Thursday, December 9, 2010

The inevitable Montañita post...

Before I arrived in Montanita, I didn’t feel it was going to be necessary to write about this place, as so many travelers before me had already done so.  It is one of the most popular surf towns in all of Latin America, what more could be said?  But for the very reason that Montanita has gained its name, I feel a strong inclination to share my thoughts and experiences.

I arrived in Montanita on a Saturday, it was overcast and cold, the small streets that make up this tiny town were rather calm and empty.  Aside from the oddly dressed characters and the clearly foreigner-oriented hostels that lined the streets, Montanita was not what I pictured it to be.  Then again, no place ever is.  It was no normal Saturday in Montanita.  There was a nation wide census to take place the next day, and some sort of backwards logic led the government to believe that by imposing a dry law on Saturday, everyone would stay in there homes on Sunday.  So it was that all of the bars were closed, and the liquor stores were forbidden to sell anything.  At least that was the idea.  Every rule has its exceptions, and on that day Montanita was one of them.  To make a long story short I spent the one night when drinking was forbidden in Ecuador, getting drunk with a Brazilian, a Chilean, and an American in a hostel kitchen and then continuing on to a luxurious masquerade, literally, in a beach house in the next town over.  It was a sign of things to come in Montanita.

It is a special place, there is no denying that.  The eclectic mix of surfers and hippies, artisans and entrepreneurs, make a simple stroll down the street very interesting.  Although it is filled with foreigners, and definitely caters to the North American/European crowds, there is a huge population of South American travelers that help to maintain a uniquely Latin feel. 

The beach here is long and stunning, with consistent waves that break along the crystal clear water for about two kilometers.  It ends at a huge rocky point, where they say a perfect point break wave forms when a northern swell rolls in, which is something I have yet to experience.  Walking out to the point on low tide really makes one appreciate the natural beauty of a place like this.  The point is gigantic and covered in all sorts of interesting tidal creatures and life; it makes you feel very small as you walk across this huge outcropping that was covered by ocean just hours before.  My various walks along the beach in Montanita left me feeling inspired yet uncertain.  It is a place that invokes dreams for the future and allows one to get carried away with their thoughts.  Walking through the warm sand, feeling every little grain on your bare feet, scanning the sky and the surrounding landscape, one can imagine dropping their previous aspirations and living the rest of their life in a place like this.

Every great place has its downfalls, and for me one of Montanita’s best known qualities, is also its worst.  Montanita is famous for its parties.  Every night of the week there is a party somewhere, whether it is in a bar, a house, a disco, or on the beach.  I admittedly enjoy such festivities; Montanita is a place that simply makes one want to party.  I would join the friends that I quickly made on the street in the evening, sharing a bottle whilst sitting on the curb, discussing life and watching people from the around the world pass by as we slowly fell into a comfortable drunkenness.  Then around midnight we would find the most crowded place and dance the night away, losing each other until the next evening only to tell our stories of the night before.  Such a lifestyle is ubiquitous and contagious in Montanita, and difficult to avoid.  While it is undoubtedly entertaining, it wears on you over time and begins to eat away at your soul.  I suppose eventually one could learn to appreciate the more subtle qualities of this place with out engaging in the festivities, but it depends on the person, and their situation in life.    

Ultimately, Montanita provided me with a unique and unforgettable surf town experience, and it is a place to which I will continually return.  While the partying eventually got the best of me, it has been an incredibly good time, and surely something I will want to experience again.  Even though it has been somewhat cold and cloud covered here, there is a beach life that thrives and continues - its appeal unwavering.  This is especially so for surfers who can appreciate the lack of sun in the sky as they sit out on the open ocean waiting for waves.  As I write this the clouds remain in the sky and the chill of the ocean gives me goose bumps, but as I follow the soothing sound of the crashing waves and look out onto the turquoise pacific, I see a line of glowing orange on the horizon as the sun begins to set and I become as satisfied as I ever have been.

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