I finished up at the farm and spent a day back in Canoa, my new favorite sleepy surfing village on my way back to Quito. Out of nowhere I feel like I’ve become more of a beach person, and loved getting up to go swimming in the waves in the morning and at sunset.

I seriously considered doing surf lessons and getting into surfing, but I knew that I’d be sucked into the Canoa vortex and never get on with my trip. I’ll add surfing to my “someday to do” list.

I also went to this great fishing town south of Canoa called Puerto Lopez, the jumping off point for a day trip to the “Poor Man’s Galapagos.” Isla de la Plata is about 35 times less expensive than a trip to the Galapagos ($35 vs $1,200) but I think the Galapagos might be 35 times as cool. Maybe not, I did see a lot of Blue Footed Boobies, which are either too lazy or too fearless to move out of the way of humans.

(“This is MY shady spot, you dumb human.)


We hiked around the island preserve, applying more sunscreen every few minutes. Afterwards, going snorkeling was a welcome relief from the heat. I’ve never been suspended in a school of curious fish, or watched angelfish poke around rock formations next to me. As a reformed non-ocean lover, this snorkeling experience was surprisingly magical.

Puerto Lopez, unlike my comfortable Canoa, actually has a nightlife! Robberies are also more common, so in an effort to keep my iPhone safe, I sacrificed getting photos of the two dueling dance clubs on the sand. Standing between them, your brain is bombarded by two thumping strains of awful reggaton and disjointed strobe lights. After a few pina coladas though, it’s better than it sounds.

(Most of my sustenance lately has come from places that look like this.)
(Unidentified deep sea monster)


The evening before I caught the night bus out of Canoa, I was eating my favorite local ice cream popsicle on the beach, watching the surfers and beach frolickers. I was drawn into watching this one group of older adults who were emanating joy like nothing I’d ever seen. [This is a journal excerpt that I wrote on the beach and I’m not taking the time to revise.]

(“Don’t live asleep, live your dreams!”)
“I could tell that it was their first time seeing the ocean. A group of women held hands on the sand, staring, smiling, wordlessly gaping at the sea. I watched them take it all in.. a totally new sensory experience, and I got to see the ocean again with new eyes too. The terrifying and beautiful possibilities that the stretch of infinite horizon brings. I don’t have any stereotypes to draw on but I somehow know that they are from the campo. Accustomed to the more mountainous interior of tiny hillside farms, this amount of space must have been overwhelming. The women laughed and pointed, nervously daring to leave the high sandbar of the beach and venture into the water. Before long, a trail of several older men and women, clothes soaking wet, faces stretching into big smiles, held hands and carefully jumped in the waves together. The braver ones loser to the sea, the more timid anchored closer to dry land. Each wave nearly knocked them down and started a new chorus of laughter. A woman in her sixties, her hair in a long braid, wore a knee-length skirt and clutched the hands on either side protectively, crouching defensively into each wave. I’m not a good enough writer to describe her smile. She exuded a soulful energy from deep inside: a childlike glee at this new experience, a sense of awe and joy and danger, a happy closeness with her family on either side and waving from the beach.
I couldn’t stop smiling while watching them. I thought about going up to ask for a photo. I would crouch down and take a series of bursts to capture the most authentic facial expressions. In the fading sunset, it would have been a great photo. But I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t be obtrusive in addition to being a voyeur. My punishment for not speaking good Spanish and being a stranger in a strange land is to watch from the sidelines. Instead I got out my journal to write this and enjoyed the last of the sunset.”

After I’d put my journal away, I was walking back to my hostel and happened to pass the family from the campo. They all excitedly introduced themselves to me- likely one of few gringos they’d talked to- and confirmed that yes, this was their first time seeing the ocean and they were thrilled to be here. I welcomed them to the beach and they welcomed me to visit their village. I told them that seeing them in the waves had made me so happy, and I was grateful for them sharing their happiness with me. They wanted a photo with me, so I snagged one too, feeling pretty good about being rewarded for my patience with a good conversation and the reminder of how something like playing in the waves can cross all kinds of cultural barriers.

(Beach bonfire one night with a crew from the hostel.)

I decided that I want to check out the Amazon, by spending a few days doing a boat trip up the rivers in the jungle to see wildlife and indigenous tribes. I don’t have any specific plans yet, but step 1 is to get vaccinated against Yellow Fever, which is endemic in the jungle. I spent an extra day in Quito to do chores like getting the vaccine, visiting an ATM (there are none in Canoa), laundry, buying a combination lock, and trip-planning. All of those less than exciting things that are good for the morning after a long night bus through rainy mountains.

(Trying my best to not do my ‘classic starfish pose’ and ‘Colleen face’ in a photo at my favorite Quito art museum.)
Finding the Yellow Fever vaccine in Quito was relatively easy, but required a few conversations with various health care workers that approximately translated to this:
Colleen: “I have the yellow fever. Do you know where the syringe is?”
Nurse: “You have a fever? You have yellow fever?”
Colleen: “No, I don’t have the fever. I WANT the fever. Do you know where it is?”
Nurse: “Are you kidding me right now.”

Anyways, the Ecuadorians I talked to were extremely helpful and extremely forgiving of my awful Spanish. I found the Public Health Center in historic old town, not far from my hostel and got the vaccine and certification for free, rather than $100 in the States!

Next I’m heading south, into the Andes!

In case you were wondering, this is what my “productive internet time setup” looks like.

Hey, thanks for reading this. I’m consistently surprised by the view count, and I’m happy that people care enough to read. Thank you! 🙂