The incoming tide provided two reasons to rush to Ramon´s oceanside bungaloo set high in a bluff south of Bahia de Caraquez.
First, we needed the truck with our gear to get across the beach before the waves made it impossible.
Second, we needed to get there at low tide for the oyster hunt.
Ramon and Clay each grabbed a chissel and a hammer. We began turning over gray rocks in knee-deep water.
In less than five minutes, Clay turned over a heavy rock with a oyster population of about seven. A few were duds. A few were impenetrable.
We turned the rock over again, and Clay began banging the chisel into the side of a big one.
When he drove the chisel a third time, he broke through the shell and a white fizz exited.
We collected the oysters our hands could carry and made our way to shore. We washed off the broken shell reminants and soaked them in a lime, onion and cilantro juice, which is the mix used for one of Ecuador´s delicacies — ceviche.
It tasted slimy, gooey and very chewy. I´m not going to order a dozen for dinner, but it doesn´t get fresher than that.
BAHIA de CARAQUEZ, Ecuador
There was no convincing necessary when I sought other Planet Drum volunteers to eat ceviche for lunch one day this week.
The no-name oceanfront restaurant had become our favorite lunch spot here. Laura, Paress and I raved about it after previous lunches. Sam heard that. Pessa, who doesn´t like seafood, chose not to hear that.
The service was quick and with Laura´s ¨buen provecho¨ we began refreshing ourselves.
The best part of the camerones ceviche (shrimp soup) is the amount of shrimp. More than 30 shrimp were packed into a small saucer-sized bowl. (One of my biggest complaints about ordering seafood in the U.S. is that you spent $12.50 for four tiny shrimp buried into a pasta or something.)
Here, ceviche, chifles and a cerveza is $4.
The juice is a combination of limes, tomato juice, onion and cilantro. Add a spoonful of yellow mustard and four drops of extreme hot sauce for the necessary zest.
Between bites, Paress said a previous volunteer said Ramon and Orlando make a better ceviche.
¨That´s a bold statement,¨ Laura quickly retorted.
I was the only one that ordered camerones; the other three opted for the mixto (shrimp, octopus, squid, crab, we think).
¨I like to mix it up a little, every now and again,¨ Paress said about her lunch selection. ¨The shrimp is delicious, but how often can you get some shrimp, crabs and squid in one tasty bowl, ya know?¨
The next best think to this restaurant´s food is its unbeatable location and ambiance. The restaurant doesn´t have a name, making it difficult to be in any of the guidebooks. (That´s a good thing.) Sitting on the shore, the routine brezze is nearly as refressing as the soup, and that´s necessary given the 90-degree days here on the equator.
¨I think that this particular spot really embodies my feelings about Bahia,¨ Laura said. ¨You´re sitting as close as possible to the ocean. You´re eating the freshest food possible here — ceviche. And the people, the man that owns it is the capitan of my heart.¨
The ¨capitan¨ of Laura´s affection usually welcomes eaters with a boisterous welcome and shouts our orders to the tiny kitchen.
On this day, however, he is sitting in the corner and offering few words.
Instead, Sam, another man of few words, summed up the lunch justly.
¨It´s like shrimp limonade,¨ he said.
Surely the best lunch I´ve had in Ecuador.