Friday, January 7, 2011

On Holidays...

As it turned out I spent Christmas eve with a welcoming local family in Cuenca, then the next morning got on a bus to Guayaquil to have Christmas dinner with the other Canadian interns here in Ecuador.  Who would have thought that the tastiest turkey I’ve ever had on Christmas would be in Guayaquil, Ecuador?

I travelled to the coast the next day, hoping to find waves and adventure without thinking about my work for a few days.  Within the span of three days I had gone from the cool city of Cuenca deep within the Andes mountains, to the dry coastal plains of Guayaquil, onto the lush tropical coast - this is Ecuador.  I checked into a tent camp in a little town called Ayampe.  I believe that this beach is the closest thing to paradise that I have yet to find.  It is situated within a portion of the coast where dense, lush tropical rainforest flourishes.  There are a few locally run restaurants and a series of hostels.  The beach is pristine and spotless, mostly covered in small rocks; it seems to keep the sunbathing crowds away.  The waves are absolutely perfect, and it is known as one of the most consistent beach breaks in the country.  While perfect, the waves are also incredibly powerful, and I sit here writing this now keeping my ear dry after receiving a wave to the side of my head and damaging my eardrum.

Before that little accident I had the opportunity to go scuba diving around Isla de la Plata, an island commonly known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos.  Fluttering 12 meters below the ocean beside a giant sea turtle as it looks at you from just a meter away rather disinterestedly is an incredible experience.  I was hoping to see a shark while diving but they are becoming more rare everyday, a fact only made clearer when I saw one the same day on the beach – dead, a by-catch of the local fishermen.

I headed to Montanita the day before New Years Eve, the same day that I damaged my ear.  By that point I wasn’t sure what I had done to myself and as the pain continued I went to the closest hospital to get checked out.  Now here is a word of advice, if you really don’t believe that what a doctor is telling you, seek another opinion.  Doctors are well trained, even in poor nations like Ecuador, but like everyone they are susceptible to human error.  In the emergency room of the hospital they were very kind, even giving me an injection for the pain, but they also told me that there was nothing wrong and that I just had water in my ear.  And so for the next few days I continued surfing without a worry in the world.  It wasn’t until a week later back in Guayaquil, when I went for a second opinion, that I was told that I had a large hole in my eardrum. 

Fortunately during the few days around New Years the pain had subsided and I was still under the impression that there was nothing wrong with me.  The New Years party in Montanita is not just on the 31st, but rather continues for three days.  Throughout the entire day and night for three days the beach was packed with hundreds of people.  The 31st consisted of endless fireworks and the burning of large paper mache figures referred to as Año Viejos.  Celebrating the new year in an international setting with people from around the world is always fun, but admittedly in Montanita, it was a little much.  By six am as the sun began to rise, seeing the passed out bodies strewn across the beach and watching the tide wash away the piles of garbage, I felt guilty and unimpressed.

I’m back in Playas now, buckling down for my final six weeks of work here in Ecuador.  It is an exciting time for both me and the people that I work with, as initiatives are beginning to come to fruition after a long period of uncertainty.  It seems as though I’ll be out of the water for a few weeks which definitely makes things hard, but I’m comforted by the fact that my accident could have been much worse, and that I’ll have a good few weeks of surf in the prime swell season before I leave for Canada.

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