Peaceful, gorgeous, natural. Just adjectives. But they describe Chirije perfectly. It’s a small lodge tucked away on a beach just south of Bahía de Caraquez in Ecuador. It’s remote enough that there is no road for the last few kilometers of the trip. Instead, a visitor needs to arrive at the sister hotel in town and meet up with a guide who can drive you out (or allow you to follow if you have a high clearance vehicle that you don’t mind getting sandy). And you need to time your visit with low tide. We planned it perfectly, without even trying. Call it vacation kharma.
This lodge has so much to offer that I will be writing three different pieces – one about the beach itself, another about the trails into the forested hillside, and this one, about the lodge and grounds.
When we arrived, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. But the groundskeeper and host for our stay was a very graceful and poised young man from Argentina. It was his job to see to our comfort, from helping us figure out the best accommodations to finding out what kinds of foods we like to eat. He was our chef for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It would have been impossible most days to eat anywhere else as we were tied to this location by the timing of low tide. But it was no bother. He cooked marvelous meals and the peace and quiet afforded by the isolated location was just what we wanted. It was an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Chirije offered a little for everyone in my family. My husband and I could hike to our hearts content, either on the beach or in the local hills. More on that in future posts. My son could hang out in the hammock on the open air porch. He could read a book, take a nap while cooled by an ocean breeze, or just sit and admire the view. The porch became the place where we shared a glass of wine before dinner (bring your own), played a game, and photographed frame after frame of beautiful sunsets. We rested there after boogie boarding the waves and hiking the local trails. It became a magnet for our family. If you weren’t sure where someone was, they would eventually show up here.
But the patio isn’t the only option at Chirije. First, my favorite – birds. There were birds everywhere despite the young cat that thought she owned the place. No need to hike up the hill. All you needed to do was observe from the open walkways or sit out on one of the many benches. We saw so many different species. The most exciting was probably a Blue-crowned Motmot, better known locally as a Relojero because it’s tail keeps time like a clock’s pendulum. This fairly large and colorful bird can actually camouflage itself very well. He arrived daily, mostly in the mornings, to hunt for bugs and such on the ground. He was joined by tiny flitting hummingbirds, the smallest woodpecker I have ever seen, busy Tanagers and squawking Caciques. We saw swallows and doves. We saw the Groove-billed Ani. I only wish that every photo did the birds justice.
And second – probably my husband’s favorite – was the small museum filled with local archeological finds. We had our own personal tour and explanations of the many figurines and vessels found on site. The digs that have existed in the past have probably only scratched the surface of what might be found in this area. On our walks on the beach, we found pottery shards decorated with hashmarks and colored black with time. We left them for the local collection of odd bits and pieces. Instead, we brought home shells and stones, small markers of the memories we made at this timeless place.
If you prefer a slideshow, feel free to click on any of these photos and it will begin!