Culture Shock! Rastafarianism

As you may or may not have realized by now, I changed up my hair quite a bit recently!  I got dreadlocks (otherwise known as “rastas” in Spanish)!  The process was pretty long and excruciating: about 14 hours over two days while in Montañita, Ecuador.  I’ve always loved dreadlocks and have been wanting them for awhile.  I figured South America is the perfect place because I already don’t blend in at all, why not just go all out?

This photo from the Inca Trail shows my dreadlocks pretty well.

They’re pretty crazy, I know.  I didn’t make the decision lightly because I know I probably will have to cut all my hair off whenever I want to get rid of them.  But I like them so hopefully I’ll be keeping them for awhile!  The part of getting dreadlocks that I didn’t really expect was the instant bond that developed with other Rastafarians.  There is some sort of unwritten code between dread-heads that you have to at least acknowledge each other with a nod or fist bump when you pass on the street.  The local Rasta/hippy crowds are usually so thrilled with my hair that they will stop me to talk and even invite me to hang out.  Having dreadlocks is definitely a good way to meet some interesting people!  Other people are curious and so my hair becomes a conversation-starter.  “Is Bob Marley your favorite singer?” one of our guides on the Inca Trail asked me.  Haha.  Of course, there is also a downside as there are many negative stereotypes related to having dreadlocks.  But all in all, I think it’s interesting that I am now included in this unique subculture, just because of my crazy hairstyle!

Montanita Ecuador…a.k.a. Hippie Paradise

Montanita Ecuador, located on the central coast of Ecuador about 3 hours from Guayaquil, is the most popular tourist beach in Ecuador.  It’s known for its surfing and its parties.  When we asked Ecuadorians our age about Montañita, we got responses such as, “¡Hay muchas fiestas en Montañita!” and “It’s great, but only for two days.”  “Like Las Vegas!” I replied to that one, hahaha.

Montanita Ecuador

I ended up agreeing with the two or three days idea.  The funny thing is that many backpackers don’t.  Our campground in Montañita was chock-full of “travelers” who came and never left.  Foreigners from Canada, Argentina, Chile, Germany, everywhere roam the beach selling macrame jewelry or tacos, braiding hair, playing instruments, or doing anything else they can make to earn money for their food and $1.50/night campsite.  This population creates a cool multicultural and entrepreneurial spirit in Montañita.

Montanita Ecuador

The beach in Montanita Ecuador is gorgeous, with soft sand and a very gradual slope from the shore into the Pacific.  We didn’t have the cash for surf lessons, but we had a great time jumping in the waves and watching all the surfers.

Montanita Ecuador

The town itself is tiny and filled with nothing but hostels, bars, and restaurants.  Vendors’ carts also line the streets and beach selling cocktails and ceviche (a raw seafood/lime juice/salsa snack).  There are lots of opportunities to spend an arm and a leg on some good gringo food, but we disciplined ourselves and stuck to street food and  one restaurant that offered each meal of the day for only $1.50.  (Bonus–they understood vegetarianism there too, and offered me a meat-free alternative lunch, thanks to all the hippies in town!)  Montañita is most definitely all about the party, not so much the relaxation, and the hectic vibe kind of got to us after a couple days.  Although the easy, beach-bum life was a bit tempting, we decided to continue north to check out other beaches.  Still, Montañita is definitely the place to go for color, creativity, and fun on the beach!

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