Sipping a few beers on a third-floor balcony overlooking the ocean brings temporary relief to our healing stomachs.
Watching the fishermen provides all the Zen chillin’ we need. “Fisher people” describes the scene more accurately, as “it takes a village” to prepare boats for launch and return.
Men carry 40 horsepower outboard motors across their shoulders to the wooden, fiberglass-fortified boats.
The “village” roll boats to the ocean over top logs. Some have an updated mechanism of a log with wheels attached on each end. (Flintstones boat trailer).
Then the fun begins, as these fearless captains navigate through sets of thunderous waves that often shoot boats airborne.
It’s the way of the locals. The hard way. Numerous friendly expats that we talk with all come to the same conclusion, “Their nuts!” but said in a sentimental, respectful manner of course.
In the morning we walk the longest beach in Ecuador. Each local we pass greets us with, “Hola! Buenas dias!” After the walk we sip “real damn coffee” at the Surf Shack, one of the numerous restaurant/bars on the main sand road. Alan, the proprietor, relocated here from the USA with his wife and daughter prior to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016 that almost leveled this entire town (population 20,000). The impressive rebuild, a work in progress, leaves little clue for the first-time visitor of the fatal damage. Telling us his story helps Alan to heal. It goes something like this:
The family’s three-story rental house collapsed when the 59 second earthquake hit. Alan’s wife fell from the third floor, face first onto the gravel road below before buried in debris. He tumbled with the falling house from inside the second floor and was mostly buried in debris. Their daughter was somewhere among the chaos.
Alan’s leg totally separated from his hip. He could not pop it back into place. His wife’s face was unrecognizable, with numerous facial fractures, a broken jaw, and all her teeth broken. They could see each other’s faces. He kept telling her, “We’re going to be okay.” They were immobile.
Passersby started digging them out. When they tried to lift Alan, he screamed in pain and his loyal dog, Gunner, tried to attack the rescuers. They brought the couple to the overwhelmed medical center, but his wife needed to get to a hospital in the United States in order to save her life. His daughter escaped relatively unharmed.
The couple moved back to Canoa, resumed business and currently live behind the “Surf Shack.” Both recovering from PTSD, and more. They express gratitude that they traveled during their lives when they were both mobile, as well as having been so physically active. Amazing to us that they have returned to Canoa and rebuilt. Yet another inspirational example of “keep on keeping on” as long as you can. Fifty-nine seconds could change your life forever.
Okay, let’s lighten up and get back to the Zen on the porch beer drinking thing, where we watch children climb bamboo poles on the beach, and locals snooze in hammocks.
Excited villagers gather to spot the fishing boats making their way back to shore.
They roll the boats up the same way that they rolled them down. Everybody chips in, carrying, lifting, and sorting.
Fresh seafood for sale!
Throughout the evening, folks untangle and repair fishing nets preparing for the following day’s catch. The only labor we do involves walking to a beach bar for cocktails, where we meet an eclectic group of expats.
Laughter and stories abound. Jimmy, who is 83 years old, spent 38 years at sea between the Navy and the Merchant Marines. He settled here 18 years ago and built the bilingual school in town, and the Surf Shack. He recalled seeing us sitting at the Surf Shack the other day and noticed that Marilynn looked ill. He was going to offer to drive her to the medical clinic but figured that I knew what I was doing. “Thanks, Jimmy,” I say. “But no, I have no clue what I’m doing.”
Each evening we sit on our balcony listening to the waves. Our stomachs rebound, but we’re hesitant to consume “ceviche” quite yet. So we find pizza topped with fresh caught shrimp. It tastes so good, let’s have another.
We cancel onward travel reservations and hang in Canoa for several more days.
Eventually, and with considerable effort, we pull ourselves away from this laid-back town. We leave only after promising each other we would one day return for more chillin’. For now, we head high into the Andes with a driver who makes our previous driver from Guayaquil (Mario Andretti; Stumbling Around Guayaquil) look like an amateur. Flying for hours around the twisty mountain roads climbing up the Andes, dodging oncoming traffic while passing trucks and buses feels like the longest, fastest, most thrilling roller-coaster ride of our lives. It was a blast!
Thank you, Abundant Universe.