locals house instead of eating out as we always did. We feasted, and after, bellies full,said goodnight until tomorrow.
Unfortunately Anthony had to head back into Guayaquil the next night for more rabies shots so I spent the day with him and Karolo. We took lunch together, and then after showering up for the evening met Karolo with his long board for some crash lessons on the art of long boarding- Anthony and I fell in love instantly! Again, I was warmed at how Karolo, who comes from such a machismo culture, easily took Anthony’s hand and led him safely along on the long board. We took turns squealing with delight as the board rolled along the road with us. We grabbed dinner at an amazing vegan place called Causa and had coconut ceviche, where they replaced the fish with coconut meat and added pear. It was delectable!
The next day was my last surf lesson. I was taught even more new techniques and felt like the classes were progressing quickly for my abilities, but apparently my teacher had a lot of confidence in me! I learned how to roll the board or ‘turtle’ it when larger waves were coming towards me as I was heading out. I learned how to push myself up on the board to crest a wave when smaller waves came towards me when heading out. I learned how to sit up on my board and watch for the right waves and how, from a sitting position, to quickly turn your board as you’re sitting and then lay down to paddle for the incoming wave. I learned the techniques for turning the board while you’re standing- whoa whoa whoa- I’m still learning how to just stand up on the damn thing, what do you mean turn the board? Like… control it?! HA!
But off we went to hit the waves and he demanded I practice the techniques he taught me even though I felt totally under qualified to be attempting these techniques. Karolo is a great teacher, but a demanding one. But I think that’s a really important quality in a surf teacher. How else do you progress? Also, surfing is fucking scary. Let me just say that. Especially for the girl who, prior to leaving Yellowknife, could not swim under water without plugging her nose. A girl who grew up thousands of miles from the ocean and can vividly remember her first time swimming in one- 6 years old, the Dominican Republic: I ran wildly, eyes and mouth wide open into the water expecting it to be like pool water. I came running back out screaming and crying, from the terrible taste in my mouth and burn in my eyes. Lesson learned, of course and I headed right back in, loving the ocean! But when the ocean is a foreign entity to you, it’s waves and power a mystery to you, you enter it with a huge amount of trepidation.
Add that on top of the fact that surfing is terrifying. You’re climbing on top of a wobbly board in water that has unforgiving waves coming crashing in endlessly and you’re trying to stand up on that board and ride the wave. Without falling off. And smashing your head on your board. Or on rocks or coral in the water. You’re also trying not to get swept out to ocean, or eaten by sharks and stung by jelly fish and other strange creatures that haunt the waters. Without a teacher that demands progress from me, I think I’d be too scared to ever try a different board, or a bigger wave, or a new technique, and would be content with ever so slowly learning to just stand up and ride the white wash in. So I appreciated his confidence in me and his demanding insistence, because it helped me get over this fear of leaving my comfort zone and trying things that scare me.
I was terrified to get out further in the water and attempt the turtle technique with the larger waves, I mean I was petrified. Suddenly, a big wave came and he demanded I turtle. I was so scared, I wanted to bail, but instead I just did it exactly as he taught me and as we practiced on shore, and believe it or not, I came out on the other side of the wave unscathed, executing a perfect turtle! I should have trusted that Karolo wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t handle. I was so pumped I did it! Then he demanded me to get ‘UP ON YOUR BOARD!’ as a wave came in hot behind us. I scrambled up and he told me to watch the wave when I stood up and he would yell which direction he wanted me to turn. I caught the wave, hopped up, steadied myself, looked, saw the white wash coming down on my right and whipped myself around to the left. And like magic, the board turned, and so did I, and I rode the wave down the left side. I was elated! And so was Karolo.
I swam back out with my board and we rode a couple more waves. Then he told me he had a surprise for me. He got behind my board and told me to hop up and paddle. I paddled and paddled and out we went, further and further until we were past the break line. He told me to sit up on my board as we had practiced. He told me to turn the board around as we had practiced. When I did I had a perfect view of the whole coast line of Montañita, from La Punta on my left all the way down to the city. He smiled and welcomed me to his happy place. It was beautiful and incredibly peaceful, especially after the madness that is practicing in the onslaught of never ending, clobbering waves. Here the waves were broad and heavy, wide and rolling, letting you roll with them gently. A flock of pelicans swooped down low to the water as I often saw them do from shore and seven of them flew by within a couple of feet of my board and we both hooted with excitement and disbelief at how close they came. I could see every feather as they swept past. A few feet away a fish jumped out of the water and I pointed excitedly and laughed. Special place indeed. I had a few moments of fear about sharks, feeling terribly vulnerable out here, but Karolo made me feel safe and I had been assured there were no sharks here before I started surfing (a prerequisite of mine!).
I kept extending my stay in Montañita, one day at a time. I was cutting into Peru time, but I was having the time of my life in Montañita and didn’t want to leave. I was surfing, I was practicing yoga daily, I was creating a beautiful connection with someone in their home country, I was learning Spanish and I was getting an incredible look into Ecuadorian culture because I had made fast friends with locals. I attended two birthdays in the same night and got to see how they party in Ecuador, and let me tell you, they definitely party hard! Cakes were thrown on the ground, families fed all the friends, bottles of booze were showered all over everyone and music screamed obnoxiously loud into the night. I got to attend a baptism of a new baby and while a more reserved version, they still partied pretty hard for a baptism- loud music with a DJ, so much food, and of course, dancing! And I got to try all of the best local food that Ecuador and especially Montañita has to offer.
I absolutely loved Montañita. I had the most unique and incredible experience here. I was so lucky to be taken under wing by Karolo and shown the real local life in this wild town. The food here is delectable and the night life is wild- so many bars to choose from and there is always something happening, no matter what day of the week (okay, Sunday is pretty quiet). It’s a fun place to learn to surf, and a great place to practice yoga on the beach (or take classes as many places offer them- I’m just too cheap!). I felt so blessed every time I ended a practice and thanked the teachers of my lineage (Sivananda) for the practice, to be able to look out over the ocean as the waves rolled in, the occasional surfer carving his board into the wave. The salty sea filled my nose, her powerful waves my vision and her crashing sounds my ears. She filled me completely. You cant ask for a more serene place to practice. The beach of course can get busy at times, but just head to la punta where there are far less people, throw your head phones in and surrender to your mat. I think a huge part of the reason I fell so in love with Montañita was because of the yoga on the beach. I really strengthened my home (abroad) practice and gained much more confidence in it.
Montañita is the place where my body was at last able to fully heal from the long weeks of travellers illness. It’s where I rediscovered and strengthened my yoga practice. It’s where I met a charming Ecuadorian who helped re-build my self confidence. It’s where I got the best tan of my life. It’s where I ate the best sushi of my life. It’s where I left a little piece of my heart, with the promise to return. I’ve already fulfilled that promise and as I write this, I am laying in a hammock in Montañita, reminiscing and reliving all the wonders of this place. I had a hot, chocolate croissant for breakfast this morning, fresh out of the oven. I practiced a perfect session of Sivanada yoga on the beach in the afternoon. I’m going for sushi for dinner tonight. The thing about that promise to return? It still stands. While I leave here soon, I know I will be back, yet again, to my little piece of paradise 🙂
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