Misadventures in Ecuador
September 24, 2009
Crime aimed at foreigners in Ecuador and just a general feeling of safety are issues which greatly concern me. I tend to do a lot of activities solo: bicycling, horseback, wandering, shopping. It is critical that I feel comfortable to be on my own. Mostly, I only really thought about it when we were in/near Quito. Many Ecuadorians brought our safety to the forefront when we were blissfully unaware. With our limited vocabulary, we picked out words such as 'peligro' and our imaginations ran away. (upon arrival, our taxi driver referred to our hotel street as such - of course, it was nearly midnight and everything was locked up tight!)
We have not recounted our potentially hazardous drive through unbelievable 'main roads' after leaving you all in Ayampe and heading to catch our airplane out of Quito. Remember our horendous discription of the road/towns we encountered drivng to the coast; plus a 1 1/2 hr stop to clear an accident - and we chose a different route back at Ruy's encouragement of a better route - Well, we unamiously voted this way even slower, longer & rougher! But, back to the saftey issue...
It was our own bad decision to keep driving after entering the city we had been advised to stay overnight in. Asian food was featured in this town(Quevedo) where many Chineese/Japanese have taken root. We had an amazing oriental meal. We decided to search out a place to stay for the night without consulting friends who could have advised safe lodging. It was early (4pm) and Bill was refreshed after his bountiful seafood & veggies so, we kept on driving when we didn't discover any obvious choices of hotel.
It got dark. Impossible to see lodging. Well, we did check out a couple of 'motels'. These places were secure &, with an enclosed, private garage for the car, probably were actually safe enough. We always view the rooms first. My, what highly decorated boodwars' ( that is supposed to be a french word for places of illicet sexual play!?). Purple walls! Red hearts with fireworks exploding painted throughout! Mirrored walls! Mirrored CEILING! That's when it really clicked in my brain what this room was! Bill still hadn't a clue. It took a poster to finally give him a true PICTURE! Kids thought it all a little bizarre, but when I spelled it out for them they hustled out of there FAST! We, really, were in no danger. But it was WAYYYY out of our comfort zone!
Back in the car... driving.... driving... "There is a sign advertising accomadations at a private hacienda!" Followed a lane back a ways in the dark. Should we really be venturing off the main throughfare?! Bill was getting tired. at 30MPH on chuck hole roadways in the dark we no longer knew exactly where we were on the map - how far to the next sizable town? - could have been 10 minutes or 2 hours! It was probably nearly 10pm now, after driving all day since breakfast with you all... The kids & I stayed behind in the car while Bill ventured forth to the darkened doorway (felt like a horror movie scene). He was, eventually, ushered inside out of our view. Time passes. More time. Bill trotted out to inform us that the buinesswoman ranch owner spoke ENGLISH! Hurrah! And, altho she could not accomodate us due to her Mother visiting (Mother uncomfortable with strangers), she would phone ahead to arrange lodging 30 minutes down the road (outskirts of Quito - we had driven a long way!) Being the inquisitive person that I am, I accompanied Bill back inside so as not to miss out on anything! Many thanks for the help... Madame then warned us to NOT GET OUT OF THE CAR in the first town we would drive through. KEEP YOUR WINDOWS ROLLED UP so they don't see that you are gringos. If you must ask for directions or a taxi or even a policeman: DON'T TRUST THEM; they could lead you to a dead end & rob you! WHOA! she had me really nervous!
Never did find the hotel she had booked us in... but somewhere near, we spied a safe place which was perfect. And all the hullaballu & terror was only in our minds! Everything was fine! Bill safely drove through Quito traffic the next day right to our car rental agency at the airport (hard to miss the airport in any town!) And off we went on further tourist misadventures! (the airports, next days, is a whole 'nother series of MISADVENTURES.)
Anyway, while we were driving in the dark, I was thinking about this issue of comfort/safety back home in the States VS other countries (obviously not just Ecuador). As you stated, ANY MAJOR CITY has crime concerns; worries are magnified when you don't know the language, customs, or way around. I did feel totally comfortable in Ayampe and our little casita village of San Jacinto, so I am confident that with time I will acclomate
as you and John have done.