After Bahia I rode to San Alepo. It is one of three tiny fishing villages on a long stretch of beach on the Pacific. The malecon is paved and dusty roads run back from it into the scrub where there are old wooden houses and blue painted fishing boats. The wind blows and the waves crash onto the beach and the dust blows through the village.
The mornings were cloudy and cool and I would walk down the malecon towards the centro, to the fisherman’s monument, where there was a little store, and at one of the cleaner restaurants I would eat a desayuno of scrambled eggs, bread, freshly squeezed juice and powdered coffee in hot milk.
Each morning while I was eating there was a midget who would come down the malecon singing. He had a beautiful tenor and wore a bowler hat and rocked from side to side on account of the deformity of his legs, singing songs of lost love. Most mornings he noticed me in the empty restaurant and he would stop and stare at me as if he was seeing me for the first time and I was the odd one. I stared back at him and the midget continued to sing as he stared at me.
When I finished breakfast I take a seat on the rocks above the beach and watch the fisherman bringing in the nets. A number of men pulled the rope nets in slowly towards the sand and pelicans gathered along the net line in the water looking for fish. Frigate birds circled above and when the net reached the shore the fisherman shook out the small fish that had collected in it and the black, long-winged frigate birds dove and swooped, catching the little fish out of the air or off the sand.
It was enjoyable to watch the frigate birds and their agility in the air and sometimes one got a hold of a long fish he couldn’t swallow quickly and the other birds would give chase in the air, trying to get the long fish from his beak. One would steal it away and then another would steal it from him and then another lost it in the air and the silver fish would drop towards the sea only to be picked out of the air by another bird. It was like watching a dog fight between fighter planes and I sat watching until all the nets were brought in and rolled up.
If I was lucky when I was walking back to the hostal I would catch the pickup truck with fresh fruit coming up the malecon. I would wave the old man down and buy some fresh bananas and apples and maybe some tomatoes if he had them. If you didn’t catch the fruit truck there wasn’t anywhere else to get it in the town.
Back in my room I would do some writing before returning to the beach to workout, performing my calisthenic routine in the sand. During the week the beaches were entirely empty except for old Raul, who was known as “Gato,” and his wife. They were from Cuenca and would wave to me while I worked out and Gato would come over to talk with me when I finished. Then I would swim for awhile, diving into the big surf that broke in the wind and riding waves back in to the shore. Then I would return to my room and clean up for lunch.
I took my lunches at the restaurant of the Hotel San Jacinto. It was a luxury hotel and large and meals were more expensive there but of better quality and the daily lunch menu was more varied. The owner was from Mallorca in Spain and the girls who worked as waitresses were friendly and when I finished eating I could sit for hours, unbothered, over a coffee writing. Sometimes I stayed so long I ordered the dinner menu called the merienda, but usually I returned to my room for a siesta before heading back out again to another restaurant near my hostal which served a fine shrimp ceviche. It was good in San Alepo, but after awhile even the good things aren’t as good as they once were. And so when I tired of San Alepo I left for Crucita, the next coastal town South.