Montanita, Ecuador: Part 1.

As we've alluded to in earlier posts, we have been taking things slowly the past three weeks. As such, our blogging hit a bit of a lul... but I assure you, we are getting back into our groove. It is time for an overdue post about where we've been. We've been staying in Montanita, which is the party capital of Ecuador. When we arrived in town three and a half weeks ago, we were exhausted, burned out, hot (the "real feel" temperature was 114F), and had only $35 in our pockets in a country which only accepts cash. We grabbed lunch and a hostel room over a cute restaurant (*Spoiler: MISTAKE!), and dropped off our bags. This is where I will backtrack a bit. The reason we came to town with only $35 is because in Puerto Lopez, the ATM would not accept our debit card. Of course, we did not figure this out until we needed to get money out of the only ATM within a 1.5 hour radius. Obviously, this happened on a Friday at approximately 4:30pm after the bank had closed for the weekend. Also notable is the fact that we did not speak any Spanish at this time other than "yes," "no," our numbers, and certain food names.

We boarded the bus to Montanita, stowed our bags underneath, and took seats near the back. The people behind us wreaked of cologne and played music loudly from the speaker of their phone. When the man collecting money for the ride made it back to us, we had been on the bus nearly a half hour. He told Daniel that it was $3, and we immediately got the impression that we were being ripped off. Busses in Ecuador are $1 per hour, and it was only a 1 hour ride, so it should have been $2. Daniel tried to argue with what little Spanish he know, but the guy was persistant, the bus was full, and it wasn't worth the argument. He gave the man $3. "No, $3 POR PERSONA" the man says. Now that we are certain we are absolutely getting ripped off. More arguing ensues, Daniel's Spanglish is flying, and nobody else on the bus speaks a word of English to translate. Finally, we do the only thing we can do and pay the man. Afterall, its not like we can just get off the bus... we are in the back, the man that is angry with us has our bags locked underneath, and we are in the middle of nowhere at this point. In hindsight, it was only four dollars, but we were upset about it at the time.

Ok, back on track. We have arrived in Montanita, sans money, and stowed our bags in our chosen hostel hell. We headed off to find one of two ATMs in a city that is only 4x4 blocks. "Should be easy enough," we thought. Wrong. First, we wandered around to try and find one ourselves. After failing miserably, we asked someone where it was. "Donde es la cajera automatica?" We were proud to conjure up the phrase that expressed what we so desperately wanted to find. Of course, the man was very kind and explained in great detail how to get there. In Spanish. We didn't understand any of the words, but we made note of the hand motions he was making. We were fairly confident that we got the gist of what he was saying, and once again took off in pursuit of the ATM. "Um, I think we made a circle." No, no... we couldn't have. We try again, and end up in the same place, again. We wander a little farther and ask someone else for directions. Another stranger kind enough to help us, who doesn't speak any English. More hand motions. More head nodding. Let me point out that I am starting to get uncomfortable at this point... "These people know we are looking for an ATM, they know we don't speak Spanish, they know we have no idea W.T.F. we are doing... what if they follow us then try to rob us after we get out our money?" Daniel, of course, is irritated that I assume the worst in people and have such a terrible sense of direction.

Eventually, we found ATM number one. We insert our debit card, and it gives us an option for directions in English. HALLELUJAH! We typed in our pin number and the amount that we needed to pay for a week of Spanish lessons and spending money. Denied. No reason given. Shit. We try again, for a slightly smaller amount. Denied. Of course, I begin to panic. The ATM in Puerto Lopez didn't work, what if this one doesn't either? There is a second ATM, so I wasn't ridiculously bent out of shape, but it was not my version of a good day. We try again. No bueno. After a final try, we were able to get out money. It turns out, the daily limit at that particular machine is $300. Normally, this would be plenty, but we needed to pay for our classes and we had already dipped into our emergency money to pay for the bus ride, hostel, and lunch. I will give you the brief version of our quest to get additional funds that day from the secondary ATM: We eventually found it, and it didn't work. No sweat, we would just come back to the one that worked the next day. Our money woes were over.

We explored the town a bit, but it was miserably hot outside so we went back to the hostel to relax a bit. Eventually, evening came and we were ready to go to bed early. *This is the point where I will remind you that our hostel is situated "above a cute little restaurant in town". We had read that hostels in town are noisy at night, but it was the middle of the week in off season... I had a hard time falling asleep. It was hot, humid, and there was no air conditioning. We opened all the windows and turned on a fan pointed directly on the bed. Daniel was sleeping like a baby on the outside (and hogging all of the air from the fan), while I was sweating my guts out cramped up against the wall. Then the music started playing. It sounded like I was in the front row of a concert, and I could feel the vibrations from the wall. I gritted my teeth, closed my eyes, and tried to go to sleep. I tossed around a bit. Eventually, I remembered that I had earplugs in my bag, and went for them.

I climbed over Daniel, fumbled my way out of the mosquito net around the bed, and fished around in the dark for them. I made my way back into bed and happily inserted my earplugs into my ears. Now, instead of being at the front row of a concert, it is more like I am playing music as loudly as possible in my car. I continued to lay in bed for hours. I started feeling itchy. Surely it was just the heat or the sheets, because we had a mosquito net. Twelve years later When the sun rose, Daniel rolled over and asked me how I slept. I wanted to murder him. I was exhausted, sweaty, and covered in bug bites. Mosquitoes were happily clinging to the inside of our mosquito net, asleep after feasting on me all night. Daniel was refreshed, well rested, and bite free. There was only one thing we could do that day in order to stay happily married, and it didn't involve talking or working things out... We had find a quiet hostel with some air conditioning!

What is funny about the whole thing is that when I sat down to write this post, I had intended to write a "this is what we did in Montanita" sort of thing. What actually came spewing out was completely different and rather lengthy. I had completely forgotten about our first day here until I started writing... maybe it was a suppressed bad memory? Of course it is funny in hindsight. What were we thinking staying in the center of a party town? When Daniel read over the draft, his response was...

"I slept just fine."