21 July 2012


I awoke with the dawn and unzipped the tent fly and stepped out to look over the gray Pacific. Birds dove hunting for fish feeding at the surface. I had slept well and felt good, finally. I brought out my stove and pot and sat on a log and boiled water for my coffee. I wasn’t going to make oatmeal. I wanted to conserve what little fuel I had left. I ate an apple and drank the coffee in the cool morning stillness. When I finished I packed up the panniers and then took the tent down, rolling it carefully, and packing it in its bag. Then I loaded the bike and walked it slowly down the hill.

Miguel was waiting for me and opened the gate. I asked him how far Canoa was and he told me he didn’t know. I was almost to the point of not asking an Ecuadorian about anything anymore. I would have to forgive them their ignorance of distances. Perhaps it was part of the national character.

I rode the dirt road back to the highway and the climbing started again. I had no energy for it. I was very weak and sweat poured off me. The stomach problem and not eating from the other day had weakened me. I stopped and rested and felt like going to sleep again. There was more head down, sweat dripping climbing and then I saw the gas station at Jama that Miguel had told me about. It had a cash dispenser he said. I pulled in and found the ATM was empty. Someone said it would be refilled later in the day. I was out of dollars and I had read there were no banks in Canoa.

Then a man and woman came and opened the gas station. I asked the woman if I could pay $30 extra for a drink and receive the remainder in cash. While she rang me up the man, who was her husband, began to talk with me. Why didn’t I stay along the beach here in town, he asked. There was a fine cabana for $10 a night and the town was muy tranquilo. He offered to drive me in to take a look at the cabana and if that wasn’t good he had some property on the beach I could camp on for free. We could also pick up breakfast at his brother’s restaurant. I agreed. His name was Esteban and his family had owned the gas station for three generations. We locked my bike up in the storage area behind the office and along with his wife we drove into town.

The town was a number of little wooden shacks on a one track dirt road along the ocean. Fishing boats were pulled up in the sand and there were the cabanas Esteban had spoken of and two restaurants. The cabanas were built of bamboo and stood elevated from the sand. I decided I was going to stay there. Canoa could wait.

Esteban and his wife treated me to a delicious shrimp ceviche and beer at his brother’s restaurant and then we drove back to the gas station for my bike. I rode back to the beach town, paid for the cabana and fell asleep.

I was laying in bed that evening when there was a knock on the door. It was Esteban with his two little daughters and he invited me to come to the gas station and watch the football match. On the ride there Esteban explained that from the age of 15 to 18 he had been a semi-professional footballer for a minor league team in Guayaquil. He was set to be brought up to the professional squad at 19 when his father fell ill and he returned to Jama to operate the service station. Esteban never returned to Guayaquil and never returned to football.

We hung around the gas station until 10pm and then Esteban, his wife, and the daughters and I went on a tour of Jama. There are many of the old wooden buildings of the past in the town, constructed of weathered wooden planks. People looked out from the open windows onto the main plaza. Esteban pointed out the museo in which there are artifacts of the Jama tribe, now gone, that lived in the area. Then we stopped and had hamburgers at a little café. I tried to pay, but Esteban insisted on treating me. The next time would be my turn.


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