Hot, hot, hot

It’s hot, hot, hot and sunny – perfect beach weather.  Too bad we’re not at the beach!  We are now in Guayaquil with a few days to kill before we catch our flight to the Galapagos on Tuesday.  The last few days did not go exactly as planned, but I guess that is bound to happen now and then.  You may recall that we were planning to go to Montanita to spend a few days in this beach town.

We arrived in Montanita early Wednesday afternoon under cloudy skies (nothing new there).  Once we got ourselves organized with our packs, we set out to check a few hostels that looked promising on line.  Along the way, a friendly gringo approached us and offered to show us the way as he was heading in the same direction.  We didn’t think anything of it, accepted his offer, and chatted with him as we made our way to the various hostels, breaking some fundamental safety rules in the process.  It is a well- known scam at bus stations for someone to befriend you, offer to carry your bags, help you load them onto the bus only to steal them when you’re not looking, because the bus guy thinks the bag belongs to your “friend”.  It was only later that we thought of this and wondered if we were going to be victims of a similar scam and find ourselves robbed when we returned to our hostel.  Thankfully, this was not the case, and Zachery from the peach state of Georgia was nothing more than a friendly guy doing a good deed for the day.  I must admit though that we had some anxious moments wondering if we were at risk.

Montanita is renowned for its surf which is much bigger and stronger than Canoa. This is not the place to learn to surf as the waves are pretty intimidating and there is a strong undertow.  I missed my chance to take surfing lessons in Canoa due to a combination of bad weather and sore legs from horse back riding. But surfing will have to wait.  This town is also known as a party town where young people flock to party the night away indulging in both legal and illegal pleasures.

We picked a hostel (Kundalini) on the edge of town, away from the bars and discos in an effort to ensure a good night’s sleep.  As we walked around town looking for a place to eat, I had an uneasy feeling about this place.  The town itself was quite charming in a laid back, beachy sort of way.  The streets were lined with shops that sold surf related stuff as well as little kiosks selling everything from hand-made jewellery to the typical tacky beach souvenirs.  The locals were a blend of Ecuadorians and foreigners who have made Montanita their home.  Apparently it’s quite common for young foreigners to come for a visit and then never leave.

Why was I feeling so uneasy?  Clearly we stuck out as different – not just being foreigners, but let’s face it, we aren’t young and we aren’t hip.  Perhaps it was just an over active imagination on my part, but regardless, I wasn’t feeling very secure.

And then the weather turned on us, for the worse.  It got colder and started to drizzle – not the best beach weather for sure.  As we watched the surfers from the hammocks on our balcony we decided that this place was not for us – in the morning we would leave for Guayaquil.

We’ve come a long way since our first bus trip in Quito.  We’re no longer nervous about bus travel although we remain vigilant and cautious on travel days.  Not knowing where the bus station is or when the bus is coming doesn’t really faze us anymore.  We know we’ll sort it out when the time comes.  We headed towards the main street in Montanita looking for a bus station or bus stop.  I had read about the direct CLP bus but had no idea where to catch it or what the schedule was.  By chance, we walked by a group of people with luggage who obviously were waiting for a bus.  Turned out this was the CLP bus station and the bus to Guayaquil arrived as we were buying our tickets ($5.50 each). Good luck with the buses again. This was the most comfortable bus we have been on thus far.  It was air conditioned, the seats were well padded, a movie entertained us, and it only stopped a couple of times along the way, arriving in Guayaquil in less than three hours.

The bus station in Guayaquil is the biggest bus station I have ever seen – I thought we were at the airport when we pulled in.  We grabbed a cab to the northern suburbs where many well reviewed hostels are located.   We arrived at our first choice only to find they only had dorm beds available.  We actually debated the merits of this option – this hostel was quite lovely perched up on a hill with an amazing view of the city, it had a swimming pool and the property was very secure.  On the down side, the dorm room was in the basement and looked more like a jail cell with eight twin beds/bunk beds which meant we could be sleeping with six strangers; we would have to lock up our belongings in the lockers at all times; the cost was high at $15 per person (at least by the standards we were used to); the hostel had no restaurant and was in an isolated location so finding food and getting around might be a problem.

We decided against the dorm room, and headed over (by taxi) to another hostel (Nucapacha) in the same area.  This one had great reviews online, also had a pool, and showed plenty of vacancies.  But when we arrived, they only had twin rooms with shared bath available (and with cold showers we learned later).  The rooms were bare bone. Our room had two single beds and a  bunk bed.  The mattresses were made of soft foam, and there wasn’t even a blanket on the bed, just a thread bare sheet.  There was absolutely nothing else in the room except for a noisy fan.  I felt we had sunk to a new low.   To its credit, the hostel was clean, and the common areas weren’t too bad (mind you that lovely pool was closed for cleaning which it sorely needed).  I had concerns about the security of the rooms – there were no closets to lock our things in, and the locks on the doors and window were very flimsy.  Again, I did not feel safe.  I don’t like this feeling.  I can put up with basic accommodations, as long as they are clean and secure.  We took the room for one night and then evaluated our options.  I must admit I was feeling discouraged.

We did have options.  We could stay put for the next five days and suck it up and hope our stuff was safe.  We could leave town and go somewhere else such as Cuenca for a couple of days.  We could look for another hostel and hope it was better (I now realize you can’t put too much weight in the on-line reivews and pictures). We could find a nice hotel (this is a big city with lots of nice hotel chains) and indulge in a little bit of luxury for a few days.  It didn’t take us long to choose the latter option:  4 nights at the four star Ramada Hotel right on the waterfront.  Afterall, we always said we reserved the right to check into a nice hotel when we felt we needed it!

Category: Ecuador, South America
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2 Responses
  1. Angus says:

    Excellent choice going for the hotel! I hope those hairy legs by the pool are Chris’s :)

    • christina says:

      What, you don’t like the new look? LOL, seriously, it was a good choice to live it up a bit in a nicer hotel for a few days…….and yes, those are indeed Chris’ hairy legs!