We left Manta with mixed expectations for Montañita, Ecuador. We had heard it was a surfer’s paradise, full of diverse restaurants, lively nightlife, and an abundance of bars, including a craft beer brewery. On the other hand, we also heard it was over-priced, noisy, dirty, and sweltering with young, drunk gringos. After traveling about 3 hours south from Manta, our bus dropped us off on the side of the highway near the bustling main avenue of Montañita. We lugged our bags through large crowds wandering amid the street vendors and blaring music. After spending a good amount of time checking the prices at the less conspicuous hostels (the cheapest we found cost $50 per night), we had seen enough of the drunken (at 11am) tourist town, and decided to get back on the bus to head towards a little town a couchsurfer previously mentioned called Olón.
The moment we hopped off the bus in Olon, Ecuador we picked up on a much more relaxed vibe and felt extremely satisfied with our inability to spot any other gringos. We meandered along the meticulously up-kept brick streets without being approached by any party promoters or lodging hustlers, and hardly felt noticed by the locals at all. Lisa sat under a palm thatched canopy on the massive, spacious beach (Mantañita’s beach was long, narrow, and crowded), while Ryan wandered the streets looking for a hostel, and after checking the prices at two larger lodging complexes, he found a room above a local family’s house (and internet cafe business), which offered a private bathroom, balcony, use of the family’s kitchen, towels and cleaning service.
Completely satisfied with our new temporary home, we made our way to the large, sparsely inhabited beach and relaxed the afternoon away. Ryan joined a group of vacationers playing soccer and became acquainted with with a young couple from Santiago, Chile, who we ended up hanging out with for the remainder of our stay. We thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of Olon living: outstanding, cheap meals and baked delicacies, privacy and space on the beach and in the waves, and easy access to Montañita entertainment.
We celebrated Ryan’s birthday in Olon, joined by the Chileans at the beach and later for drinks. The morning started with a buffet of donuts, pastries, fruit, and passion fruit juice. We spent the afternoon surfing, playing soccer, and drinking rum. In the evening we visited Montañita for a delicious Thai dinner and proceeded to wander the streets, taking in the sights and perusing the shopping scene, before returning to Olon. As we made our way back to our hostel, we encountered a large group of local boys dressed like women, while wearing masks and chanting in high-pitched voices. The spectacle was a New Years tradition where boys of certain age embarrassed themselves in hopes of receiving donations from local business patrons in the holiday spirit. The boys’ families followed the large group around as they swarmed store fronts and unsuspecting pedestrians, chirping in ghost like, falsetto women voices asking for money. We shared delicious maracuya (passionfruit) mojitos with our Chilean friends and delighted in the revelry.