Returning to Guayaquil from a week in the Galapagos, we intrepidly rented a car to explore the Ruta Del Sol – Ecuador’s coastline. After my first trip to Ecuador I returned home talking about the ruleless roads of Ecuador and vowed to NEVER drive in this country. Here I was a year later on my honeymoon boldly renting a car. Carpe diem. After checking in at the car rental counter, the kind girl said she didn’t have the mid-sized car we reserved and was going to have to upgrade us to an SUV. Hallelujah I thought. A bigger car equals more safety. After completing the paperwork, we headed out towards the car. The scariest part was about to begin; getting out of city of Guayaquil. The attendant must have felt sorry for us, or maybe he thought we were crazy, because the sweet and helpful man got in his own car and we followed him to the highway. Exiting Guayaquil we felt the fear dissipate and we kicked back and turned on the I Tunes. Driving in Ecuador turned out to be a breeze.

After 45 minutes of enjoying Bob Marley and driving through desert with tumbleweeds blowing across the road, we were at the beach and cruising the Ruta Del Sol (Road of the Sun).We stopped at a roadside stand for our favorite local dish of humitas, which are similar to corn tamales, and a coca cola. We continued along the Ruta Del Sol, hugging the coastline, crossing over from arid desert to lush jungle, passing through dusty villages, palapa style restaurants and homes, honking at cows and waving at the bicycling children. The long stretches of beach, sandstone cliff line and the rolling waves reminded us of our native Northern California coastline. The views were breathtaking.

After 4 hours of driving, we reached Montanita, the hippy and rave beach getaway full of South American artisans, California surfers, and Ecuadorian weekenders. After checking out a few hotels, we settled on the Swiss Hotel right on the road. We figured that the Swiss people know clean rooms and excellent customer service. We couldn’t go wrong. Next, we hit the beach, went for a swim and searched for some seafood. After a fabulous meal of ceviche with popcorn, fish doused with garlic, and acoustic guitar for dinner music, we walked back to our hotel to turn in. We woke up to rave music at 7:00am and decided it was time to move on.

The next morning, after breakfast with our lovely Swiss hoteliers, we started off to Canoa, a little tranquil surf town we had heard about from some friends back home. Of course we got a late start and stopped in every little town to explore, so we didn’t arrive in Canoa until dark. We met a kind local couple that showed us the last 20 miles or so to Canoa which involved a ferry crossing. After 2 days of driving, we finally arrived to a tranquil and calm sanctuary.

We spent the week staying in a great hotel right on the beach walking the long white sand beach daily. We had time Ecuador Escapeto read books, surf, eat fabulous fresh seafood and bowls of ceviche, and truly relax in all sense of the word. Canoa is a place for people looking for peace and solitude. It was a great retreat from life and obligations. It’s a place that locals go and it’s truly off the beaten path from other foreign tourists.

Canoa means “rowboat” in Spanish. After the first morning in this sleepy surf town, we quickly realized it’s also a fishing town. The beaches were lined with the colorful rowboats perched on the crest of the sloped beach. Each morning from our balcony we watched local fisherman depart to sea which was quite an interesting process. Every morning 3 men would carry their 4 stroke motors down to the beach from their homes, on foot, and connect it to their “rowboat”. Once the motor was assembled to the boat, the boat was rolled down the beach to the water on 2 large logs, with the log in front being replaced with the log from the back, over and over and over. The process looked simple, but required an enormous amount of strength. Launching the boat in the morning was the easy part since the beach was on a slope. As you could imagine, when the fisherman returned at the end of the day, the boat had to be rolled back UP the slope on two logs, the front log replaced with the back log, over and over and over. I watched in awe, admiring the simple, efficient and resourceful hoist being employed. Once the boat was launched, the captain then had to battle the surf before getting out to sea.Watching this every morning for 5 days from my balcony with my coffee in hand made me feel a little lazy. When the fisherman returned in the evenings, we’d survey their catch along with all the restaurateurs knowing exactly where our dinner was coming from that evening.

At sunset the same group of local children would run down to the beach to play and absorb the magical sunset. The group of cousins and friends had a beached rowboat as their playhouse which housed their pet hermit crab and other imaginary friends.The innocence and simplicity of the Ecuadorian children was beautiful. All their toys were from nature and their natural playground was stunning.

After a week of making friends with our hoteliers and newfound “family” at our favorite local restaurant, we started up our little SUV and traveled back to Guayaquil. Fortunately there is a much more direct route, though less scenic and exploratory, back to the Guayaquil Airport that we were able to drive all in one day. We gobbled our last humita down at a roadside restaurant before catching our flight back home. It was a honeymoon that we’ll never forget.

By Katie and Kevin Hickey