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The South American Dream A long time coming...

Motañita...learning spanish in a surf town!

ECUADOR | Sunday, 15 May 2011 | Views [2513]

I arrived at about mid-day in Montañita, having taken a bus from Puerto Lopez, it only took an hour which was great, an unusually short journey for South America!  However on arrival I was still in search of a cab to take me to my final destination! But with no cabs in sight I was forced to walk to the canbanas where I was staying; luckily it wasn't far.  I was greeted with various people guessing that I was Swedish or Australian, my tan and blonde locks was a dead giveaway! It was probably the easiest journey yet and the destination and greeting better than any before. The setting of the cabanas was fabulous, based just passed a river at the north end of the town, far enough away from Montañita town not to be drawn into the parties and constant bussle but near enough to pop in and enjoy it! The cabanas themselves were great, surrounded by a pool area with palm trees, and a kitchen/communal area for general hanging out.

Once settled in, I had the chance to look around the town, I say town but its more like a village, basically the main streets are approx 3 across by another 6 or so in a grid-like pattern. The rest of Montañita is residential.

Its a hippy surfing village, with jewelery stalls lining the streets

lots of bars, restaurants, juice stands and a couple of bakeries thrown in for good measure, all located by the beach which had white sand, good surf and a look-out point.

Beach view

Look out point

Sunday evening I was invited for some food at the Dive Shop owners house, most people from the cabanas were going so I saw it as a chance to meet everyone properly and not have to think about dinner on my first day there! The dive instructor and an intern at the Spanish school were cooking stir-fry complete with egg-fried rice and two other veggie dishes...mmm, better than I could cook for sure!

I didn´t stay late as I needed to prepare for the spanish classes I was taking which were due to start the following day, Monday morning, bright and early at 7.40am, the earliest I´d been up to start work in 2 months!

I was given a test first thing, a shock to the system but I was able to skip the first two stages, which gave me confidence in my terrible Spanish abilities, I was intermediate, which was great news as I thought I´d be starting Spanish lessons again from the start, I had some experience in school with Spanish, but as with everyone else traveling had no practical experience of it and found it nearby impossible to get into it straight off.  My classes for the week would be 8am-10am and 1pm-3pm, which meant early starts but gave me the afternoon to learn more Spanish and to try to learn to surf too!

The Spanish school was located up a hill, looking over Montañita and the class setting were a great learning environment

And classes

My main priotiy here was to learn Spanish and secondly to try to surf and work on my salsa moves if I had the time...definitely not to party too much...little did I know about Montañita!

Montañita is a great party place, and I realised this was a good mix to working hard, as going out to bars is a good way of speaking to the locals and practising Spanish as you don´t normally get into many conversations with the locals otherwise. The downfall of the party town was that there wasn´t much in the way of restaurants open until midday; food in restuarants generally takes about one and a half hours so it was impossible to get food between classes!  We got into the habit of heading to the super cheap fruit and veg stalls (5 cents for a banana etc) and with a kitchen at the cabanas we could prepare all our own food. Some people also cooked at night too which was great, I was pretty lazy, as the food was so cheap ($4-8 for a main course), and food in Montañita was pretty varied. Favourites included an Italian place called Carpe Diem and a pizza place I can´t remember the name of.  I also tried out the Thai food and a couple of the more generic places. Another great place to eat at night was the street food stalls, offering Burritos for $2 or hamburgers, chips and the like.

There were two main nights out in Montañita, Thursday, which was ladies night, where there was free drinks from 10pm-midnight, it was cheaper for ladies to get in too! And Saturday night, because of the weekend. 

During my first week in Montañita I was very much looking forward to ladies night, the previous one had been good and my expectations were high, however unfortunately when it came to Thursday, after we´d dressed up, gone out and were eating dinner at Carpe Diem, the police came along and asked the restaurant not to serve alcohol anymore because of the election day due on Saturday, two days later!! They were banning people from drinking over this period to encourage attendance and to make sure everyone gives an accurate vote!  So they were actually stopping anyone (including us foreigners) from buying alcohol Thursday evening right up until Sunday.  Usually on Sunday you can´t but alcohol either in Ecuador, to stop the large amount of drink driving. This was something that was bought in about a year ago and has apparently been working.

However, in true European style, the ban on alcohol didn´t stop us, we were up for a good night out, so we had all stocked up on alcohol prior to the ban and headed for the beach on Thursday night instead, as this is where people usually went.  There was still hope for my Spanish!

Unfortunately we didn´t find many others on the beach with the same idea, so we created our own party, which was not part of the plan but fun never the less. One amusing idea was to climb the life-guard tower and pretend to be a lifeguard!

