Sunsets over sea: A month in Ayampe

A week had passed in Ayampe and we were finally feeling like things were getting were we wanted them to be. We were both relaxed and getting into the rhythm of our now simpler life.

We had left in the past, the stresses of work and not having enough time to do the things we liked and enjoyed so much. We were waking up early and making the most of each day. Every day we were in the water, surfing twice or three times a day, resting with a book in between sessions, walking to town to find some fresh produce to cook with or going for a bike ride to the nearest town.

Ayampe had the perfect waves to slowly get back to surfing fitness. Being a beach break, there was lots of paddling involved, duck diving, and quick responses to the very diverse types of waves that we got at different times.  It’s such a long beach that if you don’t really want to surf with anyone else, you just have to keep walking a bit more and you’ll find a lonely pick all to yourself. Mick and I were loving it!

It was easy to fall into our own relaxed routine. I was back doing yoga. Luckily there was a yoga school walking distance from our cabin, run by this lovely Canadian family that had not only created the first yoga school in the area but also a nice cafe where tourists could have surf lessons,  Spanish lessons and interact with locals. The place is called Otra Ola and is worth checking it out if you are ever in the area.

During our time there, we also made some new friends like Tim and Loren, this beautiful Australian couple travelling through Europe and South America. They were staying in the hotel next door from us so we would run into each other almost every day. Tim was a very keen surfer, so we shared a few sessions with him.

We also decided to get together for Australia Day and cook some fish at least to celebrate the day. Mariscal, our neighbour worked in one of the hotels and told us of another Aussie couple that was there volunteering for the month.  We invited them and they also told some other friends, so at the end of the night there were like 10 of us all eating, drinking and listening to triple J the hottest one hundred on the internet radio. It was a great Australia Day.

Mariscal became a really good friend and part of our lives there. Every morning we would say hello to each other, share some food and chat about life and things. He’s originally from Latacunga, which is a small town near the capital Quito. He’s been leaving in Ayampe for a while now and he has seen first hand, how the town has grown and changed in the last 5 years. Mariscal is like the unpaid deputy of Ayampe. If people saw anyone camping in the area of the estuary, they would go to him, and he would approach the tourists with his polite way and explain why they couldn’t sleep there. (If youre asking yourself why so strict about the no camping rule, it’s because of the area being a place where the green turtles come to hatch). He is a man with a big heart and always very friendly with everyone.

One day, we went  with him on an amazing bike ride to the back of Ayampe where there’s a beautiful rainforest. I’m not much of a bike rider and I have to admit that it was quite a demanding ride through dry river beds, avoiding rocks and branches, but it was so much fun. That’s what so special about Ayampe and makes it such a magical place, the diversity of its nature: beautiful beaches, estuaries, mangrove forest and in the back, mountains and rainforest. It’s a place full of wildlife and worth preserving.

Although, Ayampe is growing and changing, there’s still some hope of preserving what makes it magical and not having it change so drastically, like many other tourists towns have around the coast. A lot of the people that live and have businesses there, want to preserve its rustic and natural beauty. Most of them are passionate people that have fought to implement rules on how to build properties around the area keeping a 50% of the land green and not being able to build any high buildings. There is hope here, because people have already experienced and seen how another touristic town has changed so much, Montanita, and now people have an example either to follow or to avoid. In this case, I think people in Ayampe want to avoid what happened in Montanita.

I was happy to convice my parents to come to Ayampe one weekend while we were there. Although they did complain about how long the ride from Guayaquil to Ayampe had been, they loved the place. We organized for them to stay at La Hosteria del Jaguar, which was next door to our little cabin. It’s a wonderful hostal owned by Frisky Cabanilla , who is one of the first people to come and settle in Ayampe. He’s not only a very interesting guy, but he’s like the local ranger of the area. He keeps track of all the trees and vegetation and organizes its reforestation .

An amazing thing that happened, while my parents were there, was that my dad and Frisky discovered that they were long lost cousins! This sort of thing happens very often here in Ecuador, everyone is someone’s cousin or related to someone in some way. My mum was delighted with Frisky’s stories of the area especially when he mentioned that a few days ago he had seen a Jaguar somewhere in the mountains in the back of town.

My parents also got to meet a few of the friends that we have made, like Mariscal, Tim, Loren and also our furry friends Tesa and Sale.It’s incredible how beautiful our relationship with animals can be. Instantly, we became great friends and they were great company during our time in Ayampe. They slept outside our cabin keeping guard and they joined us on many of our walks around town.

So when the time came to say good-bye, it was heartbreaking to leave our furry friends behind, but we knew that they were in good hands. They have an amazing group of people taking care of them and they also get to live in a wonderful place, still unspoiled and magical. Our time in Ayampe had come to an end but we knew that we had made friends for a lifetime and that this would be a place where we would always look forward to going back to.





Author: Isabel Romero

founder of Mingas por el Mar

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