Hitchhiking from Montanita to Guayaquil
Burnt Intestines, September 2015
Montanita’s a cool little party town, the aroma of weed fills the air and every corner features dreadlocked hippys from Argentina selling bracelets and pipes. One such hippy invited me to visit him someday in Buenos Aires. I gladly accepted the invite, jotting his Facebook details down and continued building my network of friends on the Latino Continent.
I only stayed one night however (in a 5 dollar hostel), the drive to keep moving having consumed me and my next to empty pockets. Completely unsure of my final destination or goal I resolved to keep moving and practicing my Spanish each day with the kind commuters of South America.
South it would be to Peru, but first I planned to stop over a night in Guayaquil. A local had offered to host me on Couchsurfing but not for another two days. As always, I kind of had a poorly planned plan.
While digging through Google Maps, a daily activity these days, I noticed a town (being generous with the term town) called Banos de San Vicente. “Banos” being the Spanish word for “baths” I deemed this place my next humble aboad for a night in my hammock but first I needed to rest my aching backpacker shoulders in the thermal “Banos” I expected to find there.
Walking from my hostel to the only main road (a five minute walk as Montanita is tiny, perfectly tiny, no drunk could get lost here unless they were really intoxicated to a substantial level). I encountered two hippies also hitchhiking, a dread-locked couple from yes you guessed it? Argentina. We exchanged pleasantries as hitchhikers do in South America, I offered some water they took some, they offered a drag on a joint…. Best friends now, but not forever, the couple departed for the bus station complaining that there wasn’t enough traffic, and that the locals are too uninterested in tourists here. All true but, yes no one said it’s easy… Amateurs I guess, or maybe it was the girl, she appeared impatient once the stray cat got bored of her attention and wandered off to resume its torture of the local lizard wildlife.
I strolled down the main road since an hour of thumbing in Montanita had achieved the grand total of fuck-all, except slightly more sun-burnt shoulders. However I have faith in Ecuador at all times, and with good reason too. A relatively small by South American standards sized country with not only an abundance of homegrown delicious food but friendly people too. I strolled down the road with faith that by giving up the comfort of a cheap bus to Guayaquil I would be rewarded with a lift directly to some hot muddy bath in San Vicente.
I could be the 40th person to dump my body into that unhygienic bath of dirty mud later that day. In a country where 4 dollar hotels don’t provide warm showers (does any country?) I couldn’t care less about the hygiene.
Eventually I encountered a petrol station after walking for about half an hour away from Montanita, I came to the conclusion that joyfully pestering locals as they refuel would be my noble task for the day. Hoping to encounter people like the young couple from Guayaquil who brought me to Montanita.
These small coastal towns see very little traffic, often just locals in their pickup trucks who might expect payment after you ride on the back. Your best bet for a free long distance ride are the cars of holiday makers from the cities of Quito or Guayaquil.
“Good Morning”, I positively exclaimed to a middle aged man and his teenage son in a jeep (in Spanish of course).
“Hello, what are you doing?”
“Hitchhiking, I’m going towards Guayaquil”
“Where are you from?”
“Ireland?, how far away.”
“Yes very, where do you go?”
“Could I go with you”
“Yes, of course”
And that’s all it took, some quick chats and a smile, in I jumped on the back seat and we chatted. About an hour into the drive the father (roughly 50 year old chubby Ecuadorian) told me his son studies English. I spoke to his son in English for a while too (nice chap, around 18, seemed the studious type).
I asked about the town Banos de San Vicente and they confirmed that there were indeed baths there and that they could leave me there if I want. Happy days. It was maybe 2 miles from the main road to Guayaquil but they didn’t mind doing me the favor.
The baths were well, run-down looking, but if you go to a lake hungry to catch some fish do you care if the lake is dirty?
Maybe but that’s not the point, I enjoyed chilling in the thermal baths anyway. For so long in fact I got a case of the runs but then when I sat on the toilet all I could release was pure steam. My insides felt like a pressure cooker. I bid San Vicente fairwell and politely turned down the old lady standing outside her restaurant trying to usher me in.
How do I explain that I cooked my intestines today and don’t fancy supper in Spanish politely?
Walking along the 2 miles or so back to the main road to Guayaquil I signaled a pick-up down and asked for a lift. No problem but they were bound for Salinas not Guayaquil. No bother I jumped out at the main road. Decided to wait it out for dark (only about an hour at this stage) and camp out here in the desert by the main road to Guayaquil so I could arrive early and safe in the morning.
Around 8 the next morning I began walking alongside the road, thumb out and got collected by the first truck to pass. A friendly, chain smoking, curly haired and heavy Ecuadorian of around 30 years of age. The truck struggled the whole way to Guayaquil and I was nearly flung into the windscreen every time he changed gear. I’m still always grateful for any lift though.
I jumped out on the outskirts of Guayaquil and caught a local bus for a couple cents to the main bus station where I could get some wifi to contact my CS host. Now for a days rest and then onwards to Peru.