Rush Hour

We came to Ecuador with an agenda and as the days ticked by my anxiety grew as I worried: would we find a place to rent near our new property? Were we going find a place to store our ride when we left the country for several months?

Anxiety: uneasy thoughts leading to physical discomfort.  Cause: not trusting the flow of life.  Solution: trust in the Universe.

Apparently I had nothing to worry about.  The Universe was taking care of it all…

Place to rent…check!

Parking spot…check!

And even a ride to Quito…check!

Ecuador is the closet place to “home” that I’ve had in years so as our days left in Ecuador dwindled, my sadness grew.  I wished I had spent less time worrying and more time feeling good.  I caught myself regretting all the time I spent anxious about how it would all work out, wasting only more precious time.

With the Universe taking care of our agenda, we had 10 days left in Ecuador to just chill!  “We need a vacation from our vacation!”  For the most part, we’d been all business.  It was time to be tourists!  We both knew upon our return, building our inn would be priority so these last days would be a great time to experience the tourist towns of Ecuador.

Okay…so maybe you have already figured out me and Captain don’t make very good tourists.  First of all, we hate being in crowds of people.  We prefer to blaze our own path-other people kinda get in our way!  Secondly, we despise the inflated prices in tourist town and decide saving our money is way more fun than generic tourist traps!  Really, everything about us makes us not very good tourists.

I couldn’t count the times we have opted out of paying for activities than had the opportunity to do them later on for free!  Often we have discovered spectacular spots far from the tourists because we strayed from the trail…if our adventurous nature hadn’t led us off the beaten path, we would have never discovered the northern coast of Ecuador.

This passion for authenticity will permeate through our adventure and wellness retreat where guests will be guaranteed an unforgettable experience.

When meeting fellow travelers they will ask, “How did you like Canoa?  What did you think of Banos?  Wasn’t Mindo beautiful?”  Captain and I just look at each other.  Their next questions are, “you haven’t been there yet? What have you guys done?!”  We’d just laugh.  Our experience was definitely NOT like most other tourist experiences.  Even though we don’t make good tourists, occasionally we try to pull it off!

Captain and I have lived in 10 different locations in 5 years.  Each time we moved, the number of my belongings is less and less.  Realizing the weight of my “baggage” made it easier to leave things behind.  This often produced a lot of anxiety.  What to keep, what not to keep.  What will I need that I left behind?  When you have to carry your belongings on your back, you quickly realize what is most important!  This lifestyle has been a liberating experience from the traditional materialistic way of living…

With that said, imagine my ego’s excitement to finally leave stuff behind and know that I will be returning to it!!!

Old Yeller would double as our storage unit until our return.  A few things we left were items that tend to be expensive in Ecuador…food saver containers, bath and dish towels, pillows and sheets; I also left behind half of my summer wardrobe.  Others items were those we’d bought in Ecuador-a ceramic water jug, rain boots, and our 4 for $5 DVDs.  We would definitely not be bringing the movies over international borders.  We had enough run ins with the law; after our last trip thru Ecuadorian customs and my five pound bag of sand being mistaken for drugs, I was smart enough to not bring any more questionable items through security.  Getting arrested for crossing into the U.S. with pirated videos was no where on my agenda…

We each had 2 backpacks-a big one for the front side and an even bigger one for the back.  For the most part, what I own I can carry on my back.  I love living simply but I must admit, I do love stuff!  Because of this, my bags are often very heavy!  Captain is the ultimate simple man and master packer–clothes, kindle, map, guide-book, computer, hat, toothbrush, tp and a raincoat.  I fit the same into my packs but I find room for colored pencils, sharpies, oracle cards, essential oils and a bag of crystals.  Okay…maybe I don’t find room to pack it all in. What doesn’t fit in my bag ends up in Captain’s; sometimes I tell him beforehand but many times it is kept secret until he is unpacking!  “No wonder my bag was so heavy!  You literally put rocks in here!”

Saying goodbye to the coast is always sad but I tell the ocean I will see her soon. Tears stream down my cheeks but I am wearing a smile. I will be back…

The Governor and First Lady Boatmaster graciously offered to store our Lada in the guarded lot next to their condo.  They were headed back to the States for a few weeks but upon their return would watch over our vehicle until we came back.  It worked out that the Boatmasters were heading to Quito so we caught a ride with them across the Esmeraldas Province.  We said our final goodbye to Old Yeller and jumped into the Boatmasters’ silver Lada.

Our first destination was Banos.  The day ahead was going to be a long day of traveling.  We rose early in the morning so I planned on sleeping during the 4+ hour drive to Quito.  I should have know better!   I recalled Governor saying Old Yeller was the “fastest Lada in all of Ecuador”.  Riding with him now in HIS Lada, I realize the fastest ride, is the one he is driving!  The Silver Bullet was squealing around the curves, weaving in and out of the hills of the Andes.  Governor was taking the curves so fast I couldn’t bring myself to shut both eyes…as if I would feel better about crashing if I saw it coming!!

