Back when Edie and I lived in the United States, we often went on rides at the end of the day. Our Tundra, Big Red, carried us out of the city and into pine forests and hardwood bottoms. There, the smells and sounds of ancient bayous assuaged the senses in a way that other places cannot. Dragonflies flit from lily pad to lily pad as the flared nostrils of alligators gently break the surface followed by long and loud exhalations.
So, when we moved to Ecuador, we sought that special wind down time at the end of the day. And, of course we turned toward the countryside, El Campo, having already established rushing rocky streams and pastured milk cows to be far more tranquil than shouting vendors and incessant honking of horns. Of course, there are folks who live in the countryside and they usually have country ways, just like agricultural and dairy farmers back in the USA or actually, anywhere you travel in the world. It is very different from the city.
At first, our modus operandi was taking a couple of different buses and making transfers to get us out to the edge of the city. Then, we would hop a green colored bus to carry us further out. You notice immediately that the air outside the city is different as are the people. The pace slows. Business is being conducted but there’s a lot more time for a hug and hello. That’s right, there’s some time to catch up with each other, a time for recognition, a time for sharing local news.
The buses worked for a while in helping us accomplish our late afternoon rides. We met and made photographs of several interesting people. But, it wasn’t the same as when we had our Tundra back in the states. It was tough getting out of El Centro and into the country with our heavy camera gear. Deploying cameras on the bus was a challenge, between potholes and abrupt directional changes by the bus drivers. We usually rode the buses deep into the country and then hiked out, meeting and visiting with folks. When we reached the outskirts, we would hop a bus to get back into the city and El Centro.
Edie and I finally succumbed to the tugging of heartstrings and bought another Toyota to carry us and our gear to more and bigger adventures. About that time, we started carrying lollipops everywhere we went in the country. We distributed them freely. Mamás, papás, abuelos, abuelas, tios, tias and all niños grinned while opening the colorful golden wrappers that covered the butterscotch goodness. Those little white sticks, jutting out of the sides of jaws, told the story of where we had been that day. Our Hi Lux is white and so took on the name El Fantasma. He has become a fixture among the country folk. If I stop on the side of a country road near where folks are working, adventure begins. I blow my horn and wave. At that moment, everyone scurries for El Fantasma to say hi and get a lollipop. If they’re really busy and further away, a runner is dispatched to gather the sweet goodness and take it back into the field. It’s about as great as it gets.
The first photograph I made the initial time El Fantasma carried us into the countryside is shown above. This place is only about six miles into the country. This is the life of rural Ecuador. Boys play with their tiny trucks among a never-ending mass of dirt and broken concrete. Their mother has turned to see where the gringo voice that’s speaking Spanish is coming from. A huge rubber spider hangs on an iron web out front advertising the welding abilities of an occupant. The camera comes up firing, recording the moment, as inside the husband heads for the door where outside waiting is su moto azul. These scenes are only a part of what calls me to the wayward places and endears Ecuador and it’s people to me forever.