17 Jul

Ecuador Travelogue (part 1)

Eileen got sick in record time. Her stomach started rumbling on Monday night, not even 48 hours after our plane had landed. By Tuesday morning, she was even more uncomfortable and though the bichos remained tolerable for the ride to Mindo, by Tuesday night, there was no denying that the bichos were indeed bichos and not – as we had hoped – just a delicate stomach adjusting to new food.

We traveled to Mindo not by bus or taxi but by camioneta. At the bus stop, as we were waiting for the coche to Mindo, some guy appeared saying, “Mindo, Mindo. Van a mindo?” I said si because yes, we were going to Mindo, but then I saw that he was driving a white truck with an oversized flatbed bien cubrido so that you couldn’t see what he had in the back unless you put an eye up to the thin slats and peered through. “That’s not a bus,” I said to Eileen. “Are you sure you want to take it?” And she said sure, so I said okay to the guy and he opened the passenger side door for us and we piled in.

Angel was his name, and not only was he harmless, he was, by the end of the trip, asking if we’d have any interest in gaining a god-daughter. “Bueno,” he said just before letting us off, “el primer paso en la amistad es compartir numeros telefonicos.” So we punched our US phone number into his cell phone and shook his hand and after several un gustos, we caught our second camioneta into Mindo.

We stayed at El Descanso, which mean “The Resting Spot,” mas o menos. And boy did we rest. Eileen’s bichos were getting angry. So while she slept, or at least tried, I read a lot. I also took a few trips into the main drag (six blocks away) and got some sanduches de jamon, which were just about he only thing I ate all day, what with Eileen’s loss of appetite and all.

But even with Eileen’s ailing stomach, we remembered immediately why Mindo was one of our favorite places when we lived here four years ago. The air is, for lack of a better term, well-oxygenated. It’s about 4000 feet lower in elevation than Quito, and it’s not full of pollution. My glands were starting to get swollen in Quito because your immune system mistakes the pollution for disease. But in Mindo, we both gravitated toward the hammocks overlooking the hummingbird-populated selva that is El Descanso’s back yard. Last time we were here, we heard someone say that there are 19 species of hummingbirds in this jardin alone. We were in the off season, so we only counted six. But apparently the entire continental US only has nine species. They move through the air impossibly fast, fluttering their wings ten times a second, and they buzz like bees when they fly (not when they hover unless they’re really small). It’s a sound that, minus the Doppler effect, would be soothing. But because I’m apiphobic it puts me on edge.

Still, on the first night, as Eileen and I lay in bed, a light rain was falling, and some exotic bird species were singing, and I said to Eileen, “This sound we’re hearing right now? People put this on CDs and sell it.”