Monday, May 23, 2016

Today I am in Libertad, Ecuador. Last year on this day I was in La Grange, Guyana with Heidi and Easton. We were with my son Chase and celebrating his 32nd birthday. Happy #33 today son! I admire you and your accomplishments in your Peace Corp service. I look forward to seeing you in a few months! I’m a proud pops.

We were able to get one more beach walk in this morning before heading back to Cuenca.

There were fishermen out with their nets trying to catch fish in the shallow blue waters close to shore. The pelicans all sat along the edges hopeful for a morning catch too!

Sergio, our friend and driver, drove down from Cuenca to pick us up and take us back. As we were driving away from our lodging at Casa Blanca Playa Cautivo we heard a strange noise coming from the undercarriage as he accelerated. He said it started when he drove down.

I am no mechanic, but I knew something wasn’t right. I deferred to his level of urgency however and just went with it. This wasn’t a good decision. After driving 2 and 1/2 hours the truck broke down and it wasn’t moving another foot.

We have been broken down on the side of the road before in Ecuador, twice in fact. It has been when we were on a bus, and the drivers of course have resources to get another ride called in. This was the first time we were in a private vehicle. Our saving grace is that Sergio is Ecuadorian and knows the ropes.

First he made calls to find us another ride to get us to Cuenca. No luck. Then he called the Ecuadorian 911 service which was able to dispatch Ecuador Transist to us along the highway. This is a guy in a pick up truck who comes out to see what the situation is. We obviously needed a tow truck so Sergio left with him to go to the next town and get one.

Now it is just Heidi, Easton, me, and Monte, our fostered dog, hanging on the side of the road with Sergio’s broken down truck. We contacted Dodie at Casa Blanca Playa Cautivo and asked for her help. Within the hour Dodie had a reservation for us at a hotel in Guayaquil if we chose to go back the 15 minute drive or so into the city, and also the number of a guy who could drive us to Cuenca.

We waited for Sergio and he returned with a big ass tow truck. It was one that would only pull the vehicle behind it, not carry it. Sergio’s back tires were locked up so the tow truck had to re-position itself behind the truck, facing the oncoming traffic, and hook the truck up for the tow.

Because the front wheels of the truck would be rolling along free as the truck was towed, it required someone to “steer” while it was being towed. Sergio of course said he would. There really wasn’t enough room in the tow truck for all three of us to travel into the next town, and Sergio said Easton could ride in his truck with him. I said no. I didn’t want my son in a truck that was being towed, needing to be steered, and facing oncoming traffic on a busy highway.

We all crammed ourselves into the tow truck. I was next to the driver with the stick shift between my legs, Heidi next to me, and Easton at the far end with Monte on his lap. We were as tight as sardines.

Since the driver’s tow truck was facing oncoming traffic, he had to pull it out onto the highway and do a three point turn to get himself going in the right direction. All the while Sergio is in his truck steering his front end wheels to accommodate the turn.

Only in Ecuador, well maybe anywhere in South America, would this happen. When the traffic cleared the driver pulled out into road spanning across it with the tow truck and Sergio’s truck. I looked left and saw traffic speeding toward us. This traffic was flashing its lights at us, but of course not slowing down.

The driver reached between my legs and shifted into reverse. There went my left nut. I didn’t care though because I am watching a semi come barreling our way. The driver began backing up and cleared the far left lane of the freeway and the semis and other traffic went speeding by us.

He pulled out again and this time was able to make the turn and begin driving in the correct direction on the freeway. We were headed to the town of Virgen de Fatima to leave Sergio’s truck for repair and find a ride to Cuenca. Sergio believed he could get a ride arranged for us from this town.

After we arrived in town and got the truck unhitched, Sergio began asking questions for arranging a ride. He decided he would come to Cuenca with us and drive back tomorrow to deal with his truck. The first attempt at a driver produced a small compact car. Not enough room for all of us, never mind our luggage.

On the second attempt, he located a driver with a double cab truck that would fit all of us and our luggage. It would cost us $150, which was high for the distance needing traveled…but what were our real choices here?

I was glad Sergio was going with us because he knows the road well up through the Andes. By the time we finally got going it was dark. The drive up into the Andes can be dangerous because parts of the road have fallen over the cliff edge, and with the fog that can be present going over the top it’s hard to see.

Our driver’s name is Carlos, a young guy who seems pleasant enough and didn’t drive completely insane like some drivers here do. About half way through the Andes, Sergio was heard in the front seat snoring…so much for his expertise navigating the road. In all fairness we had passed all the bad parts of the road.

We made it to our place in Cuenca about 11 pm. I’m glad we are home. Home is a loosely used word right now. We have not found “home” yet.