After our busy time in the Galápagos Islands, we headed to Salinas for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Research suggested that this would be one of the best places to ring in the new year.
Thanks to limited choices and inflated holiday prices, we blew the budget and rented an apartment almost on the ocean. With just one row of single family homes in front of us, the view is pretty darn good!
Our time here has been pretty mellow. After two weeks constantly on the go, and with really bad internet, we were quite happy to spend some time relaxing and catching up. From our window we have been able to watch surfers and turtles in the water and most evenings Terry is able to play beach volleyball. If only we could find a surfboard rental shop…
La Chocolatera and La Lobería
There aren’t too many places worth a day trip from Salinas but we did take a taxi to La Lobería one morning. This is the place to see sea lions (I know, you’d think we’d have seen enough by now) as well as a great surf spot.
The smell alerted us to the presence of sea lions well before we could see them. It took a moment for our eyes to adjust and then we realized the rocky outcrop we were looking at was actually covered in well camouflaged creatures. From our distance they still looked huge so I can only imagine how big they are up close.
This is also a surfing location for experienced surfers who can handle themselves on big waves. Because of the rocky point, the waves break far from shore and we watched a few surfers catch a wave and ride them forever!
From here we walked along the beach path to La Chocolatera. This is the westernmost point of mainland Ecuador. It’s also supposed to be a great surf spot but perhaps the tides weren’t cooperating as no one was in the water.
After a snack, we began the walk back into town. These spots are actually inside an Ecuadorian Military Base so we walked past a rifle range, training centre (that used to be a paintball place) and military school before exiting the base.
Our only other day trip was to Ecuador’s backpacker party and surf town, Montañita. We took the city bus to the terminal and hopped on a bus heading north. The two hour trip cost us less than $2 each!
This is most definitely a backpacker hotspot! For the first time in a while we weren’t the whitest people around and I was no longer one of the tallest. The entire town is row on row of hostels, gift shops and bar and food carts lining each street. The beach was packed with chairs and umbrellas as well as surfboard rentals and vendors selling anything and everything. Every bar offered various happy hour deals.
We rented a surf board but the waves weren’t the best. A $2 batido in a beachfront shack was just the ticket after an afternoon in the sun. Surprisingly, despite the heavy tourist traffic we encountered the cheapest prices we have seen on the Ecuador coast. I guess they know they’re not getting more out of the backpackers!
New Year’s Eve
Ecuador has many traditions surrounding la noche buena, but some of the most fun are burning effigies in the streets and on the beach as well as an abundance of fireworks. For weeks, effigies can be spotted lined up for sale in the streets, in people’s windows and strapped to vehicles.
Our plans to watch the fireworks from our building’s rooftop terrace changed at the last minute when we decided to head down to the main beach and watch from the middle of the action. We first headed to a restaurant with a balcony overlooking the malecón but after waiting almost three hours for our meals to show up, we paid for our drinks and went for street food!
Fireworks have been going off steady for days but around 11pm things really started to pick up. The street and beach were packed with people, vendors and effigies! At 11:30pm we suddenly caught sight of a huge fire on the beach. As we got closer, we could make out the silhouettes of loads of superheroes and cartoon characters burning and people kept throwing more onto the pile. Looking down the beach, there was one giant fire after another. In the words of Terry: “It’s the f*#^ing LA Street Riots!”
Fireworks, bonfires, Chinese lanterns, open air stage, and lots and lots of people. There is no big, professional display. Everyone buys fireworks and simply sets them off, often from the middle of the crowd! This was definitely the most fun New Years Eve I’ve had!
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