Luis’ Hosteria is tucked away following a little road off the Coastal highway. The road there was full of putholes, a teeth rattling ride.
The little town of Las Penas, where the Hosteria was near, had clearly known better days. The fact that the Colombian border issue had chased away tourists was very noticeable. Everything was set up for tourism, but over the years it had fallen apart. The houses, the restaurants, huge hotel complexes with swim paradises with glides and the lot…all in decay.
The province of Esmeraldas, which is where Las Penas is located, shows these signs all over the coastal highway. It makes me sad to see the poverty that is
left after the high times.
One day, driving through the town, a dog was lying on the road. It was clearly dying, worn out, skin over bones. Next to it was a café, where the local youngsters were drinking and music was playing. It sort of seemed symbolic for the state of the area. Nobody payed the dying dog any heed.
The Hosteria had also known busy times. Maria’s father had bought it, 10 years ago, with the idea it would one day be running well. When he bought it, the Colombian drug traffic and the FARC were already caused problems, but he assumed this would one day be over. Who could have known this would still play after 10 years?
Luis bought it off him 5 years ago. It has had some good and busy times, when the FARC was less active and no tourists were abducted.
It is right on the beach, it has a big swimming pool, it has all the requirements for a holiday at sea. It is quiet, a bit further from town, we had the clean beach all to ourselves. The only people we saw, were the local fishermen in their little boats at sea, catching shrimps and fishes with nets or langoustines while diving for them. From now on it would be daily fresh seafood to eat for us, all along the coast.
Swimming in the warm sea was an experience I can’t remember having before: almost as I would imagine being a foetus in the tummy would be like. So warm there was no issue of ‘having to get used to the temperature’.
The heat was a difficulty. And not a small one.
I have begun menopause some years ago. And when you can’t tell whether you are having a hot flush or are just plain hot and sweating all the time, life can be hard. Especially at night. Even when the fan was on all night long, I had moments where I considered just giving up on sleep and spending the night in the swimming pool. The second night was slightly better than the first, maybe slowly getting used to it, I hoped. But no such luck…the third night was dreadful again.
I had never imagined that the coast could be more humid and hot then the Amazone!
Lem had a hard time with the heat and his stubborn refusal to swim or get rid of some clothes, to cool down. He threatened to steal his passport out of our stuff and just leave to go back to the Netherlands if we wouldn’t get him air-conditioning asap. We got him an extra fan for individual use, which made him a tiny bit less angry.
The next destination, after 3 days here, was Atacames. Driving down the coast, southbound, we first ran in to Esmeraldas. Esmeraldas is a big city with a big
harbour in the province of Esmeraldas. A beautiful, lush green, tropical province.
The navigation system played some tricks on us. It thought it had found a fast route into the centre of town. It took us over sandy paths through the slums until we bumped into a bridge. The bridge didn’t look too solid and was kind of narrow and only used by motorbikes and people on foot. We stopped right in front of the bridge, looking at it with some suspicion, when a motorcyclist made it clear with signs and eye movements that we should definitely take another bridge.
What is very special about this whole area, is the fact that most people living here originate from Africa. They are the descendants of the people who escaped
the slave boats headed for the US, or who were survivors when boats filled with slaves, sank in front of the coast. They are clearly not descendants from the Spanish conquerors or the original
We were the only white people in miles around, since we entered the province.
When we drove through the town of Esmeraldas that became even more clear. In a way it made me feel like an outcast. I noticed Beer felt this way too: when we were looking for a place to eat he didn’t want to sit out in the open where his whiteness would stand out so clearly.
Another oddity that is almost opposite our experience in the Amazone: there are HEAPS of mosquitos on the coast. How not to get dengue or malaria was now a
real ‘thing’. And next to this: simply just not to constantly get stung and itchy and getting annoyed from being attacked by clouds of mosquitos.
I am not a person who uses poisons, like pharmaceuticals. But now I stepped over this opinion and smeared and sprayed myself with Deet and/or anything that would work to keep from constantly getting stung. But whatever I used, I still got stung. It seemed unavoidable.
Every single one of us got their share of bites.
Atacames is a beach town which is still thriving (sadly). I think sadly, because from a distance we could already see the skyrises. And there is nothing
attractive about that (to us).
The cabana we rented was on a cabana park, right on the beach, with a luxurious swimming pool right in front of the cabana. The waves were the dangerous, surfing kind. So we enjoyed fighting against the current and being toppled by waves continuously. Topping the experience off with a dive in the pool.
We met a few young travellers. A strange trio: an Australian guy who loved his own body and flexed his muscles whenever he could, a Canadian girl of almost 20, with a clear Dutch background (cheese-head and blond hair) and a French woman who had real trouble getting her mouth around English words and called the Australian guy ‘big baby’ all the time. They had met in Peru and were parting again in Quito the day after.
Funny: we had all kinds of thoughts about the relationship between these three and eventually they seemed to really be ‘just’ friends.
It is rare to meet foreigners; it is out of season and very quiet everywhere.
In Atacames we didn’t have airco either. And by now we understood this was important. So for the next Airbnb we made sure there was air-conditioning. (Also to
keep Lem in a do-able state of being.)
Alas, when we arrived in Canoa, 3 days later, where the next Airbnb was, there was only one bedroom with airco: the master bedroom. Aaargh. Lem freaked out. He even got his suitcase and laptop and left. Next I found him on the main road, trying to get a ride. I persuaded him to come back in and talk about it. It helped that I took his laptop over from him and walked back to the house with it.
We made an arrangement where he could also enjoy the airco (he sleeps in our bedroom….) and we spend a lot of time talking to him to engage him in our plans for the future. He came back to his usual friendly and cooperative self eventually. But this travelling is definitely not Lem's piece of cake.
Canoa is very beautiful. It is, until now, the most beautiful beach-town I have seen. No high-rises, but just a very nice small town with a nice and quiet
atmosphere. The beach is endlessly long and the sea is nice and wild.
And again: the Airbnb lies on the beach.
Somehow we all managed to catch some virus, bacteria or parasite. Beer started off by becoming sick after eating at the KFC in Atacames. We blamed the food there, although most of us had eaten the same and didn’t get sick. He spent the whole day in bed and slept it off, after some vomiting and diarrhoea. The next day he was kind of ok again. Then it hit Lem, during the drive to Canoa. Which probably contributed to his outburst.
Slowly we all toppled over. Not extremely sick, just not well. So Canoa has a somewhat lazy start. And we haven’t managed to go anywhere, apart from necessary shopping.
We are here till Thursday, so hopefully we will feel well enough to go out and look around before then.
The business meeting on Monday was very productive. We still need to figure out a few details to be sure if it is viable, so all of us had some homework to do. We put the deadline at the end of May. By then we should have reached clarity on whether to start officially or just cancel the whole idea. There clearly is a lot of learning to do in the areas of import and export, which we know nothing about.
About this area: we are not sure yet. It feels good here. It is not as hot and humid as the places on the beach before. We are here another 5 days, so hopefully it will become clear before we leave. But Eric thinks the biggest chance is, that it will not be the place to settle.