Currently I’m in Ecuador doing a 5 week volunteer stint at a place called the Mudhouse Hostel. It’s in a tiny beach village called Mompiche, with a beautiful ocean cove slowing down the fury of the ocean and created perfect surf waves each January.
The beach at Mompiche.
The Mudhouse has 3 private cabins (cabanas) and a shared 8 bed dorm, a kitchen, restaurant, yoga deck with hammocks, public outdoor shower and extra bathroom, and the owner’s home tucked away around the corner. It’s all tin roofs, bamboo framed buildings, open air showers, with concrete floors. These structures are beautifully handbuilt and maintained. Ecuador suffered a major earthquake in 2016 and the bamboo structures just bounce and sway with no damage.
The Mudhouse at dusk.
The town has the expected slower pace of life, or maybe it’s being outside in nature that creates that sense of relaxation. I came here for the fresh air, trees, waves, pets, frogs, all of it. I’ve seen some cool bugs too, a giant praying mantis, a green “good luck” bug, and large snails. I pet the stray animals when I feel like it. And I swam with bio-luminescent plankton. We call it “swimming with stars” because they twinkle all over your body like white stars. Being this connected with the earth is absolutely unbeatable. No movie night or bar or restaurant can compete with the awesomeness of nature, starry nights, and good company in the hammocks or sitting next to the ocean.
I’ve grown into a routine, or flow to my day. I wake before the others and do my miracle morning routine (journal, workout, breakfast, etc) then I start my volunteer work for the morning. I help clean the cabanas each day, although I am transitioning into some light management so Mendee, the owner originally from Nebraska, can get some time off. After cleaning I eat my lunch of eggs and avocado or lentils and vegetables, then I pack a bag and walk to the beach.
Playa Negra, black sand beach.
At the beach I tan, socialize, read my new book, and eat a mango or other snack. Then I return before I burn, and spend the evening at the Mudhouse working my coaching business. I’ve been adding in a night jog at sunset to the top of the hill with Mendee. We jog up to the view of Mompiche bay, with the palm trees and sun setting over the village. It’s all absolutely perfect.
Mosquito nets, the original canopy bed 🙂
Last night, we had an exceptionally good crowd in the dorm. I sleep on one of the top bunks in the 8 person dorm. That’s where I was sitting during my first earthquake, a 4.9 that shook the town for a few seconds during my first week here. As I was there last night, doing a Live presentation with my team of coaches, all the cool kids were gathering on the yoga deck and in the hammocks.
There’s Irena, the young 23 year old from Brooklyn. She’s the smart Jersey girl picking up Spanish quickly. Then Margi, the new girl with a sense of humor, sharing her earplugs and making us laugh. Vera, the brown haired bookworm in her skirt and glasses, and then Katrina. Katrina is a skinny, long haired blonde girl from Nelson, Canada. She’s the cool chick with a hippie demeanor and a female “dude.” She described Nelson, BC, Canada, as a hippie town full of tree planters and similar to Portland. She is a planter herself. During Vietnam, a lot of the draft dodgers moved to Nelson and thus started the hippie vibe in the town.
I must go to Nelson. And Vancouver. And Asheville, North Carolina. As you travel, you meet people and add more destinations to your list constantly, and it is wonderful. All these girls are solo female backpackers traversing South America. For all the adventures I have experienced since coming to Mompiche, I have not been alone. It’s a chill, everyone is your friend, kind of traveling. Yesterday I met a girl that had just quit her job working for the United Nations doing emergency response, after 7 years. She needed a break, just like a lot of us.
Friends in Mompiche.
So last night after working, I sat on the yoga deck for a few minutes with the girls, also with 3 surfers guys from California and a couple of their Australian surf buddies. I learned about the best compact hammock to travel with and made sure to connect with new friends on Facebook, because the next day many of them leave and new travelers take their spot.
Sunset at Playa Negra.
I’ve been invited back to Mompiche later this year. It’s hard to resist that invitation. I also have new destinations to get to in Ecuador, primarily the town of Banos. Banos is surrounded by mountains, hiking, waterfalls, and full of hot “thermal baths.” It also has lots of expats living there that need a reliable house sitter and pet sitter 🙂 Here at the Mudhouse I think I have already stolen the love of Michu, the Mudhouse cat 🙂
So, yes, I will definitely be returning to Ecuador, most likely 1-2 more times in 2017. As for now, I am only a few days away from departing the beach village. It will be bittersweet for sure. Most of the time I am clearly ready for my next destination, but something tells me this place will be hard to beat.
The top of the bluff viewing Mompiche.
Up next is the capital again, Quito, for a couple nights, then the U.S. for valentines weekend, then Cozumel, Mexico for my final workaway. I’ll be on an island….at a diving school and hostel. From there looking forward to the rest of 2017, I plan to cut back on the volunteer work and prioritize my coaching business. And who knows….maybe the charm of this village on the beach will call me back once or twice more in 2017.