Once we arrived in Mindo we realized we couldn’t catch a bus directly from the remote mountainous region to the coast, instead we had to travel back to Quito and then take another bus from Quito to Bahia de Caraquez. Our plan was to travel along the Ruta del Sol (Route of the Sun) for a few weeks until we needed to be in Guayaquil on New Year’s Day to catch our flight to the Galápagos.
Our first destination was Canoa, a tiny fishing/surfing community about 20 minutes north of Bahia de Caraquez. On the bus we met a Canadian couple from Montreal who we ended up coordinating travel plans with for the next two weeks. We arrived at night and stayed in the first comfortable looking place we saw on the beach because we were too hungry and exhausted to search for others. We immediately dropped our bags and sat down to dinner in their beautiful beachfront restaurant, where we dug our feet into the sand and listened to the crashing of waves from the ocean in front of us. After days of eating typical Ecuadorian food (rice, beans, soup, plantains, meat) it was refreshing to have a plate of raw veggies for dinner. We were in heaven–broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives, served with a side of vinegar and oil, paired with a vegetable fettuccine alfredo covered with an actual cream sauce. After spending a full day on the bus, we slept soundly to sound of the crashing waves.
We woke up on a mission to find affordable accommodation so that we could stay in Canoa for about a week. One of the Swedes we met in Mindo highly suggested the Iguana Hostel and encouraged us to negotiate over prices. Her recommendation was invaluable, as we found ourselves with a private room, with our own bathroom, and a small terrace with a hammock for $12 a night. The hostel also offered space for campers and we found ourselves trading travel tips with a variety of savvy travelers who offered an abundance of pivotal information since they were moving in the opposite direction (south to north), and had already visited places that were on our future itinerary.
We spent our days relaxing on the beach and working out occasionally–Ryan used the makeshift cement and bamboo weight station the locals built near the estuary, and Lisa enjoyed long jogs along the flat beach, exploring more of the extensive coast each time. One morning when the waves offered a longer period (the time between each wave break), we rented a surfboard for $2 an hour and Lisa caught her first waves. After a few proper tumbles, she stood up, rode her first wave nearly to the beach, and celebrated by walking straight to her towel for a nap.
That night our favorite almuerzo (set lunch consisting of a soup, fried fish, rice, lentils, salad, and juice of the day) restaurant set up a stage, sound system, and chairs, and hosted a block party for the community. We were devouring our nightly empanadas–$.50 for queso or carne, but because we were regulars by now, they made us meat and cheese combos–and washing them down with cuba libres, when we heard the festivities commence. The hosts started out with a good half hour of prayer before a traditional costeña guitar band took the stage. At this point we joined the celebration, just in time to dig our aji casero (onions and carrots in aji chili sauce) soaked hands into the basket of free assorted holiday cookies being handed out by restaurant employees.