Tuesday, 15 April 2014

23) Last Minute Plans and Montañita!

The next morning slightly worse for wear, we were awoken by Paul coming back from another last minute meeting. Him and Alejandra would be leaving that day and we could either accompany him to Quito or have the weekend off.
The Gods were working in our favour that day. I'd had a message that very morning inviting us to a place on the coast called Montañita with a whole flock of Americans, and we'd been told enough about the place (probably Ecuador's equivalent of Magaluf) on our travels to chalk our names up there and then, so we let Paul know that as much as Quito beckoned; we'd be taking that weekend break.
Before disappearing, Paul gave us each a Zapote which is a fruit that I won't be able to describe accurately at all so won't bother trying other than it looks like an elephants nutsack. We managed to offload some equipment onto him to take on ahead before he went, and then it was just a case of waiting to meet up with the yanks and get the bus they'd booked for the weekend (complete with driver). Our appointment wasn't until 3pm, so I decided to go sit by the river and collect my thoughts in the sunshine. It was a warm sunny day, and I didn't fancy carrying around all my baggage so left it in the hostel after we'd checked out. Checking out was a little more difficult than it should have been. First off they wanted to charge $10 for the cost of fixing the front door, which Jamie was refusing to pay, and then they wanted to charge us $8 a night instead of the $7 we'd paid before. It took a lot of poorly executed Spanish and some waving of arms, but they eventually settled on the $7 telling us not to let on to Paul and Ale (who's paid the $8) and a slightly reduced bill for the door...
It was tranquil down by the river, pretty blissful just laying there listening to the water and the passing of the occasional group of school kids. I thought about Cuenca, and decided it's one of my favourite cities and that I would certainly miss it.
3pm came round before long so we grabbed our gear and headed to the meeting spot. There was a bus already there, not particularily big and completely empty when we arrived, but we slung our rucksacks in anyway concluding everyone would think we were weird for bringing so much. Plonking myself down, our new entourage began filling the bus greeting us and confirming that we were indeed "the Brits". The journey got underway and I tried to take note of peoples names (with limited success). There were just 5 guys including me and Jamie, a towering black guy called Abdulie, a small quiet guy who's name I don't remember, and then, sat behind me, a very stereotypical American from New Jersey called Sean who was pretty funny just to watch. The rest of our 15 or so strong group were girls, and everyone was from somewhere different in the US. I'd never been on a bus filled with Americans, and it was quite the experience. I assume the driver had some experience of this, because to his credit at no point did he intentionally roll the bus off the mountain. The 6 hour journey involved lots of singing, with some songs I'd never heard of (these guys love hip-hop), general banter about culture differences and the passing scenery was also fantastic including driving through Cajas once again. Whilst we were hurtling through the mountains a really thick mist descended and this too didn't phase the driver with our speed barely dropping below 50 despite vision being limited to about 10 feet, but after a hair-raising while we were out and down to sea level. It was HOT by now and the bus wasn't exactly generous with legroom. This was compounded with us crawling through Guayaquil because of the traffic. I also noticed that Cuenca is very much the exception in terms of urban beauty for Ecuador. Gone were the well kept colonial buildings, and in their place sat the same depressing poverty that we'd seen throughout Peru. A thousand hours later we rolled up to the hostel. Us tag alongs and two others didn't have a booking there so were lead off to find another one across the street towards the beach whilst everyone settled in. It was called something like "the Chill hostel" and was pretty cool, with hammocks strung left right and centre, and in the middle a low table where the French owners and a couple of other guys were playing drinking games when we arrived. Me, Jamie, Liana and Julie were given the tour and set about getting ready to go out and meet the rest. I made the mistake of trying to have a shower, which was in a room just off the courtyard. Switching it on caused a taped on feature to burst off and make the pitiful amount of water coming out dribble down the wall instead. Fiddling with the taps provided a surprise in the form of an electric shock, as did touching anything else. I stood there in the cold drizzle for 5 minutes before giving up and heading out. Ah well, I hadn't expected the Ritz. Liana passed around the "Zhumia" whilst we got ready, and it was perfectly nice actually and went down easily, the kind of thing you could chug and then regret. We met up with Renee and Hayley and wandered to the town to try find the rest of team America. I say town, it's essentially one wide road leading to the beach with a couple of main roads leading off of it, covered in clubs and resturants aimed at tourists. The night was filled with thumping bass and the chatter of a thousand people, Ecuadoreans and tourists from further afield, all well on their way to merriment where we should be. The wide street turned into "Cocktail Alley" about half way to the beach. Either side was literally packed with market stands covered in booze, with each vendor calling out the names of exotic cocktails you could buy by the pint. We stopped for a couple and then resumed our mission, eventually bumping into them on the beach. A man came over with a snake wrapped round his neck and started offering it around like a joint, of which was another favourite of our entourage! Montañita is kind of like Amsterdam in that respect. It's all still illegal, but I get the impression the police just give the entire place a wide berth, particularily on weekends. Hippies wandered around with baskets full of "homemade brownies", and people were nonchalantly taking hits from bongs on the beach. It was a cool place to be fair, the drugs didn't bother me but I was a little put off by the number of people that were perfectly fine with getting their cock out and just pissing either into the sea, or a few, where they stood. We messed about on the beach all night pretty much, at one point debating whether to go to a kicking club on the beach front but deciding against when we realised it would be $15 to get in. It was fantastic, and they're a great bunch, but a little lacking in the stamina department! Too soon we were heading back, but I thought fair enough because we'd been travelling all day and I was quite pooped myself. Round two to follow!

1 comment:

  1. My dearest Mr Hathway, owing to the dire financial straits of the UK, I have sold the movie rights to your life (it was in your contract, along with your mortal soul). The episode re: how you first met Mr Cowling has been made thus far:


    He LOVED it!