How to get to Montañita

Oh Montañita. If you are on the South American backpacking trail, there is no doubt that you will hear tales of this mystical land. And let me tell you, everything is true. Really. And it is actually even better than that.

Great waves, spectacular sunsets, friendly locals and a party scene that makes the Thai full moon fiesta seem like a pizza party – this tiny surf village on the west coast of Ecuador is the stuff that dreams are made of. But how do you get there?

Your trusty English language guidebook will probably tell you that there are 3 buses a day from the bus terminal in Guayaquil. What I have seen most tourists do (including myself) is plan the entire journey to make one of those 3 bus connections – thinking that if they were missed, you will get stuck in Guayaquil for the night. Ignore your guidebook completely.

The truth is that you are in Ecuador and everything is possible, always. There are 3 direct buses a day from Guayaquil to Montañita but loads and loads of indirect buses leaving all the time. In the bus terminal in Guayaquil, buy a ticket on any bus to Santa Elena or Salinas. Santa Elena is a small town abut 1h 45min away. The bus driver will make a loud announcement when the bus is stopping there. As soon are you get off the bus, the locals will help you find your way to Montañita.

If you are there during the day time, you can get on a local bus to Montañita. The locals will point you to the stop, where more than likely, there are loads of other gringos are waiting. If you arrive late at night, you will get pointed to a collectivo or a shared mini-bus taxi where you pay around $4 for your seat to Montañita. A private taxi from Santa Elena is about $15.

Next stop, Montañita. Enjoy. I’m jealous.

La Guajira: The Northern tip of South America

After a two day, bumpy journey through barren lands with only cacti and occasional coastlines, you arrive in the north of La Guajira. Your brain cannot keep up with your eyes and all you can do is take in every single moment, grateful that you are getting to experience one of the most magical but isolated places in the world. After 13 months of traveling through South America, if I had to pick the single most amazing place I got to experience (and yes, I was in Patagonia and Macchu Picchu), it is this indigenous land in the north of Colombia – no contest.

The journey commences in the Caribbean coast of Colombia, near the tourist playground of Santa Marta. From here, you take a local bus up to Riohacha – a good place to buy artistic Colombian handicrafts such as hammocks and handbags. In Riohacha, your best option is to find a tour agency offering a trip to La Guajira… normally these are 3 or 4 day all inclusive tours starting at about US $350.

Your tour begins in a 4WD that can seat 4 and you are introduced to your driver/ guide for the first section of the journey. Hopefully someone in your group speaks good Spanish because the Caribbean dialect is incredibly hard to decipher and it is going to be a long trip. Your driver takes you to a little store and tells you to stock up on candy. You are bewildered and curious but arrive back at the car with a nice supply of sweets.

As the journey out of Riohacha begins, the paved roads end and eventually you are actually driving through (for a lack of better word) terrain. There are no roads, no signs, just a lot of cacti, rocks and bumps. For a very long time. Now, the reason I recommend a tour is because La Guajira is the territory of the Wayuu Indians – it means normal Colombian laws do not apply here. When on a tour, your driver will be a local… he will know the area, the people, the language and you will end up in places doing things that you could never begin to plan as an independent traveler.

After a few hours, you will start to see some houses amongst the cacti. All of a sudden the car pulls to a halt. You stick your head out the window to see what is happening and realise that there are children on either side of the car holding a rope across the front. The driver instructs you to pull out the candy and hand it to the kids. You do, they giggle and drop the rope and onwards continues the journey. This happens repeatedly.

The next few days are spent sleeping in the most beautifully crafted hammocks, eating fresh fish and lobster caught in front of you, frolicking in the bluest oceans, playing with countless sheep, running through endless sand dunes, experiencing the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets, doing handstands with local children on tiny little sand islands in the middle of the Caribbean Sea – all the while never seeing a single soul who isn’t in your group or with the Wayuu Indians who are hosting you for the night. You are well and truly off the beaten track and it is worth every single second, penny and bump.

Volcano Boarding in Leon

Nicaragua has a lot of volcanoes, many of them still active. If you end up in the colonial city of Leon in the north, people will definitely try to sell you tours either climbing up one of the many volcanoes or boarding down Cerro Negro. Apparently this activity is number two on CNN’s must do before you die list – or so they tell you.

