“The iguanas.. They know me. They recognize my voice. There are thousands of them and they all know me.”
An American appearing to be in his mid 30’s approached us as we were taking photos of the iguanas hanging around by the bridge. He opened with that line before proceeding to ask us for cocaine and explaining to us what “zoning out” meant, as it was apparently only a term people from “the hood” would understand.
Until now, the Iguana Man From Under The Bridge is the peak example of what happens if one stays in Montañita too long. It changes you. I celebrated my birthday in Montañita but rather than aging one year, I feel like I’ve aged at least twelve. This internationally unknown surf village on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador takes partying to another level.
As my friend so eloquently put, “I came to South America to be pure. But the only pure thing I’ve done here is the cocaine.”
If you wonder how a nightclub like Lost Beach Club can have people dancing and stomping their feet until 3 in the afternoon, you have your answer. Drugs. Drugs in Montañita are what makes the nightlife go round.
Don’t get me wrong, the cheap alcohol and frequent all-you-can-drink open bars get the party rolling but once six or seven AM rolls around, the only remaining survivors are the ones with suppressed sniffles and blank gazes.
I arrived in Montañita by bus at around 8:30 in the morning. The streets were desolate and the people few and far between. I started questioning whether I had made a mistake deciding to celebrate my birthday weekend here. As I’m writing this on the bus ride away from Montañita, I’m still trying to decide whether it was a good idea at all.
From vomiting behind the booth at Poco Loco to all of the exhausted walks home at sunrise, it was a lot. I booked five nights in Montañita and ended up staying ten. A good travel squad can make even the most sleepy of towns exciting. Every afternoon, we would all arise from our deep slumbers and congregate at one of Montañita’s many incredible places to eat.
Surf or afternoon naps were the only other way to fill our time. Other than two day trips to Puerto Lopez and Isla de la Plata, it’s hard to say where those ten days in Montañita went. The only thing passing faster than the hours were the thick joints generously supplied by the other backpackers looking to get rid of their stockpile of drugs before moving onto Peru or elsewhere.
Montañita is the most lawless place I’ve been during the extent of my travels. I’ve been to a number of small towns where drugs are easy to come by or places with booming megaclubs and nightlife. But I have never been somewhere where police and security presence is nonexistent and people can feel comfortable snorting a line out in the open in front of thousands of people. Walking out of the club at 3 AM to stumble into a massive party on the beach was yet another shock. It was like a microcosm of the world-famous Full Moon Party here on the shores of small town Ecuador.
Nothing made sense. Nothing still makes sense. For now, Montañita is a place that one must experience to truly understand what the hell is going on there. For any party animals out there, Montañita is a must.
As I ripped off the wristbands for Poco Loco, Lost Beach, and my absolutely raucous hostels, I felt like I was breaking the bonds that had held me prisoner for over a week. As I walked to the bus stop from my hostel, I fondly smirked at all of the familiar faces passing by. The empanada salesman on his motorcycle, the kebab guy who has seen me at my worst, the small kitten that I smuggled into my hostel room one night… Fond memories only, of course. Montañita is so much fun, but stay too long and you too will soon be having conversations with the iguanas.