When we got to the bus terminal in Playas, there was a fairly long line. So, naturally, we decided to go find a beer. They keep them extremely cold here, which is a fairly effective sales tactic on the equator. Even Diana–usually a “Guinness or nothing” girl–has taken to bellying up.
Twenty-four ounces later, we threw on the packs and headed for the terminal. I had practiced saying “Queremos tres billettos para Salinas, por favor,” so that part went well. The problem is they always insist saying a whole sentence back. Then you just have to throw up your hands and cop to the fact that you “No hablo Espanol.”
So far, the reaction is always the same: a hand on the forehead, a smile and a “No Englese.” Unfortunately, this girl had something to say that seemed important. I threw up my hands and she racked her brain, still smiling. Finally she pulled out a pen and paper and drew a “Y” with playas at the bottom, Salinas at the end of the left branch, and Guayaquil at the end of the right. I pointed at Salinas. “Si, Salinas!” I said, feeling certain I’d cleared things right up.
She went on to point at the middle of the “Y” and said things. I shrugged, and smiled. She did the same and sold me one ticket with a “3” and some other junk written on it for a total of $2.25. This seemed like a crazy bargain since Guayaquil to Playas had cost $3.00 apiece. I pointed to my two traveling companions and asked “Tres todo?” She nodded and waved.
It wasn’t until the bus was a few miles out of town that the puzzle came together in my mind: We had purchased tickets to the middle part of the “Y” and would have to figure out how to find another bus to Salinas once we got there. Assuming we’d know when we got there.
Having no interest in returning to Guayaquil, I pulled up the Google map of our trip path on Diana’s iPhone. I was in the middle of explaining my “Y” theory when I caught the guy next to Di marveling at the image on her iPhone. He was sitting with his wife and baby so I did the ol’ “slow English routine” that always feels like it should work for some reason. It didn’t. But after a little game of Charades I felt reasonably confident that they were headed for Salinas as well, and that we were invited follow their lead.
Sure enough, about ten minutes later, they were getting off and urging us to follow them. The bus driver pulled our packs out of the cargo bay while the husband explained our situation to him. Then he pointed to a covered pickup truck and said Spanish stuff.
“Um,” I said. “In there?”
“Si,” he said.
Assuming he was kidding or something, I asked again using other useless English words.
“Si.” he said, pointing urgently as if time was of the essence.
I looked at Mike and Diana, who for some reason have a habit of defaulting to me, and said, “Fuck it. Let’s get in the truck.”
Crammed in there with six or seven other passengers, our backpacks took up more than our allotted space. We exchanged nervous laughter as we hurtled down a busy highway without seat-belts, airbags or dual climate control.
“I feel like we’re being taken to another bus,” I assured Diana, “since it’s another hour and a half to Salinas.”
Maybe five miles down the road, the truck pulled over in the middle of nowhere and mercifully transferred us to a waiting bus. I felt like kind of a big deal as my travel partners and I climbed on board. The husband was already seated with his family, waiting to greet us with a “thumbs up.”
Then the bus driver came strolling down the aisle with the bad news: that would be another $1.75 apiece.