Rear View Mirror

Exhaustion was setting in.  We had accomplished purchasing property in Ecuador all in one day. The sisters said this was record time.  It typically took three days.  No wonder I felt like I was about to drop dead.  I had sprinted a marathon…

Our plan was to stay at our new friends’ place in Quito so we could be up hours later to make on our flight back to the US.  Darkness was approached rather quickly and Quito was easily a four-hour drive.  After the incredibly long day, Captain and I were not thinking clearly.  We hadn’t accounted for the time and overlooked the fact that we would be arriving well after midnight.  We had been in such a rush to begin the long journey to Quito, we hadn’t called to let our friends know we were on our way.

My anxiety was heightened recalling the one major rule in Ecuador, DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT! Most days Captain would have been perturbed following an impassable public bus but on this journey it was a blessing.  The bus’s headlights lit up the winding road to Quito and guided us to our destination.

My eyes were heavy and I was having a hard time keeping them open.  Maybe I should have let myself fall asleep but I knew Captain must be as tired as me.  I felt it was my duty to converse to keep him awake in the driver’s seat.

Between my random questions, concerns and comments, my mind was worrying about everything.  Was this sales deal legitimate?  Why hadn’t I taken more pictures of the property? I should have given Ecuador a proper goodbye.  When will we be coming back? And on the thoughts went…I tried to quiet my anxious mind and listen for the quieter voice within. Many times I do not hear the Quiet One because my ego is so loud and obnoxious.  But when I grow still, I hear her wise words. “Relax and just breathe.”

The bus had turned off some time ago so we had just been following the main road; having not made any turns I assumed we were heading in the right direction.  All seemed well until we approached a small town with a barricade placed across the road. Instantly I began thinking worse-case scenario.  Are we being re-routing to the nearest dark alley where we will be beaten, robbed and left for dead?  Sure this seems extreme but my worrisome and anxious mind tends to imagine the worst.

It was unclear why we were being re-routed through the city and there were definitely no detour signs.  So when the Green Spark found herself driving down a dark unlit alley, I was genuinely concerned.  Captain kept his eyes on the road ahead, anxiously awaiting a main road.  My eyes were on the rear view mirror; I wanted to be ready for anything.

Finally the alley led us to a well-lit roadway.  Captain quickly turned onto the main road as we were so relived to no longer be in the back alleys of a foreign Ecuadorian town in the dead of night.  After driving a mile or so, Captain and I felt uneasy.  There was no sign for Quito and nothing that reassured us we were heading the right direction.  We turned around and headed back to the town.  Hopefully there would be at least one person who could confirm our whereabouts.

There were a few men standing along the road and pointed us in the direction toward Quito.   Without GPS, a detailed map, or comprehending the extent of the detour, I prayed that the guys were pointing us in the right direction and this road was not going to take us an hour out-of-the-way.  As we drove away from the city, a semi-truck was a mile ahead following the route we were directed to.  As I grew still, I knew the semi-truck was our ‘sign’.  We were heading in the right direction.

What a relief to finally start seeing signs along the way for Mindo and Quito.  We had been driving for an hour since the detour and this was the first visible sign we were going the right way!

Though I was comforted knowing we were near Quito, I was anxious about our lodging situation.  Would our friends be awake to let us in the door?  Our friends live in a secure neighborhood. Around the block of homes is a tall wall lined with barbed wire for added security.  When we arrived, it was already one o’clock in the morning.  Not a light was on anywhere in the neighborhood. Why hadn’t we called with our ETA?  Looking back, I realized how slowing down and making a quick call to our friends would have avoided this situation.

We knew of another place to accommodate us down the road.  Navigating through the streets only from our recall, Captain and I arrived at the budget lodging in Quito.  There was no light on here either.  Even the aluminum security door was pulled down and locked.  Budget Lodging was clearly not an option either.  What were we going to do now?!?

After brainstorming, we decided to park our car on the drive outside of our friends’ home.  Being in close proximity of English-speaking associates was comforting; if a situation arose where we needed help, we could just lay on the horn for assistance, right?!  As ridiculous as it all seemed, I was so tired I didn’t really care what we did.  I just wanted to close my eyes…

The Green Spark was far from the comforts of a bed. Captain got in the back to ‘stretch’ out and I laid the front seat down and curled up.  Mind you, Quito nights are cold.  When packing our bags for the equator we hadn’t planned for cold weather.  We definitely did not plan on camping out in the cold either! I ended up putting on three layers of summer clothes and covering myself with the rest from my bag.  It was a cold night…

When we decided to turn on the car to crank the heat on us, it seemed as if every dog in the neighborhood was barking! After letting the car run for 10 minutes and the dogs not missing a bark, Captain turned it off. Every neighborhood dog was well aware of our presence and it now seemed anytime we moved in the car, at least one dog would bark and growl.

