Montanita, Ecuador: Part 2


To those who subscribe to our emails, Montanita Part 1 was sent out incomplete. If you missed the ending to the story of our arrival, you can read the full post here.

Imagine sitting at your favorite hole in the wall restaurant, where the expensive dinners cost $4. You finish your meal and find your "amigo" to pay him, and hand him 10 dollars. He wanders into the back, presumably to get change. The you hear a loud commotion and all of the staff leave the front of the restaurant. This was the scene at the conclusion of our otherwise typical dinner.

We heard a loud yell and some commotion. A few other family members who work at the restaurant walked into the back of the neighboring restaurant.The man we gave our money to sprinted out the door and down the street yelling something about change. Daniel and I looked at each other. "I don't think he's going to get change... they never run that fast for change," I said.

Daniel had the gut feeling that something was wrong, and was sitting on the edge of his seat. The man returned shortly in a taxi and ran back into the house. A minute or so later, he emerged at the doorway attempting the carry the neighboring restaurant's owner, who was completely unconscious. Daniel ran faster than I have ever seen him move to help him carry the man to the taxi. All I could think of is, "Oh crap, I am the only medically trained person here, and I am going to have to figure out how to do CPR in the back of a taxi!" I managed to find out that the man was still breathing, although very shallow. Daniel and the other person helping carry him managed to get him pushed into the back seat of the cab, which is when we realized that Daniel had blood all over his shorts. Someone slid into the cab under the unconscious man for the ride to the hospital.

It turns out that the man had cut his wrist and was bleeding profusely. In the kitchen, they wrapped it tightly with a rag, and Daniel was able to conjure the word "Arriba!" (up!) and instruct the person to elevate the man's arm before they took off toward the hospital. We immediately went back to our room, cleaned Daniel and his clothes, and took a few minutes to calm down from the adrenaline. Amazingly, all of the blood came out of the clothes and a very minimal amount of blood came in contact with his skin. Regardless, I am very happy that we opted to get all of our vaccinations updated prior to traveling.

There were no ambulances, police, firemen, or paramedics... just an unconscious man bleeding all over the back of the taxi heading to the hospital. Everyone acted as if nothing unusual had happened at all. The next day, we ate there for lunch and the incident was not acknowledged at all until we paid. They gave us the $2 we were owed off of our meal, and we asked if the man made it to the hospital in time. It turned out that he was sleeping upstairs.

I got sick two days later. I didn't have much of an appetite all day, and started to feel terrible during our afternoon class. I went back to our room around 5:00pm, skipped dinner, and laid in bed. My entire body ached, I was feverish, and my stomach was off. At around 5:30am, I woke up with intense stomach pains. I went to the bathroom, stood up to get back in bed, and proceeded to get so weak, dizzy, and sweaty that all I could do was lay on the floor and cry. My muscles and bones were aching. My head was throbbing. I didn't want to take any medicine out of fear that my stomach would get worse.

I woke Daniel up after a few minutes (he sleeps like the dead) to help me get back in bed and find some gatorade. I was miserable for the rest of the morning, and it was an easy decision for me to skip class. Since we are the only people in our class this week, the teacher obviously asked where I was. When Daniel started describing what my symptoms were, the teacher told him that she thought I had dengue.

It's been awhile since I've studied dengue fever, but I knew that it was a tropical disease transmitted mosquitoes in developing countries. There is no vaccine and no treatment, it just has to run its course. Two people who work at the school had been diagnosed with dengue a few weeks earlier, and there are a few PSA fliers about it posted around town. I could go to the hospital to have blood drawn to be diagnosed, but I decided against it. I figured that since the treatment is rest, tylenol, and hydration, there was no reason to expose myself to other hospital germs and risk having a needle stuck in my arm by someone who doesn't know what they are doing just to have them say, "yes, you have dengue".

In the afternoon, I decided that it would be a good idea to try and eat something. I sent Daniel to the same restaurant to get some plain white rice. The man, of course, asked why he wanted plain rice and where I was. "Ella esta enferma." "Tiene dolor de estomago?" "Si..." and the man ran into the house, not even allowing Daniel to finish describing the symptoms. He yelled for someone to go upstairs and get something, and came out with a mug with some liquid in the bottom. He proceeded to pour a huge packet of a salty powdery substance in, and squeezed two limes into it. It foamed, and he instructed Daniel to bring it back to me with the rice and that my stomach would feel better.

So here I am, laying in bed, waiting on Daniel to come back with my rice when he steps into the doorway carrying the mystery remedy. It looked pretty sketchy... a little bit of cloudy, foamy liquid at the bottom of a mug with chunks of lime pulp and seeds stuck to the side of the glass. I could have dumped it, but I felt guilty since the man was nice enough to go through the trouble of making it for me. I managed to choke down about half of it, and it was quite possibly the nastiest, most salty and sour thing I have ever consumed. Miraculously, my stomach felt entirely better about 30 minutes later. I managed to eat the rice for lunch and have a normal dinner that night. I don't know what was in that mug, but it worked! I spent a few more days generally run down, but was back to normal after about 3 days.

The rest of our time in Montanita was significantly less eventful, and will be covered in Part Three.

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."

I Heart Boobies (Isla de la Plata, Ecuador)


...I think that's what the kids are saying these days. I'm not talking breast cancer awareness though... I'm talking about the blue footed boobie. This bird is one of the coolest looking, but stupidest, birds I've ever seen. They are extraordinarily clumsy, and seem to do almost anything to avoid having to fly. They are notably found in the Galapagos, but we were able to see them on our recent day trip to Isla de la Plata. The island, also known as "poor man's Galapagos," is an hour by boat outside of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. The reason they are able to survive is because there are literally no predators there. I am reasonably certain that the introduction of a domesticated house cat to the island would probably be enough to drive them into extinction. Enough about the boobies though.


June is the beginning of mating season for humpback whales, and we were excited to get to see four or five of them on the boat ride to the island. We saw several waterspouts in the distance, so I know there were a lot more out there. At one point, there were two so close to the front of the boat that we wondered if they would knock it over. They were absolutely enormous. When we got to the island, they docked the boat and our group made its way ashore. Our guide led us along a few trails, where we spotted dozens of our booby friends. They seemed more curious than afraid of people, and we often had to deviate off the trail to get by because they didn't move.


Toward the end of the trail, we came to an area of trees that were completely filled with frigate birds. The males have a bright red pouch under their beaks that they inflate to attract a mate. They didn't like it when we got too close, but Daniel was able to snap some great pictures nonetheless. Once we were finished on the island, we boarded the boat for lunch. Our guide threw some small bits of watermelon rind into the water, which attracted some hungry turtles and beautiful fish. The water was completely clear, so we got a great show.


We ended the trip with me getting horribly sea sick on the ride back. Daniel spotted some more whales and various birds, but at that point I couldn't care less. I've heard the recommendation to focus on the horizon when you are motion sick. Unfortunately, that advice doesn't work when the horizon looks like it is doing cartwheels because you are bouncing around so much. There was no hurling involved though, so the trip was still a win.

You can check out the rest of our pictures from Isla de la Plata here