Guayaquil

Day twenty: Guayaquil to Quito

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It’s our last morning at the Eco Lodge… just as we’re getting used to the rain on the tin roof. I won’t lie… we are happy to move on and get away from the damp. We have our last breakfast with Mercedes and George and strike up a conversation about the design of the eco lodges. George uses bamboo in his designs, so we share some photos from our recent trip to Bali; images of the Green School and Green Village. “Guggenheim in bamboo” he suggests.

I feel fondly for Mercedes, she is a good spirit, although of course I’m happy that our time walking in mud and wearing flip flops on wet rocks has come to an end. I’m really hoping the next place will be drier. I just want a hot bath in a clean, white bathtub, that has a plug and is all ours.

Today is the first of three travel days in a row, the most extensive travel for our family so far. Our journey starts at the bus stop in Montanita and again we don’t match to any other demographic present. The bus is pretty full yet we manage to get five seats close together.

Today’s journey has us slowing down for cows to pass (no farmer) – no iguanas or stray dogs this time. The police flag down the coach and check the driver’s papers, and this prompts him to put on a DVD. Mercedes had warned that they are often not appropriate for children, but I see this one features Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore – so it must be ok. The kids watch it, in Spanish, for the whole duration.

The film ends (with applause) exactly at the moment we pull into Guayaquil bus station. From the outside the bus station feels like a mall, so we go in, do a quick assessment and then head straight for the exit again – why are big city bus stations such unpleasant places? We catch a short taxi ride to the airport and check in (incredibly early) for our flight back to Quito.

Great news! We’re put on an earlier flight! Saving us at least two hours of airport woes, a more generous time to settle at the other end plus Andy will have more time for a conference call he has scheduled that evening. Bonus.

We have 35 minutes before the flight leaves. A quick run to the coffee shop and four nutrient-free sandwiches and a quiche later, we board the plane. The compromise for moving flights is that we are not sat together. We were allocated five middle seats all in different rows. And so… the language dance starts again. We score two seat moves meaning we now have two sets of two together with the fifth seat in the row ahead. Our eldest son volunteers to take the sole seat – his seventh flight this trip and he’s now a pro. 

Later, Andy shares with me that during the ‘seat dance’ I had said “buenas noches” as part of my gushing thanks to one of the passengers who had moved. HA! I am a such a natural, it’s untrue.

We’re reminded of the Galapagos taxi driver who was practicing his English with us and had genuinely yawned, outstretched his arms above his head and said in his best English, “Oooh I’m hungry”.

It’s our second time arriving at Quito airport and experience counts for a lot. We’re no longer on such high alert, it’s daylight, we feel safe(r) and have the added benefit of knowing exactly where to get a taxi, helping us avoid looking like lost tourists.

Learning from past mistakes, we arrive with a screen shot of the hotel booking clearing showing its name and address. Our next achievement is to find a taxi driver who can actually see the screen – this one squints, pulls the phone out and in, out and in, but no, he can’t see it. Luckily the name is easy and from us repeating it over we establish he knows it and off we go.

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This time around, we opt to stay close to the airport as our flight leaves early in the morning. We found a gorgeous little place called Casa Puembo – all white interiors, tasteful, almost Scandinavian style interiors, warm showers, a football pitch, a playground, freshly cooked suppers AND the fastest internet connection we’ve had since Miami.

Items lost:

  • Mia’s pink watch (left at the Eco Lodge)

Day seventeen: Guayaquil and Montanita

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Today is a travelling day. A harder day. A dull day. A meal management day. A home learning day. Everyone’s mood changes for the worse when we’re hungry and generally our patience levels are low. We need to get from Santa Cruz (taxi) to Baltra (ferry and bus) to Guayaquil (aeroplane) to just outside Montanita (car).

The plane journey is relatively short, made all the more exciting by one child refusing to do any school work – cleverly choosing a confined public space to exercise his refusal. Rewards are revoked, patience is tested and I sit wishing the plane journey to end. That. Or a large glass of wine to arrive (it’s 10am).

We land – the small child is intact. We’ve been told to be extra alert in Guayaquil as it has ‘an-edge’. The children all get their hands held pretty tightly through the airport and we’re met by a man mountain known as Jofre.

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We exit the airport through glass doors with NO GUNS and NO DOGS stickers reversed out. Assuming that’s a message for anyone entering the airport, I now figure we’re entering a world of guns and big dogs – excellent.

Disappointingly for his size, Jofre has a surprisingly small car. We spend two and a half hours squeezed in the back with no air conditioning. Guayaquil appears to have the same high-speed-lane-hopping behaviour as Qatar, with the added bonus of no seat belts in the back. I get the children to lie down and take a nap… hold onto them tight… make a wish… and focus on the dangly cross hanging from Jofre’s rear view mirror. Whatever it takes – right?

The place is manic. At the first traffic lights we’re offered strawberries, loom bands, windmills, avocados and a street-dance (!) – all for money and mostly through the window. Jofre is very clear it’s a ‘no’.

We go past a police check point and pathetically I smile and hope my face is saying ‘honestly we are happy to be in this car, we are not, in fact, being kidnapped’.

The high volume contrariness from today’s playful child continues and only on the realisation that pocket money was indeed being taken away, one pound at a time, immediately and visibly on the pocket money phone app, did the car become quiet. Finally.

Today’s destination is an eco lodge just outside of Montanita, on the coast of Ecuador. We drive past a mini Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Big Ben (!). A bit further we drive past pretty baron land with several precarious shacks that could come right out of the Three Little Pigs story book.

Eventually we reach the coast and Jofre takes a right along the coast road. Each ‘town’ we go through I’m sat quietly *hoping* this is not Montanita and breathing a sigh of relief as we exit the town on the otherside.

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Finally we arrive at the Eco Lodge, we walk up to the top of a green field to find our home for the next three nights. We dump bags, agree on who is sleeping where and then go on the hunt for food for the evening. A $1.50 taxi ride takes us into Montanita – pizza and wine lift our spirits.

Dinner then bed. Quite simply… we survived the day.