However, this didn´t work out for one of my dorm mates who was actually afraid of heights, so we spent about 2-3hrs trying to bring him down, eventually we got him to jump but as was completely tensed up, he hurt himself and we were worried he´d broken his neck/back....oops!  After calling on various people and waiting several hours, a fire engine turned up (apparently it was a busy night) and six strong lads took my dear friend on a stretcher to the fire engine, placing him ontop of the fire engine to be taken to the hospital!! 

It was fisher price hospital and the verdict came back in the morning of 6 broken ribs and a compressed spine!  It wasn´t until after he´d cancelled his Galapagos trip and spoken to his family did he go back to a bigger hospital where they said that the previous verdict was wrong and no ribs were broken and that he was just a bit battered and bruised. Still, he managed transfer his Galapagos trip to another day and normality was restored, minus a slightly sore neck and another eventful ladies night!

Saturday meant the surf trip, we went to a different place than planned because of the elections, everyone had to return from where they were from originally to vote so a lot of people had to travel some distance to vote and the roads are pretty crowded!  We saw some cars/trucks along the way with up to about 30 people in the back or maybe more, which put our jeep in Solento to shame!

The first surf spot was a bit crazy, so we moved and went to Las Tunas, which was fun and had fabulous cerviche! I got totalled by a massive wave just before lunch which was quite funny too, I´m only a beginner and I went out a bit too far!  That´ll teach me! However I think surfing suits me:

The evening was a slow evening, with drinks and food at the cabañas, we decided we´d try to go out late at night, hoping the alcohol ban had been lifted, we succeeded in our plan and was served on cocktail alley ($2 cocktails) and hung out on the beach.  I thought it would be fun to run to the sea, but someone thought it would be even funnier to drag me right in.  I got pretty drenched, but felt I should make the most of the weekend, and put the Spanish I´d learnt into practice, so we hit Caña Grill, an open air club with a mix of salsa and modern classics (and too much black-eyed peas).

It was a good night and I managed to practice my Spanish and my salsa! I also got offered a job at the hamburger van for $1 a day, this however wouldn´t have afforded me even a hamburger at the stand so I politely declined the offer deciding it would be to much of a drain on resources to stay on in Montañita too long, even if it would help my Spanish.

Sunday we had the pleasure of going to the Dive Shop owners house again, this time for a BBQ, it was amazing, burgers, chicken, steak, massive prawns...mmm...the party was started hotting up and it looked like it was going to be a late night, which is when I left, like the geek I am. 

The second week started well, I had been crowned the geek as I constantly had my head in a book, we said goodbye to some people, and there were new faces to join the crew! Monday went well but on Tuesday, when I had been given my terrible results of an impromptu test, my teacher hadn´t been pleased and I would need to re-learn a lot of past work. I lost my confidence and decided Tuesday was the new Thursday, which meant I went out and missed Wednesday classes...oops!  However, on the plus side I did decide to return to that teachers class and keep up my Spanish. Starting Thursday afresh I worked hard all day and with Ladies night on, practiced my Spanish and my salsa that night too which was great even making Friday´s classes to learn all about the small words in Spanish...por, para etc...

My favourite word in spanish is still Zumbido (it means the humming or buzzing sounds bees or humming birds make) and Zanahoria (carrot)...although I now have a new one/two now...en serio (Seriously)!There are some great words in Spanish.

Friday was the bi-weekly Spanish school BBQ, more chicken, giant prawns, steak and lots of salads, rice and potatoes...always lots of carbs! There was a fire show and we had a small salsa class...the Latinos put us Europeans to shame as usual! Afterwards, we hit the town but there was a power cut so we selected one of the few places with power to go out to...Nativa Bamboo, there was an acrobatics show downstairs and a club upstairs, looking over the sea...I wish I´d bought my camera! It was another picture perfect moment!

The weekend was fun, Saturday sunbathing on the beach and heading for a  walk with Andrea, my Swiss friend to the look-out point at sunset!!

Saturday night was a big one as it was my last night, we put on our dresses and went out to cocktail alley again...

and onto Caña Grill, our favourite dancing spot, we got free drinks when the band was playing, who were really good and played spanish songs and rock classics too!

I stayed out a bit too long so the 7.30am start to head to the organic farm was not an easy one.  It was going to take up to 8 hours so I had no choice but to get up...at least I had a cow on the road to keep me company whilst I was waiting for the bus!

Tags: drinking, ecuador, montanita, partying, spanish, spanish school, sunset

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