By Pilar Albuja
We sailed all night from Manta to Ayangue. We saw the sun rise and heard the singing of the birds, which indicated that we were close to the mainland. Looking out the window, you could see the calm waters of Ayangue Bay and the swaying of the local community's artisanal fishing boats. The crew of the Kontiki boat began to move from one place to another to prepare for our landing. Our guide, Ruli, was with us. Ruli could talk with anyone for hours about his experiences and his knowledge of Ecuadorian customs, thanks to his tour guide career of more than 30 years. The Kontiki crew, with their usual kindness, helped us to board a few small, fast boats to head to Ayangue Bay. Going down the beach was a dream. It was very calm and the local community was welcoming. While we walked along the sand of the Pacific Manabí coasts, we felt a breeze that refreshed us from the strong equatorial sun on our heads. The beautiful beach of Ayangue was our companion to get to the hotel where the Orrala family was waiting for us with open arms. By using a Spondylus shell, they made a sound that indicated that something ceremonial was about to begin. This got our attention in a very curious and beautiful way and guided us in the direction of the hotel. Shortly after arriving, the family greeted us. The friendliness and smile of each of the members of the Orrala family made us feel as if we were arriving after a long time to visit our own family. They very quickly introduced themselves and showed us the hotel. They explained to us the ancestral activity that we were about to be part of. Our first activity in this magical experience began with very large buckets of clay. As a team, we started to stir and dilute the clay. While we did it, the Orrala family checked that it was okay to continue to the next step of the process, which was to sift the clay with a very large sieve. This was the process used by the first settlers of the Ecuadorian coast, by the Valdivia culture, and that through the guidance of the Orrala family, all the passengers of the Kontiki were part of.
Once the clay was sieved, they recommended that we put it on our hands and face. This was optional, but I did it so that the clay would be absorbed into my skin and leave it soft. The result was even better than expected. My skin thanked me for it in the days that followed.
Then they made us go to an area where they had a bucket of clay ready for each person and they taught us the techniques of how to create this craft. It was a long, very entertaining process, and above all it made us value this handcrafted and beautiful work. In the end we went to where they had the finished pieces ready, and they were polishing them with a stone. When purchasing a craft like this, we need to remember that it is a labor-intensive process done completely by hand. It was definitely a highly recommended experience. They had lovely products on display, and they gave all the women beautiful necklaces with images that represented the crafts they manufacture. It made us value everything that is handmade, and the crafts and traditions that these families have. This is definitely one of my most valued cultural experiences, that is, experiencing the Kontiki to the fullest.