The story is that a French guy tried to set the record for cycling down this volcano a number of times (breaking some bones along the way). An Aussie in Perth heard about this, sold everything and moved to Leon to figure out how he could board down it. After trying a variety of contraptions such as snowboards, refrigerators and doors (also breaking a few bones along the way), he came up with the device they use today – a variation of a sled.

We arrive at Cerro Negro after an hour-long journey piled into the back of a truck. As we look at the top, everyone is feeling a bit daunted as it looks completely vertical and is sure to be a long climb. The bottom of the volcano is also covered in chunks of rocks so I am definitely wondering how this is going to be safe.

It is hot and sticky but to be fair, the climb isn’t that bad. You have the option of carrying your own board or paying a porter $5 to do so (I paid) and the guide stops every 10 minutes to tell you some stories. When we get to the top, he explains to us different ways to ride the board down – stressing that once you commit to speed, you will not be able to slow down. Someone at the bottom is clocking your speed and you win prizes for being fast.

I was one of the last people to go down so it was interesting to watch people talk up the activity only to go down at the slowest speeds possible once they were at the top. I met a Nicaraguan family on the tour, the mother told me it was her third time volcano boarding yet she was petrified every single time. After all the anticipation, it was finally my turn.

In the briefing, they have emphasized how to find your balance on the board so once I started, I realised that is wasn’t so bad at all as long as you kept your balance. I kept going faster and faster but making sure I was comfortable. Once halfway down, you can see the bottom and you realise it is flat for a long time so you will just wash out your speed quickly. I decided to commit to it and went down pretty fast. It was fun. I clocked in at 62km/ hour and was the fastest girl on the day so I won some prizes.

It was definitely a fun day out and a good way to be touristy and conquer one of Nicaragua’s many volcanoes. Bigfoot’s tour is the most famous in the city so there were about 32 people in the truck. In hindsight, I did not need to book the tour in advance – it can be done anywhere really – and with any tour operator. I’m not really sure if it was the number 2 thing I must have completed before I died but if you are in Leon, it’s fun. You should totally try to go fast though, it’s not as bad as you think. So many people at the bottom realised that if they did it again, they would commit to the speed a bit more.

Packable Waterproof Backpack

Until recently, the prevailing view assumed lorem ipsum was born as a nonsense text. “It’s not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing,” Before & After magazine answered a curious reader, “Its ‘words’ loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real.”

As Cicero would put it, “Um, not so fast.”

The placeholder text, beginning with the line “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit”, looks like Latin because in its youth, centuries ago, it was Latin.

Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar from Hampden-Sydney College, is credited with discovering the source behind the ubiquitous filler text. In seeing a sample of lorem ipsum, his interest was piqued by consectetur—a genuine, albeit rare, Latin word. Consulting a Latin dictionary led McClintock to a passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”), a first-century B.C. text from the Roman philosopher Cicero.

In particular, the garbled words of lorem ipsum bear an unmistakable resemblance to sections 1.10.32–33 of Cicero’s work, with the most notable passage excerpted below:

The Ultimate Toiletries Bag

Until recently, the prevailing view assumed lorem ipsum was born as a nonsense text. “It’s not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing,” Before & After magazine answered a curious reader, “Its ‘words’ loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real.”

As Cicero would put it, “Um, not so fast.”

The placeholder text, beginning with the line “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit”, looks like Latin because in its youth, centuries ago, it was Latin.

Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar from Hampden-Sydney College, is credited with discovering the source behind the ubiquitous filler text. In seeing a sample of lorem ipsum, his interest was piqued by consectetur—a genuine, albeit rare, Latin word. Consulting a Latin dictionary led McClintock to a passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”), a first-century B.C. text from the Roman philosopher Cicero.

In particular, the garbled words of lorem ipsum bear an unmistakable resemblance to sections 1.10.32–33 of Cicero’s work, with the most notable passage excerpted below:

This Tent Blocks Heat & Light

Until recently, the prevailing view assumed lorem ipsum was born as a nonsense text. “It’s not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing,” Before & After magazine answered a curious reader, “Its ‘words’ loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real.”

