So far, the notion that a guy can simply toss some clothes in a backpack and fly off to Ecuador with almost no knowledge of conversational Spanish, no room reservations, and no agenda, seems to be proving out. In fact, after just one full day here, I’m really glad we did it this way. We had enough to figure out without the stress and anxiety of knowing that we had to be at a certain pre-booked hotel by a certain time.
As it was, we woke up in Guayaquil and easily grabbed a taxi to the bus terminal, located at a large, modern shopping mall. It took a little wandering around to figure out where to buy a ticket for Playas, but once we did they cost all of $3 apiece. The bus was clean, modern and nearly empty when we pulled out. About 45 minutes into the two hour trip, it pulled off to the side of the road and took on enough people–most of them school-aged children–to fill every seat and leave around ten standing.
One thing Diana and I noticed was how nicely dressed the kids were, compared with school kids in the States. No t-shirts or jeans. Some wore uniforms, others nicely pressed linen shirts and pants. All were extremely quiet and well behaved. Most rode the bus for more than an hour before being dropped off in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Playas. We exited ourselves when a passenger said some Spanish stuff that we took to mean “This is the end of the line. You should get off now.”
We found a little outdoor restaurant and drank large, cold, Ecuadorian beers while Diana had some ceviche.
Next we threw on our packs, walked out onto the beach, and chose a direction: South. The beach was huge, wide and nearly empty. It almost seemed wrong to have that much of a beautiful place all to ourselves. Like that Twilight Zone episode where there’s only one guy left on Earth.
After walking about a mile, we passed a place called Hotel Tucano. There’d been quite a few hostels and hotels along the walk, but this one looked nice enough and, besides, I was starting to get whiney.
The rooms were not dirt cheap (ours was $46, Mike’s was $36) but there was a huge swimming pool, a restaurant, and a nice little outside bar where an old man named Juan Carlo was greatly in need of a customer. Mike and I obliged.
While we kept Juan Carlo company, Diana went back to the room and tried the “suicide shower,” a crazy looking apparatus with electrical cords, plugs and breaker switches, attached right to the shower head. It warms the water on its way out, for lack of a standard water heater. And yes, she got shocked a bit, as she turned the water off.
We finished off the day with a walk into town, a few delicious chicken empanadas for $1 apiece, and after some walking around, a ride back to the hotel from a motorcycle-powered taxi/carriage thingy. We paid the kid five bucks and wondered what the hell he was smiling about as he sped away. Then we got back inside the room and it dawned on me that “cincuenta” meant 50 cents, not five dollars. Live and learn.
Here are a few very early impressions, in no particular order, after the first night and day in Ecuador:
The people could not be friendlier.
Very few spoke English, and the ones who did knew a few basic words.
They laughed and enjoyed the challenge of trying to understand my crappy Spanish.
Alcohol does not seem to be as big a part of the culture here as it is in, say, Mexico. It seems like a positive difference.
Prices are either inexpensive, cheap, or so cheap you misunderstand and hand over 10 times the amount.
The weather is amazing. 85 degrees with a nice consistent breeze and no humidity to speak of. I can already see why Playas was voted second best weather in the world. I can’t imagine who got first place or what makes their stupid weather so damn special.
Two great iPhone apps came in very handy in a pinch. Jibiggo is an English to Spanish translation app that doesn’t require internet access to work. You speak to it, it speaks to the girl behind to hotel desk, everyone gets a good laugh. The second app is Word Lens. It lets you simply point your phone’s camera at any printed Spanish and then turns it into English right before your eyes. Very handy for airport signage, hotel room directories, etc.
Okay, that’s enough for now. It’s 6:30 a.m. and I’ve got a date with the suicide shower. It’s been good knowing you.