Winding Road

The more I travel, the more I appreciate the greatness of the world.  But with every passing moment in a foreign place, roads and landmarks become familiar.  The world doesn’t seem so big and scary anymore…

Starting to recognize buildings along the way, I knew we were approaching our stop: the gas station outside of town where we could catch the bus to the main station.  “This is our stop!”  We hopped out, wished our friends farewell and off they went.  The Silver Bullet sped away with the Boatmasters waving goodbye.

There we were-standing with our gigantic backpacks on the side of a dual lane highway leading into the busy streets of Quito.  Me and Captain looked at each other and started laughing hysterically!  We had no clue when a bus was coming along.

Do we ever think about what we are doing? Or do we just go with it? I am pretty sure if we thought too hard about things we would talk ourselves out of almost everything we do!  The two of us were brought together as we are on the same wavelength. Our perception of the Universe and attitude of “it’ll work out for us, it always does” has served us well. Typically there are some bumps along the road but I guess that it what makes it such a fun ride!

Stopping at this gas station brought back vivid memories.  On our previous trip, we had spent our last night in Ecuador  sleeping in this parking lot in our tiny rental car!  It sure was a restless night but we discovered the cleanest bathrooms in all of Ecuador!

Moments later, Captain spotted the large commercial bus quickly rounding the bend speeding right towards us.

Like the coast, the buses in the city do not stop completely.   Perhaps this is because we are always just standing alongside the road but I believe this is largely in part due to the drivers’ rush; they find its most timely to keep the bus moving!  We have learned that boarding a moving bus is best with some momentum.

We took off running and as the bus approached we realized the driver was not slowing down much more.  I kicked it into high gear and was losing my breath with each step with my heavy load.  The driver had no mercy and I didn’t think I was going to make it.  I felt a rush of adrenaline and my speed picked up.  I reached out, grabbed the hand bar and I hurdled on board.  When I took the moment to catch my breath,  I said to Captain, “That is so much easier without these huge backpacks!” I looked back and realized I was keeping him from hopping on.  He was still sprinting full speed alongside the bus.  Whoops!

I am a country girl from the Midwest so mass transit is somewhat of a foreign concept.  My anxiety level was rising as we still had many hours of travel to get to Banos.  I was praying we would make it before dark to be safe tourists avoiding the foreign streets at night.  Add in a language barrier and the bus station becomes very overwhelming!  We couldn’t find the counter selling tickets to Banos so we starting asking around.  We asked several people and kept getting a very complicated response that neither Captain or I could comprehend.  At one point we really thought we were making progress to get to Banos but the patron led us to el bano…

I was losing faith as the clock was ticking to find our next bus but I took being led to the restroom as a message from the Universe that I better make a pit stop.  When I turned down the hallway that led to the bano, I was blinded by the light, the NEON light!  With a very loud message that everything would work out, there before me stood Baby Jesus.  He was adorned in a felt robe bedazzled in jewels and fur; surrounded by silk flowers and candles burning at his tiny feet.  I never imagined Baby Jesus with a full head of hair and a 1950s hairdo…nor would I have ever thought to find him outside of the public bathroom!

Baby Jesus

When I walked out of the bano, Captain was approached by a sharp dressed English-speaking Ecuadorian.  “You look lost.  Could I be of assistance?”

Thank you, Baby Jesus.

The man explained there is a north and south bus terminal in Quito.  We needed to get to the south station to find the buses heading south to Banos.  He stated we could take a $20 taxi ride through the city or ride EcoVia for 25 cents.  He said the one mode would take just as long as the other. Going with the low-budget choice and being seasoned bus riders, we opted for the cheap downtown trolley.  He showed us the way to the bus that would take us to the trolley and thanked the man kindly.  He disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

The trolley station was very busy.  We made sure we were heading south and waited….the first trolley arrived and when its doors opened, at first glance I knew there was no way our bodies, let alone our bags, were going to fit.  There was a wall of people and not any room to spare for us.  The trolley moved on and we waited patiently in “line”.

The next trolley arrived shortly and we realized it was rush hour in Quito.  There was even less room on this trolley car.  Two guys cut us off and dove their way into the sea of people.  I was reminded once again there is no line etiquette in Ecuador but at least I knew how to proceed-head down and drive in, full throttle.  It seemed very inconsiderate but I knew this was the only way we were going to get on.  I took these next moments to mentally prepare myself so I would be ready when the next trolley rolled through.

