Lost chapter of Nelly´s Lonely Planet: Crucita.
Crucita is a fishing town somewhere halfway the north coast of Ecuador that borders Colombia, and the south coast that continues in Peruvian territory. The reason to go there on a holiday is: Ecuadorians go there. That means that people from the region head there to unwind (must be something tranquil then?) and that means few gringo´s. Perfect.
Right along the beach lays the main road, where tuctucs offer bumpy rides to those who don´t feel like walking ten minutes to the other side of town. Carrier tricycles that function as food stalls stand on the road side, while the owner shares the local daily news and gossip with a friend, apparently without any interest of selling anything. Children on bicycles that are way too big, and adults on bicycles that are way to small, and men in swimming shorts or families of four (including babies) on motorcycles sway along the holes and bumps over the dusty road that turns into a pool of mud in a few minutes when it rains. Because of the tropical temperatures, umbrellas and rain jackets aren´t used here. The shops, restaurants and houses along the seaside are made of wood or bamboo with cane roofs, alternating with ones made of concrete or irregular brick stone walls and corrugated iron.
Trucks come from inland towns to sell their vegetables and fruits, and the row of fishing boats explains why 80% of the main road consists of fish and seafood restaurants. At times when the boats aren´t out on the sea, men sit together playing cards, being manly and whistling to every female passant of up to thirty years. If you look into (or walk into) one of the little side roads trying to ignore them or avoid them, you see an even more chaotic collection of creative constructions on both sides of the sand that´s just broad enough for one and a half cars. Or two moto-taxi´s if you want.
On the beach people walk with or without a dog and dogs with or without an owner. A handful of people stands in the luke warm water of the ocean and on the seaside children run away from the water screaming excitedly when the waves come rolling in faster that expected. When the tide changes and the beach becomes narrower, a few surfers appear. After a little warming op for the sake of it, they soon paddle towards the washing waves. And every fifteen minutes a bus passes by saying “Crucita internacional”. Though that´s maybe a little ambitious, the place is perfectly fine to spend a day or two of tranquility if that´s what you´re looking for.
How to get there and away? – You can surely find (semi-)direct busses if you want to make an effort and if you like planning your trip, but it´s easier and more fun (just not faster) to take a bus that goes at least in the right direction. Although most of the times they only go as far as “halfway” wherever you want to go. (See also my blog “Between the mountains and the sea”). “Crucita internacional” goes every fifteen minutes to Portoviejo.
Where to stay? - There are plenty of hostels and rooms at every corner and side road, where you can get a private room for ten to fifteen dollars. Don´t bother asking for hot water: they´ll surely say that they have it, they most probably don´t and you won´t want to use it anyway. At least not in the rainy season when the burning sun heats up the vibrant air before and after the rain comes. If you get out of the bus feeling overheat and you´re willing to pay a few dollars more for a swimming pool in front of your door, check first if you can see the bottom of it. If you can´t and if there´s no filter either, it´s best to just go swimming in the sea in order to avoid that tropical micro-organisms enter your body. To get rid of the sand and the salt, you have your cold shower anyway. Actually, that cold shower is hot after midday. Don´t accept the offers from hostel staff who want to be your personal tourist guide.
What to do? – A Dutch cabaretier once came up with a quote about his hometown: “A traffic light turns red, a traffic light turns green, in Almelo there´s always something happening.” Although there´s not a single traffic light in Crucita, that´s quite an appropriate description. The main road and the beach are the main attractions, and one of the most interesting things to do is sitting and watching the daily entertainment there. On the beach there´s families with three or four generations represented, physical education classes with a human obstacle race and then a swimming session in sports clothes to wash off at least most of the sand, and with groups of youngsters trying to make a picture without getting their feet wet. Mothers with children that can hardly walk, football and ecua-volley players that only leave the beach when the dark makes it impossible for them to continue their game, and elderly in old fashioned beachwear walk hand in hand trying to make their way to the water. And there´s of course the hammock-population that keeps an eye on all that while swaying in the breeze underneath the wooden lifeguard tower. Or you can go paragliding from the nearest hill top if you want to. (?)
What to eat? – Fish is the new chicken, especially for those who come from Quito. Shrimps, squid, octopus or simply “pescado” (fish, undefined) from the morning catch, prepared in any way you want: fried, breaded, cooked, as filet or turned into a tortilla or ceviche. You can order it all anywhere along the main road of course, for four to eight dollars.
Dangers and annoyances – The direct danger doesn´t come from other human beings, as is the case in the capital, but from the combination of sun, wind and water: the perfect conditions to get your shoulders sunburned in half a day in spite of using sunscreen factor 50. But other than that, you can trust the villagers when they say “aqui no pasa nada” (nothing will happen here). They don´t count the whistling men and gringa-hunters as an annoyance, though. The best tactic is to completely ignore them, or if you couldn´t escape, to say that you´re just about to leave and/or that your fiancé is waiting for you in your hostel, in Quito or at home.
Have fun and… relax! :D