March 2013

Day 1: The day dawned raining, so we stayed resting all morning, a grand delight! We tried connecting to Skype for a while with no luck, and then back to the Lord of the Rings. When it finally stopped raining, we set out to tour around the city a little bit more, we took a walk in the local Market, then walked a little bit more, and as we were tired of feeling lousy we got something in the pharmacy. Again back at the hotel to have our white rice and around 4pm we set out again, this time with a new goal which we achieved, we found “yerba mate”! Taragüi was the only one, but it´s a huge step forward! We came back early around 7 to meet our families in skype, we talked to our nephews the Benegas, how fast they´re growing!! Then luckily I found my friend Nacho online and we talked for a long time, while Mechi was doing the same with her friends majo, anita, paula and carol who were all together at a house. Later we got back to our movie and finished the 2nd movie of The Lord of the rings… again a night in a big bed!

Day 2: We wanted to visit the Cathedral, so we arrived to the 930am Mass, then back to Skype, I was able to reach my brother Santiago and his family. Technology is really amazing, we were playing through the webcam with our nephews, we had a lot of fun, I talked a lot to them, so nice to see them!! We were hooked up for 2 hours approx. We left the hotel, Gardenia starts perfectly, it seems it only gets difficult when it’s too cold. We set out for the National Park Cajas, about 30km of intense uphill, all the way in 2nd gear, a beautiful road with amazing landscapes. We reached 4000meters of altitude, there was a very nice shelter to stay at night, cheap and with a lovely view of the lake and mountains; but it was raining and freezing, and as I already know, I get altitude sickness, so anytime soon I would start feeling lousy. We decided to start our way down, and even though I drove down with the gears not to use brakes so much, when we reached 200mts over sea level and still 80 miles away from Guayaquil (where we feared arriving by dark), the brakes even though, had overheated, so we decided to stop for a while in a gas station and spend the night there. It has a beautiful view, and from this place I am writing these last 7 days. Mechi is finishing the  article of the testimony we found in Cuenca: Jaimito.

Day 3: we woke up due to an unbearable rooster announcing the new day just beside Gardenia!! Mechi saddled up her café latte and we set out to Guayaquil. After a few kilometers, the polices comes to us forcing us to stop at a side. Obviously it was because of our tinted windows, and more obviously looking for a bribe. We fought and fought this battle, until I gave up and gave him  a hairband Mechi had crocheted for sale. He left happy, and we didn’t want to give him any money!! I suspect this will be a constant in Ecuador. We travelled and by 1030am had arrived in Guayaquil. We left Gardenia at a “parking lot” and headed for Mass, then to Mc Donalds, with wifi to upload the article from Cuenca with Jaimito. We walked a bit and, as Gardenia is again moaning about something in her left rear wheel, we decided to stay and check it up tomorrow, together with the brakes. We succeeded in getting a cheap nice hotel with AC!! A luxury! We walked around the city centre to a park in front of the Cathedral, which is full of iguanas!! They wander around and people touch them and feed them!, very funny and strange. Then we took a stroll in the Malecon (seafront), and visited a very nice and huge Garden, very well done with plants from every region, nice paths, etc. We came back to the hotel to enjoy our AC and updating this logbook. Which I plan to finish right now to turn on the tv! Haha, till next time! I saw 3 movies one after the other! my eyes hurt… We had some bread and slept tight..

Day 4: We woke up in a nice hotel bed, went downstairs and as it didn’t have breakfast, they let us use their microwave where I boiled my water for my “mate” and Mechi prepared her coffee, we spoke to Daniel from the VW fan club from Guayaquil “The Beetle Clan”, and arranged to meet him. We followed him on Gardenia, he drove us to a mechanic from their Clan in the Southern zone, and before arriving, at a traffic light, he warned us to “wind up our windows because it’s quite dangerous here!” We reached Alex’s repair shop, and there we met lots of other beetle fans, some of which were getting their cars fixed or just spending Monday morning there. Right away we met Mumo, Miguel Angel, Francisso and others to whom we were introduced, all of them really intrigued about our trip and Gardenia, and offering their houses to spend the night. We got our brakes adjusted, our hand brake fixed and suggested I change the CV joint protection replaced the following day. We left for Mumo’s house, the owner of a very nice VW Brasilia, his wife Andrea, 6 months pregnant was really nice when she found out we were staying at her house that night. Above that, Mumo was throwing a barbeque in our honour with other 30 friends from the Beetle Clan in their terrace! We had a very nice time, joyful evening, nice asado and a bed.

