Reminiscing back to our last post, we ended up pitching our tent under the restaurant’s thatched roof and fell asleep to the crashing high tide and the pouring rain. Next morning after dining on gifted hard boiled eggs, we set out for Bahia de Caraquez, passing watermelon stands and thin cattle en route to the defunct port. Our intention was to catch the overnight bus to Quito, so we whiled the day away watching futbol at a wharf restaurant, visiting the barber, amusing the bakery clerk, and sink showering at the gas station.
Out of the blue, a series of fortuitous events began to unfold. First the restaurant owner from earlier arranged a shower for us when we bumped into him on the street. Next, a gentlemann on a bike brought us to a good clean dinner spot and convinsced us to stay on the coast and continue cycling north. Third, the workers at the restaurant flagged down a woman from the church so we could ask to stay iin the courtyard. While speaking with “La Madre,” the whole city’s power went out. With no space, she sent us off in pitch blacknesss to the firehouse where we found Ricardo. With no space there either, he made a call and we were soon being escorted to spend the night at the dormitory of the correctional offiicer training facility. The next morning we met with Ricardo again and he arranged a fire truck escort to the local nature reserve where we speed hiked amidst gigantic Ceibo trees (the green hulks) and swarming mosquitoes. Heading down from the reserve, we stopped at an overlook and heard called from above, “Would you like some coffee?” Of course we did, and there we met Suzy and José. Suzy, an expat from Australia, had built our dream home mostly from bamboo on a small clliff front lot on the edge of town. We loved hearing their insight into the town’s culture, evolving infrastructure and environmental mindset, and that we too could own a plot further down the coast for $12000.
We had been thinking to leave the coast for safety reasons, since we’re increasingly being warned to watch out for theives the further north we get. Normally, we take every comment with a grain of salt, but after having a motorcyclist stop and tell us we need to immediately leave the place where we’re standing on the waterfront because we’re about to be robbed (and seeing a pickup with three men do a u-turn back toward us), we’re taking the warnigns a bit more seriously. Who knows how the scene would have unfolded, but needless to say we were a little spooked. The locals assured us though that riding during the day up to Canoa we’d be fine.
On the way to Canoa that afternoon, we stopped at Isla Corazón and had an amazing tour of a mangrove island, complete with tunneling through the forest in a canoe under thousands of nesting seabirds and waterfowl. The community has been working hard to restore the once prolific mangrove stands that were ripped out during the shrimp farming boom during the 1980s and 90s. We even planted a few by dropping their dart shaped seed pods from a boardwalk, hoping they’d stick upright (we were two for seven!).
We closed out our coastal tour with a final day playing in the surf, punctuated at frequent intervals with exotic fruit flavored ice creams before our night bus.
We’re constantly impressed by the elaborate network of cheap, efficient, and pretty luxurious buses. Our 7 hour overnight bus to Quito had AC, a movie, 3/4 reclining plush chairs, and a luggage hold that fit our bikes upright (all for $11/person). We arrived to Quito at 3:30am, immediately caught a bus to Baños at 4am, and began our next chapter in the Andes.
Before setting out on the bikes, we explored the fruit markets at Baños, sat in eucalyptus-infused steam boxes overlooking the gorge, indulged in full body massages, and went white water rafting on Rio Pastaza. (Thanks for all the wedding gifts!) It was in Baños where we also encountered the biggest deception of them all: the garbage truck had an external speaker that played ice cream truck music.
On Monday we rode to Puyo, the gateway to the Amazon. The jungle beckoned us like mad, so we pooled our remaining wedding gifts and booked a 5-day tour leaving from Coca Thursday morning. Even on the fringes, the vegetation is lush, the rain comes in heavy sheets, and the birds sing en masse elaborate compositions we could never dream of creating. We can’t imagine what it must be like on the inside, but we’ll soon find out!