So the world is a paradise: love islands and mangroves
The woman at the office called “info Cojimies” looks at me from behind her desk with a mix of amusement and apology. “What we have here? Well… sun, sand and water, haha!” Oh yeah, I kind of could have guessed that when I was walking along the beach this morning, and that´s just why I came in here, at the office that said “info Cojimies”. For info. The owner of the hostel hadn´t been able to come up with anything but “swimming and fishing” either.
But finally the woman tells me that there are nice waterfalls and that you can make a boat trip on the “river” where you can see mangroves and a big variety of birds. With these temperatures I definitely prefer a boat trip over climbing a mountain for two hours. “How much should I expect to pay for that?” The woman makes a kind of funny face and says: “Oh, gosh, how much will that be? I think something like… ermm…” Why would this place actually be called “info Cojimies”? “Well, maybe, eeerm… Ah, Julio!” she says relieved. “You have a boat, right? How much should a tour on the river cost?” All eyes including mine were on the man who just came in. “Oh,” he says and takes a moment to think about it before he comes up with: “I will do it.”
Hmmm, my antennas and safety scan automatically switch on immediately. I mean, I´m alone at the coast close to the province of Esmeraldas, where caution is at least never exaggerated… and this man is offering to take me on a two to three hour long boat trip. Right. To win some time, I ask what´s there to see exactly and how much it will cost me. Enthusiastically he starts telling about the trees, the birds, the fish, the villages and the islands and he explains that it´s his task at the local government to promote tourism and to protect the balance with nature. He offers a great deal, so I can have a good look around and then tell everyone about the beauty of it all. The women in the office sit nodding behind their desks without any sign of skepticism or amusement this time. Ok then. “Alright,” I say, “but I need to get some money first, I´ll be back.”
A little later I sit barefoot in the boat, looking at the activity upon the thirty meters of boulevard, while my guide fills two big jerry cans with fuel. He comes back with bottled water and a coconut with a straw. While the fishermen on the shore give us curious looks, the engine is started and the front of the boat turns towards the south, where the water slowly flows along the islands. “Listo?” asks Julio. I take a sip of the coco juice and I put my thumb up. The engine roars while the wind is blowing in my face and Cojimies quickly becomes smaller behind us. Here we go.
I thought the mangroves here would be those giant trees with enormous roots in the salty water, but it turns out that Cojimies only has the smaller type for now. “They cut down all the big ones to make space for the shrimp farms,” Julio explains, “but as you can see, we´ve started to put the trees back and now they´re protected.” I wonder what this place will look like in ten, twenty years, but I can already enjoy the sights of the birds (sitting in colonies on the beach or pelicans swaying solely in the wind on a tree top), fishing boats, islands, little towns on poles and stories on the rustic water. Where the water´s too shallow, the motor is folded up and we have to pull ourselves forward with the oar in the sand. At those moments the silence and tranquility of the surroundings are overwhelming.
By now the sun has broken through the clouds, my first coconut is empty and I´ve learned that Julio is a father of no less than seven children. He talks about that with something in between a smile and a grin, as if it´s just something that accidentally happened to him. It´s also become clear that he truly just wants to share his enthusiasm about the nature and his home town without any other hidden motives. We can´t moor at one of the villages along the shore, because the tide is still low, but we can get to the “Isla del amor”, the “Island of love”, without a problem. The name is said to refer to the breeding birds (yeah, right :P), but the villagers also say: “You go there with two and you come back with three.” And that has obviously got nothing to do with breeding birds. :).
The wind has started blowing and the sun has gone, so it´s too cold to go for a swim now. After having watched the view of the village from the beach, we step in the boat for the last time that day to return home. Just the two of us, indeed.
All together we´ve been away for five hours, so we´re back too late for lunch and for my beloved shrimp with coco stew, but in a town like this there´s never a lack of fresh fish and seafood. When my plate´s empty and my stomach full, I say goodbye to Julio and I step in a moto-taxi back to my room where I confirm that my nose is sunburned. Once I´ve washed off the sand and salt, my sleep turns out to be stronger than the “Hallelujah!” of the hyper fanatic priest that shouts the Word of God through a cracking microphone to his followers in the church and everyone else in a radius of two kilometers around it. Before I fall asleep I mumble smiling the lyrics of the Dutch artists Acda en de Munnik: “The son of god was back on earth, and Imagine was his word. So the world is a paradise and that he´s dead… well, that I haven´t heard.”
The woman of the restaurant told me that there would be stew for breakfast, but apparently nine o´clock is a little too early for that. While I eat the alternative dish of fired fish and rice, the woman sits down next to me and chats away. I tell her that I want to go to Daule by boat, to take the bus up north there. I ask her how much the crossing should be. “It´s ten dollars,” she says, “but just let me know when you´re ready, then I´ll ask my dad if he can take you there, so he can make sure you´ll get a moto-taxi that will drop you off at the bus stop in town. Otherwise you´d have to wait besides the main road… and since you´re alone, well… you know.” I nod. She told me she´s from Esmeraldas herself: she´ll know better than I do.
Half an hour by boat, ten minutes in a three wheel taxi with a talkative man with one hand and ten minutes of waiting later I´m in the bus to Súa. I consider I´ve been lucky again to meet such nice people here again. Or… maybe you can´t call it “luck” anymore after so many times. And I remember this guy who just walked away from his house without a plan one day, ending up walking around the world in a few years. When asked, he said: “I believe that, if people are not driven by fear or need to survive, that they´re good or at least tempted to do good.” I believe that too.
Here I come, Súa, where I hope to see whales and meet more “normal” special people.
I´m pretty sure I will.