This is the view from the house we rented in Curia, Ecuador (which I found using vrbo.com). For $30 per night, we have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a spacious living room, a well-equiped kitchen and a stunning view of the ocean. The day we arrived the sun was shining and I was optimistic that – as planned – we’d be able to spend ten lazy days hanging out at the beach doing very little except sunbathing and swimming. Unfortunately since that day, we’ve had damp, wet weather and only BigB has been brave enough to go into the water. Instead, we’ve been using Curia as a base from which to explore this section of Ecuador’s Pacific coast from Montanita to Puerto Lopez.
Curia is little more than a sleepy village just 6k or so from Montanita – where most of the tourist activity in this area is focused. The sound of the surf, which pounds the shore day and night, is punctuated in the morning by cocks crowing and in the evening by music blaring from the houses around us. Curia is a peaceful, restful spot but the longer I’m here, I’m finding myself more and more disconcerted by the cavernous gap between the lifestyle I’m used to and what it’s like to live in a rural Ecuadorian village.
Modernity is unevenly applied in Curia. People sit in houses with bare brick walls and dirt floors watching soap operas and soccer on plasma TVs sometimes with chickens wandering around their feet and pigs wallowing outside the door. I can go to the lavanderia and pay to have my clothes washed and dried in a regular automatic washing machine and dryer – at 50cents per pound, it’s cheap – but I can tell that most of the people living in this village are still washing their clothes by hand. Laundry is drying around every house on lines, hedges and walls. If the weather had held, I’m sure I’d barely notice the volume of clothing since it would dry quickly in the sun. As it is, the damp weather has meant that more laundry is added to the lines daily with very little being removed. It’s a visible sign of hard work against tough odds. I can’t help think of how much work these mothers are doing to keep their boys and girls in clean clothes. It’s a long way from choosing not to use a tumble dryer for environmental reasons.
The unpaved street has turned to mud more than once since we’ve been here causing me to reflect on simple things that we take for granted at home – like paved streets. And well-stocked grocery stores that have large signs, are brightly lit and are full of an abundance of products. Here, you might see “Se Vende …” written on the side of a house. It took me a few days to work out that the house was not for sale, rather that this was the owner’s way of advertising his or her wares. Each store is small with an eclectic mix of products. Just because you can’t see the thing you’re looking for on the shelves doesn’t mean it isn’t available – it may be, but to find it you have to ask the owner.
The guy with the bicycle in that photo is selling fish. Bicycle salesmen selling fruit, vegetables, fish or bread meander through the village or along the beach daily. You have to be in the right place at the right time to catch them. Buying food for dinner this way certainly makes you feel closer to the producer, but the randomness of it is confounding. There is a supermercado in Libertad which is an hour’s bus-ride away. We could go there and stock up – as I’m sure many locals actually do – but I’m loath to do so since that would feel like cheating on this experience of figuring out how and where to buy what we need here. The local bus passes by every 15 minutes or so making it easy to get to the larger towns of Montanita or Puerto Lopez if necessary.
I’m sure that as development marches up the coast – the streets in Montanita were recently paved, for example – Curia will change. I’m glad we got to experience it now but I’ll be curious to return here in five or ten years just to see how it has changed. Hopefully the changes will be for the better and the simple character of the village will be preserved.