As a “long-term” hostel (minimum of 1 week in our rooms and 1 month in our suites), many of our potential guests wonder what they can do to keep them busy in this tiny, sleepy, surf town off the coast of Ecuador…
My Morning Ritual
I wake up just before the sunrise, while the big house is still dark and sleeping. As I slowly open my eyes, I hear the familiar crash of waves just outside my window. This mesmerizing sound of the ocean is the first thing heard after waking up; a constant hypnotizing hum throughout the day, and always the final farewell before falling into a profound sleep prompted by a day of surfing, hiking, or just lounging in the sun.
I make my way downstairs flanked by the two hostel cats, Qi and Su, who are looking for their morning cuddles. In the large kitchen a fellow guest, an Italian guy here with his girlfriend, is already preparing his second coffee. We exchange quiet good morning-greetings in both of our languages before he heads outside to join the small group of surfers huddled in the dim light, already eyeing the waves.
I take my coffee and head outside, where the beach is waiting literally steps away. Soon my toes find the still-cool sand and a salty breeze meets my face. The tide is low and the beach is long and wide, perfect for a morning jog or stroll. The sky lights up little by little, illuminating the surrounding hills and revealing the lush, green landscape. Rainbow rocks sparkle as the water passes over them and hundreds of sandcrabs dart in between as they run from sea to shore.
As I make my way back to the house, the little village is coming to life. A man scoots by on a motorbike selling freshly made bread, while another man stands in the bed of his truck selling fish and shrimp caught just hours before. Fernando and his famous fruit and veggie truck are parked on the corner offering fresh, exotic fruits, vegetables and other local items. Enjoying local, natural products in Ayampe is easy and cheap, and helps to support the Ecudorians from this small town.
Relax & Recharge
I pick up some things for a quick, healthy breakfast and head up to the porch overlooking the ocean to plan my day. There are many things to do in Ayampe, the majority of them involving nature and wildlife. Surfing, kayaking, hiking and yoga are all popular activities. People that come here are most often searching for a slower, simpler pace of life where they are able to recharge. The pristine beach, rolling hills and lazy lagoon provide a beautiful backdrop to do just that.
After breakfast I decide to catch a morning yoga class. The classes are offered free and exclusively to guests of La Casa, providing another activity and opportunity to get to know the people who you are sharing this amazing space with. The yoga class takes place on the third floor of the beachfront home, overlooking a panoramic view of the Pacific ocean. People have told me that during whale season, it’s not uncommon to sit and watch the humpback whales leap out of the water from this same platform.
A quick dip in the ocean after morning yoga effortlessly turns into an afternoon surf session. Ayampe offers waves of different shapes and sizes, so beginners and seasoned surfers alike are able to paddle out to their preferred spots. Today while I wade into the water, I glance back at shore just in time to see a pair of wild horses galloping up the beach. They play and chase each other as they pass in front of me and other wide-eyed beach-goers, then fade out of sight into the green of the lagoon. Stunning moments like this are not rare in Ayampe. Magical sights seem to be waiting over each wave or behind each looming palm tree.
As an enormous red sun begins to set over the sea, the already breath-taking scenery starts to truly come alive. The lower the sun gets to the tops of the Ayampe Islets, the more vibrant the colors of the sky and ocean become. Firey reds, bright pinks and deep orange colors paint the sky and surrounding mountains. People lay down blankets on the soft sand and are hypnotized by the ever-changing hues. Others practice acro-yoga on the shore, while some read books and a few play guitars and even a saxophone. Of course many remain in the waves until darkness forces them reluctantly out of the water. I myself go to join the group playing sand volleyball just in front of La Casa.
Feels like home
This evening Arian and Jose are hosting their weekly family dinner. This is a chance for all guests of La Casa to share a meal and an evening together. Guests prepare dishes inspired by their respective nationalities and backgrounds, travels, new local ingredients discovered that day, or maybe just the lentils they had leftover from lunch. Stories, experiences, food, drinks, languages and laughs are all shared. As people head off to bed with a full belly and a light heart, we are reminded of how this hostel feels like home, and how strangers have quickly come to feel like family.
As if this evening did not already have a perfect ending, I’m given a final gift from Ayampe. A few people call from outside to come quick, there’s something in the water. A few of us wander curiously back out into the cool night. The sky has become an immense mural of stars and the milky way is clearly visible. Then suddenly a blue blur in the water catches my eye. It disappears quickly, but in the next wave I see it again. Microscopic, bioluminescent creatures have come out to surf the waves tonight, creating a bright blue and green glow across the seafoam. The whole scene is other-worldly.
I take one more deep breath of the salty, pure ocean air and turn back towards La Casa with a smile on my face. Back in my room, a warm bed and deep sleep wait for me. Tonight, like last night, the ocean will lull me to sleep, and then tomorrow she will wake me back up for another perfect Ayampe day.
Guest Post & Authored by Mackenzie Perry (firstname.lastname@example.org) – yoga teacher, writer, english teacher, stayed at La Casa for 6 months