An Ecuadorian MISadventure

Dorm Life 002The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as we have sent the boys to the United States, welcomed my cousin’s daughter, Mackenzie, into our home for two weeks, substituted as dorm parents for five days, kept up with Brad’s work activities, and traveled a bit to show our guest a little of the beauty of Ecuador.

Tuesday was our last official day in the dorm, so we packed things up and ran back to our apartment for a quick turnaround before heading to the airport to pick up our friends, Will and Ashley.  IMG_8612After getting Tessa and Mackenzie safely tucked into the apartment for the night, we grabbed the dorm van from school and arrived at the airport a little after 11:00pm.  A few phone calls later, our friends came out with luggage in hand, and we started back to Quito.  We were busy chatting, getting caught up on the wedding they had attended for Will’s sister, and sharing some stories of our time in the dorm so they could be all set with what had transpired while they were gone.

We were about five to seven kilometers away from the airport when suddenly the van lost all power.  We coasted to a stop along the side of the road, and shared the look of “what the heck is happening here?”  Following the mandatory key turns with no success of starting the engine, Ashley surmises that we may be out of gas, despite the tank gauge reading at quarter-full.  She mentions they have been instructed to keep the van gauge at about half-full since it hasn’t been reading right, and, maybe, now that she thinks about it, that might have been something they should have shared with us.  We file that one under the “good to know for future reference” catagory and start problem-solving our situation.

After much discussion and brainstorming, praying for a miraculous start to the carLos Armadillos 052 (God didn’t choose to answer that prayer the way we wanted), Brad and Will both remember there is a gas station somewhere up ahead.  Since all the taxis passing us as they are heading out of the airport seem to be full, Will decides to go for a late-night run, uphill, and calls us when he reaches the station.  The station is open, but does not have gas cans, so he buys a five liter jug of water, dumps it, and fills it with gas.  He hops a ride with a truck at the station heading our way, plows through the rosebushes planted in the median, and arrives safely back to us.

In goes the gas.  We wait a few minutes in anticipation, turn the key…nothing.

Wait a few more, turn the key…nothing.

Discuss the logistics of the gas being totally out, put the van in neutral, let it roll down to the flattest part of the mountain we can find, turn the key…nothing.

Will and Brad pop the hood with the intention of putting the last precious drops of gas directly into the carburetor, follow the lines of the engine only to find it is fuel injected, so that idea is out.

Ashley calls the school mechanic, waking him up of course, to see if we can abandon the vehicle until the next morning.  He strongly advises against that option.

It is now near midnight and we are lamenting:
A) the fact that we don’t have AAA
B) the fact that there is no such thing as AAA in Ecuador
C) we are not sure how we could locate a tow truck or where we would even take the van in the off chance we could even find one
D) we have no tow rope (the typical Ecuadorian solution to this type of issue) or an available vehicle to even tow it behind
E) should we find a tow rope, we have no wish to attempt the above towing idea with the numerous and ridiculously steep ups and downs between the airport and home
F) should any options listed above actually come to fruition, we would need a Spanish translator to execute said option
G) we do not have a Spanish translator

So, because every problem needs a solution, our next plan was for Ashley and Will to head back to the airport and see if we could get some help as the odds slightly increased with that idea compared to sleeping in the van until morning.car  They did finally flag a taxi, and off they went…first all the way down to the first U-turn they could find in the median, then back in the opposite direction to the airport.  Once there, discussions of tow ropes, help from a nearby town of Pifo, and numerous possibilities were entertained with nothing coming to fruition.  The taxi then brought them both back to the van where the driver and his passenger looked at the engine, basically redoing the exact same actions Will and Brad had done, only to find the same results – fuel injected and no options for gas to be poured directly into the carburetor.  Keep in mind, all of these discussions and interactions have been in Spanish, and somehow, someway, communication accurately occurred.  Finally, it was decided that perhaps there just wasn’t enough gas yet in the tank to allow the fuel to arrive at the engine, so the taxi took Will down again to refill his water jug, dropped him off to run through the rose bushes, in went the gas, prayers went up, Brad turned the key…and it STARTED!!!!

Praise God!  We quickly abandoned Will on the side of the road to wait for the taxi (as it, once again, need to travel all the way down to the nearest U-turn to come back to us and we hadn’t paid him for all his time to help us) while we traveled up to the station to get that van filled up with gas.  We drove ahead, marveled at how far and uphill Will had to run for that initial gas fill-up, went down a big hill, did our U-turn to get back to the station, prayed that the uphill climb wouldn’t use up the precious bit of gas in our tank, made it to the station, and rejoiced it was near enough to the airport to be open 24 hours.

We waited a bit for Will to arrive, and off we went, finally on our way to Quito (after one last U-turn to get back on the road heading in the direction of the dorm).  Come to find out, we waited a bit longer at the station because, after the taxi driver picked up Will the last time, he proceeded to turn down an old abandoned road, making Will wonder what the heck was going on and was he going to have gone through all this hassle for the van only to have something happen to him after the rest of us were safe???  No, all was well and the driver just had to drop off his passenger that had been riding and helping us the whole time…and he, of course, lived out in the middle of nowhere, giving Will just a little bit of an extra adrenaline rush for the evening.

We arrived back at the dorm, dropped off our friends, grabbed our truck and headed back to our apartment.  Brad and I quick typed up the powerpoint presentation that still had to be done for the next morning’s social media conference, and our heads hit the pillow at 2:45am.

Obviously, we have so much to be thankful for –

  • We were on one of the most well-lit roads in Ecuador when this happened – the airport main highway
  • We were with friends and had fully charged cell phones so could remain in touch when separated
  • We had a gracious Ecuadorian taxi driver and his friend who went out of their way and stayed for over an hour to help strangers in need
  • We were only about 2 to 3 kilometers from a 24 hour gas station and Will was in good enough shape to run to it
  • You have to buy water in this country, thus the well-stocked 5 Liter jugs which can double as gas carriers
  • We had God’s protection, provision, and safety with no threats of any kind throughout the whole ordeal

We were four tired friends, sharing together in this experience, and calm hearts, minds, and words prevailed… we already look back on it and laugh as we marvel at the ordeals that continue to draw us closer together.

And, ultimately, we are SO thankful for God’s hand being tangible in our lives as we, once again, put another Ecuadorian MISadventure in the books.

For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. Psalm 91:11 (NLT)

Thankful always for His hand in our life,

Sarah

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