With both sadness and excitement in our hearts, we crossed borders for the sixth time in our trip, leaving Peru behind as we ventured forth into Ecuador.

We bussed to Guayaquil, stopping only to admire the bus terminal which looked more like a shopping mall,  before departing for Montañita, a beach town on Ecuador’s famous Ruta del Sol.

At first light, the streets of Montañita are almost vacant; everyone is shuttered away in their rooms sleeping that peaceful drunk-sleep that predates a massive hangover. The bars that line the streets still show evidence of the previous night’s debauchery, as employees lethargically push mops over the floors in preparation to do it all over again. A little later, as the sun’s intense heat starts to mount, the town fills with weary-eyed travellers. Breakfast cafés are filled to capacity with regretful faces filling their bellies in the hopes that food will give them enough energy to plop themselves down on the beach for a hectic day of sun bathing.

Calina and I started our day with a much needed breakfast at El Papillon, a french café that serves up delicious crepes as well as yogurt and granola with generous helpings of fruit.  Granola is ubiquitous in Ecuador; every grocery store stocks delicious coconut granola that comes in yellow bags, it’s the perfect backpacker fuel.

We decided to compliment our very foreign breakfast with an Ecuadorian dish called “Bolones de Verde”, a deep-fried ball of mashed up plantains and cheese that sits like a brick in the bottom of your stomach.

Nearby, vendors prepared baskets of ceviche from their tiny carts. Something about the idea of eating raw fish in lime first thing in the morning made even Calina’s brazenly adventurous stomach turn.

We intended to rest ourselves and get a good nights sleep to prepare ourselves for a surf lesson the next day, but we quickly realized that we’d be missing an essential part of Montañita by retiring early. At nightfall, the town comes alive as each restaurant and bar overflows with people and salsa. On one of the main streets we discovered “Cocktail Men”, the alter-ego to our Peruvian Juice Ladies.

Cocktail Men: These characters sit perched in front of mounds of fruits with a fully stocked liquor cabinet at their disposal. For only a few dollars, they’ll whip up anything your heart desires, although some drinks are definitely tastier than others. We recommend asking for their specialties. While sipping our cocktails, Dave and Tan (the Australian and Canadian duo we met in Máncora) walked by and pulled up a seat beside us. Soon we were joined by a trio of Argentinians and the night’s festivities began.

Once we had consumed as many sugary, fruity, booze-filled concoctions as we could handle, we checked out a nearby club. Things got really sweaty very fast, as we danced barefoot on the sand-covered dance floor.

We carried on until early morning, when we were so exhausted we could barely stand. We finally got to bed hoping we’d find the energy for the coming day of surf.

My Surf Lesson, by Calina

I have tried surfing a few times while on vacation with Dan and always with the same atrocious results– I always fall off the surfboard the moment I’m on. Meanwhile, Dan makes it look so easy! I was determined to see some improvement in my skills. Apart from partying, surfing is the second biggest activity in Montañita and I really wanted to join in. I signed up for a 2 hour one-on-one class with an instructor. He showed me the basics on land which seemed really easy. Once we got in the water, it was a different story. After several failed attempts at getting on the board, the teacher looked at me, exasperated and said, ¨Where’s your balance? You’ve rode 20 waves and still haven’t stood up!¨ I burned with shame and thought, ¨Wow, I must be the worst student he’s ever had¨. His evident lack of confidence in my skills did nothing for my performance and I kept messing up every wave. I figured I had wasted my money and ended my class feeling pretty dejected.

In the afternoon, Dan and I went surfing again. Dan was my teacher this time and gave me some valuable hints that my so-called professional teacher had somehow missed. On my first few waves, I fell off the board. But I kept trying and, eventually, I actually managed to stand up on the board for a split second. It was just a split second but it felt amazing. I wasn’t a surfing failure after all. I no longer felt like a complete poser in this funky surfer town. I’d achieved what I’d come to do and was quite happy to leave Montañita early the next morning for other adventures.