As I write this, I’m experiencing the worst sunburn of my life and my body is bruised and sore from surfing. However, I’m also experiencing the contentment of a really really great fifth week here in Ecuador. I’ve officially passed the one month mark of my time here, and the semester is truly flying by.
Over the weekend, 19 of us headed to the Pacific Coast, to a beach town called Canoa. Last April it was affected by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that destroyed much of the town, and killed almost 700 people and injured many more up and down the coast of Ecuador. Less than a year later, it was interesting to see what kind of state this town was in.
Our group left Quito at 11:30pm on Thursday night, taking an overnight bus to the province of Manabí. Arriving in Canoa at 5am, we walked the muddy streets in the dark until we were able to find our hostel, where the owners generously let us keep our bags while we headed to the beach for sunrise.
A few of us decided to hit the waves as the sun slowly diffused itself along the beach. I couldn’t believe it was real life: Friday morning in February at 6:20am and I was swimming in the Pacific Ocean. It was amazing to be in the water during sunrise. After grabbing a quick breakfast, we headed out to the beach again for a day in the sun. We did a lot of jumping in the waves and I rented a boogie board for a few hours. However, the equator sun definitely got the best of many of us. 3 days later and my sunburn still hurts more than I thought was possible, but no regrets. We hit up happy hour for some piña coladas, and after a beautiful Pacific sunset, we took it easy eating dinner, playing cards, applying tons of aloe, and chilling out in the hostel.
Saturday presented the problem of trying to get bus tickets back to Quito. There was nowhere to buy tickets in Canoa, so we had to travel to the nearby town of Bahia to purchase them. A group of us was hoping to take a surfing lesson at 11am on Saturday, so we hopped in a taxi at 9am, sure that we would make it on time. Life Lesson: In Ecuador, next to nothing happens on time. 2 taxi rides later, we made it to the terminal to buy our tickets. By the time we took the hour bus ride back to Canoa, it was clear that an 11am surfing lesson was not in our future. Luckily, the instructors were true to the relaxed, beachy vibes of Canoa and let us move our lesson to a bit later in the afternoon.
Lunch brought an exciting discovery: Charly Bar, a beachside restaurant (the word restaurant is being used very loosely here- it was more of a chill shack on the beach) with delicious food, good portions, and cheap prices. Charly Bar quickly became a favorite among us, and I honestly think I ate every meal here for the rest of the trip.
6 of us then headed down to the surf shack for our surfing lesson. After putting on our colorful rash guards and applying very white waterproof sunscreen, we really had the surfing look going for us. Our instructor is originally from France, but has been shreddin the gnar in Canoa for 6 years. Luckily, one of our friends is fluent in French, so he was able to translate for us, making communication easy. Surfing was an absolute blast. Hard? Yes. Tiring? Of course. But it was amazing to be out in the waves, and the feeling of catching a good wave and riding it into shore was euphoric. I fell a ton and really only caught about 6 really good waves, but I loved it nonetheless. Learning new skills is an essential part of study abroad, and I’m really enjoying the opportunity to try new things. Also- I got to use surfing slang in the correct context for the first time ever!! Shaka brah!
Post-surfing brought more diving in the waves and hanging on the beach. Saturday night was a highlight for our group. It was raining, so we sat in a deserted cabana on the beach in the dark as the waves rolled in behind us, talking about life and sharing deep thoughts. The cohesion of our group was taken to a new level, and it really was a beautiful night.
On Sunday we slept in and I spent a few hours enjoying the hammock on our balcony with my hostel roommates Maria, Jess, and Caylee. It was a relaxing way to start our last day on the beach.
In the afternoon, I along with my friends Adrien and Lara decided that we wanted to rent surfboards again and see if we could improve our skills from the day before. I absolutely 100% did NOT improve: our bodies were already tired from the day before and the beach was so crowded that it was hard to find a spot where it was safe to take a wave in. Despite a few epic wipeouts, I still caught a few good ones and loved practicing what I had learned from the day before.
After relaxing on the beach and grabbing one last meal at Charly Bar, we took the bus to Bahia, where we caught a 9:45 bus back to Quito. We arrived in Quito today (Monday) at about 5am, where we taxied home to catch a few hours of sleep before classes this morning. Definitely not my smartest move ever, but no regrets for real. It was absolutely worth it to have a full weekend at the beach.
Overall, it was a great weekend. So many conversations were had over meals/dessert and on the beach about social justice, making a difference, and personal experiences. There was a dimension of vulnerability and support among our group that was extremely present this weekend, and it was a really beautiful thing.
I definitely won’t forget Canoa. Although it was a cute beach town, the devastation from the earthquake is still real and evident. Nothing is still in ruins, but there were many plots of land where it was evident that restaurants and hotels had been destroyed. Most building that used to have multiple stories are now one story. The process of rebuilding is still occuring and will continue to occur, and tourism, which once thrived there, seems like it is just starting to come back again. It was a weird mix of loving the beach and feeling the pain that is still fresh for the residents of this town.
It’s strange to be back in Quito, where it’s much cooler and the elevation is so much higher than Canoa. We’ve been planning more trips and the month of February is already booked up for weekend adventure and travel.
Chau for now!