Saturday, January 12, 2013

Traveling Solo (Canoa & Bahia)

Last weekend I did my first real solo trip in Ecuador. I have traveled alone before, but always with the intention of meeting up with people in a day or so. This time I was going to the beach all by my lonesome, just to hang out and see what I could see for the weekend before I started working full time.
Traveling by myself has always enticed me for whatever reason. I am free—I don’t have to make anyone else happy and I can do whatever I decide to do at anytime. There’s more of an element of surprise I guess, because a lot of times I feel like I have no idea what random crazy thing I’ll suddenly decide to do. When I’m traveling with others, I am limited by what they’d like to do and see, etc., and I feel somehow responsible.
Anyway, I started the whole trip out haphazardly, by deciding to find a night bus last minute because my boss pushed back my starting date. I wanted to go first to Bahia de Caraquez, a small coastal city, and then catch another bus from there to Canoa, a tiny surfing town nearby—rumored to have the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. I couldn’t seem to find a number to call to find out about times and tickets, so I was going to just show up at the terminal, which has worked well for me so far. But instead, since I had no one to answer to but myself, I met some Ecuadorian friends and drank a beer or two at their apartment until they decided it was too dangerous for me to leave that night and insisted I stay there and go the next morning.
The next morning I went to the terminal and found a ticket pretty easily and spent my eight-hour bus ride watching the eucalyptus forests change to banana and orange orchards and feeling the temperature and humidity rise considerably.
After I got to Canoa I found a hostel for five bucks a night—which was nice other than some sand in the sheets—and a quick meal before walking around a bit. I soon saw a sign that said “microbrews.” Naturally, I went into this establishment. Ecuadorian beer is okay if you’re into light lagers with lime—or, there’s one called Club Roja, which is a sort of red ale—but as a spoiled girl from the northwest, where a new microbrewery is starting up every few days, the beer selection here generally leaves much to be desired. So, I walked into this little surf shack, ordered an IPA made on the edge of town by an American ex-pat, and sat at the bar, nursing it with tender affection.
Canoa is a popular tourist destination because of the surfing, the quaintness of the town itself, and the beachso there were plenty of foreigners in the bar as well as Ecuadorians. The bar itself is owned and run by an Ecuadorian-Canadian couple who I spoke with for some time. They have a hostel and a volunteer-to-live-and-surf type of program as well as surf lessons, kayak rentals, etc. Plus, the beer!
Anyway, shortly after I got there I was asked to play trivia with a British guy who needed a partner. The winners got to split a $25 tab and we won, so I got a couple more microbrews and breakfast the next day out of the deal. It was great. And, during trivia I noticed a guy with a Seattle Mariners hat on. He had curly blond hair flowing out of the back, so I asked him if he knew he looked like Randy Johnson and we started talking. After reminiscing about the great 1995 season with him for awhile, I found out he was form Bonners Ferry. Such a weird, small-world moment.
Anyway, I spent most of my time in Canoa playing in the waves, exploring the beach, reading my book, and generally relaxing. It’s a nice town—very touristy, but in a way that seems to be pretty good for the town. I got a little tired of people trying to sell me everything, but it was still quite nice to spend some time in the sun and warm water.
The next day I played around until noon or so then caught a bus back to Bahia, where I hung out on the beach there all day. It was a Saturday but there were very few people there, mostly little Ecuadorian families. Bahia doesn’t have a huge beach or much as far as waves, so I guess a lot of people prefer Canoa. I didn’t see any other obvious foreigners, but I met an Ecuadorian guy who had tried to sell me stuff in Canoa and we played Frisbee on the beach for quite a while.
I got my bus back to Quito at 9:45pm and arrived back home at about 7am: dirty, sunburned, and satisfied. I had exactly $3.56 left in my pocket after taking $40 with me and staying three days and two nights—not bad! But it’s a good thing I won trivia…
I think my first solo trip was a success. Of course, I would still usually prefer to find someone else to travel with, for safety and entertainment purposes. I like to have someone along to share the experience with. But it does change my interaction with a place and the people there a bit. This trip was sometimes a little lonely, but I also met people who I probably won’t have talked to if I’d been with a friend. 

 I had to walk quite awhile to find a secluded spot near Canoa, but it was worth it. 

 Main beach.
 The town of Canoa. 
My hammock at the hostel. 

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