Canoa and Mompiche

February was mostly spent in Guayaquil catching up with family and friends, visiting the dentist and doing other things that needed to be done. By the end of the month we were ready to start moving again. This time we were lucky to be able to borrow my grandmother’s car so it added a whole new dimension of comfort into our travelling.

Although Mick had visited Ecuador several times, he had never reached the northern province of Ecuador called Esmeraldas. I hadn’t been to this area in probably ten years, so for me as well, was something I really wanted to see.

Travelling from Guayaquil to Mompiche, this is the town that we wanted to see in Esmeraldas, can take up to 8 hours so we thought it was better to break the trip into different parts and decided to drive to Canoa which is half way.

Canoa is a small town in the northern part of Manabi. It’s a beautiful long beach, surrounded by mountains and trees. The more north you go on the coastline of Ecuador the greener it gets.  Canoa is very popular now among the tourists. It has plenty of places to stay, a variety of restaurants and lots of little shacks on the beach where you can find different happy hours from 6 till 10 pm. It’s also very popular because it’s a beach break and a very soft one so it’s the perfect place to learn how to surf.

We only stayed there for a few days and then we continued going north until we reached Mompiche.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I arrived to Mompiche after all this time. It was a completely different place.

The first time I came here, there wasn’t even a paved road into town so the only way to access it was by boat. Threre weren’t any restaurants and there was only one hotel.  It was an untouched paradise, so green and lush and with a long beach of white sand and palm trees.

At present time, Mompiche  is a very popular destination. It has plenty of hotels and restaurants, an esplanade and great roads to get there and around all the other towns. Because of erosion, the long beach that I used to know, it’s completely different and during high tide there’s no sand left, but the ocean hitting the rock wall built to protect the town’s esplanade. How sad!

We arrived in the afternoon and it was high tide. We were staying at a hotel in front of the ocean. Mompiche is a point break with a beautiful left hander breaking over reef but today there were no waves there.

Once we left all our things in the hotel, we came out of our room to check the ocean again. Right next to the hotel there was a river and because of strong rain the night before, the river was coming strongly into the sea. The ocean was glassy with a bit of off shore wind and all of a sudden, something magical happened; a perfect peak with a little right and a left started to form right in front of our hotel.

We ran back to our room, got changed and dipped in the ocean to catch some of these waves. We were so lucky because we had the waves to ourselves for maybe half an hour. Mick and I were having so much fun, we couldn’t believe what was happening.  More and more locals started to paddle out and now every time we would get a wave, we could feel that we were being watched and not particularly with a smile. It got so crowded and we started getting such bad vibes that we decided to paddle in, we already had had our fun. The next day talking to other locals, we found out that this was the only day that this wave had worked.  We were really lucky.

After that session, the ocean was flat for a few days, so we used our time to explore the beaches around Mompiche.  We drove the car only for 10 minutes, kind of in the back of Mompiche, to a place where you can take a small boat that crosses an estuary to Portete. It’s a small island full of palm trees and white sand, so beautiful. We spent the whole day there and had lunch in one of the restaurants along the beach.

After a couple of days, we got a few waves at the point. We were up really early so that we could beat the locals, and at least the first day of the swell, we got half an hour of ok waves with not so many people out. The next few sessions it was a bit more crowded and I must say that the locals aren’t that friendly. We even got a few young guys, with not much experience, dropping in on our waves and even yelling at us for no particular reason.  It was sad to see some of them have developed this silly attitude , knowing that the first times I visited Mompiche, no one used to surf there and everyone was so friendly.  It’s a really young crowd of surfers who think that being a local means breaking all the rules and having all the waves to themselves. Hopefully with time, this will improve.

The most fun day we had, was a day when the waves were that small that no one even made the effort of going out. It was only Mick and I, and another guy from Germany. The waves were tiny but still breaking perfectly. Mick and I had only travelled with short boards so we took the waves and just stood still, moving our bodies enough to continue on the wave. Our German friend was so nice that he shared his wonderful balsa board with us, this fun fat, round but fast board and we could really feel the difference in the fun we were having with our boards and the fun he was having with his. It was a great morning of sharing and cheering each other’s waves.

After the surf, we went to have breakfast and ran into our German friend again. He started talking about the things he was doing in Ecuador and asked Mick about his visa arrangements. Mick and I had never thought that we even needed to apply for a visa, because when I used to live in Ecuador the rule was that the foreigners could stay around six months and if they wanted to stay any longer they could leave Ecuador, cross the border to Peru or Colombia and come back again for another six months. Well, apparently that had all changed and now travellers could only stay three months and then had to apply for a visa. Mick was two week’s short of having been in Ecuador for three months, we were in trouble!

The next day, we packed our bags and drove in one go all the way back to Guayaquil. Luckily the visa situation wasn’t that difficult to manage and we had it all sorted in a few days. Mick was legal again and with that we continued with our travels.

Author: Isabel Romero

founder of Mingas por el Mar

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