My next stop was Puerto Lopez, a small fishing village on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. I booked an ocean view room at an eco-lodge whose website promised whale watching, horseback riding and all-you-can eat fresh fruit. I was very much looking forward to it, which was a good thing because getting there turned out to be a bit of a process.
Famous last words: “The airport is not busy. You need only one hour.” That was what the hotel concierge in Quito told me when I asked him to book a 4:30 a.m. taxi for a 7 a.m. flight.
“I think I need more time,” I said.
“It is not necessary,” he insisted. “We go at 5:30.”
I won’t bore you with all of the details but I’ll tell you this much: I couldn’t have picked a worse time to start listening to people; Terminal A of the Mariscal Sucre International Airport is no place to have a panic attack; and everyone visiting South America should learn how to say, “My flight is leaving immediately. Can I please pass?” in Spanish.
I am happy to report that I did, in fact, make the flight with about five minutes to spare – so I suppose the Concierge was right. But mark my words: I will never listen to anyone again.
Besides the horseback riding tours, the only other people I saw on the beach in Puerto Lopez with any regularity were a few local kids riding bikes and flying kites.
I must have been something of a novelty to them too because whenever I walked by, they would follow me and point out which house they lived in and where they went to school. Sometimes, when I was reading a book, they would flank me with their tiny brown legs and bury my feet in the sand.
Bless their souls, those kids saw me for exactly who I was: a kooky white lady in desperate need of a Spanish lesson and a little bit of company.
The lodge I stayed in had a guard dog. He was an old, mangy German Shepherd with a gaping wound in his back that made me not want to pet him even though he kept ramming his head into my legs. I’m sure he was supposed to be intimidating, but he seemed like a big softie to me.
One morning, after I had my breakfast, he reached a new level of adorable and escorted me all the way to the beach. Once we got there, he followed me on a walk, and went with me for a swim and then napped in the sand while I read.
We probably would have spent the afternoon that way too except that two other German Shepherds came along and all three of them promptly went berserk, barking and growling and running in circles.
Sensing that we were fantastically outmatched for a turf war, the hotel dog and I took off into the trees and tried to make our way back to the path. Every so often, he’d run back to the beach, bark another warning and then circle back to me. Just for that, I bought him a sandwich.
As far as I could tell, he slept at the foot of the staircase leading up to my cabin every night after that and walked me to breakfast in the morning. I take back what I said about him being a softie – that dog was a ten.
I knocked a few more titles off my reading list in Puerto Lopez:
Just Kids, by Patti Smith. Must read – even if you don’t like her music. She’s a great storyteller and anyone who appreciates beautiful writing would love this book. As a bonus, you get a sense of how awesome New York was before the rest of us got here and loused it all up.
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. It defined a genre, so you have to appreciate it. Hate me all you want for saying this, but it felt 100 pages too long to me.
Up in the Old Hotel, by Joseph Mitchell. Skip it. I don’t like the New Yorker, so I don’t know why I thought that I would like a collection of someone’s best New Yorker essays. There’s not too many books that I don’t bother finishing, but this is one that I left on the edge of my blanket each day and prayed that the ocean would take. It never did.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost. This is a memoir about a couple who moved to a remote island of Kiribati to do development work. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a book that will make your questionable life choices seem downright grounded.
Paris in Love, by Eloisa James. Loved this! It’s a memoir by the bestselling romance writer about the year she and her family moved to Paris after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Couldn’t be prettier.
On one of the last days I was in town, I noticed a couple on the beach playing with their young son. They seemed normal enough, so when the man rode up on a bicycle and asked me to take a picture, I thought nothing of it.
“Sure,” I said as I took the phone from him.
“No!” he said. “Una fota con usted!”
“Con ME?!” I asked.
“Si!” And before I could say another word, he got off his bike, stood next to me and took two selfies with the ocean at our backs.
What can I say, this kook can pull off a bathing suit.
As with each of the places I visited before, I was sad to leave Puerto Lopez. But I know I’ll be back. When I finally decide to write a book, I’m going to do it at this desk.