While long check-out lines and snarled traffic hamper the flow of many people’s holiday routines, life in rural Ecuador delivers its own set of travel frustrations. Bus routes spider from terminals in key cities and provide inexpensive options throughout the day and night. With gasoline prices a constant $1.48, taxi and private drivers can help passengers reach a destination faster and with more personal service at a fair price. At a cost of fifty cents to several dollars, mototaxis in smaller towns help you get from A to B much faster than walking.
But what does one do when one lives half an hour via 4-wheel drive from town and the cell phone signal doesn’t stretch over the mountain? Here at my friends’ property near Mindo, one can usually catch a ride to town with Ingo, a neighbor who drives to town each day and passes the gates at 8:30 sharp! A twelve-dollar taxi-truck is always available in town for the return trip!
Last week I walked to the gate at 8:15 sharp, and ten or so minutes later two men rode by on mules. By 8:45 I chuckled to myself, “Ha! Ingo’s becoming Ecuadorian!” Ecuadorians are known to be predictably late! I put down my bags and began pulling clumps of grass near the gate.
Around 9:15, Luz drove by on her milk-pickup route. I asked if I could ride when she reached the end of her route and passed back by the gates. Twenty minutes later, I climbed over the wooden slats and happily perched on a bag of feed! The higher vantage point allowed me to spot new details in the landscape, and I looked forward to experiencing this new mode of travel!
But wait – instead of veering right and four-wheel-driving up the mountain, we veered slightly left and continued along the river! Eureka! New territory! I was about to find out what was at the end of the road!!!
Every five to ten minutes, we stopped for the containers of milk; most of the farmers waited, and they watched as Luz and her son measured the depth of the milk and transferred it into their containers. Each stop took more time than normal, as Luz was quite distressed that a new woman had invaded her territory and was stealing her customers!
Each time the truck rolled to a stop, I stood up and grinned at the farmers, who seemed quite shocked to see a ‘gringa’ emerge from the truck. “Papparazi!” I smiled each time as I photographed the details at each stop.
When we reached the end of the road, I thought, ‘Whew! Now we’ll turn around and will go to town!” – But no – there was a bridge, and we were about to cross it!
We snaked through bamboo shrouded roads and slowly climbed to the crest of one ridge where two cans of milk marked the end of the route. After the truck turned around, we collected the milk and began to retrace our route. Whew! Yes, this time we were Mindo bound!
Two other passengers boarded the truck for the ride to Mindo, and we stopped once more to collect milk. A bit sun and wind burned, I bailed out at high noon in town at Caskaffesu Hostal and Restaurant, where my friends Susan and Luis were having an impromptu music session!
As with last week’s Timeout for Art post, this was written offline in the hopes that I’ll find a way to bridge the distance between paradise and cyberspace! PS: It’s being finished at the Delta Baggage Claim area at the Quito airport, where my friend hopes to claim her ‘misplaced’ luggage that did not arrive in the wee hours when they landed!!