Its been a few days since my last transmission and I just haven’t had much time to write as they’ve been fairly busy days. But I sure have seen a lot and I have plenty to say, so here we go.
My last email was from Mindo where I stayed at an inn run by a friendly German guy who, at 6’8″ or so is easily considered a giant in a country where most men barely crest 5′. In fact, yesterday i saw a guy who was closer to 4′ and I almost stopped to take a really awkward photo.
I spent my second day in Mindo hiking in the hills, which wasn’t quite as difficult as going up stairs in Quito since I’m getting acclimatized to the altitude gradually. A jungle hike sounds cool eh? Well its not as cool as it sounds. Most of the time, you’re in extremely thick forest and you can barely see 10 feet in any direction. However, there are some really strange insects and the bird calls are pretty exotic, but you wont see much more on a 3 hour hike than you would by just sitting in one spot for 30 minutes. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed it because its a chance to get away from things and think. Any hike offers this really, but being so far removed from “normal” life gives one a better perspective on things. And then you walk through a spider web because you’re not really paying attention.
The inn was not particularly quiet, even though it was on the edge of town. Trucks roll through at all hours of the night, stray dogs bark, and roosters start their annoying cawing at about 3am – long before dawn. There’s just nowhere that isn’t noisy. Ironically, my quietest room was in central Quito. Locals just adapt to sleep through this stuff, sometimes all day too it seems. And of course during the day you have honking and shouting and whistling and pumping salsa music. In fact, if there isn’t already salsa playing someplace like, say, a bus, or if its only at reasonable levels, people will break out their phones and put their own music on and create a pretty awful cacophony of horns and maracas and Ricky Martin. Ce la vie en Ecuador.
Random fact: more than half the Ecuadorians that I’ve spoken to have never heard of Canada. Blank stare, slow nod.
The more touristy hotels know of Canada and they even accept credit cards, but I generally shy away from those places. Not enough chickens and salsa for my tastes. However, I did end up in one in Manta only because the bus trip was loooong and it was well after dark when we arrived. I paid a bit more that night – a whopping $45 – but it was worth it even if it was just to watch star wars in Espanol. Estos no son los droids que tu quieres! Also, it was a shitty area that I didn’t really want to walk around (as areas around bus terminals often are in North America) and they had a Chinese restaurant that was dishing out some good food.
I really dreaded that long bus trip from Mindo to Manta – 10 hours that included a transfer in the dirtiest butthole of a bus station that I’ve even seen. And I’ve taken the white trash express greyhound from Seattle to Vancouver before so I know what I’m talking about. However, it turned out to be a fantastic voyage and even the bus station, while extremely gritty, was entertaining in an omg-i-cannot-believe-this-place kinda way. We basically drove across the western half of Ecuador and the scenery was nothing less than stunning in some parts. Too bad I couldn’t open the window for some pictures, it was a sealed and heavily air-conditioned bus (more on that later). Verdant grassy ridges stretched as far as the eye could see, punctuated by groups of beautiful lazy palms. Occasionally, we’d pass through sections of forests of huge twisted trees with long limbs that provided a high canopy over a green carpet floor. It was unexpectedly beautiful. Still, it seemed that most people lived in the dusty dry areas, and usually within feet of the highway, and I saw very few houses in the desirable locations.
Tomorrow morning I’ll explore Manta a little bit.