I was living in Ecuador for the semester when 1997 spring break rolled around.
After much deliberation, my friends Nicole, Keith, Laura, Erin and I decided we to go to the beach. We desperately wanted to see the ocean and none of us could really afford to fly to Galapagos (or fly anywhere, for that matter).
That meant the longest bus rides of my life.
We were staying in Cuenca, Ecuador and first had to take the bus to Quito. Its less than 300 miles from Cuenca to Quito which is an easy 45 minute flight and a grueling 11 hours by bus on the Pan American Highway.
A one-night stay at the Hotel Alston in Quito and we were back on the bus for the drive to Esmereldas in as much luxury as you can expect from a 10 hour bus ride. The windows opened! And they served Fanta and snacks! And there was a movie (Piranha, 1978, dubbed)!
From Esmereldas we had to catch a smaller bus for the last leg to Atacames. We had no idea where the next bus station was and asked our driver from Quito for directions. Not only did he give us directions, but he ended up walking us the 5 blocks to the bus station, helping us buy our tickets to Atacames, and then waited with us in the station until our bus came.
It was dark when we hit Atacames and trucked into the center of town to figure out where our hotel was. We had a reservation at a place called Resedencial Jorge but nobody could tell us where it was. Wed ask someone and theyd say it was one way. Then another person would come over and say it was somewhere else. Then theyd call over a person with a bicycle taxi whod offer to drive us there for an exhorbitant sum of money.
After much wandering, we managed to find a shockingly expensive payphone and we called the owner of the hotel. It turned out the place hadnt been Resedencial Jorge since the 1980's and was now the Rincon del Mar. The owner gave us directions and came and met us halfway.
Our cabin was amazing. A single room cabin with 3 beds, a bathroom, a sitting area and the door opened right onto the beach.
We spent the rest of the week drinking, swimming, and eating cheap seafood. I also got double-ear infections, lost my glasses the second day and spent the rest of the week completely blind.
One of the last nights, we bought bread for the next day and a bottle of rum and sat out on the beach in front of the cabin drinking and swapping stories. The girls went to bed and Keith and I decided it was time for nighttime-blind bodysurfing (he'd lost his glasses too).
We put our on suits and started walking out to the water (the tide was way out). Wed been sharing skinny-dipping stories all evening. We exchanged a look when we passed a pile of driftwood, then peeled off our suits and ran naked and screaming into the ocean.
The waves were at least 6ft and there is nothing like being blind and naked and getting pummeled by a warm ocean. There was no seeing the waves coming. All you could do was wait for the feeling of the water sucking out, then the swell behind you, then paddling like something was chasing you.
We were happy but knackered and decided to head back. Unfortunately, in the dark, we didn't realize how far we'd drifted and it took some time to find our stuff and the hotel. We were close to the pile of driftwood when we came across a family with two kids out for a night stroll on the beach. I like to imagine they tell people the story of the two naked gringos who ran cackling past them.
Eventually, we found our way back, showered and fell into bed, completely exhausted.