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Ecuador: Notes from a Moby Dick Land

Green and hilly. Hilly and green. Fluffy tops of mountain trees look like small waves on the surface of a green sea. Turquoise blue as Jake’s face. We’ve just got a ride from a guy whose second name is Hitler, but we are so sick that barely can enjoy this fantastic occasion. Altitude sickness together with sea sickness seems to be a romantic invention of those, who never leave their houses, until the very moment when you actually face it. Our second day in Ecuador.  Mountains and nausea. Getting higher and higher. Hitler tries to talk to us at first, but medieval anguish written on our pale faces soon makes him give up on us. Somebody farts. I feel like we are in a gas chamber, on our last journey to death caused by suffocation. I open the window and ask Jake if it was him. He shakes his head no, but for a minute his face lights up: too many good jokes were aborted because of our catastrophic conditions, but ignoring Hitler’s car gas chamber would be unforgivable. We share a couple of timid laughs, however, Hitler keeps his eye on the ball. He gets very pissed off with us and doesn’t say a word until we reach Quito.

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  Quito gifts us with a new staggering character, Jake’s cousin who fell a prey of express-kidnapping for three times while living in Ecuador. He is aware of crime-rates in all around Latin America, knows how many Americans have disappeared in South America for the past two weeks and can predict how many more will do soon. The cousin lives in a wealthy part of the town surrounded by restaurants of Canadian cuisine (before Quito I didn’t know Canadian cuisine even existed).

    In Ecuadorian capital we finally get to a pharmacy and buy pills against altitude sickness, so we finally can stop thinking of accidental potential puke and enjoy the beauty of the city.

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I dunno if my inspiration got exhausted or my desire to die has declined within time, but I couldn’t come up with any special task for myself and asked for help. I send emails to a couple of friends informing them that I was gonna spend some time in Ecuador; so if they could think of some kind of a task for me, their disgraceful soldier of ridiculous adventures would be happy to perform it. My friend, a lover of wild nature, offered me to visit Galapagos island and film some tortoises for her. Apart from feeling like I was 60 years old, I also realized that I had a Chinaman’s chance to please my beloved friend, because Galapagos tortoises were simply way above my budget. At the same time I have already waded into those waters (though I expected a bit different response) and felt committed to the deal. I spent some time investigating other spots of Ecuador where I could find big tortoises or something as big and impressive as tortoises, but for cheaper, and halleluiah, what have I found! It has emerged that nearby the shores of a place called Puerto Lopez there was a whale route; it was said in the article the season started from August and lasted until late October. I was right in the middle, so we could hang out together. In the end, the most miserable and ugliest whale is 10 times cooler than the biggest tortoise in the world, thought I and headed to Puerto Lopez.  

There are not so many ideas that could compete in ridiculousness with hitchhiking in Ecuador. Buses are so cheap that even for the most broke travellers it makes zero sense to hitchhike around the country. Hitler was a godsend, he appeared to take us away from the Colombian border, but in the literal middle of the world everyone rides buses.

 The coast of Ecuador is like a chewed bubble gum that you still have in your mouth just because there are no trash beans around, and you don’t want to be impolite spitting it out on the ground. It’s monotonous and grey, it’s wasteland. It’s a photo of my aura after another breakup. Naked bushes extending their meagre hands to dusty roads, if they were starving to death beggars. Hopelessly empty sky. Concrete blocks, a cemetery of never finished buildings. Ghostlike people are looking at somewhere down from a crumbling cliff. Time has finished here. Staring out  of the bus window I fall asleep, however, it’s hard to say for sure, if it’s really sleep or a catatonic stupor.

Puerto Lopez is also gloomy, but in a nice decadent way, it’s Rimbaud of beach towns. Melancholic and lofty. While walking from one crag to another, I stumble upon dozens of feathered corpses washed by the Pacific Ocean. I also have found a baby dolphin that lied without monument on the golden sand, elliptic and grey like a little stone. Death in Puerto Lopez seems so natural that it doesn’t scare at all. With the exception of old fishermen in yellow raincoats, there are almost no people. But what made me fell in love with Puerto Lopez absolutely unreservedly was murals on environmental awareness: sad purple octopuses loathingly observe cans and condoms that are hailing from the surface of the ocean. That was a first beach town I really liked.

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I book whale watching tour that apart from actual whale watching, also includes visiting some island with blue-footed boobies (hopefully alive ones) and diving. Sounds awesome. The next day I find myself in the boat with a bunch of very noisy Spanish speakers from all over the places. I’m the only single female from exotic (non Spanish/English speaking and cold) country that automatically makes me attractive for our guide, tan muscled local dude with a long hair that he surely grew to feel the wind in it. First we visit the island. These blue-footed boobies are astonishing: when you look at their eyes, you realize that there is someone who is even more lost on this planet than you. These guys seem to have no clue or whatsoever of what’s going on around.

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Next in our program is swimming. I don’t dive: my father once threw me into the water when I was 10, seawater got stuck in my ears and the rest of my lovely vacation I spent  in the bed with a terrible ear pain. Since then I don’t dare. While I puddle about, the long haired guide is bringing me sea stars from the bottom of the ocean. I don’t know what to do with them, in addition to it, I cannot hold them for too long, because I start drowning. Gifting every new sea star with an original compliment (my Spanish doesn’t really allow me to make it too original), I set it free, but the guide comes back with a new one in a minute. Finally I get tired of this awkward sea flirting and get out of the water. All of a sudden I hear a cry of admiration and see a tortoise swimming towards our boat. It’s quite big and impressive. I take a picture of it. Now my mission is complete. Even if whales don’t show up, I have something to send to my friend.

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We are in the boat again. Looking for whales for 40 minutes or so. Somebody gets very seasick. Wind is getting stronger, heavy spindrift slaps our red wet faces. The captain seems to be tired and not interested in whales, the noisy Spanish speakers are tired of waiting and holding their little cameras in hands. The long-haired guide asks me about my plans for tonight. I’m getting real upset. I love the ocean aesthetics and Moby Dick. I like to imagine that there is something so much bigger and powerful than a man passing by under our boat in that exact moment. I try to look down, but sea foam prevents me from seeing anything. In a minute everything changes. The capitan screams: about ship! Everyone gets excited. The guide points the finger at the sea. I see nothing. Where? What? Look, look! All of a sudden, the huge thing jumps out of the ocean. I cannot believe what I see. It’s gigantic and happy. It jumps around, makes sounds, does little fountain shows. Can you just leave me here forever?

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PS. Sending the pictures to my friend, I wrote her: I managed to find something than Galapagos tortoises for you. Hugs from a tiny country with huge whales!

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One comment on “Ecuador: Notes from a Moby Dick Land

  1. Peter W Davies
    September 16, 2016

    Great notes! Enjoyed it a lot, your writing is still kickass and better!

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