Seven days on the coast of Ecuador had us relaxed, well-fed and ready to return to our home in Cuenca. Our week-long holiday in the pueblo de Ayampe was delightful, despite
the fact that I fell down a flight of rough wooden stairs, slamming my back onto the edge of the concrete landing. OUCH! A bruise, roughly the size of Rhode Island, and a bruised tail bone doth make for difficult sitting and walking. Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt more.
Our stay at La Nirvana allowed us to meet some very interesting people. The family in the rooms next to us said goodbye to their kith and kin in Moscow 18 months ago. Alex, Dena and four-year old Krishna began their trip when Dena was 32 weeks pregnant. She gave birth to Rama in Malta where they remained for four months. Then they visited the United States (Arkansas and Texas), on to Mexico and now Ecuador. Next stops, Peru, Argentina and Chile. In a year or so they will end up in India where they plan to live permanently. Alex is an avid student of Sanskrit and is working on translating ancient texts. I marvel at Dena’s stamina –to give birth on the road and keep on traveling.
Two new guests arrived a couple of nights prior to our leaving, a 20-something couple from the Netherlands. On our last night David and I went to the Italian restaurant next door (Katherine was exhausted from swimming all day) and listened to three local musicians while we dined on delicious pasta with fresh camarones from the sea. Dessert? I believe the best cheesecake I’ve had in my life.
We, along with 25 or so folks hailing from Germany, Argentina, North America, Ecuador (of course) and a number of other countries enjoyed a concert of classic rock and blues. The bass guitarist is an orthopedist in the US who said, “Enough!” and moved his wife and two sons to Ayampe a few months ago. Jerry, the lead singer, is a 62-year old expat who has lived all over the world. Think Eric Clapton with salt and pepper pony tail dressed in faded jeans and baseball cap. The third member of the group arrived 45 minutes after the concert began. It’s something he’s known for. This young Ecuadorian architect-turned-full time surfer doesn’t live by the clock. Apologies were made, jokes cracked, he graced the room with a smile and the concert resumed with a fuller, richer sound.
Ocean breezes made their way through the bamboo-constructed, open-air restaurant. Great food, excellent music, lovely weather and a very relaxed, congenial crowd. An evening doesn’t get any better than that. It seems everyone can get along when politics aren’t involved.
David and I felt a strong pull to this remote village and the supremely tranquil life the residents enjoy. Even Katherine had said earlier in the day, “I want to live here.” We wondered.
Jerry sat and talked with us between sets. David and he were old pals–having visited for an hour or so that afternoon. David had gone to inspect the house that trash built. Jerry was just finishing up his home constructed of bottles and other materials he had picked up along 53 miles of highway. Glass bottles filled with sand formed the walls of his home. Thatched roof and airy bamboo upstairs made the eco-friendly house fit right into the landscape. Unique, creative, environmentally friendly and spacious. And the ground floor would soon be for rent. Very appealing, we thought… until he told us he’s killed a few deadly vipers around his home. His bottle house overlooks the beach but also backs up to the jungle. Our interest faded.
Ayampe sits just off the Route of the Sun, or Ruta del Sol, with the Pacific Ocean on the west and rain-forested mountains on the east. The fishing village rests in the middle of a micro-climate where the rainforest comes down to the ocean. (Thus, Jerry who lives just outside the village proper is frequented by various types of snakes and occasional puma.)
The climate found here is unique to the southern Ecuador beach coast. It no doubt contributes to making Ayampe home to some of the best surfing in Ecuador.
And there is a lot of surfing. The deeply tanned bodies, sun-bleached hair, bare feet and surf boards are everywhere.
Our hosts, a young couple from southeastern US, moved to Ayampe specifically for the waves. The woman’s love for cooking and her husband’s passion for surfing has resulted in Nirvana, a welcoming place for travelers. A small hotel just getting its feet wet offers barebone facilities for wave-addicted travelers. Soon Christine will soon be offering southern food three hours a day (11-1 only) just a few feet off the beach.
A number of establishments have set their hours to accommodate peak surfing hours. Priorities are, it seems, catching waves first, earning a living second.
We left early on a drizzly Sunday morning, fully relaxed and eager to see our home again in the city. We arrived just before dark to the ubiquitous car alarms going off, diesel-belching buses, an occasional street dog barking and cheers from the crowd at the weekly volleyball games a few doors from our home. Ah, the noise of Cuenca. We missed you.