Day 5: Mechi stayed at Mumo’s with Andrea, and we guys left for the repair shop where Gardenia was lifted up (this time her rear), we bought the folding hoods, a lock for the double door and came back to Alex’s. Between intermittent rains, they worked on Gardenia and then invited me to have a delicious “bollo”, which is fish with a peanut paste wrapped in a green banana leaf, delightful! We had it at a very good but dubious food stand that they knew. We had a great time and by 4pm they had finished fixing Gardenia and between laughs the day had gone by, they refused to charge me anything. Alex told me: “The Club handles this, you don’t pay a thing,” good deal! I came back, I think Mechi was a little bit tired of being inside all day long, so we went to the mall nearby and to “enjoy the view”, window shopping. We bought some things at the supermarket, and back to Mumo’, who bought enourmous tasty pizzas which we ate at his house with his mother in law and sister in law. We had a very good time, talked a lot about football and cars!! (VW of course)

Day 6: We set out for Salinas, recommended by Mumo, a short trip of about 2 hours, and as we passed Santa Elena, and Libertad, our first impression was it looked like a small Punta del Este. We liked the beach very much, very clean and tidy, a very nice oceanfront with lots of buildings and hotels. We parked and enjoyed the beach, then we met a very nice Brazilian chap (Alder? Brazilian name I can´t remember well) who had a restaurant, he let us use wifi and invited us to lunch the following day. We called Adrian, from the VW club of Salinas, as Mummo had suggested, and arranged to meet when he finished work at night. He found us at around 10pm, and introduced us to his wife (Maria Jose?) and his two lovely daughters. We chatted till late by the seafront where we would later sleep, almost in front of the Naval Army entrance, so although it was a very calm and safe place; it was safer with so many soldiers a few feet from us. Of course as usual, we introduced ourselves and told them we would be sleeping there.

Day 7: we woke up and toured around Salinas, and found french fries for USD 1!! At a dutch guy’s place. Then we stopped by Adrian’s repair shop, such a funny guy, together with his father, Holger, they’re both VW fans, and together they must have like 30 skeletons or half cars, incredible! They take up most of the block with their fenomenal “antiques”. They even have an original Westfalia which they want to set up before November, other buggies for sand dunes that they put together and sell, others designed by them with tubular structures, some Fiat 600 (they had bought like 15 of these and they have only 3 left!). Therefore, they are not mechanics, but they fix their cars and their friends’ cars and all of those refrigerated by air, I believe they became mechanics as time went by and they became so fond of these vehicles, falling in love especially with VWs. Really, really nice people, full of projects, they keep on buying each VW refrigerated by air that they comes to them, and they enjoy their job so much that their place is always filled with friends who drop by just for a chat. Then we left to go to Alder’s restaurant, the Brazilian guy. He was very generous, and made the best lemonade ever with a tasty rice with seafood!! After we finished, we took some pictures with him and his lovely family, (the kids loved Gardenia!). We then headed to the beach for a while and then waited for Adrian and Holger at their place. As it took them some time to come back, we made good use of time and changed Gardenia’s oil, air filter and clean a little bit the engine. They arrived at 7pm, when it was already dark, so we chatted, while being ferociously bitten by mosquitoes and arranged to come back the following day to check the valves. We came back to our spot near the naval army and while I practised with my guitar, Mechi did the same with her harmonica, by the sea, a nice calm and safe place. I don’t remember what we ate, but surely my wife’s favourite: pasta.

Day 8: As usual, I woke up pretty earlier than Mechi, got a chair and sat by the beach reading. Around 9, Mechi showed up, we had breakfast and headed to Adrian’s (again). He adjusted valves, which were quite uneven (the last time had been adjusted by a guy in Lima, just by ear). Fortunately, Adrian used the calibre. Then, with an unknown technique, at least for me, he made the engine explode a couple of times (spitting out fire included), to clean the carburator and exhaust pipe. I watched somewhat terrified but he looked confident in what he was doing. We changed a hose and he set the engine on its exact point, exactly regulated. He didn’t want to charge me under no circumstances, so we said goodbye very thankful. We got some dutch French fries on the way and headed to the “Chocolatera”, the most eastern point in the southern continent. We left for Montañita at 4, stopping at the supermarket for some groceries. Gardenia was working really well, going uphill better, loose; I felt very comfortable driving this new Gardenia, it seems those explosions had really suited her.

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