Wednesday, March 25, 2009

#10 - The A's Have It

If you read my last entry, then you know I have loads of time on my hands these days - so much so that I have dedicated myself to reading, War & Peace. But it also means I am hoping to check in here a little more over the next while with a list of the Top Ten experiences over the last two years of running around, and before I head on another head-spinning, jaw-dropping trip of Bali and Canada...
Alright, so I am cheating here a little bit. This isn't about just one beach experience, it's two. I really tried to narrow the last two years of travel into 10 significant or extraordinary events, and it was tough...damn tough. And really where the hell do I begin? I guess at the start, but if I did that, it meant leaving out some other great beaches...sorry Canoa, incredibly, you didn't make the at #10 comes - Atacames and Ayampe.

September 2007 - It all began in Atacames really. We'd been in Ecuador about a month and it was time to get out of the city, at least for the weekend. We'd made some good friends already and were pleased with our decision to make Ecuador home for two years, but felt it was time to get out and explore. This was doubly important because even though we knew it wasn't going to always be sunny and gorgeous, it came as a bit of a surprise just how cloudy and chilly it was. We needed some sun, some heat and some sand.

And so it was off to Atacames. Only 350 kilometres away, but still close to 8 hours by bus. My first South American road trip, winding our way through the coastal mountains of the Andes, traveling down some 3000 metres to get closer to the level of the sea. And while this was not the best of the beaches we were lucky enough to visit, it was the place I fell in love with ceviche, the wonderul Ecuadorian dish that still gets my mouth watering. And having arrived in the middle the night, we were not sure exactly what we were in for (other than the obvious sun, ocean, and sand), but waking up and then walking towards the beach we saw that it was clearly screaming, "Welcome!"

We knew we had arrived!

But the beach trip that truly earns it's spot on this top ten has got to be Ayampe. It was March 2008, Carnaval! An extended long weekend for all in Ecuador, and wonderful party scene around the country. But what we did instead was gather some of the closest friends we'd made (traveling really does make for close friends, quick) and head to the sleepiest beach town we could find, with a wicked beach break directly out front.

Four days of chilling with your homies, with not a care in the world except if we really were going to go surfing today and stop all the chatter about it, or if we were going to continue to kick back because, "You know, the surfs not all that great, anyways!?!"
(Blogger's note: Truly I am still very much gun shy of the waves after just about killing myself in Byron Bay - on a boogie board of all I tend to stall by trying to come off as some expert wave dude because of my legendary Australian experience - where I drove more than I surfed!)

But what set this weekend apart from so many other great weekends was the Finca Punta Ayampe - a glorious hostel-tree house...

...sitting up the hill just far enough for spectacular views...

...but not so far that getting to the beach was anything resembling a hassel.

Another joy for me, and what firmly placed Ayampe (sorry again Canoa) in the top ten was the road trip where we dodged buckets of water (and at one point, even a 2L full pop bottle) being thrown from other moving vehicles - usually pick-up trucks with 10 or 11 people in the back armed with water guns and buckets - as is the Carnaval custom, out to a provincially protected beach, Los Frailes. Here we managed to soak in some rays at a spectacular beach in a beautiful inlet, all the while trying to keep my beers cool by burying them in the sand. Quickly discovering the sand was never going to keep them anything below boiling and that the surf was too strong for my plastic bag, I had no choice to suck a few back wherever I went....

.... and I even got in a nice little "beer-can body surf"!!

Up next...The Wall!

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