Trip Start Jan 13, 2006
34Trip End Jul 15, 2006
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Right, so the 'formality' updates if you will, out the way, and onward to recollecting this spectacular spectacle of a weekend. I say 'weekend' well really it was a holiday - and it was 5 days long! but here goes anyway. As many of you clevercloggs out there may have guessed from the title, it was indeed Carnaval this past weekend. Exactly what Carnaval is, I myself still don't know. I have my suspicions that somewhere therein lies a religious meaning behind it, and indeed it is always held the 4 days preceeding Ash Wednesday, but from what I gather, it was just an excuse for ecuadorians (along with the rest of South America) to skip work, get drunk, party, and throw copious amounts of water over eachother and just about ever other person unfortunate enough to be residing in the country at the time (oh yes, boy did i get 'carnavaled'; more of that story later.) So our plan was to follow the roman adage, and 'When in ecuador, to do as the ecuadorians do', thus we headed out of the cold mountainous city of Quito, and west to the coast (and thus the tropical equatorial beaches). Of course getting there would be a problem, and our alleged '8 hour bus ride' quickly (or rather, very slowly) became 10.5 hours or thereabouts. And given that we left at 5pm, we would arrive at our first stop, Manta, where we would be staying with Naomi's (crazy?) uncle, at the splendid time of 3.30am.
Now this wouldn't be too bad, but as those of you who have attempted any of these mammoth bus rides will know, sleep is somewhat of an impossibility, and even if you travel right through the night, you only really start to sleep at the end of the journey, when it already becomes time to wake up. So having arrived at this absurd hour, Naomi's uncle pulls up in his pickup, the smell of beer reeking out of the windows, and asks us 'Are you thirsty?' Well...Dave was a little slow to cotton on to his meaning and so replied with the classic 'yeh i could use some more water'. Needless to say, we all bundled into the back of the truck and were swifty driven to a bar that had been kept open all night just for us. Oh the mentalists. And the drinks were free. So at about 6am we finally got some sleep in after a classic example of 'drunk driving' demonstrated by Bryan (Naomi's uncle that is).
Despite the heat I would sleep like a log, if only for a few hours, then it was up, and at midday being taken to a restuarant where I ate without doubt the most massivist fish ever. Under Bryan and Gerrado's insistance, the waiter bought a bottle of vodka to top up my 'batido' with, and thereafter we really had no choice. Once again everything was on them, so without asking the shout would go up 'cerveza!' when it looked like you were nearing the bottom of your drink, and there was no choice but to oblige. We stayed there until 6pm, so another ridiculous binge, the highlight of which has to be when Gerrado 'whipped out the tequila'. Man those Ecuadorians could drink. Of course this has its downsides...as in when the police try to arrest you for drink driving. Ironic given that they only approached Bryan despite Gerrado's truck being parked on the side of the road opposite. Nevertheless, this would provide a perfect example of the corruptness that is evidently at large: Bryan being a businessman and a foreigner (I believe he works for Del Monte food products) has a special card saying he is an 'important person to the community'. But still the police weren't buying it. So then he plays the 'sex' card if you will, by getting Susanna to have a lil chat with the coppers. Still nowt happening, but perhaps the authorities were weakening (they didn't want to arrest him, just to get a decent bribe out of him). So the final killer was the classic 'friend of a friend': Susanna's buddy who was a security guard had friends in the police, and thus all was resolved. Off home for a siesta, and then 'back out to a club at 9' except...no-one woke up. Except me that is, because I just don't ever ever sleep, and was taken out out for pizza by a couple of 'muy caliente' seņorita's who randomly turned up at the house.
So that was all good, but now onward to our real destination: Montaņita - a quaint little surfing town/village that was horrendously touristy with dozens upon dozens of hotels and loads of visitors (as I said previously, the ecuadorians, they flock to coast). The town had a charm to it, but was packed out with people and I was definitely glad we weren't staying there. Indeed were were staying in a quiet place; 'hamlet' may be a good word to use; called San Pedro. And within San Pedro, at an 'ecolodge'. Here we were away from the town amidst all sorts of animals and vegetation, perched on top of a cliff in a villa. The lodge had a swimming pool, steps down to a private (or at least, empty) beach and the most fantastic pacific sea view. Paradise? hmm, maybe.
Of course the catch here was that it was some 18km (maybe more) from the 'party town' and general 'hotspot' of Montaņita, which would cause a few problems. Buses were ok in the daytime, but as for getting back at obscene hours in the night/morning, this was somewhat more of a mission, requiring hitching lift off...frankly anyone who would stop and was going our way (which wasn't too many people). Nevertheless, we accomplished these feats. The first hitching a lift of a bus. "What do you mean that doesn't count?" Well well, it was some crazy empty joy riding bus that gave us a free ride (I didn't understand the math either...) The next night was somewhat more difficult, possibly due to the time being 3.30am, and we were half expecting the guy to pull over and stab us or something, but he turned out to be really alright, and thus we were home. Finally, in the back of a pickup, or rather two (because they can't seem to decide where they are going and thus say they will take you to your village, but might randomly decide they are hungry, and just drop you off on a random stretch of highway). So this happened, and the next ride was sweet, except for the somewhat 'classic' moment where we pulled round a bend and some nutter emptied an entire bucket of water over us sorry souls. So that was cool, as was the moment where the truck broke down, and the driver fixed in in about 5 minutes.
Back to Montaņita... There was some inter-South American surf competition going on, but it was highly overrated. Better was just chilling by the beach, soaking up the sun, sipping beer and abosorbing a bit of Jack Johnson. Ah, the surfer's life. (I like to think my stupid big hair and 'designer' oakley sandals (or should that be 'mandals') passed me off as quite the surfer type). The weekend would pass in a similar fashion, getting quite drunk and ill in the process, trying to find a 'mental party' but never quite succeeding despite the campfires on the beach and pumping music coming out of every single building (always a different song/type of music, so you never quite could hear anything). I suppose for me the nearest thing i have experienced to it is V festival, although this was that little bit 'more heavin'. Alas, no massive party was experienced, though a local band were viewed who played some sweet Police and Bob Marley covers - I think they may be quite big in ecuador because I keep hearing their classic song 'sexo' in the odd bar/restuarant here and there (it entails the mighty chorus 'sexo sexo sexo sexo sexo, sexoooo, sexoooo') ah - classic. So they were quite good, and a massive group of (drunk) Brits invited us to a party 'maybe 1 or 2 or 3 km down the beach that way' [he points towards the sea], so that didnt quite kick off.
Thus the weekend would close with me having drunk more alcohol than water and feeling (and still feeling) really ill. And ah! it may have taken 6 weeks, but the shits have finally come! oh joy oh joy (I bet you really wanted to know that.) Nevermind, everyone of us seems to be ill at the moment, and the mega 15 hours of travel till we finally got back home in Quito didn't exactly help out. It did, however, provide the opportunity to transfer via Guayaquil, ecuador's largest (and surely smellest, most horriblist) city. Well I didnt like it anyway. I had the (awesome) book of 'fight club' for company (deffo better than the film) which got me through the trip. And last night I made a point of watching the movie, to attempt to quell all the violent rage building up inside of me (I don't think it helped).
But at last (although I had thought this maybe a week and a bit ago) I feel settled in Ecuador, and sure, those occassional down moments, make me wish the Carbon monoxide maybe had had a little more effect, but then the highs, they make me so pleased I'm not stuck at home in lecture theatres...oops! sorry...! It's a good life here, and long may it continue (or at least as long as the 18 weeks or so i have left here permit!)
Hasta la vista.