Missed yesterday with a blog on P…couldn’t be helped. I was in the back seat of a taxi flying from Cuenca to Guayaquil and back. A trip that usually takes four-plus hours one way was accomplished in less than a little over three. Fast Miguel was our driver and he was on a mission. We were to apply for our residency and we wanted to get back before dark. We were uncertain about the condition of the roads after the earthquake and there have been a lot of mudslides over the past few weeks.
The backseat would have made a perfect Laurel and Hardy episode. Katherine and I slid back and forth while we took the curves with mucho speed. We had some good laughs before we went to sleep to ward off carsickness.
While awake, however, I had many opportunities to ooh and ahh over the landscape, the shape of the mountains, the valleys below, homes balancing on the steep sides of the mountains and the occasional mountain-climbing cow who maybe went a little too high for good grass to eat.
The scenery was spectacular. We drove up above the clouds for awhile and enjoyed brilliant green vistas with wispy white accents. The sun broke through a few times on the way over and created beautiful patchwork designs on the land below. I marveled at the beauty and the magnitude of the mountains.
We saw llamas on the slopes and one right munching right next to the road. They ignored us. I observed children not much older than five walking alone next to the busy highway on their way home from school.
We passed sleepy towns just coming to life in the early morning, and winding down on our return trip. Large fresh pineapples hung next to giant bunches of freshly picked bananas at roadside tiendas. Vendors rushed into the traffic at every stoplight to offer large slices of pinapple…but we didn’t slow down. We were on a mission.
Coming out of the mountains, we could feel the temperature rise and the humidity thicken. The sun grew hotter as we approached the coast and the landscape became more tropical.
Huge banana plantations showcased their abundance. Large bunches of bananas, wrapped in thin plastic hung from the trees. Why the plastic, I wondered. David thought it has something to do with the fertilization of bananas.
We passed cacao plantations with hectares and hectares of trees. The cacao/cocoa trees are small (13-26 feet tall) whose seeds (cocoa beans) are used to make what some consider to be the best chocolate in the world.
We flew by rice fields, some planted, some not. In these we saw horses standing up to their knees in water, chewing at their leisure. White crane-like birds were taking their fill of bugs or leftover grains. Large birds with mega-wingspan swooped overhead.
And the sun burned and the liquid-filled air felt like a sauna. A Cuenca taxi has no need for air conditioning so we were traveling with windows open and hot air blowing. I am not nor ever will be, drawn to coastal living in South America.
I asked about the dilapidated houses built on stilts that stood in field after field. Miguel said they were the homes of the field workers. The rich landowners grow richer while the poor workers struggle to survive. We saw mosquito-infested pools of water standing in front of many of the casas–breeding ground for yellow fever, dengue fever, zika and other diseases that put families at risk.
We passed open air establishments that offered juices and other libations, humitas, empanadas and things I’m not yet familiar with. And everywhere music blared as people sat, talked, worked and walked. I questioned Miguel on the volume. Why so loud? He said music helps keep happy. I will no longer complain about the loudness of music I hear. Whatever helps people to get through life.