After Cotopaxi and all of our recent high altitude training, we thought it was high time to head for the coast during the 3 day holiday weekend (Ecuador celebrates the Fiestas de Cuenca and Dia de los Muertos the first weekend in November).
Although there is a night bus direct from Quito to Canoa, we opted to avoid the middle of the night start and take a day bus to Pedernales and from there take a local bus to Canoa. Because it was a holiday weekend, all forms of public transport were packed leaving the city, but we were lucky to get tickets without issue (probably because Pedernales is the opposite of a tourist destination).
The bus ride was absolutely stunning, if a little unnerving, as we wound our way down from the high Central Andean valleys to the western slopes of the Andes and finally to the coastal plain. The first few hours are non stop switchbacks and S curves through cloud forest, but the views are worth it. Probably the worst part of the trip were the sales people that the bus drivers let on the bus. Each had their own 20-30min spiel trying to either sell something or just beg for money. One woman was trying to cell gospel CDs and had a portable loudspeaker to play her demos. She had it up so loud I thought Id go deaf. I was ready to throw her off the bus, but the other passengers seemed to be eating it up. The next guy was literally a creepy clown who had constructed a fake microphone and video camera and was doing fake interviews. He was a total freak show and his fake questions were incredibly offensive. He was railing about how horrible it is that Corea had legalized gay marriage! He wasn’t selling anything just bumming money. Again, I couldnt believe people were actually enjoying his antics.
As we descended, it got hotter and hotter and unfortunately we didn’t have a window. When we got stopped in traffic due to road construction, it became swelteringly hot, but we finally arrived in Pedernales, no worse for the wear. As you approach the north coast Manabi region, it definitely feels like you are entering a different country. The region is much poorer than the Sierra, and it actually feels like you are in the tropics.
Pedernales was probably one of the ugliest towns Ive visited in Ecuador. The “bus station” was nothing but a dusty little block with a few ticket booths and one of the most horrid bathrooms in Ecuador (though it had nothing on the bathrooms in Bolivia and Peru 10 years ago!). We were starving so we went off in search of food. The rest of the town wasn’t much better than the bus station, but we finally found a reasonably sanitary looking pollo joint. The food was actually pretty good. After eating, we got our tickets and headed down the coast to Canoa. By this time of the day, the buses were packed. We had seats but the aisle was packed with people with barely enough room to stand. Fortunately it was only a 1.5 hour ride, and the views were nice.
We arrived in dusty little Canoa at dusk after a full day of travel. The town was a typical S. American beach town/fishing village, but the beach was really nice. The waves, though small, were really enticing.
I spent the next two days surfing small, but nicely formed barreling waves while Abbey relaxed on the beach recovering from La Vuelta Cotopaxi. I had forgotten how much I like to surf. I hope I can find a postdoc near surf-able waves-I think I could happily trade in the bike life for the surf lifestyle! Nothing beats catching a wave 🙂