Back to Ecuador. 3 months later, as the last time I was only given 3 months…when I was hoping for 6. As I was also hoping when I entered the country. It seems to be up to how migration are feeling that day and what they want to give you. But this time I was to travel with 3 other volunteers, 3 Spanyards who were to look after me, keep me safe, and hopefully help me get 6 months instead of 3 so I wouldn’t have to make the trip again.
We set off on a Thursday night, after work and with an hour to pack and eat, and then off we were, on the 12 hour bus journey up to Tumbes, the nearest big city to the border with Ecuador. I got placed next to Adri, as we were travelling with Mar and Vero who are good friends, so they sat together. And so me and Adri spoke for about 10 minutes which must have been the longest time we’ve ever spoken to each other in the 4 months we’ve spent together!
The plans had been left up to Mar, as she had an idea in mind from her previous Visa run. I had been told that we would be staying on a beach, maybe camping, and that I would be giving Mar a haircut. She had also sent round a page on facebook that was for a party in Tumbes on Saturday night, in a club with an outdoor swimming pool and everything, so things were looking hopeful! Anyway I was up to go with the flow and so didn’t think much about anything or plan anything!
The bus journey seemed to pass quite quickly, and I guess I managed to sleep a bit or it wouldn’t have felt like that! Got to Tumbes in good time, it was 7am and we decided to walk to the bus station where we knew buses went direct to Ecuador, and we found it and got our tickets and then went for some breakfast. By this point I knew that we were heading for Machala, which was just across the border and I had now seen it on a map so I was a bit clearer about where we were going, and by this time we so much nearer, just a few hours away so it was materialising as a plan.
After brekki we hopped on the bus, passed migration and carried on for about 2 hours. Dropped off at a roundabout and told to get a bus for 25 cents, I got a grilled banana with cheese in the middle of it… Oh yes please! And then we sat down and had a cold beer (this was at 11am, good going so far with the Spanish!) while Mar made a call. We then decided it could be a good idea to buy some food to have on the island encase the food there was super expensive, and just because it’s nice to have some food. So we went to ‘choppin’ said in a Spanish accent. I was completely confused at first as I’d forgotten the name of the city we were headed for so I then thought it was called ‘choppin’ Turned out that we were going SHOPPING! And I was very embarrassed. So we got some food, and Adri got enough food for a year and we were all laughing at him but then we ended up eating it all :p
From choppin we took a bus into the center of Machala all the way to the pier, and then hopped on a tiny ferry to head across the river to to Jambeli, the island. As soon as I got off the boat I could sense that Jambeli’s time had passed. And as we walked down the entrance promenade and to the sea I immediately noticed how many of the buildings were uninhabited and empty or falling down. And as we walked we passed another grilled banana with cheese and I knew I was going to be okay.
We soon found a hostel and chucked the bags down, and peeled off our sticky clothes from the super humidity, and went to the beach. Cloudy but around 30 degrees, and with a warm sea, and a beach with no one in sight. Que rico! And no pebbles in the sea or on the beach like Huanchaco! After a swim and a nap on the beach, we got awoken by the sea attempting to eat us and so we went back and went to find food. After settling on a place that we seemed to have all to ourselves, I decided to go off on my own to study the serious situation of this place, and to marvel at the crumbling, dilapidation of everything.
And it didn’t feel like that old of a place. With hardly a heart of a village, and just a few locals around, and no tourists it was eerily quite but in an intriguing way. I wondered down until the path was so eroded I couldn’t physically go any further, and found some people replacing sand bags that had been washed away with half of their hotel. And there were many wooden houses, that were super grand but had just been abandoned and were falling through. And on top of this, many many signs for hospedajes but non open, and so many bars and restaurants. I’d say about half of these were still open – and I can not think of how they have enough customers to survive. As I was walking back to eat with the others I found myself chatting to a very chatty Argentinian called Cosme. As all Argentinians he was super talkative and before I knew it I was using his insect repellent. He was 20 too and had never seen the sea before he arrived in Lima a few months before. He’s been in Jambeli for just under a week and was staying with a local fisherman and was helping him fish everyday. So he went off to cook and eat his freshly caught fish, and I headed back to the others…who had pretty much finished our meal without me!
But there was still a smidgen and we had ordered Ecuadorian Cheviche, which arrived luke warm but so DELICIOUS! And there is different beer in Ecuador too, which is wayyyy tastier and COLD! Instead of the usual warm Pilsen you can find in all parts of Peru. After dinner we had an early night as were were shattered after all our travelling. And as we went to sleep I asked the Span to wake me up in the morning at the same time as them. ‘Si, si’ they said. But they never did.
