Pescadores de Tonchigüe

Jun 13, 2019 | 6 comments

Edie and I were laughing about our constant need to know what’s over the next hill when El Fantasma was almost swallowed by a truck-defying pothole. As we lurched through to the other side, hot coffee was sloshing about the cab and onto my bare legs. I wasn’t exercising on my explicative budget that early in the morning; best to save that for later in the day in case inconvenient things pile up. Tight lipped but for a moment, Edie’s smiles and gentle laughter quickly brought my focus back to the adventure at hand.

It really is that way. We do intend to “boldly go where no gringos have gone before” because that’s where we find the most authentic experiences. Of course, others have traversed similar paths long before Edie and I landed on the shores of Ecuador. However, there’s still plenty that remains rare and unseen to fuel our adventure palate. But, we have to provide for our dining palate as well because after a day of trekking and exploring, we’re hungry!

All of these little out of the way places we venture into offer scant fare. You usually have to ask someone to make you something. Sometimes at town crossroads there’ll be a small restaurant but often, we find them closed. I’m suggesting that part of travel adventure might be to hunt down your own grub and then cook it yourself. Edie and I love to cook and are handy even with few ingredients and limited tools. Our truck is outfitted with an 8 pound gas cylinder, a powerful single-burner stove, utensils and pots and pans. This isn’t some way to save money for whatever your purposes, even though that will be a byproduct of your efforts. This is a cool way to know more about Ecuador, its people and their culture. Get your Spanish on and get ready to shop.

On this morning, she and I were leaving Sáme, Ecuador, where we were basing for a couple of days. The place we were staying wasn’t new to us. We had spent time there before about two years past. It’s private in the fact that only one rental is available so it’s just you, the unobtrusive owner, his cool dog and their totally boss outdoor kitchen complete with two grills! Free charcoal too so what’s stopping us?! We know we can use the fridge to keep any fresh purchases preserved until dinner time. The proprietor need offer no additional invitations, we’ll be enjoying doing our own cooking for a couple of days.

I wheeled our truck onto the asphalt leaving the worst of the potholes behind. We were pointed south and just a few miles away from some tiny beach areas and towns where we didn’t know what we would find. Soon enough, I had our truck out by the beach where we parked and strolled along watching a very few fishermen come and go. We bought 3 pounds of fresh langostinos, about 4 1/2 count to the pound, off a small trawler. Sweet and fresh with the smell of the sea, how could we go wrong for twelve bucks?

A little later, we chatted with some fishermen who had only returned for gas and to offload some of their catch. They had quickly sold their harvest of smaller fish and were preparing to return to El Mar for more denizens of the deep. There was a nice Dorado or Mahi-Mahi waiting for a buyer. A fellow came up and wanted to buy half but the fishermen only sell whole fish. That’s what the mercados are for, they tell you if you come asking for a portion. This fish was about three feet long and of gorgeous quality. We split the fish with the other guy and the fishermen quickly reduced it to two filets and other assorted parts. We took one of the fillets for eight bucks. On into the day I weighed it, 4 1/2 pounds!

Later that night, after we had returned to our place and grilled some seafood, I was examining some of my photographic files of the day on my laptop. There I found this photograph that I wanted to share with you. A few minutes after we bought their last fish, the men set out in their terribly rickety boat for another chance with the sea. The spray boards of the bow are missing and it’s a leaker for sure. As they breached the last wave upon re-entering the sea their frail craft was hurled upward. The captain hit the gas on the beat-up 75 horse outboard as another fishermen laughed and threw up his arms to keep balance when the bow shot skyward. A young man, who had been shoving off, leapt for the craft barely gaining purchase on the bucking and slick fiberglass. With that, they’re gone and so are we.

But, I’m coming back tomorrow to see my new friends again whether I need any fresh fish or not. I saw some folks back in Sáme that looked like they were having a hard time of it. I promise you they can cook and who doesn’t like fresh fish on the table courtesy of strangers passing by? Nobody, that’s who. Ecuador sure is filled with all kinds of opportunities. I believe I’ll stay awhile.

Brian Buckner

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