I was first to hop on board but I didn’t get far.  It seemed that no one was making room for me.  I realized this was not by choice, there was just nowhere to go.  Head down and drive!  I got pushy and made my way into the trolley.  I quickly maneuvered the pack off my back and slid it to the floor where there seemed to be a bit more open space.  My other pack was smothering the young boy standing in front of me.  It didn’t seem to phase him.  This was probably just another day on the trolley for the regulars…

When I was situated, I got my head turned around to check on Captain and caught only a glimpse of his face.  His expression was priceless but then his eyes caught my attention.  I knew he needed my help.

Captain’s body was barely inside the trolley car.  The pack on his back was even further out the door.  The doors were not going to shut.  I began panicking as I had a vision of Captain getting left behind and me being shoved to the corner and never being able to get off…my body tensed as I began worrying about something that was probably not ever going to happen, although very possible!

I heard over the loud-speaker the repeating announcement.  I didn’t know what it was saying exactly but I got the jist.  “On or off buddy!”  It was Captain and his baggage keeping the doors from shutting.

Bodies were wedged between us but I adjusted mine and slid my hand through the crowd. I hooked on to a strap on his back pack with my pinky finger…this was the best I could do.  I pulled with all my might.

Packed like sardines…unfortunately, Captain was the last sardine and there wasn’t any room for him on this boat.

Two men dressed in uniforms appeared outside the doors and were pushing on Captain’s pack with full strength.  That was probably their main duty during rush hour!  Finally the crowd moved any inch, the doors closed and the trolley took off.  When the trolley took off, each person’s weight shifted.  Everyone had to reposition and when doing so, Captain was thrown off balance.   He fell back and the doors inched open.  He couldn’t see the doors behind him but he knew what was going on…at any moment those doors could fly open and he would be the first fish overboard!

There must have been 250 people packed into the bus. Elbow to elbow, bosom to bosom, face to face…name any body part and you can be assured it was touching someone else.  For half the ride my face was in an armpit. My oversized bag were smothering those around me.  At each stop, for every person that got off, two more would get on; when others were board our bodies were pushed further from the door.  It sure got tight but at least Captain wasn’t going overboard.

At some point I lost my foot space and was balancing on one foot. This was definitely the most uncomfortable transit I’d ever experienced.  All I could do was keep breathing and trust this discomfort was not last forever.

When the time came to get off the trolley, we had to fish our way off too!  I just buried my head in the crowd, dragging my bags behind me, barreling into the legs of innocent bystanders.  Like cutting a fish net full of sea life, Captain and I flopped out of the trolley when the doors opened at our stop.  Being able to take a full breath for the first time in an hour, Captain exclaimed “twenty-five cents doesn’t buy much space these days!”

We found the bus to Banos at the south station and made ourselves comfortable, preparing for the long ride.  The sun was approaching the horizon which raised my anxieties but again, reminded me to relax into the flow of things.  “Everything will work out for us.  It always does.”  Captain dug through his back pack and found the map.  He asked me to get out the guide-book so we could plan where we would be staying for the evening.   “I don’t have the book…I thought you had the book.” I replied.  Digging through my bag, I confirmed I did not have the book.  Nor did my travel buddy.  Of all things to make room for in our bags, why not the guide-book?!?

After I settled into my seat, I became more aware of my surroundings.  There were English-speaking people seated all around us.  Before long, one of the guys pulled out his guide-book.  All IS well!!

For the first time in all our months spent in Ecuador, we found ourselves on what is called the Gringo Trail.

We connected with the young woman sitting next to us and she was telling us all the wonderful things to do in Banos.  “There is a waterfall to hike to…a treehouse at the top of the mountain…a bike trail along the waterfalls…it really is so much fun!”  When we arrived in Banos she offered to walk us to a nice hostel for the evening and we obliged.  It was after sunset when we arrived in Banos; the gringos’ skin glowed in contrast to the darkness.  Gringos were everywhere!  We definitely weren’t in the Esmeraldas Province anymore…

Banos Banos Banos!!!

There was an option for a budget room with a shared bathroom but we decided on the $20 room with a private washroom.  We had shared enough private space during public transport.  The last place I wanted to be rushed was on the toilet!!!

I spared no time getting washed up and into my night-clothes.  I cried out, flopping onto the bed exhausted, “can we relax already?!?”

******

Emotions become feelings.  Feelings become thoughts.  Thoughts become things.  The power of manifestation lies in feelings and emotion, in the skill of feeling good now.

In fast-paced and uncomfortable situations, it is easy to succumb to uneasy feelings.  I have discovered I hold my breath in tense situations.  Other times, when living unconsciously, my breath is rapid and shallow.  Connecting with the breath can aide in any stressful situation and with staying present in everyday life.  The art of relaxation is being calm in all situations.

Stress and anxiety add a lot of baggage to my already heavy load.  Maybe someday anxiety will be a thing of my past, something that I left behind because it no longer fit into my backpack.  For now, my anxious thoughts are a reminder that I must let go and just breathe…

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