Ecuador On the Beach

by David Schneider
(From? Good Question)

Third World Beach

Third World Beach

We were heading south out of Manta looking for little-known surf spots along the isolated coast of central Ecuador.

My wife Lin, 6-year-old daughter Kelsey, and I had decided to take a side trip. Well, maybe it was me that decided.

Our trusty 1976 Mazda pickup was used to detours, dusty roads, and river crossings, but unfortunately was not a 4-wheel we would soon regret.

There had been rain in the mountains about 30 miles away, and the semi-desert terrain we were traversing was crossed by dry gulches that emptied into the ocean. This did not worry us at first because we could always turn back if things started looking questionable.

About 15 miles south of Manta, the road, as usual, had turned into a semi-maintained dirt road leading to a few fishing villages and some isolated shrimp farms.

As we drove, we could see signs that recent rains had begun washing out sections of the road and finally came to an impassable section. The beaten path led off to the right across the sand and down the beach.

Now, in Ecuador as in many coastal countries, the beach at low tide becomes a highway, often the smoothest you will find, so we didn't think much about hitting the beach.

Not only that, the only other vehicle we had seen in some miles was an SUV, obviously someone with money, ie, a shrimp farm owner, and we could see him a ways ahead of us down the beach.

The tide was going out and almost low. We bumped across the high tide line, turned north, and drove a short way to the end of the beach, enjoying an old wrecked boat and the usual desert beach scenery. We turned and headed south again. We could see the tracks of the SUV.

A few miles down the beach we came to a small fishing village and passed on by, still following the tracks of the SUV. No problems, right? Until we hit a stretch of beach apparently the same as what we had been traversing.

Upon later reflection while trying to dig our Mazda out of the wheel-well high sand, I could see that on the land side, there was a gully emptying high up the beach. Although the sand was dry on top, apparently below the surface was saturated sand and mud. We sank in and slowly came to a dead stop.

Now, being low tide, we had a couple of hours to get the truck out and head back before things got gnarly. The problem was getting the vehicle unstuck. Fortunately, I carried a few tools which were useful in digging sand from under the tires. However, forward or backward, the truck didn't want to come out.

Looking back north up the beach about 1/2 mile away, we could just see the fishing village with a few fisherman now looking our way. We didn't need their help of course...

Anyway, we had seen no decent vehicle when we passed to pull us out. So we dug. And dug.

Finally with my wife driving and me pushing and Kelsey giving directions, we broke free. Ohhhh yeahhhh....

Cruising back to the village nonchalantly, we decided to stop and check out the road conditions from this end. The "coffee shop" was a small dirt room with somewhat unsavory characters chugging unknown liquids, but we were able to get some info.

The road back north was maybe passable. Some were trying it. So off we went. In a few minutes, though, we found ourselves behind a couple of old trucks who were not going anywhere. The sides of the road now were two banks of mud about 3 feet high. We backed up.

Waiting near the ramshackle "comedor" in the village was a young man with a school "mochila" (backpack) who flagged us down. Were we headed to Manta? Yes. Could he catch a ride? Sure. He hopped on the back bumper and held onto the rack on top of the camper shell.

Bounding over the high tide driftwood and flotsam, we were back on the beach highway. Cruising. We arrived uneventfully at the detour back onto the dirt road to Manta. However, between us and the road was a stretch of deep, dry sand about 100 yards wide and uphill. Uphill? Why hadn't I taken note of that when we first arrived?

Two attempts at crossing the sand come to nothing. More speed was needed. Down the packed sand water line we went to return with pedal to the metal. Swerving onto the deep sand, bouncing, slewing, gradually slowing, I looked in the mirror. Our young amigo was playfully pretending to be a kite tail as he floated in the wind, attached by his arms to the roof rack.

We made it.

By now it was late afternoon. We could see heavy rain clouds over the coastal range, a sure indication of more flash flooding. Of course, Lin was not worried. She knows from experience that I am a capable and experienced man. I, of course, was not that confident.

Well, to make a long story short, whatever cloudburst flashfloods there were, they were slower than us. Before dark we had made it back to Manta to a 5 buck "hotel" room and a seafood plate....our young friend sincerely thanked us for the enjoyable tour and went his way.

We hit the sack.

Submitted by me, David Schneider and Odyssey Sea Glass, an SBI web site.

Sea Glass? You bet!

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