As we told you in last month's post, we couldn't wait to arrive on the coast of Ecuador. Initially the plan was for a us to spend a reasonable amount of time there - oh, you know, about three weeks.
Six weeks later, we're still here. Emily is literally going to have to be pulled away kicking and screaming.
We've come to the decision that everybody should be given four weeks off by their respective governments to go be a beach bum. Seven days by the sea just isn't enough to appreciate how bloody awesome it is to live on the coast!
back to mompiche
Did we make the right decision to double back on ourselves and return to Mompiche?
We've learnt a number of useful things on this trip; how to swear in Spanish, the morning after effects of too many chipotles; and that a hat and a moustache make any old man infinitely cooler.
We've also learnt that sometimes, you need to listen to your gut (particularly if chipotle's been involved).
When the first signs of travel-fatigue set in for Andrew, we knew we needed to stow the packs for a little while and choose a home, and what better place than the town that Emily felt we had left all too quickly the previous month?
We got a good weekly deal at the hostel we had stayed at before - Casa Kiwi - which was run by a lovely local family and a surfer who could have been the Latin American stunt-double for Iggy-Pop. They also had some excellent animals living there, including Machu the Peruvian Hairless dog!
So, what was so great about our life in Mompiche? Well, our daily routine went something like this...
Wake up - coffee - blog/learn Spanish/exercise - $3 two-course lunch of soup and seafood and fruit juice - beach - hammock snooze (optional) - catch the sunset - beer - buy some groceries - cook dinner - sleep.
This went on for about two weeks, albeit with slight variations (sometimes the beer would be before the sunset, and we'd switch up between fish and shrimp for lunch, just to keep things interesting!).
This was a quiet couple of weeks. Not much really goes on in Mompiche after 9 p.m., and despite a few determined quests to seek out a cold beer after dark, we inevitably ended up in bed by 11.
That is, until the Irish arrived.
Our final week bounced between rum and debilitating hangovers. After two weeks of blissful solitude, it was a welcome addition.
montañita - a gringo's paradise?
We'd probably put ourselves in that smug little box marked - 'look at us, we're socially aware travellers only interested in local culture and experiences' - but bloody hell it was good to just let ourselves be full-on and unashamed gringo tourists in Latin America for a change.
Montañita is THE party-town in Ecuador. And the sort of place, given what we had read and heard, we would usually avoid. However, after three weeks in sleepy Mompiche, it was just what we wanted.
We wanted to just be gringos. None of this off-the-beaten-track nonsense which we usually peddle. We wanted to get drunk, eat Western food and get a tan.
And Montañita more than delivered on all those fronts.
There's an alley where old men make huge, delicious and strong cocktails for $3. There's a beach where the population seems to be split between Argentinian hippies selling happy brownies, scantily clad women and stoned surfers. You can find pretty much any food you want (our first stop was Thai). And the party goes on all night long every night of the week.
Initially, we thought we'd only have three days here. With red-eyes and sore heads, that eventually turned into four, then six. Although some people may think that we're actually just on one non-stop holiday, we both realised that this was the first time since San Pedro in Guatemala (almost 12 months ago) that we had decided to give ourselves an ACTUAL holiday experience within this trip.
And to top it all off - not one, but TWO adorable kittens! Ladies and gentlemen, meet 14 and The Admiral!
Andrew was particularly excited when he heard that you could see lots of boobies along the coast. Unfortunately for him, these boobies have blue feet, a beak and would look a little odd shoved inside a bikini.
After much research and discussion, we both realised that we simply couldn't afford or justify a trip to the Galapagos (doing it to the extent we wanted on even the tightest of tight budgets would cost around $800 per person for the week). So, we had to settle for the 'Poor Man's version' on Isla de la Plata.
Settle is the wrong word really - it was a great little day trip. The island was arid and baking under the hot sun, but we managed to spot turtles, plenty of blue-footed boobies and red-chested frigates, whilst the snorkelling at the end was some of the best we've had on our travels.
Our last stop this month was the little village of Ayampe, half an hour's bus ride from Montañita but a million miles away in a number of other senses. It was a refreshing change.
We were working with La Tortuga - a great little resort - and were lucky enough to stay in one of their suites. It was hands-down the nicest room we've had in a long time and we took full advantage of the facilities. Andrew got to brush up on his slack-linking, Emily on her sunchair reclining and we both absolutely loved having a pool for the first time on this trip.
As we were saving money on accommodation, it also allowed us to loosen the budget belt a little too. We actually had our first dress-up date night in a LONG time which involved delicious pasta made by some Italians and a couple of glasses of wine that definitely didn't come out of a carton.
So, have we learned anything after a month of doing very little? Absolutely. The beaches in Ecuador are awesome, we love the sun, we have an unlimited appetite for prawns and there is a lot to be said for living life at this pace. We're incredibly lucky to be able to choose to be beach bums for this amount of time, but it's a choice that was years in the making.