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Los Frailes Beach

Montañita, Olón and Los Frailes Beach

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After breakfast in Montañita we took a bus 2 kilometres up the road to Olón. Olón is even smaller and laid-back than Montañita, which has become busier and busier in the last couple of years. We walked into 'Hostal Bambino' on the seafront, a colourful building with an unfinished top floor - something very common in Ecuador - and got hold of rooms for $10 a night.

Then we stocked up on some snacks and took a bus to Los Frailes, a famous beach in Machalilla National Park, about 40 minutes up the coast from Olón. Ever since I came to Ecuador people have raved about Los Frailes to me, so I was particularly keen to visit it this weekend.

One of the others had been here before, when it was sunny, and said that the water was really blue and clear and and he saw lots of fish while snorkelling. Unfortunately it was cloudy today and for some reason the sea was very green and not all that clear. It didn't look like pollution, though; maybe it was algae? Anyway, despite this I could still see why people recommended the beach to me. It has an air of isolation, because to get there you have to walk or get a tuk-tuk from the main road down a 2km dirt path.


The beach sweeps round very nicely, with hills in the background and some bright green plants growing through the sand along the edge of the sand.


I had a nice swim with some of the others, some snacks for lunch and a walk along the beach with 'S', and lastly did some writing in the sand.


I set myself a challenge of swimming to the rocks at the foot of the headland, some distance away - it took some time but I got there in the end. On the walk we saw one or two tiny lizards and crabs.


We also came across a little grove of poisonous trees, which according to the sign next to them, had toxic leaves and fruit.


After spending a good couple of hours at Los Frailes we took tuktuks back to the main road and flagged down a bus to Olón. There we had dinner and a few games of pool with a friend of 'SD' at the bar/ restaurant and ended the evening with a sit down, drink and a chat on the beach after dark.


Posted by 3Traveller 11:05 Archived in Ecuador Tagged lizards coast beach hostel ecuador montanita explorations los_frailes_beach machalilla_national_park Comments (0)

Party by the beach


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Yesterday I went to the beach town of Montañita for our staff Christmas party.

We Guayaquil staff had to go as superheroes, and the staff from Quito had to go as supervillains. I went as a female Thor, as I had a plastic horned helmet and drinking horn to use. I plaited my hair and made a hammer out of cardboard and foil.


Some of the other costumes I saw were very good - Superted, Wonder Woman, the Joker, 'Supermaxi' (Supermaxi is the name of a well-known supermarket in Ecuador), The Incredible Hulk, Lara Croft, Captain America and many more. Before we had dinner we all had to show off our costumes. The field was then cut to six semifinalists, from which the overall winner was chosen. I didn't make the semifinal unfortunately... Supermaxi won!

For dinner we had a barbecue. There were loads of steaks, chicken pieces and sausages, as well as a table filled with bowls of salad and small cheesy baked potato halves. As well as the meat, I had some delicious pasta salad and coleslaw. There was a bottle of Argentine wine on each table as well.


After dinner the dancing got started! There was a small cocktail bar set up with Zhumir aguardiente (firewater), vodka and rum, soft drinks and orange juice.


I had a lot of Zhumir & orange, drinking from my drinking horn! In between the bar and the pool was the dancefloor. After everyone had been dancing for a while some firedancers appeared and put on a show for us. One of them twirled around flaming balls on strings and the other one had flaming torches. At one point the latter balanced one of the torches on his nose!


There were two other guys there, hired for the occasion I think, who had dressed up in what I assume is traditional tribal costume from either the highlands or the rainforest, with colourful masks and straw-fringed clothes. They were the life and soul of the party.

After some more dancing some people decided to get in the pool fully clothed... I got in after a while but I got changed into my bikini and board shorts first. It felt quite surreal to be in the pool so late at night. The water was very warm. After a while two tied-together giant bamboos were put across the pool and some of us tried to walk across it without falling in... I managed it but some didn't.


When the party eventually started winding down in the early hours, some of us paid a visit to 'Cocktail Alley' in town. This leads out onto the beach and has tiny cocktail stands lining it on both sides. I had a Maracaibo cocktail, made of passionfruit juice, rum, coconut liqueur and condensed milk, and an Alexander cocktail, made of very finely crushed ice, brandy, condensed milk, cinnamon and créme de cacao.


I got chatted up by a Peruvian guy who wanted to give me a free surfing lesson in exchange for an English one and insisted that Peruvian men are better than Ecuadorian ones because they are gentlemen and don't hassle girls. I politely declined and mentioned Dave, which resulted in the Peruvian thinking I was married, so I didn't enlighten him to the fact that I'm not yet.

Soon after I went for a quick look at the beach. It was quite crowded and the lights spilled onto the sand.


Then I rejoined the group for a bit before some of us went back to our accommodation - it was now between 3 and 4am. I'd had a really, really good night.

Late morning, today, after a lovely English breakfast laid on for us, I went back into town to do some Christmas shopping. I also bought my bus ticket to Guayaquil (we had to make our own way back). As well as some Christmas presents for family, I bought myself a present too - a lovely polished stone ornamental knife. After I'd dumped my shopping at the accommodation and changed into beachwear I went back out to meet up with the others at the beach. It was perfect beach weather, at least 34 degrees and barely a cloud in the sky.


