The only downside to this cute little town was that there really wasn’t anywhere free to park.
The rugged little seafront ended in a small cark park which I guess you could have stayed in but no doubt you would get woken in the very early hours as all of the fishing boats which were lined up down the beach went out. We ended up going to Hostel Gabeal which offered camping for $3 a person and was in very easy walking distance of everything. It was after all, a pretty small place.
We had a few things on our list to do; check out the surf, buy some fresh fish and eat some more local food. Its a hard life. In line with the latter, we had a look at what local restaurants were available. Apparently there was one vegetarian restaurant and with a string of five star reviews we decided to swing by as we needed to make a reservation to go there. The Secret Garden was indeed on the secret side, on the outskirts of the village. Ronnie, the Australian owner and chef saw us in the street below and let us in via a system involving several pulleys and some string attached to the front door. Shoes off before you go upstairs.
She was in the middle of cooking for some guests that night, but we sat on her swinging bench while she explained how the restaurant worked. Its not so much a restaurant but that you can come and sit in her kitchen, enjoy a glass of wine and a chat while she cooks you dinner. She offered to cook us anything we wanted, saying she regularly cooks not only for peoples’ dietary needs but also for those of us who are all homesick over a particular dish. If you can’t think of what you want then there’s also a decent menu. In the end, we picked a miso roasted aubergine dish that sounded rather good. And if you want desert, you have to pick fruit or chocolate, but then it’s a surprise, she explained. We confirmed that we did indeed want desert and made a booking for two nights time.
The surf was one of the main reasons for coming here and so one afternoon we took a stroll down the beach to check out the surf break which was the other side of the bay. Here too, was the only other really viable camping option, a small restaurant. As we were there, we walked up to see if it was an option. The lady showed us to a grassy flat spot at the back but said there was no Wi-Fi, just bathrooms. it also cost and extra $4 a night and despite the fact that it had a little bit more of a view, it didn’t quite seem worth it. It was a lot for us to pay $10 a night for a toilet that we already had. We continued to walk on the get a look at the waves.
The surf break is out around the headland and quite a way from the beach, while the surfers paddled out there, we took the path along the headland the viewpoint which was also the cemetery. We walked through a little wood, getting absolutely mauled by mosquitoes until we emerged on a open space and could see a couple of surfers catching some small waves. A guy also sat there with his board and told us there was a path down the sea at the back and that the waves were bigger around the corner. We found the little path and headed down to the rocks for a closer look, back to being eaten alive. Someone had installed a rope to help you get down the steep bank but even with that it wasn’t the easiest. While I could manage fine now, I couldn’t imagine doing it while carrying a long board. The waves were pretty gentle, small and even. It looked like it would be fun for a day or two as we found our feet again but that was about it. It seemed that at low tide, it was possible to wade out to this point waist high in the water. At least then we wouldn’t need to try and carry our surfboards down a small cliff.
To avoid the mosquitoes, we hopped our way back around to the beach via the rocks, crabs scuttling away from us every time we took a step. Now it was a pleasant twenty minute stroll back down the beach, but again I was glad I wasn’t lugging my surfboard that far.
While we debated whether to drag down the surfboards or not, we also had to decided whether to move the van or not, we were starting to struggle for battery power. We had barely seen the sun since we arrived at the coast and despite the thick cloud and sometimes drizzle, it was still hot. The worst combination really. The fridge was still working hard but with not a lot to power it. It also seemed that the battery monitor wasn’t quite synced up correctly and despite declaring that we had about 40% charge, the battery voltage hit a flat 12 volts. Those two figures do not go together and we really needed to hook up. After a while we asked someone if we could plug in and then they went to find someone else to ask them. There was an huge extension lead running from the hostel out into the middle of the campsite. If we added our three extension leads to it and moved the van to the far corner it would just about reach. The owner came out and wanted an extensive explanation of our electrical system to see if it would be ok to connect to his electric. After reassuring him many times that we wouldn’t turn on the transformer and that the battery charger was only 400w, he eventually let us plug in. We had this luxury for about 3 hours, until they took the extension lead away again. It was better than nothing, but not enough to reset our battery monitor we still didn’t really know how charged we were. We had our dinner reservation that night and Lee wanted to stay and watch England in the World Cup, so hopefully it would get us through the next couple of days.
That evening we headed back to The Secret Garden for about 7pm. We hadn’t sat down long when we were presented with a colourful bowl of salad with a range of homemade vinegars for dressing.
Our main course was being finished off in the background. It was actually one of the tastiest bits of aubergine I’ve ever eaten and a very sizeable portion too.
We had to have a little break before desert.
In the meantime, we chatted away to Ronnie and enjoyed a glass of wine. It was a lovely private evening. After a little while, I was ready to face desert, a lovely bowl of mango crumble. After a delightful evening, we paid our very reasonable bill and waddled back to the camper. It was definitely value for money, a three course meal and two glasses of wine for $20 is not to be sniffed at.
The next day was the World Cup and with the particularly rubbish internet at the campground, we wandered into town to find a place that was showing it. We found the local restaurant with it on in the back and they lets us sit down and watch it. Coincidentally, this was the very same restaurant with the killer seafood menu and so after the football had finished we told them we’d be back later to eat.
With our batteries back to dangerously low, it was a good thing we weren’t going to be spending the evening in the camper. We headed out to try that $12 lobster we had hear about. Needless to say, Lee was very excited by this. I, on the other hand, am not a huge fan of seafood and instead I went for a fish fillet Encocado. A local dish where the fish is served in a spicy coconuty sauce with a generous helping of rice, plantains and salad. It was incredibly cheap and delicious food, again we only paid around $20 for the both of us and drinks. Even cheaper if you went for the local lunches, which typically in Ecuador are $3.
Now that we had tried some more local food, all that was left on our list for the coast was to buy some nice fish. We decided that the next morning we would leave and so we walked down to the boats that morning to see if we could pick up a nice piece of fish to take with us. A few boats were selling some and in the end we bought a 6lb pargo or Red Snapper. Lee would be in charge of prepping that later, in our final stop again before the capital. A return to the lovely Mindo.
With the batteries in dire need of charging, we were ready to go. Naturally, whenever we want to leave, one cat is nowhere to be seen. This time Aimee had vanished. Rather than hang about doing nothing, we walked back to a bar to use their wifi. Lee wanted to upload the video and we also needed to buy some ice to keep our fish fresh. It was a pleasant surprise when the wifi in the bar actually was fast and within half an hour or so, everything was done. After weeks of cloud, this was probably the best day we had. The day which we decided to leave on.
We went back to the van where Aimee now milled around waiting for us. The best way to bring her back when she disappears is to leave yourself it seems. So without further ado we paid our bill and headed once again down the coast. It was a bit of a later start than we had planned, but it was on the whole a good road to Mindo so if we arrived in the dark it wouldn’t be so bad.
We would have nearly made it, but after needing to stop for some shopping en route we were leaving the nearest large town of Santa Domingo as dusk fell. This was the worst road, littered with potholes and also foggy. We crept along slowly, not wanting to damage Ruby and eventually at around 8pm, we drove into Mindo and arrived at our previous river camping spot. Tomorrow we could explore properly.