Hitchhiking from Quito to Montanita
A New Ocean – September 2015
Three days kicking about Quito, a cool city with drinkable tap water. Lots of gringos and modern stuff, like fast-food and skate-parks for example. A strange accent here too, the people like throwing a sort of f/v sound into every word.
“De donde eres?”
Real friendly people too who enjoy talking to tourists, in fact Ecuador is a very nice place where every second street seems to be called Eloy Alfaro Street.
Anyway to the hitchhiking, I took a bus from the terminal in Quito to Tambillo on the outskirts of the city for a dollar if I remember rightly. I was still in Quito but at least on the outskirts, I could see a petrol station up ahead and began walking for it.
“Hello Gringo, of what part?” Some man shouted from a parked car.
“What are you doing”
“I’m making finger to Santo Domingo” (Hacer Dedo, to make finger means hitchhiking in South America)
“I can bring you a little further to the turn for Santo Domingo”
Too fucking easy I hadn`t even started hitchhiking yet.
From the turn I began walking and turning as cars passed, making the crucial eye contact with my thumb out. Fifteen minutes later I was in a car to Santo Domingo. I jumped out in the center for a look around as my driver had told me the center was very beautiful.
It wasn’t, South Americans think wherever they come from is beautiful, has the best food and the best ladies, agree if you want a peaceful car ride.
I walked out of Santo Domingo, using my compass to find the road towards the coast, Canoa was my aim because an Ecuadorian girl in Quito said it was the nicest beach of them all and I believed her. I didn’t care too much anyway I just wanted to take a dip in the Pacific for the first time, maybe see a whale. Not asking much.
I began hitchhiking once I felt I was outside of Santo Domingo far enough for the traffic to not be all local. Ten minutes passed before a pick-up pulled in.
An old guy with what I presumed was his daughter but turned out to be his wife (common theme in South America).
“You can’t be out travelling solo here, you will be killed, people are more dangerous at the coast, many rats, they will shoot you for a dollar”
Christ I hated listening to this bullshit, he had worked for many years in Germany before returning to Ecuador, because the life is more relaxed here. Not the first person I have heard tell a similar story in South America. Whether it be Germany or the US they always say they came home for more freedom and the food
(they never say to use their superior foreign currency to buy property and find a young wife).
Anyway he offered to take me to Pedernales a different beach-town, north of Canoa and I could hang up my hammock for the night in his back-yard. Alright then, what a sweet deal.
The road was nice on the way there, at least for me I enjoyed seeing the banana farms. Ecuador has different climates allowing it to cultivate so much different food yet its not a huge country. Still dosen’t quite have Irish potatoes though.
I went for a quick swim in the sea as soon as we arrived, I don’t know what I expected to be honest. That the pacific would have different water? The waves were certainly good, unfortunately the only thing not coming out to stare at the hitchhiking Gringo today were the whales, lazy cunts.
In the morning I left early, around 6am and walked across Pedernales to start thumbing my way to Canoa. I got collected first by a Peruvian after about a half hour. Friendly guy, we had to stop on the road for 30 minutes to allow his car to cool down.
In Canoa I went for a swim leaving my backpack with an American guy I meet on the beach. He had a place here, he informed me in a way only an American can say “I have a place here”. Instead of saying he moved here. Reminds me of how some Brits refer to themselves in a superior tone often as Ex-Pats rather than Emigrants.
I thought about staying in Canoa but decided fuck it, I’ll keep moving. I walked and walked from Canoa without any luck until a pick-up truck stopped and I hopped on the back, I love riding on the back of pick-ups. The best way to enjoy the equators weather.
He dropped me in San Vicente and asked for money, I said I was hitchhiking and he should of said he wanted money before-hand, he seemed surprised that I didn’t give a fuck and I walked off. I wasn`t going to start paying for rides now. To be a successful hitchhiker you have to really not give a fuck a lot of the time.
I ate an almuerzo (lunch) in Vicente then hitchhiked across the bridge to Bahia de Caraquez in another pick-up and began walking again. I wasn’t getting picked up this time and darkness came with me still walking and hitchhiking. I was thinking about rewarding myself with a nice ditch to sleep in or somewhere to hang my hammock up when a car pulled over.
A young couple and their five year old son, dam I didnt catch half the words they said. Really very ghetto Ecuadorians, the guy had a gypsy look about him. I didn’t think they would rob me with their son in the car though so I jumped in. Of course I would of anyway to be honest, I’m sure a bag full of dirty clothes and a tarp aren’t worth so much. They were heading to Porto Viejo, ok I’ll come too.
