We felt a trip to the beach was necessary while we were in Ecuador. My father’s friend kindly allowed us to use his beach retreat for a week. So we packed up all our stuff, and there is a lot when you have two kids, and headed west out of the bustling city into the mountains. Instead of the expected “Are we there yet?” we got, “Mom (and to a lesser extent, Dad), what are you doing?” enough to hope I never hear that again but I am sure it will make a reappearance on the trek back.
Our favorite part of the drive was through El Cajas, a protected national park just outside of Cuenca. We wound up and down scenic, misty mountains. Every turn around a corner proved to be more breathtaking. The government has reintroduced llamas to the area to encourage breeding so we found them grazing along the side of the roads at times. We also saw some hikers in the distance and I briefly longed to be out there with them. The vision was instantly shattered thinking of hefting a whiney three year old through the wilderness. Regardless, I think it will be worth a return trip before we leave Ecuador.
Just before reaching Guayaquil, as we left the mountains behind, the flora and weather shifted. We began seeing more tropical plants like banana trees and the temperatures and humidity climbed. We also saw cocoa, mango, papaya, orange, and coconut trees. It had a very jungle-like feel and we half expected a monkey to swing out of a tree onto the truck.
Thankfully, we made it without any issues (other than a toddler meltdown when she was told we were leaving the rest stop playground). We went through one police stop just before a toll booth. They were checking everyone’s driver’s lice as the nice officer said while attempting his English. He asked us if we rented the truck and I told him it was my father’s. He then said with a big smile, “My wife” and pointed to me.We were a bit puzzled at this and then Cory answered, “No, my wife.” And, we all laughed as he corrected himself, “Your wife.”
Near Guayaquil there were many gated housing communities that turned into small cement block, adobe or bamboo homes as we neared the coast. There were horses, pigs, and donkeys grazing on the side of the road and the cows became more the beef variety than the milk cows we are accustomed to in the mountains. Taxi cabs became rickshaws made from motorcycles and each roadside fruit stand and restaurant had at least one hammock. It seemed that we were entering an area of beach time.
This man was pumping gas into two barrels in the back of his pickup truck. Seems safe to me. Notice the fantastic gas prices! Yes, that’s in the US dollar.
Hay ride Ecuadorian style.
The buses love to cut you off.
When you can’t take a bus, pile into a pickup truck.
Rickshaw Ecuadorian style.
Just before reaching the coast we climbed another set of verdant mountains going around many curvas peligrosas (dangerous curves). Thankfully, we made it before sunset so we could see the small town of Puerto Cayo as we crossed the last mountain, an amazing and surreal view of the ocean. It was difficult to tell where the water ended and the sky began. The trip was a long eight hours and we wondered whether it was worth it at times but once we saw ocean we knew we wouldn’t regret it.