My mind grew tired and as my body grew numb it took little effort to lay still.  I was easing into a sleep state when I heard Captain say, “I have to piss.”  Me too!  Why did you have to remind me?  My plan was the same plan I have when camping on chilly nights: forget about and hold it until the morning when my bladder hurts so badly I can no longer take it!  Even with the slightest adjustments in the car, the dogs would bark.  I knew the moment Captain opened the door, they whole neighborhood would be barking again!

It seemed to be most appropriate to start the car, drive around the block and pee on a different street.  Our problem solving skills were not very sharp at this point…

Captain and I were delirious with laughter.  What were we doing?!?  Was this really how our last hours in Ecuador were going to be spent: sleeping in our miniature car outside of (essentially) a stranger’s home and urinating on the streets of their neighborhood?

We were compelled to return to our campsite outside our friends’ home.  Despite the watch dogs, it seemed the most logical place for us to be.  Okay, maybe not logical but it was the only place we felt halfway safe in the big city of Quito at three in the morning!  Upon returning to camp after our pit stop, we were of course greeted by the canines.  Captain and I quickly settled in to quiet the dogs.  Moments later my eyes were closed and I was falling…

My sleep was again interrupted, this time by a red flashing light.  “Do you see that?” I asked. “STAY DOWN.” Captain replied.  I sunk into the Spark as a police car was creeping past our vehicle. Had the dogs alerted security?  Had the cops been called on us? Maybe he was just doing his evening rounds.  Either way, when we were no longer in the cop’s rear view mirror, Captain hopped in the drivers’ seat and we took off.  These gringos definitely did not want to spend their last hours in Ecuador explaining to the Ecuadorian Police why they were sleeping in their car and peeing on the streets!

It must have been 3 or 4 in the morning which meant our flight would be departing in less than 4 hours.  We decided to make our way to the airport and stopped to fill up the Sparks’ tank.  The gas station attendant said it would be fine to park there for a few hours.  Though he was blaring Spanish-techno, this was perfect-we couldn’t get too comfortable or we may oversleep and miss our flight!  Captain and I laid our seats back and closed our eyes.

It seemed like only moments later when the rising sun gently woke me from my sleep.  A day of more traveling had arrived whether I was rested or not.  Though I had not had a good night’s rest by any means, I was grateful to have got in a power nap.  If we had slept any longer, we may not have made our flight!

After using the gas station’s bathroom facilities, which were surprisingly very clean, I wondered why we hadn’t thought to find a rest stop like this earlier.

I took some deep breaths, stretched into a yoga poses and allowed myself a to look back on the last two months and reflect.  I found a place to call home…Ecuador.  I was not ready to leave but I knew I would be back soon.  For now the sand I had collected from the beach was going to be my reminder of home.  The waning moon caught my eye as it fell below the horizon.  Our 2 month adventure in Ecuador had come to an end but this was only the beginning…

***

When we arrived at the car rental depot, no one was to be found.  As our departing flight time neared, I grew anxious.  Captain and I watched as every other car rental place opened.  Our guy ended up being 25 minutes late which left us with less than an hour to make our flight.  We thanked them as we sprinted for the airport…who knows what we still could encounter between now and our flight!

We ran into little traffic in the airport, thankfully.  There was one bump along the road, I suppose.    I pride myself on being a great packer.  Give me a back pack and you will be amazed at what I can fit…but because I can fit so much into so little, my bag is notorious for being stopped through airport security.  Captain will never let me live this down.  So when Captain’s bag was stopped I was slightly entertained.  Security asked Captain to search his bag and he of course obliged. He began unzipping zippers of Captain’s bag and it was clear he was looking for something specific.  What did Captain have that was causing much alarm?

When the security officer pulled out my big bag of sand wrapped in a black plastic bag, I thought for sure they were also going to confiscate the shells and coral I was smuggling out.  Captain yelled, “I have no clue what that is!”  I told Captain I was bringing home sand from the beach! I guess he didn’t realize how much.  Maybe I should have told him I put 5lbs. of sand in his back pack so there were no surprises going through security.  When I noticed the security guard sifting the sand between his fingers and sniffing the ‘substance’, I realized no one cared about my treasures.  My five-pound bag of sand had been mistaken for five pounds of drugs.   Whoops…

When we made it to our gate and our flight had not be canceled, re-routed or delayed, I was relieved.    After the exhausting day before and the restless sleep overnight, I wasn’t sure if we would ever make it to the gate, let alone be on time!  One thing I was sure of…I would be sleeping on the flight!!

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