Everything for a Reason

Day 2

Our plan is to rent a car for a week so we are able to explore the coastline on our own time. Prior rental arrangements had been made so Captain and I hop in a taxi and head to Rent-a-Car. First mistake, the reservation was made for the day prior. Rent-a-Car considered us a no-show! Secondly, the reservation was made for a different location, an hour in the wrong direction!

How we got so mixed up, I don’t know but the universe had a different plan than ours. A bright cherry red Chevy Spark rolls up. Ecuadorians love their red cars! “We just bought it yesterday. It only has 30 miles on it. It’s the only one we got so please no off-roading in it…” The boss says they had to buy a new car because the last customer took the Spark through a river and totaled it! Captain and I chuckled. That story sounded much like our rental car experience in Panama but that’s a whole different tale! Wow, now we really look like tourists! In a third world country where only a fraction of people own cars, we are rolling around in our sparkling new red Chevy Spark.  Ridiculous…

Driving in this country has been an experience in itself…everyone drives well over the speed limit, tailgating is the norm, and the use of turn signals is non-existent. The only time you will see a turn signal is when some wants you to pass them on the highway! I found it is best to not watch how the driver is driving and it is much less frightening.  Although I feel safe when Captain’s driving, I know sometimes he pretends he’s a Nascar driver. And being from Jersey, he drives with a finger on the horn!

Not only do people drive their cars crazy, motorcyclists are crazy too! Many ride without helmets…often you will see 3 people to a motorcycle. Have you even seen a baby ride a motorcycle? Yes, a baby…today I saw this on more than one occasion. In fact, I saw a family of four. A toddler riding shotgun and baby sandwiched between Ma and Pa. Unbelievable!

Our plan was to take public transportation after our first week with the rental. But after making the 4 hour drive from Quito to Pedernales through the hills of the Andes we have decided against the use of the bus. The road was shared with several heavy loads, motorcycles and buses. I watched the buses pass semi-trucks, often on double yellow lines around sharp curves. Most of the roads have no lines but the general rule is there are 3 lanes, a 2 lane road with the middle passing lane. When someone is passing you, move over because another car may be passing from the other direction! Defensive driving is crucial…

When moving out of th way for Speedy Gonzolez, you must be on the look out for village people napping on the edge of the road, cattle ranchers driving their herds, frequent feral dogs and the occasional stray mule…speed bumps too! Never is there’s a warning and rarely are the “bumps” painted. The first time we hit one unexpectedly, we were airborne!! The Spanish word for speed bump is mura which means wall. This is precisely what it feels like when you hit one unknowingly!

Heading south toward Don Juan, we pass Punta Prienta and were lured in…it was magical! Punta Prienta was located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean; our cabin had an ocean front view and we fell asleep as the waves crashed into the beach. The cabins were spread about on the lush jungle property with dragonflies, lizards, butterflies, and birds. Banana spiders, 3 inches in length, lined the walk ways with their beautiful webs. There were even overgrown cactuses!

Dinner was served by the owners and everything was fresh from the garden and the sea. Shrimp, fish, tomatoes, avocado, green beans, onions, and oregano…yum!

I woke in the morning to singing birds of all shapes and sizes and a hundred dragonflies whizzing past our room. Magnificent…

Day 3

Don Juan was beautiful but not what we are looking for. Every mile or so infrastructure was being built for a resort, hotel or condominiums. Today we headed north to Cojimies. It is a quiet fishing village on the tip of a peninsula. The area is lined with palm and white sandy beaches.  But Cojimies is lacking the lush jungle that we envision for our dream. On our way out we encountered a boa that did not make it across the road. It was 6 feet in length and as thick as my arm! Eee!

Off to Mompiche we go. A day ahead of ‘schedule’!

After quite an adventurous excursion along the coast, we arrived at Mompiche. It is a hip surfer town with a public beach. We stayed in a hostel along the ocean. Our neighbor was an Argentinian man who spoke a bit of English. We exchanged language lessons and he laughed about understanding the Ecuadorians. Though both countries speak Spanish, the different areas have their own ‘tongue’. He says, “I don’t understand anything they say!”

We are moving north tomorrow but we have really appreciated the Mompiche community. Its people are very warm and welcoming but the landscape is not what we are looking for. The white sandy beach is lined with coconut palm and a bit of jungle but very flat…I can’t help but think of building a home on a beach that could be swallowed by a huge tsunami wave!

With the exception to the pizza and beer we had tonight, we have been able to eat ‘healthy’. No processed food; only fruit and veges fresh from the garden and fresh fish from sea. Rice, beans, veggies, quinoa, fruit juice…I have been pleased with our options the last few days. But don’t drink the water. Even the locals won’t drink it!

Day 4
The farther north we drive, the more lush the jungle grows, the smaller the communities become and the less the road in lined with villages…at Muisne, with the help of my peer pressure and taunting antics, I convinced Captain to take the “long way” along the coast. We had no clue what the road would be like and if the Spark could handle it but we went for it! With the exception of a long strip of road near the village San Francisco, the dirt road was surprisingly passable in the Spark. But we did do some off-roading after promising we wouldn’t! Yeehaw!

Capt planned this for the latter part of the week because he knew it was going to be our favorite. He was right. There are cliff bans, sandy beaches, thick jungle and butterflies everywhere! Beautiful.

We stopped at Playa Escondido which had an amazing feel. I first noticed a flyer, the only flyer posted, for a Kundalini gathering in August! Deja vu…the owner had stumbled onto this land 20 years ago while her and her man were driving along the coast. Since then, she had built a small ‘eco-friendly’ community, a restaurant and bungalows for rentals! The land was perfectly wedged between two cliffs with a private beach and 100+ acres of jungle!

Today was our first day conversing with another person fluent in English since we got to Ecuador! We knew speaking Spanish was a must but being fluent would have provided us a richer experience. I learned how to say “I don’t understand” but I am sure my blank stare gives it away! Learning the native language is essential…immersion has been a great teacher but it sure is intimidating!

Side note:
I told you about the synchronicity I experienced with Kundalini and my instructor, right? She had spoken of a yogi friend who spends time in Ecuador which made me so much more excited about going to Ecuador…chance connections! My instructor gave the yogi my email but before leaving, I hadn’t heard from him. Faithfully I thought, when the time is right, I will…

When I mentioned the yoga flier to the owner, she told me of a friend that had been coming for years. I vaguely remember the yogi’s name but when the woman spoke of this man, both his Indian and English names resonated. I am sure we were talking about the same fellow! What a small world…

The evening was spent shooting the breeze with our new friends. There was an awesome cabin that she was willing to rent to us for our two months in Ecuador but it didn’t have a kitchen. Captain and I were going to sleep on it but leaning against renting it. We were not about to cook on a campfire for 2 months! Come to find out, there are lots being sold but they were really expensive. Many times through the night, our new friends we’re trying to convince us this is where we should settle!

My mood grew gloomy as I began thinking someone had already accomplished our dreams and there was no room for ours along the coast of Ecuador…but then I experienced thumb-sized cockroaches, rooms without any screens, the absence of a fan in the jungle, and composting toilets. In the middle of the night we had to go down 2 flights of stairs and void in the dark among the mosquitos, spiders and snakes. After going to the bathroom, you had to use the scooper to toss a few wood chips in the hole. Gross. Needless to say, we peed in the shower and I am sure we were not the first! Don’t tell anyone though…

Despite the inconveniences and discomforts, it was a wonderful experience. We had an epic view, watched the sunset while swimming in the Pacific Ocean and learned the value of plumbing, ceiling fans and screens!

I just typed a word incorrectly but the iPad auto-corrected it to faith. Thank you Universe for the reminder…

Day 5
Yesterday all I could think about was having time to myself. Could it have been a dark moon, a time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation? Whatever it was, this morning I woke up on a mission. “We are driving to Atacames to find a place to rent for the next 2 months and a real estate agent that speaks English.” Our week was nearing the end with the rental car; apartment and agent were at the top of our To Do list while we still had the car!

Using our Frommers (best maps) and Lonely Planet (best info) travel guides we found Hotel Chagra Ramos in Sua. We left our bags there and drove to Atacames to do our laundry and hopefully find Hotel del Sol. Our new American friends told us Ruiz is the only man in the city who speaks English so “go find him!”. I left with full intentions of finding Ruiz!

Atacames was hustle and bustle with hotels, eateries and vendors lining the street. Once again, here we are asking for directions and only understanding where the Ecuadorian was pointing!

I had almost given up on getting directions when we neared the city’s center and the laundry mat sign caught my eye. Our 8 pounds of laundry cost 3 dollars and the woman said it would be done in two hours. Perfecto. Capt and I took off on foot to find an Internet cafe. My fingers were still crossed to stumble over Ruiz’s hotel…

Around the corner from the laundry was a cafe that seemed right. We paid a dollar to use the Internet for an hour. As usual I was like a deer in head lights confused about what was going on and who was saying what but I found my computer. I had noticed an older, white man but paid little attention to him due to my anxiety over the computer and Internet.

Capt must have flashed the gentleman a big smile because the two struck up a conversation. I overheard them talking real estate and rentals. This man turned out to be a commercial real estate agent who knows everyone and their brother! The next thing I know, “Agent” is showing us his friend’s rental home and on our way to look at a beachfront property for sale!

And for another kicker, as the three of us were walking to our car for the property tours, we saw our American friends from the community! They had come in to the city to say hello to Ruiz! We found him after all…

To get to the property we had to off-road in the Chevy Spark again! Sorry Rent-a-Car! The land was beautiful. Coconut trees, white sand beach and a simple home being built for an awesome price! But not what we are looking for…

The elderly couple caring for the property were so warm though neither of us could understand anything the other was saying. The old man climbed his ladder and cut down coconuts for us to enjoy. When Agent asked the man how old he was, the man claimed to have no clue. There is no time to worry about getting older. People are just busy living…

The property to buy was not perfect but the rental was just what we were looking for! It is a three bedroom apartment, with a kitchen, laundry and full bath. There is a roof top terrace all to ourselves. The owners are very kind and patient with our Spanglish! The place is safe with a secure wall built around it. It walks right out to the beach…incredible! All for $350 a month. Clean, safe, affordable and for our whole stay in Ecuador-we couldn’t have asked for more!

Wow. What a series of fortunate events. Everything happens for a reason. We could have eaten breakfast at Playa Escondido that morning but chose to move on. We could waited another day to do laundry. We could have understood the first directions given in Atacames and found a different laundry mat and never made that connection. No matter how frustrating the day had been, we may have never met this man if any of these things had happened differently. Live as is everything is a miracle…

In getting to know Agent, I learned he teaches yoga and has a friend who works with wild horses that heal people with autism. His also has a young daughter that shares my middle name and is a vegan, humanitarian, and animal rights activist. How amazing is it to be miles and miles from home but find someone who you connect with on such a deep level. Awesome…

I just made another typo…and “wife” appeared. Hmm…

Advertisements