The peak season is coming to an end! Two more Mother’s Days and a few weddings still to go, and that will be it. Our family is also looking forward to the end. Dad has been coming home late a bit too often. But last weekend, we decided to make an early start with more relaxing times. The children had Easter holidays, so we spent a few days on the Ecuadorian coast.
The journey from Quito to the beach (350 km) takes around five hours and is almost a short holiday in itself. As soon as you leave the city, you start descending through the Andes. Dozens of switchbacks quickly take you into the unspoilt cloud forests. An hour later, the tropical lowlands come into sight. Surrounded by African palm trees and cocoa and banana plantations, it feels like you’ve landed in a different era.
We pass by bamboo huts on stilts, without any mobile networks, but with seemingly carefree villagers. After a little more driving, the unmistakable white blossoms of the teak plantations are making an appearance. And when finally, the shrimp farms come into sight, it can’t be much further to the sea.
It is advisable to undertake the journey by daylight, though. Despite the fact that we’ve got a good GPS network in Ecuador these days, the biggest danger lies in the countless illegal speed bumps. Every self-respecting hamlet has installed at least one. There are no advance warnings and they are not painted either! They are just there, all of a sudden. So, you’re driving along at 100 km per hour and… slam the anchors! Or, if you’re unlucky: you drive over it with four loose wheels.
The purpose of those speed bumps is a commercial one: they force drivers to slow down, giving the local population the opportunity to sell their home-grown produce. One small problem: the speed bumps are still there at night.
We were staying in the area that was hit by a severe earthquake exactly three years ago. Since then, a lot of hard work has gone into the reconstruction of the town. There’s no longer any sign of the devastations. Damaged buildings have been demolished, the water supply is back to normal and most people have returned to their homes. The work isn’t completely finished, though. Many public facilities, including hospitals and promenades, are still missing. The new sewer system is still under construction too. But I’m sure they’ll get it sorted soon.
Victor van Dijk
Area manager South-America, FleuraMetz