As Cicero would put it, “Um, not so fast.”

The placeholder text, beginning with the line “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit”, looks like Latin because in its youth, centuries ago, it was Latin.

Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar from Hampden-Sydney College, is credited with discovering the source behind the ubiquitous filler text. In seeing a sample of lorem ipsum, his interest was piqued by consectetur—a genuine, albeit rare, Latin word. Consulting a Latin dictionary led McClintock to a passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”), a first-century B.C. text from the Roman philosopher Cicero.

In particular, the garbled words of lorem ipsum bear an unmistakable resemblance to sections 1.10.32–33 of Cicero’s work, with the most notable passage excerpted below:

So You Don’t Speak the Language…

Until recently, the prevailing view assumed lorem ipsum was born as a nonsense text. “It’s not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing,” Before & After magazine answered a curious reader, “Its ‘words’ loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real.”

As Cicero would put it, “Um, not so fast.”

The placeholder text, beginning with the line “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit”, looks like Latin because in its youth, centuries ago, it was Latin.

Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar from Hampden-Sydney College, is credited with discovering the source behind the ubiquitous filler text. In seeing a sample of lorem ipsum, his interest was piqued by consectetur—a genuine, albeit rare, Latin word. Consulting a Latin dictionary led McClintock to a passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”), a first-century B.C. text from the Roman philosopher Cicero.

In particular, the garbled words of lorem ipsum bear an unmistakable resemblance to sections 1.10.32–33 of Cicero’s work, with the most notable passage excerpted below:

How to Find Cheap Flights

Until recently, the prevailing view assumed lorem ipsum was born as a nonsense text. “It’s not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing,” Before & After magazine answered a curious reader, “Its ‘words’ loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real.”

As Cicero would put it, “Um, not so fast.”

The placeholder text, beginning with the line “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit”, looks like Latin because in its youth, centuries ago, it was Latin.

Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar from Hampden-Sydney College, is credited with discovering the source behind the ubiquitous filler text. In seeing a sample of lorem ipsum, his interest was piqued by consectetur—a genuine, albeit rare, Latin word. Consulting a Latin dictionary led McClintock to a passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”), a first-century B.C. text from the Roman philosopher Cicero.

In particular, the garbled words of lorem ipsum bear an unmistakable resemblance to sections 1.10.32–33 of Cicero’s work, with the most notable passage excerpted below:

Understanding Frequent Flyer Points

Until recently, the prevailing view assumed lorem ipsum was born as a nonsense text. “It’s not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing,” Before & After magazine answered a curious reader, “Its ‘words’ loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real.”

As Cicero would put it, “Um, not so fast.”

The placeholder text, beginning with the line “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit”, looks like Latin because in its youth, centuries ago, it was Latin.

Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar from Hampden-Sydney College, is credited with discovering the source behind the ubiquitous filler text. In seeing a sample of lorem ipsum, his interest was piqued by consectetur—a genuine, albeit rare, Latin word. Consulting a Latin dictionary led McClintock to a passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”), a first-century B.C. text from the Roman philosopher Cicero.

In particular, the garbled words of lorem ipsum bear an unmistakable resemblance to sections 1.10.32–33 of Cicero’s work, with the most notable passage excerpted below:

The Packing List

Until recently, the prevailing view assumed lorem ipsum was born as a nonsense text. “It’s not Latin, though it looks like it, and it actually says nothing,” Before & After magazine answered a curious reader, “Its ‘words’ loosely approximate the frequency with which letters occur in English, which is why at a glance it looks pretty real.”

As Cicero would put it, “Um, not so fast.”

The placeholder text, beginning with the line “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit”, looks like Latin because in its youth, centuries ago, it was Latin.

Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar from Hampden-Sydney College, is credited with discovering the source behind the ubiquitous filler text. In seeing a sample of lorem ipsum, his interest was piqued by consectetur—a genuine, albeit rare, Latin word. Consulting a Latin dictionary led McClintock to a passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”), a first-century B.C. text from the Roman philosopher Cicero.

In particular, the garbled words of lorem ipsum bear an unmistakable resemblance to sections 1.10.32–33 of Cicero’s work, with the most notable passage excerpted below: