Friday, June 1, 2007

Trip of a Lifetime

Sylvie and I just returned from a trip up the coast to Esmeraldas, the beautifully green, African influenced part of northwestern Ecuador. On our way, we stopped in Crucita, a small fishing town in the Manabi province, where monied people from Cuenca keep the coastal homes. In Crucita, we stayed at a great little hotel with the best service you can imagine. Traveling on weekdays typically gives you the “run of the land” here in Ecuador. Being the only guests at all the places we stayed during our week-long trip allowed us the best in service and room selection. In Crucita, at Hotel Rey David (David was the owner and apparently a king in his own mind) we had a large room with a humungous shower and balcony facing the sea. We ate ridiculously portioned food at the restaurant. You really don’t need five fillets of fish for one dinner platter. Not only were the amounts copious, but the food was very good and the prices were reasonable. We borrowed the DVD player and a couple of movies for viewing in our own room. We talked for an hour with he hostess about Sylvie’s pregnancy and other topics. They even let us use the room for half a day after we were supposed to check out because our bus didn’t leave until 10:30 pm. We just really liked our hosts there. Only thing that was a little disturbing was Rey David’s apparent fascination with Nazism and paramilitary doctrine. You’re allowed to have one video in your collection about Hitler and his regime, not two. He had Fallen, which is supposed to be excellent, award nominated and all that. Ok, a movie about Hitler’s last days I can deal with. I’d been wanting to see it myself. However, when you compliment that with a documentary on the Nazi regime you’re crossing a line. When you then combo that up with a poster over your consierge desk of a goggled, helmeted, gloved guy pointing a high powered, scoped automatic rifle at some unseen victim you’ve got my wife making nervous eyes at me during dinner. The poster had a hand signed note made personally to David. It said something to the effect of “When they come we will be ready and they will know terror. Much love, Jorge”. I don’t know. Don’t ask. They were wonderful people to deal with. David even gave me a free shot of aguardiente (Ecuadorian moonshine) for my cold out of a gigantic Johnnie Walker Red bottle. Where did he get the two-foot, 10-gallon bottle on Johnnie? I don’t know. Anyway, we loved Crucita.

From there, we hopped on an overnight bus to Esmeraldas. After a bus ride and waiting at an exhaust–filled intersection for 45 minutes we broke down and caught a cab to the Cumulinche Club, an absolutely beautiful property with a private beach on the Pacific Ocean. Here, we found tranquility and envy. The room where we stayed was exactly what we wanted to build for Solidarity Travels. And we guessed that the owner managed to make the simple construction for a pretty good price. Either way, we enjoyed our time there. The only problems there: once I got bit in the eye by an ant that lived in the thatch room. I dried to rinse the poison with water, which only spread it all over the right side of my face. It stung for a good hour. Second, there was one spot in the bedroom that smelled like cowshit all the time. It was just one little area by the dresser. We still haven’t figured out how or why. But we loved the place and would recommend it highly.

On the way back from Esmeraldas we woke up at 5:30 in the morning because our bus had stopped. Due to the rain, the road, not concrete, was soft and muddy. There were a few buses and trucks stuck ahead of us. One bus had mud covering the entire metallic part of its wheels. The depressed faces of its passengers as we passed by, made me sad with empathy and glad our bus driver had avoided a similar fate. By 7:30 am we were moving again. So, the ride to Manta only took 11 hours or so. Then, after another 4 hour ride, we were back home. Sylvie was exhausted. I felt great. Plus, I had read about half of this really good book recommended by our friend Michael. Reading The Saddest Pleasure by Moritz Thomsen while traveling around Ecuador was a real treat. Thomsen is actually a fantastic, sad writer. Reading great writing is both humbling and inspiring. Periodically, on the bus I would laugh and wake up my neighbor across the aisle while reading about the sodomites of Istanbul or some other perverse, obscure reference.

The trip as a whole was cathartic. It marks the end of our time here on the coast. It marks effectively, the end of our business. It marks the beginning of our future back home in the States, and the eventual birth of our baby God willing. It was a trip about transition. I don’t remember having a trip before that was about something other than the trip itself. I suppose they all were on some level, but usually a trip is mostly about the places you’ll see, things you’ll do and the food you’ll eat. This trip was about finding something new that I want to do. It was about saying goodbye to a part of my life. It was about realizing the decisions that I had made without knowing. So, it was also about acceptance and gladness for what is to come. The trip was a preoccupation while we figured out the next part of our lives. Who knew? I thought it was just about finally going up the coast.


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