When I reached Porto Viejo I realised my mistake, the place was big, and shitty looking. They left me at the bus terminal but I kept asking to be left outside the city so I could hitchhike to Manta, a city which I hoped would be less rough. He wouldn’t let me though and shoved 2 dollars into my hand telling me I better get the bus then drove off or I would be mugged. He wouldn’t let me refuse the bus money which made me feel like a piece of shit for thinking that he might have robbed me.
I walked back out of the city, most people just looked confused to see a tall Gringo tipping along with his life on his back. Took about two hours before I got to somewhere I could sleep without being noticed in my hammock.
Next morning I began hitchhiking again around 7am and got a lift with a young guy to the nearest turn-off for JipiJapa. I wanted to go to Jipijapa because of the ridiculous name. Apologies to any Jipijapians out there.
At the turn-off was a small village with probably no name. I love when I end up in odd places like this. Its usually only possible through hitchhiking or if you cycle around the world, but I’m too lazy for that.
I used the two dollars the guy gave me for the bus to buy a breakfast which consisted of soup, a plate of rice, vegetables and chicken plus juice. Then the change also to buy three oranges. I love eating in the middle of nowhere, its always cheaper and the ladies are so confused to see a foreigner that they never try to up the price.
A nice old fellow brought me to JipiJapa. He insisted I take a photo of everything I see and show my family when I go home. I took a photo of him.
I walked to the outskirts of JipiJapa following my compass and got interrupted by a group of drunks along the way. They were sitting under a tree drinking vodka.
“Gringo, Gringo come here”
“Where are you from”
“Take some wine” one insisted, grinning, the drink was concealed inside a plastic bottle but I knew from the smell it was vodka. He was trying to get me to take a drink thinking it was wine. Then he would laugh when I coughed or spat it back because it was vodka.
His plan back fired however, I took the bottle then took a huge gulp and swallowed it in one like a mad bastard. Concentrating my face so that I didn’t convey any sort of discomfort.
“Weak, we drink much stronger in Europe, have any of you a cigarette”
I will never forget their faces of shock and disgust as I walked off trying to wave down cars.
Aren’t Gringos afraid of us drunks? Why didn’t he think our drink was strong? Why is he hitchhiking, are Gringos not all rich? Did he just finish our vodka? How dare he ask for a cigarette?
Times like this when your tipping along kicking rocks and whistling, that’s when I love hitchhiking, cars stop, girls rarely but occasionally blush and kids wave.
I soon bumped into three Ecuadorian students hitchhiking and we caught a pickup together to Puerto Lopez. Friendly kids.
Puerto Lopez looked stunning, there are so many empty beautiful beaches on Ecuadors coast it’s crazy. Forget Canoa or Montanita, just drive around until you find an empty beach with no name.
Next we caught a pick-up to Salango, then another to Puerto Rico where they left me and I was back to hitchhiking solo on my loansome.
I jumped on the back of another pick-up truck and got to Ayampe. It was getting dark soon and the amount of traffic had suddenly decreased rapidly. I tried hitchhiking on the far side of Ayampe then walked back across the town because I was bored and tried again.
This time just before dark I got picked up by a young couple from Guayaquil returning home after a weekend on the beach. They were so cool, and asked lots of questions about Europe before leaving me at Montanita.
I began to search for a place to sleep in Montanita, I had heard lots about this town being full of stoners and hippies. After five minutes of walking towards a beach a black fella approached me.
“Hey, man where from?” (In English)
“Cool never meet a Cuban before”
He introduced me to some Chilean hippies who were getting high in the middle of the street. Apparently the police just turn a blind eye to this town populated by hippies making bracelets.
I’m going to stay here anyway for a night I decided after sharing the joint. I found a hostel, the sign said 7 dollars but I knew that was bullshit. The guy working there charged me five dollars, somewhere behind the dreadlocks was a brain which recognised 5 dollar tourists and 7 dollar tourists.
Next stop Guayaquil.
In April 2016 the town of Pedernales was hit by a horrific earthquake as were many of the neighboring towns in Ecuador.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the many people who helped me along my travels but especially the couple who allowed me to sleep in their back-yard and provided me with a lift from Santo Domingo to Pedernables. I hope to Christ the Earthquake hasn’t left your lives scarred.