So when I woke up the next day on my own I was a little but annoyed, but I decided that if I couldn’t see them then I’d have to take the key and do my own thing and hope they didn’t need to get into the room any time soon. I decided to walk up the beach to find a nice spot for a morning dip and to read my book. As I was walking past fallen down hotels and houses on stilts that a few locals lived in, guess who ran past? Cosme! We said our good mornings and he ran on ahead. I soon came across a beach shack, abandoned I think but it’s hard to tell with beach dens like this as they’re so salty. But I’m pretty sure It was now no one’s hangout, and there were 2 hammocks, some washed up beach chairs and a chain of found shoes hanging up as decoration. Walking further along I walked past a house which was such a mess in its outside area. Chickens here there and everywhere and sea junk…probably what Sue and my house would be like if it was there! And leading out of the house and onto the beach was a tunnel made of drift wood, and the sides filled with drift items, chairs, trunks, wood, and strange items. And I am so sad that I didn’t have a camera, because it was just my kind of place, Jambeli in general.
As I walked further along I found myself walking with Cosme. We walked right up and on and on until I thought maybe I shouldn’t be walking away from civilisation on a deserted beach with a guy I had only met the day before. So we turned and headed back. And walked right past Jambeli and to the other side of deserted-ness, and carried on. I got a good vibe from him and we were having great conversations and I hadn’t really spoken much at all up till this point so I was happy to have a good heart to heart. Walking back we walked past a sea museum, that looked so cool and it wasn’t even properly falling apart, but sadly it was shut. It even had a whale jaw in the garden! And a notice on the gate saying “Prohibido tumbar cocos!” meaning “It’s prohibited to throw coconuts!”.
And it was getting hot by this time, as we’d been walking for about an hour and it was getting to midday, so we went for a swim. After this we headed back, and we were obviously very different but we had a lot of similarities in our outlook in life and how were were brought up, plus Cosme had been missing like minding people to talk to since he’s been in Jambeli, so he was very happy to chat away. But after all that time with him I needed a break, so we went our separate ways, me to nap in a hammock and him to fish.
This is when we all ate Adri’s food, for lunch. We had a tuna, lettuce, tomato, almond and raisin salad. And although I never ever liked tuna after I sicked it all up when I was 4 from eating too many tuna sandwiches, I decided the time had come again to finally try it. And I loved it. After that came more beach and reading and relaxing and dozing in hammocks and then back to the same restaurant right in the sea front, with only the sand bags protecting us from the tide. That night Cosme came to find me to show me all his photos that he’d taken while working in the Amazon near Cuzco, but he finally went off to eat his din din and left me in peace! That night we did not sleep too well. The bar next to our hostel had 2 people drinking in it, and dancing. Although there was only 2 people, they still were blasting out the music on the biggest speakers ever, and it was bad Latin pop that we all hate. We hoped that from our room we wouldn’t be able to hear it,and that as there was only 2 people they’d be considerate and maybe turn it down a bit but no. In our room we could hear every single word and I’m surprised the beds weren’t vibrating from the music!!
The next day was stared with a coffee and the boat trip back to the mainland. And then we were hoping that by a form a miracle there would be a bus direct from Machala to Trujillo. But there wasn’t so we got a bus to Tumbes again. Crossing the border was busy, such long queues, and I knew as soon as I walked in the office that I wasn’t going to get the 6 months I wanted. Behind the desk were 2 workers but also a scary looking man that I’m sure I remember from the last time, standing behind them and watching over everything they did. We waited in the queue for ages and Vero went up first to get her 6 months. They immediately said no, although she had a plane ticket back to Spain in only 5 months. She managed to bribe them into giving her 120 days but it was still short so pretty pointless. Next was Mar who needed just over 3 months also and they refused to give her it. Then it was me and they refused to give me 6 too, but at least they didn’t ban me from Peru like they said they would the last time! Mar tried to convince them but they weren’t having any of it and so we all left in bad spirits back to Tumbes.
To make things even worse, when we arrived into Tumbes there weren’t any bus’ for ages…and we needed to get one quick as 3 of us had work in the morning at 7am! Turned out we had to wait for 3 hours, that the bus company told us would be 2 until 2 had passed and then it turned out to be 3. We boarded and there were no curtains, and it was like a furnace in there…no windows that opened and a greenhouse effect going on. Soon we were on the road though and it was okay and the seats went back far enough. Our stop in Mancora was to let more people board. Although the bus was completely full already and no one had got off. So on got on about 30 more people who sat on the floor and in the stair way and lying on the floor. When we had arrived into Trujillo, Adri was the only one awake. The bus company had said they were going to stop in Trujillo and that they were going into the center. The bus was stopped by a roundabout on the outskirts, and we were wondering whether we should get off or what. But as were collecting ourselves and after it had been stopped for under a minute, the door shut and off the bus went. We were banging and hollering and swearing but on and on the bus went, out of Trujillo. Finally they decided to stop and we got off in the middle of nowhere by the side of a bypass. The pulled away with the Spans screaming and cussing away at them. We then had to pay loads to get a taxi back, and I tell you, it was a right good job that someone was awake or we could have woken up in Lima!!! And plus it was great that we were in a group and not alone when we’d gotten off the bus as it was a pretty dangerous part, in the early hours, and if you didn’t have that money you would have had to wait a good few hours for a combie. When we finally got home I slept for an hour and then got up to teach.