Lisa has asked me to be a guest contributor so that I can tell the world about my adventures in the Ecuadorian jungle during Christmas 2022.
As a bit of background, I returned back to the UK from Shanghai in the summer of 2022 just as our youngest son, Inigo, took off to Ecuador to take up a position as volunteer co-ordinator at a wildlife conservation park in the Amazon jungle. I invited myself to join him for Christmas! (I did ask his permission). I flew out of Manchester on the 17th Dec via Amsterdam and arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador at 4.15 pm.
Inigo had arranged a taxi to pick me up from the airport but there was no one with my name on a board at arrivals. Dang! Once on the airport wifi the taxi driver contacted me, in Spanish, to say he was there but he still did not manage to find the pale, white bearded foreigner standing by the only Christmas tree in arrivals for over twenty minutes! However, we did eventually meet up and he took me to our taxi; a small but seemingly reasonable looking Chevrolet.
My opinion changed rapidly as soon as we began to move and came to our first junction (still in the airport car park!) The brakes screamed as metal on metal tends to! Oh Lord, what have I let myself in for? He drove for about fifteen minutes and then took me into what appeared to be an industrial estate of some kind, pointing to the front of the car and explaining something to me in Spanish, which I do not speak! A few turns later he drove into the forecourt of what looked like a car workshop, leapt out of the car and went deep into conversation with a man who was under the bonnet of another car in the yard. Returning, he gestured to me to get out of the car as the mechanic was going to change the brakes. Phew!
The car was put on a lift and the front wheels removed. Excellent I thought, this will calm my nerves, new brakes. The old pads were removed and the mechanic’s wife sent off to find new ones. A ten-minute wait until she returned but apparently they did not have any of this type in their stock! The worn-out pads were put back on the car. Gulp. My driver shrugged in the way that only Ecuadorians can, got back in the car and off we went again.
The journey should take between four and five hours Inigo told me and we were only thirty minutes into it. By now it was getting dark. On the equator, the days and nights are generally of the same length so sunrise and sunset don’t change much throughout the year. Inigo had told me that Ecuadorian taxi drivers are by nature somewhat reckless in their approach to driving and my driver was no exception. He drove fast; very fast; around corners, overtaking, any gap he thought he could squeeze the Chevrolet into. I know that UK roads are poor with rough surfaces and potholes, but, when Ecuadorian roads have potholes, they can be like mini ravines in the road. All the drivers weave across the road to miss these holes but sometimes they miscalculate; my driver included. Going around some hair pin bends he hit a huge hole in the road; bang, the car lurched to the left and we came to a stop. Driver gets out, goes to the front driver’s side wheel and slams his hand onto the car wing. We have a puncture. There were actually two bangs at the time so I feared we had lost two tyres but fortunately it was just the one. Time to change the wheel. My suitcase out of the boot and spare wheel out. I think at this time I should tell you that the darkness was total. It was pitch dark. Our car had its lights on and hazards too but they seemed inconsequential in the all-consuming blackness; until the lorries came. The road we were on was not a major road; just an ordinary two-way road but still a much used artery for freight and every thirty seconds or so a lorry would come at speed from behind us or towards us around a bend. I felt somewhat exposed holding a phone torch over the driver as he changed the wheel in the middle of the road. I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it to Puyo…
But we did it and got on our way. After another two hours we drove into what looked like a pit stop. A petrol station on one side of the road and a row of small shops and cafes on the other side with lorries and coaches parked up nearby. We drove off the road into a gap between two properties (at this point I honestly thought the driver was taking some sort of back route to avoid a police checkpoint) but he did stop; it was a 24h tyre shop. Explaining our woes to the mechanic, once again the car was lifted up, this time to check that the rear driver’s side tyre hadn’t in fact been damaged by the pothole and to replace the damaged tyre in our boot. We once again had five functioning tyres for our four wheels. Did I mention the brakes weren’t working properly, yes all through this the sound of metal on metal was the background to the journey. Still two and a half hours driving to go!
The rest of the journey was pale by comparison; excessive speeding, overtaking on blind corners, skirting around bits of missing road, all this was now just commonplace. Finally, we approached Puyo, the town where I was to spend the night in a local hotel before joining Inigo:
My driver did not know where the hotel was. He had multiple attempts to punch the address into the Satnav on his phone (whilst still driving of course) but could not find it. He resorted to phoning a friend. A result; he now knew where to go so at about 11pm we pulled off the road into the hotel. Fortunately, I had told them I would be arriving late so there was someone there to meet me. My five-hour trip cost me 100 USD (Ecuador uses US Dollars as its currency) and my relief as I fell into my hotel bed was overwhelming. At this point I realised that my jaw was aching; for the whole trip I had been clenching my jaw and only once I relaxed did I feel the pain!
To be continued…
One thought on “Kevin’s little adventure in Ecuador – getting there”
wow Kevin x you always did have a sense of adventure as you would use the motorbike taxis in Bangkok!! I do hope that hair raising journey was worth the travel and Inigo is well and happy. Looking forward to hearing more of your adventure. Lisa you really do have a different family!!! Happy New Year to you all x
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