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beach, but this time with some sunlight!

Atacames, Ecuador

This weekend was the celebration of la Independencia de Guayaquil. This holiday, el 9 de octubre, takes over the country. Though Guayaquil celebrates hardcore with a 3 day long party, the other cities also take advantage of the holiday and there are a few days off work. Somehow, the ninth was my first day of work, so I didn’t get the whole holiday, but Friday I set off to the beach with Meadhbh and Ayla to take advantage of the three-day weekend.

The bus ride to Atacames was rather nice. Very comfortable bus, decent leg room, and a comfortable temperature—more than I can say for most other long distance rides I’ve taken. They also played two movies during the 6.5 hour ride. However, they were both a bit violent for my liking, so I stuck to reading, listening to music, and admiring the gorgeous scenery of Ecuador passing outside the window.

Once in Atacames, we took a rickshaw taxi to our hostel and checked in. Due to the holiday, it was a very busy weekend. Even though we’d reserved a room in advance, when we arrived, they’d already given out the room. The only room left was a tiny 2-bunk cabin, so Meadhbh and I shared a bed that night and we only had to pay for 2 people. When you’re on the coast, the main food group is seafood. This limits my menu considerably, but for my companions it was a chance to have fresh, local fare. While Meadhbh enjoyed her mystery fish, Ayla unfortunately got a bad shrimp in her mix and was sick for nearly the rest of the weekend. =( But she was a good sport and says she still had fun.

Meadhbh and I ventured forth to sample the abundant night life in Atacames. This city is one that lives off tourism. When there are no tourists, I’m told it’s a very different place. However, due to the holiday weekend, the city was chock full of tourists—most of whom were Ecuadorian. All along the beach were bars and restaurants, each blasting their own music, making an interesting soundtrack for the areas, blending many songs into one. Each place was packed with people of all ages. Even families were present. Fathers dancing with daughters, friends laughing and playing in the sand, mothers rocking sleeping babies (though how they could sleep through so much noise is beyond me), and new friends being made everywhere. We found a kind of quiet corner with a hammock in which to observe the scene and enjoy the local, tropical fruit drinks.

The next morning, after getting a quick breakfast with a delicious goblet of fresh juice (I drank more than my share of fruits this weekend), we all headed to the beach.

Though a bit overcast, there was still plenty of light and heat. Somewhere midday the clouds broke and gave us an hour or so of direct sunlight—you can definitely feel the difference! The temperature skyrocketed immediately and hoards of people dove into the ocean. The ocean was refreshing compared to the heat on the beach, but it was nowhere near cold. Some good waves though for body surfing, mostly made by the boats pulling inflated rafts and boats for visitors to ride. We did not partake. I was content enough to do a little swimming, bask in the sunlight, and read. This was a real vacation.

When we returned we switched cabins to a 3-bunk, more spacious abode though closer to the street. It was quite loud, as you could hear everything going on outside the walls. Ayla said it felt like “sleeping on the sidewalk,” but we managed it.

Eventually we made our way to lunch, trying out the local places, following the guide of “Trust Ecuadorian stomachs, if they eat there, you can eat there.” So we found some packed restaurant venues on the sides of streets and I inquired if they had vegetarian plates. My first response was “Vegetarian plate? What’s that?” So we moved on. Eventually we just sat down somewhere and I ordered rice, salad and patacones…knowing that these came with all the other meals so they’d have to have them for me too. Meadhbh braved the fish again, and it came whole and fried. Fried eyes look weird. We also had nice cold drinks courtesy of the wait staff that goes out and buys the drinks from nearby tiendas (stores/holes in the wall that sell you things…delightful) when you ask for them.

After lunch we read in poolside hammocks at out hostel and did some swimming as well. Ayla forwent dinner since she was feeling ill again, so it was just Meadhbh and I again. We chose a balcony restaurant overlooking the beach and then headed down for some live entertainment afterward. The first place we went had a dance troupe performing when we arrived. It was really cool, and I was sad when they were done, but there was still some entertainment. Instead of bar stools, this bar had swings. Other tables and benches were shaped like rowboats. It was quite unique. And I thoroughly enjoyed swinging there, but we made it an early night anyway—the strong sun that day definitely tired us out!

Sunday was more overcast than the day before, but that didn’t deter us—nor anyone else—from going to the beach. A bit chillier than the day before, and at times a misting rain, made this less than ideal for me, but “perfect beach weather” for Ayla. Both my companions were nursing sun burns from the previous day so they were fine with a little less sunshine. I just accepted it as it was, knowing it was more sun and heat than I’d have in Quito (and news was it rained a bit there this past weekend, so I’m certainly grateful for the beautiful weather I enjoyed in Atacames).

A quick walk down the beach, cleaning up and checking out of our cabin, we found ourselves on the street around 1, needing to entertain ourselves until our 4pm bus. We headed down to the beachfront amenities and had a few snacks and played some cards. We also ran into some friends stopping in to eat lunch on the way back from a more deserted beach a little over an hour south down the coast. It’s amazing—I really can’t go anywhere in Ecuador without running into someone I know!

A quick lunch, some snacks from the tienda for the bus ride and we were off, back to the sierra. However, this bus ride was not nearly as enjoyable as the last. The bus had a slight odor, it was unbearable hot at times, and there were many unidentifiable bugs scurrying along the floor, walls, seats, etc. Gross. Ayla squished just about every one she saw. I tried to just ignore them.

All in all, it was a wonderful beach vacation. Relaxing.

permalink written by  Theresa on October 14, 2008 from Atacames, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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