Editor’s note: CuencaHighLife writer Christopher Lux recently accepted a teaching position on the coast and needed to relocate there from Cuenca. Since he had a car and a hired truck, he thought it would be a cinch. He was wrong.
On my way to the coast, I left my car in Guayaquil. It was not quite the same as leaving your heart in San Francisco, I can assure you.
Our moving day started well in Cuenca. We woke up early and the owner of the tienda that I knew showed up with his pickup truck as arranged. We fit our washing machine, nine suitcases, a bicycle, two large dog crates, and boxes of dishes into the truck.
I tied a long mirror, a plastic box of dog food, and a spare tire onto the roof of my car. My wife crammed into the backseat of our two door car with the big dogs and we were off. We said goodbye to Cuenca as we left the city for the coast.
In the Cajas we slowly made our way up steep inclines and dodged a pack of llamas on a steep decline. We were soon surrounded by clouds that made it impossible to see the shoulder of the road. My son rode in the front seat with his hands out the window. He said he was trying to catch a cloud but all he did was splatter water on his mother behind him.
It wasn’t long before we were heading all down hill for good. The air got humid and the plant life proliferated and became more diverse. It started to rain. The mirror tied to the roof came loose and slid down over the windshield. The truck I was following was ahead of me, so I stopped and quickly abandoned the mirror on the side of the road and took off again.
We stopped for fried chicken at a gas station on the final leg to Guayaquil. That’s where the noises under the hood started. Once we were out of the city, I pulled into a gas station to check it out. The sound seemed to stop and everything looked fine. About three kilometers down the road smoke started pouring into the car through the vents.
An hour from our destination and oil was shooting out of the engine. I called the landlord of our new house on the coast and — without hesitation — she had an idea: have the truck continue the journey to meet her at the house and her cousin would come with a pickup truck to get us.
When her cousin arrived we loaded the dogs and some belongings into her truck and called a tow truck. It was Sunday. Getting a tow truck in Ecuador on Sunday is like trying to buy whiskey on Sunday in South Alabama. It wasn’t going to happen.
We hooked up some $3 “tow” straps to pull the car. They snapped.
We called a mechanic who called his brother who ventured out of his house in flip flops with a rope. For $10 he said he would tow the car to his brother’s shop. When he tried to reach the shop, he found the road blocked by a soccer match. On the sidewalks people drank Pilsener and watched. Realizing that the sooner we got the car in the shop the sooner they could play again, they kicked the ball to the side, moved a goal, put down the beers, and pushed my broken-down car into the shop where it would sit until the Lord’s Day passed.
By night time, we were in our new house on the coast. I walked out to the sounds of the beach in the dark and — for just a moment — I didn’t care that I left my car in Guayaquil.