Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I am, once again, long overdue for an update in regards to our family, the happenings here in Quito, Ecuador, and much, much more. I have been working on a Christmas letter, and now we are slightly past the beginning of the year, so I am right about on time with how we typically roll. Stay tuned for an update as to how we are all doing as I promise to share that with you soon.
In the meantime, all is well here in Ecuador and we continue to take opportunities to explore and learn more about this beautiful country whenever we have a chance. Shortly after Christmas, we headed out on a road trip to the nearby tourist town of Baños de Agua Santa. We have been able to travel here a number of times over the years as it is only about three hours away from Quito, making it a relatively stress-free, reasonable drive. We enjoyed a few days in the area, doing many of the well known activities and plenty of exploring.
After crossing a rickety bridge over a huge gorge (and glimpsing the bridge we normally would have traveled upon), we traversed some beautiful countryside on a surprisingly well-maintained road with landscapes of farm fields cut into the mountain side. We captured multiple views of the Tungurahua volcano, which showed its majestic self frequently throughout our three days in Baños. We saw quaint little towns with cute town squares and unique soccer fields.
It was a beautiful drive, one that we had debated in taking as it was venturing into the unknown…roads could be treacherous, even unmarked, and certainly with possibilities of being a longer route. We waxed poetic on how this countryside certainly must resemble Italy, and what unique treasures were around every corner. We continued to remark to each other what a wonderful decision we made and how we would have missed this opportunity if we hadn’t been willing to seize the chance of venturing onto the literal road less traveled.
As we journeyed onward, we continued to applaud our courage, citing what a reward we had received. Our smiles were radiant beams across our faces. Modern day explorers, we were, jubilant in spirit, actually physically patting our truck on the dash as we thanked him for being so reliable and trustworthy. Making good time, we were ecstatic about finding this route and all the beauty it entailed.
Until we drove into San Miguelito and directly into this rope-stretched roadblock.
Out of nowhere, two days before New Year’s, we encountered barrier after barrier in the form of costumed characters. San Miguelito stretched on for blocks and blocks, with no alternative route in site to avoid what was in front of us, while Gandalf’s voice reverberated in our ears…
“YOU SHALL NOT PASS”
Swarmed. Stuck. Stopped – Unless you pay off the masked creatures swarming your car…or take a drink of their offered alcoholic beverage…or both.
We chose the payment method. A reasonable fifteen to twenty cents was dropped into their offered basket while unidentified drinks were pushed into Brad’s face. He politely refused, and we boldly countered with pulling out the camera, having no problem capturing the all too eager subjects.
By the time we were on about stop number twenty-five along this never ending stretch of town, we were scrambling and digging through all our containers for small change and wondering how long this section of road and crazy shenanigans were going to continue. If it didn’t end soon, we were going to have to start handing out our much coveted dollar coins as our nickels and dimes supply were quickly dwindling.
Our passing through provided a fair share of entertainment value for all the locals, with numerous references to us being gringos and our speaking both English and Spanish. Donald Trump’s name came up a few times in the high pitched gibberish that prevailed at every barrier, echoing in our heads even now as we wonder about most of what was said.
That was highly unnecessary and just a tad bit disconcerting.
We finally reached the end of this town and breathed a sigh of relief as we continued on our way. We quickly searched the map to see where we could get off the back roads and onto a main highway, knowing that the Pan American highway would be safe from more of these type of festivities. We had one more small town to drive through, so rapidly double checked our coin supply and geared up for another onslaught. To our delight and overwhelming relief, we had no further stops and were able to have an uneventful remainder of our journey. We certainly spent some time pondering what it would have been like if we had traveled through this town an hour later in the day, one hour deeper into the alcohol that was flowing freely at all the stops (and with many of the stopped drivers), on the verge of darkness and shrouded a bit more in mystery.
It still remains unresolved as to the reason behind the events in San Miguelito – it was one day removed from the Ecuadorian April Fool’s Day, and two days prior to the typical New Year’s Eve traditions, so may have just been isolated to this small little area. But, it was definitely an unexpected event to encounter as we journeyed the road less traveled, and put yet another unique memory in the books from our time here in Ecuador.
Until next time,