The sea was quite warm - no 'getting used to it' period of time needed at all - yet refreshing, and the waves were big. Montañita is a centre for surfing and I could see why. It was exhilarating to bodysurf and to swim out to beyond where the waves broke. I worked out that technically, if I carried on swimming in a straight line, I would just miss the Galápagos Islands and would eventually hit the coast of either Indonesia or Papua New Guinea on the other side of the Pacific!


After a nice swim or sunbathe some of us went to a coffee shop in town. I had a frappacino mocha - exactly what I needed.


Once I'd got back I only had about 15 minutes before I had to go and get the bus back to Guayaquil with some of the others. The journey took about two and a half hours.


Posted by 3Traveller 03:04 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties coast beach market buses cocktails barbecue ecuador montanita cocktail_alley Comments (0)

Pre-Columbian culture: Los Amantes de Sumpa

Santa Elena and Ballenita

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I was keen to visit Santa Elena today because it has a museum with a famous exhibit called Los Amantes de Sumpa, or the Lovers of Sumpa. Los Amantes de Sumpa are two skeletons that were discovered buried together in an embrace. They belonged to the pre-ceramic Las Vegas culture, who existed on the coast of Ecuador (and especially in the Santa Elena peninsula) between 4600 and 8800 BC. The skeletons were found in the 1970s during a excavation of a large cemetery, a rubbish dump and some remains of homes - what is now the present museum site. My Ecuadorian friend/colleague 'E' came with me because although she had heard of the Lovers of Sumpa, she had never seen them. We also planned to visit the beach at Ballenita for a swim.

Santa Elena itself didn't seem to have anything worth writing home about apart from the museum, which although small was very good and well worth visiting. It was set in some dusty and very empty back streets.


When I signed the visitors' book I saw that I was their only visitor in the last few days to have come from a different country; to be honest I wasn't surprised, because although the Santa Elena peninsula gets a lot of local tourists (the seaside resort of Salinas is extremely popular), with the exception of Montañita international tourists prefer the places further up the coast. This meant that our visit almost felt like a private tour, because we only saw one other visitor apart from us.

The museum had free entry and it turned out we weren't allowed to walk round by ourselves - a teenage guide showed us round. She didn't know any English, and all the exhibit information was in Spanish, so although my Spanish has definitely improved since May, I was glad E was there to translate what I didn't catch! As well as Los Amantes de Sumpa there were three other skeletons, showing different burial techniques of the Las Vegas people. They were very well presented, and it was amazing to think how old they are - between 8000 and 10,000 years old.


Then we were shown round a traditional coastal 'campesino' (peasant) hut with everyday objects in it such as Montecristi hat moulds, cotton spinning and weaving equipment, anvil and leather bellows, saddles, wooden water barrel, stove, irons, pestle and mortar for grinding corn, and so on. Outside there was a massive clay bread oven.


Further on there was a traditional balsa raft, made from three balsa logs and one sail, next to a glass case of net weights and large net- and sail-mending needles (apparently one or two of these rafts are still used by fishermen in Playas, south of Guayaquil).


Last of all there was a building with some impressive displays of objects from pre-Inca cultures, not only from the Las Vegas but also the Machalilla, Valdivia, Manta and La Tolita cultures; clay burial urns, pottery, metal and shell ornaments, and in the Valdivia display case I thought I saw small, flat, greenish metal axe-heads, but they turned out to be examples of their currency. It also had some finely carved stone figures.


There was also a very interesting display of old black and white photographs of everyday life in the Santa Elena peninsula from the late 19th and first half of the 20th century.

After this we went to the seaside village of Ballenita, which was only five to ten minutes away by bus. We were both starving by now, so the first thing we did was sit down at one of the opensided seafood restaurants/ cafés by the seafront and have a late lunch.


I had shrimp rice (which came with the inevitable slices of plantain and avocado on the side) and E had mixed seafood rice and a glass of freshly squeezed/ blended, sweetened lime juice. I had one or two sips from it and it was lovely - zingy but not sour.

We took our time with the meal because we wanted to wait to see if the sun would come out. It hadn't by the time we finished, so we walked down the stone steps to the beach anyway. The sand was brown and the beach quite narrow. I saw a large, dead white and grey fish washed up so I went over and had a look. Nearby I came across a very well camouflaged pufferfish; unfortunately it was caught up in some yellow netting which I assumed was the cause of its death.


We spread our towels out on the sand and lay down for quite a while. There was quite a breeze blowing and it was a bit overcast, so I didn't fancy swimming unless the sun came out. It was still peaceful and restful, though, lying on a beach with my eyes closed, listening to the waves crash nearby.


Eventually we realised that the sun was not going to be making an appearance, though, so we left to get a bus back to Santa Elena terminal and then another one from there to Guayaquil. The bus had a video screen that played a very violent film - this was between about 5-7pm with several children on the bus.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:50 Archived in Ecuador Tagged beach museum buses ecuador explorations ecuadorian_cuisine pre_columbian_artifacts Comments (0)

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