The only way to get to the town of Bolivar, Ecuador is by boat or by swimming. I make it my mission to get off the beaten path while travelling, and this remote little beach town certainly met that criteria.
Off the main road from Atacames to Esmeraladas in northern Ecuador, leads a narrow lane. Pick up trucks await the passing buses at this junction, ready to ferry passengers to Bolivar at $1 per person.
The short journey from the main road to this coastal village is best enjoyed from the back of the truck. Lush tropical plants and tall trees line the route- there isn’t a building to be seen.
Eventually the road comes to an end as it meets the waters edge, where villagers in their little boats are ready to transport people across for $0.25c a head.
To climb out of the boat is to step into a different land. There are no cars; villagers walk barefoot on the grass roads
and chickens roam free in the haphazard front gardens.
Our destination was this wonderful wooden house, sat about 20m back from the sea.
The house belongs to the very kind owners of El Monte Ecolodge, where we had been the previous weekend. They generously allowed us to go to Bolivar and stay.
The house was simply gorgeous and the front porch was the perfect spot to sit
and admire the sea.
Having been in Ecuador a while now, I’ve learnt that the seafood is just amazing at the coast. We asked around in the town for anyone selling seafood and were pointed in the direction of a woman going from door to door selling conchas negras. I’m not sure what this shellfish is called in English. The name translates to ‘black shells’ and they have the shape of a scallop but are smaller.
We asked the woman how to cook them and she recommended squeezing lemon juice over them, just like ceviche. They were tricky to open but with a meat cleaver we eventually managed it! We left them for a few minutes in lemon juice to ‘cook’, and they were just amazing.
We went for a swim in the early morning, and the tide was low. The land rose and fell slightly so shallow pools of water remained. We walked across the sand, then swam, then walked some more – you could make it all the way to the landmass across the bay if you wanted:
The beating sun prevented us from going that far, but it was a beautiful morning and we were the only ones on the beach.
Other than enjoying the setting, there isn’t anything to ‘do’ in Bolivar and I would never have heard of it had we not met people with a house there. It is a tiny village that goes to sleep at about 9pm. There is no bar, no night club, no cinema, nothing really – just a couple of shops selling tinned food and a fruit and veg man that comes over on his boat every few days.
What struck me most was the silence. The honking horns of impatient drivers, groaning buses and belching fumes are the soundtrack to daily life in any Ecuadorian town. The absence of cars in Bolivar made entering the village feel like taking a breath of fresh air. The peace and quiet was just magical.
The place seems to have been forgotten – or never discovered – by the outside world. There is no internet connection in the village and the complicated access made Bolivar feel really remote.
It was the very fact that there wasn’t anything to do that made me love Bolivar so much. We strolled around the town and chatted to the residents, we swam in the warm sea and enjoyed some amazing sunsets:
It was a peaceful weekend in paradise!