Ecuador was a country that I wasn’t planning on visiting before my trip. I had thought that I could fly straight from Colombia to Lima on the cheap. Having done no prior research this was a somewhat delusional thought, and after weeks in Colombia I ended up on a bus crossing the border into Ecuador.
I had very low expectations of the country. I had heard the capital, “Quito sucked,” and I didn’t know what else there was to see. Though, looking out my bus window, I knew that I was wrong to expect so little. The country had the immediate beauty of endless green rolling hills and Andean mountains, and so I decided to stay longer than just a few days.
It is now Thanksgiving, marking (I believe) my third week in Ecuador. This was not part of my plan, nor was my plan to spend Thanksgiving alone in a hostal in Banos where I have also been for about a week.
I wasn’t even sure about visiting Banos. It was in the North, and I had impulsively gone South with two Spanish guys – Felipe and Conrad. We had spent two nights in Quito and it didn’t suck at all, though our hostals did.
The Old Colonial City of Quito had been restored to its former glory, complete with narrow, cobblestone streets that invoked Europe. The city parks were crowded with people playing music, working out and performing, such as the comedian who made fun of The United States once he spotted me in the crowd.
After we returned to our smelly hostal full of people who seemed like they would not be allowed in other hostals we made plans to go out that evening. Felipe invited an obese man with a scar on his forehead that wasn’t sure how he got it because he was, “so drunk,” to lead the way.
It wasn’t a complete surprise that this man lead us to a bar called Tequila and reminded me of the places my friends and I would sneak into when we were underage.
The next day we departed for Montanita, the town I couldn’t leave, It’s a cloudy, tiny, surf town complete with endless booths of artisans and cocktails. There was even a street named Cocktail Alley lined with booths selling any kind of tropical cocktail one can dream of for $2.
Montanita was endlessly cloudy, and I believe I received about 50 mosquito bites while I there. This number is not an exaggeration.
Occasionally, I wonder, “Why did I stay in Montanita for five days?” Yes, I was frequently hungover but not every day. Yes, I did make friends with a group of Israelis and yes one of them gave me a tour of the area on his motorcycle, and let me tell you there is nothing like zipping down a deserted beach on the back of the bike.
Of course, a boy leaned in to kiss me on a beach as the sunset and yes he was kind, but that still wasn’t it.
Truthfully, I got lazy, but on the fifth morning I couldn’t take the monotony and so I set off for Lima, or Banos, and booked hostels in both cities even though Lima was in Peru and Banos was in the complete opposite direction in Northern Ecuador.
It wasn’t until I got to the bus stain in Guayaquil that I decided Banos just seemed right, and right I was because after about five minutes of being there I heard my name being called out a window, and I looked up to see my friend Tom.
For the next two days I hiked, recovered from the hike and went to the thermal baths. I reveled in the mountain air and lack of mosquitoes and wondered why every other store was a candy shop.
I woke up on day three with a 100 degree fever. I thought, “oh I had too much fun in Montanita,” but then things got worse.
The extraordinarily kind Argentinan couple staying in my room said, “we’re taking you to the Doctor tomorrow,” and this is how I ended up in an Ecuadorian emergency room. No insurance needed.
There wasn’t really a waiting room. Just this kind of indoor/outdoor space with two chairs. I found out it was more crowded than usual because there had been a bad accident earlier that day and some laborers got hurt.
While I wasn’t happy to hear people were hurt, I felt reassured that all the people wearing filthy, torn clothing, coming in and out of the emergency room weren’t the people who were going to treat me.
However, reassured was the last thing I should have been feeling because an hour later I am face down with my pants off and a nurse is plunging a needle into my ass – medicine unknown.
At this point I am in hysterics. Not only did I need to be convinced by three different people to accept this shot, but at the first attempt I stop the nurse and begin trying to negotiate a way out of it.
Sobbing I feel the slight prick and then a burning. Afterward I’m prescribed three different medicines of doom, as all three just made everything worse.
Yes, the hospital prescribed me the wrong medicine, and it wasn’t until it was clear nothing was changing that I went private. Again the kind couple took me and again the waiting room confused me, as it managed to be both in & outdoors. The Argentinians spoke for me, and later the character of a doctor told me had he known I was from the US he would’ve charged me triple.
Five dollars later and shot free, I finally have the proper prescriptions in hand.
So now I’ve been in beautiful Banos for over a week now, celebrating Thanksgiving with barely eaten pumpkin soup and two strangers who watched Friends reruns with me, though these strangers are now more friends.
You know, I thought I couldn’t leave Montanita, but never could I have envisioned Banos.