Same plane, different city.
Yesterday was a day of city hopping, airplane food and unconventional sleeping postures. I watched CJ rotate around in his chair over the course of the first 5 hour leg of our adventure in a sort of cirque du soleil-contortionist fashion. Everything from turning his thin flannel blanket into a sort of tent canopy, to curling up in half a ball and trying to lay on my lap. Eventually, we both took refuge against an upright armrest, leaning on opposite sides of it with earplugs-in-place and faces covered. It’s really amazing how innovative you can be when you really want to sleep. First stop, Guatemala. We didn’t even realize we were stopping there. So after the panic subsided and we realized we really WERE on the right plane, we settled in for leg two to Costa Rica. We exited the plane, CJ sampled a shot of some sort of coffee liqueur outside the duty free shop and then it was back on the plane for leg three to Quito, the mountainous capital of Ecuador. Through a plane’s window, the city of Quito looks like a glimmering mosaic hillside. Every hill rises and falls with tiny buildings flowing along each curve. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. We sat on the plane for the final changing of the guards- and passengers- and leg four of our journey brought us to Guayaquil where we exchanged transportation from plane to automobile and met our new driver and friend, Miguel, who we found holding a sign bearing our names. After another hour and a half in transit, leg 5 of our journey was completed and we rolled into the dusty little town of Anconcito where we met Susan and the kind faced staff of the Ocean Hideaway Resort. After a mostly hot shower and a plate of fresh fried fish, rice, and steamed veggies, we returned to our room to collapse into our bed with the sounds of waves crashing on the other side of the window.
Table for three please?
It’s often the case when travelling that something gets lost in translation. So when our driver Miguel showed up to ‘drop us off’ in Salinas and then proceeded to get out of the car and walk with us all along the boardwalk, I guess we should have clued into the fact that what we were actually getting was a private escorted tour of Salinas, Libertad, and a pretty little sunset. And you know what? It was actually really great having him around. Miguel haggled the best prices, showed us a great little place for fresh ceviche and seafood, and even got the price of a private boat ride reduced to $25… for three.
We spotted some places we hope to return to over the next couple days. The beaches here are not super crowded because the weather is just now starting to warm. Miguel said that there are really only two seasons here, summer and winter.. spring and autumn don’t really exist here on the Ecuadorian coast. We wandered along the sandy stone-paved Malecon [boardwalk], perusing handmade wood and shell jewelry dangling off small umbrellas, past boys scrambling around a soccer ball in the shallow water and families sunning themselves in some of the first rays of summer sunshine here. It’s not exotic here, but there is a casual charm to this place. Tomorrow or Tuesday, we plan to head back to the calm little beach cove town of Libertad for some sunshine and waves without Miguel, not that we didn’t love him, but you’ve really gotta draw the line well before sunbathing with a driver you hardly know.
Neither here nor there
This part of the country seems caught in a perpetual state of the in between. The new sleek facades of freshly finished buildings are almost overlooked amongst the decaying concrete and weather worn patchwork buildings that line the better part of the streets. You can’t really tell what’s coming or going. Is that the beginning of a masonry structure or what’s left of it? Is that building closed for the season or just condemned due to structural incontinence? Is that a new sign being painted on that wall or are they painting over it?
They’re about to put in an airport in the nearby Miami-like city of Salinas, which everyone believes will really boost the tourism here. It’s very likely this place will look much different in another few years after some tourism money has poured in. After talking with Miguel and Susan, it’s clear that Ecuador is actually a pretty resource-rich country:
1. They’re sitting here on their own reserve of oil that hasn’t been fully harvested.
2. They just recently started farming coffee, which after trying this morning, I have to say, keep up the good work!
3. They have soil happily producing heaps of bananas, tropical fruit, sugar cane and more.
4. Plenty of grass-fed animals roaming the hillsides along the middle of the country and seasides teeming with fish, crabs and lobster to keep everyone’s bellies full of protein.
So why does it look like things are decaying around me when I walk the sidewalks? With resources this rich, this place should be one of the most prized places in the world. Susan and Miguel both said separately what a difference it’s making to focus more on educating the children here. Many go off to college in the US and are returning with new eyes for their country. And to them we say, dream big dreams because this country has no shortage of possibilities.