The Ecuadorian coast: Montañita & Canoa

Having enjoyed at least a few days of sun on the Galápagos we had got the taste for it and having flown back into Guayaquil we headed straight for the coast and the surf party town of Montañita to soak up the rays. However it was not to be, despite the rainy season being from December to May and even then the rain fall generally coming at night, those mischievous weather gods decided to empty the sky without any break for the whole time we were in town (mid July)!

Montañita was a small fishing village discovered by hippies in the 1960’s and grew over the years into a diverse party town with hippies from all over the world. After the Galápagos we were back on budget control and this was the perfect place to be. We found ourselves a hostel for $6 a night in what seemed to be on arrival a hippie commune, with great hammocks and a lot of sleepy dread locked people in nearby houses. Our hostel was off a dirt track road that the local council had been promising for the past 5 years to improve but finally decided to start work on the day that we arrived in the torrential rain, needless to say our stay in Montañita turned into a pretty muddy affair!

The town is great, overflowing with street food, restaurants and street bars and the beach was long and lovely even in the rain. Despite still being fairly busy, it is very much a town to be enjoyed in the sun and I can imagine on dry days it would be fantastic. However, we still had the hope of sun and decided to give it another shot and  headed further north hoping that the equator would help with the weather.

We arrived in Canoa where there was no sun but the rain had not quite reached despite the threatening clouds. First impressions were of a small town that was pretty rustic, more shacks than buildings and lacking any substantial investment. It was only when we were having dinner that we learned the recent history of the town which explained its appearance. In April 2016 there was an earthquake of 7.6  on the Richter scale in Canoa and the surrounding area that pretty much flattened the town. It had disastrous consequences and whilst official figures stand at 350 dead across the region, the locals believe it to be closer to 700 as they knew of at least 100 dead in Canoa alone. Hotels, local businesses and many two story buildings were flattened leaving people with no homes or livelihood. There are a number of expat Americans that have settled in Canoa and we spoke to the owner of a local bar called the Surf Shak who had only bought it in January 2016. Both he and his wife have been severely affected by the tragedy with his wife suffering life changing injuries having been trapped in the building and suffering a broken neck and whilst he had also endured bad physical injury the trauma of the experience clearly still lives with him. We spoke to a number of other locals and heard similar stories as they explained the strong sense of community in the town and how the earthquake had brought them closer together as a set of people who have shared the same horror and are trying to work their way through it.

I would recommend a visit to Canoa, there can be great surf, the beach is 17km long so you can undoubtedly find a quiet spot when the sun comes out (which apparently it does)! It is also a place that needs further support to get back on its feet and with locals that are so welcoming it would be rude not to!

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