Life is what happens to you while you´re busy making other plans. Or not.
There are a few things that you only do once in your life. Forgetting to put sunscreen on your feet when you´re at the Ecuadorian coast, for example. In a few hours all signs of inflammation were present in an uncomfortable intensity: rubor, tumor, calor, dolor. Redness, swelling, heat and … pain! A lot of pain. So I spent about three extra days in Puerto López until I could walk on flipflops again without looking limp. Someone based in Puerto López doesn´t have much to complain about though. Except maybe for the fact that the amount of Europeans per meter square is a little high, and as a consequence there´s a row of cabañas on the beachfront that blare disco music with too much base towards the beach from noon until midnight. It´s also impossible to go for breakfast or to buy water without turning down the offers for tours, rooms and rides in a moto taxi all the time.
During the week, it´s all a lot calmer though, especially if you spend the tropical nights at hostal Carlos Alberto at the far end of town, where there´s no street lights anymore. From the category: “Tomorrow we have to go to the doctor in the next village, so here´s the key of the front door.” (see my room at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ7w19fe7T4). Carlos Alberto is half of the elderly couple that sits on plastic chairs in the shade of their house all day, protecting the front door (which was also the reason for me to ask for prices). I say goodbye to them before the weekend and the new tourist-invasion comes, and I take a bus towards Olón. “Just a beach with a dramatic landscape of green hills rolling into the shore” sounds complete enough to me.
But soon after I get out of the bus, I hear the reggaeton (! Do they even listen to anything else here?) and I see a big collection of colored tents and chairs lined up at the beach. Oh no. After three steps on the burning hot sand, the first tourist hunter has already found me. No gracias, I don´t want anything, unless you just offered me to leave me alone. In that case: yes, please. Thank you. I turn my back to Olón and start to walk over the broad sand along the breakers, looking for a simple hostel with an elderly couple on plastic chairs in front of it.
That turns out to be a typical case of “wrong place, wrong time”. Most of all the wrong place: between the hundreds of meters of fences that border the huge resorts, there´s luxury villas with wind proof umbrellas with exact adjustable angle mechanisms. “Hello mister, is this a hotel?” “No, this is my house”. “Oh.” It looks like a hotel. I think chances are rather small that they do couch surfing, so I don´t ask them. But where I was mainly busy looking for a nice and cozy place to sleep a few moments ago, now I know that half of the residences here are private posessions, I enjoy watching the impressive houses so much that I forget that I´m looking for a bed for tonight. It´s also the wrong time: Thursday before the feriado of Semana Santa. So even millionaires with a villa who do join couch surfing, already have a house full of family and friends these days.
In my wonder I accidentally pass by the first village, but after an hour and a half of walking there´s a group of normal-people´s houses again. Ai, pretty much exclusively normal-people´s houses, I hope there´s a room here somewhere. After two “you can sleep in my house if you want to”-proposals (hmmhmm, eehm, no) and a “la dueña comes back at four” (sure), I find the woman with the key to the solution. I only have to cross the town about five times to find her. Though that may not sound like a noteworthy activity, one carrying two bags and a guitar in 35 degrees in the shade, would surely disagree. I can only stay for one night though, because for the weekend the room´s already booked. Well, tomorrow´s another day… right now I only want to go for a swim!
“Swimming” is actually kind of a misleading term, since the main activity in the water varies from standing (which is pretty demanding in fact, if you find yourself in the high tide breaking), floating and diving. After a day in the bus and walking on the beach, you can easily entertain yourself like that for an hour and a half in the warm water. And I´m not alone: in other villages people may come together at the main square at night, the sea is the place to meet your neighbours in the evening / afternoon hours before the sun sets here. And on the seaside a little public of non-swimmers sits and watches the water and the people. Among them is a couple sitting on foldable chairs. “Qué tal el agua, niña?” The water is great, mister. But I forgot to have lunch and now I´m quite hungry… any idea if there´s somewhere I can find something to eat? They briefly look at eachother and say: "There isn´t really a restaurant in town... but you can come to our place if you want to, it´s right here. Venga, vamos!”.
“Our place” has a pool, a living room and a kitchen of at least fifty meters square and ample balconies with hammocks and an ocean view. They give me a plate of fried fish and rice, and coffee outside on the pool side. A perfect occasion to play a few songs on my guitar indeed, with the background sound of the washing waves. The man of the house imports trucks from China, and tomorrow the whole family will arrive to pass the feriado here. Three sons and sixteen grand children, that´s going to be fun. “How long are you staying for?” “Oh, just for a day, I have to leave the room tomorrow morning: it´s booked for the weekend. So…” They nod. “Well… our house will be pretty full too as we said, but we´ll have a space for you if you want. And make sure that you come over for breakfast too tomorrow when you´ve woken up!” That´s set then.
Their whole way of being makes me forget to ask how much the food is. And the room tomorrow. Oh well, I don´t care anyway, and my “good people detector” turns on a green light, so it´ll be just fine. After philosophizing in a hammock for a little while after the coffee, I take my guitar and walk back to my room. With no idea of what´s waiting for me in the days that are coming, but I´m about to find out. Buenas noches, Las Nuñas it´s called here, hasta mañana.