Olon day 1, another long bus ride, but now warm water, stars beyond belief, and ceviche

The alarm went off at 08:00 this morning, but we were already stirring. We wanted to get a few errands run before leaving for the coast, and I was hoping to catch the bus by 11:00, in an effort to get to Olon before dark.

First order of business was yet another technical difficulty regarding Matt’s phone. I’m now awesome at solving telephone difficulties in Spanish. I will be expecting my repayment for services rendered for unnecessary problems, namely getting Matt a data connection so that he can play Ingress. Sigh.

Today the shops were all open, and the streets were busy. The sun was shining, and we were wondering if we made the right decision, leaving Cuenca. Cuenca was shining, so busy. Our next stop was to get the stamps we’d bought yesterday and the postcards we’d bought in Banos sealed. This was confusing to us. We had asked the lovely receptionist at our hostal, and she had confirmed: we needed to get them sealed at the same place we’d bought the stamps. So we put the gigantic stamps on the postcards, rewrote the addresses which no longer fit, and showed up at the shop. The proprietess put her seal on our stamps, and we put them in the postbox outside. Family, expect postcards, but I have NO idea when they’ll arrive. They were placed in the box on 13 February.

Last errand for town: Matt really wanted a hat. Did you know that the hats referred to as “panama hats” came originally from Ecuador, specifically Cuenca? Well, we’ve been seeing all these hats and they look great, so Matt is now the proud owner of one. Actually, I bought another sun hat at the same shop, made the same way, but in a classic sun hat shape, since my usual one badly needs a wash.

And finally, at noon, we were at the bus station, catching the bus to Guayaquil. I’ve waxed lyrical about buses enough, but this one had no food vendors, a big disappointment.

On the plus side, the journey from Cuenca to Guayaquil took us right through Parque Nacional Cajas, beautiful high Andean plains.

Sadly, our seats were the last 2 in the bus, and the windy and bouncy roads gave me a mild case of motion sickness. It rained much of the time, but I kept my window open and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery.

When we finally left the mountains, the change was amazing. Suddenly we were seeing bananas and coconuts being sold roadside, and it was hot.

A total of 4 hours from departure, we had a crazy rushed transfer in Guayaquil, and were on the bus to Olon. This bus was completely different from any we had been on previously. It was filled with tanned hippies and surfers, a large number of Ecuadorian party boys, and maybe a handful of non-holiday travelers. The driver blasted a dubbed version of “Taken.” The film ended just around the same time we reached the coast.

The sun was descending steadily towards the horizon as we made out way north. At 18:39 I saw the clock at the front, looked outside again, watched the sun disappear beneath the waves, and glanced back at the clock. It still read 18:39. 20 minutes later and it was full, pitch-dark.

All but the two of us, a young woman, and a drunken middle-aged man got out at the main Montanita stop. The woman was let out just a few minutes later, still in Montanita.

I was finally getting a little worried as we continued north. We hadn’t arranged accommodations, but we hadn’t expected the trip to take 7+ hours. The road was dark, and we couldn’t see any road signs or likely hostels. And then we were in Olon.

We got off the bus and decided our best course of action was to head towards the beach. Through town, almost everything was dark, and even the couple of hostals looked closed up and uninviting. It wasn’t very late, but with everything closed, we were worrying we’d have to head back to Montanita and find something there.

However, our instinct to head for the beach paid off. There was a large well-lit hostal at the south end of town, right on the beach. There was a taxi dropping someone off right inside the gate and lots of people hanging around. We walked in.

Our host turned out to be from Chile, and maybe Chileans operate on an even more relaxed time-frame than Ecuadorians. He had us sit down while he checked “something,” but “for sure I have a room for you!” We sat quite a long time. Finally he took us up to a room, but he couldn’t find the key and it didn’t shut without it. So we propped it closed with a shoe in order to shower and clean up before heading back down to check in.

Again, a wait. He took out his laptop, checked his emails, his reservations, a few other things. We mentioned that we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, if he could suggest a cafe in town. He said that if we waited another 10 minutes they’d have soup and we could join them. We waited another half hour. I couldn’t smell any soup. We asked if it would be ok if we took a walk while we waited. “Of course! Only 10 minutes!” We walked for another half hour, saw a beach shack cafe, checked that they were open, walked back to the hostal, where there was still no soup, and explained that we would not be joining them for dinner, thank you all the same.

The food at the beach restaurant was fantastic. I had a calamari ceviche and Matt had a fried filet of fish with salad, rice, and plantains. Everything had been freshly made. We shared a beer.

Afterwards, we walked up and down the beach. The stars were brighter than I remember ever seeing them, and slightly different. We walked in the water, which felt warm like someone had been peeing in it. There were colder patches as well, but they weren’t cold by any means.

When we arrived back at the hostal, our host said it was good that we hadn’t stayed for soup, as extra unexpected tenants had also shown up, and there hadn’t been enough. We laughed, asked for towels, and went up to our room.

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