After leaving Tod’s Lodge, we hopped on the road to the airport for our in-country flight from Quito to Manta. We were about halfway through the 4-hour bus ride when we suddenly came to a halt.
This arbitrary stop lasted for a few minutes before we all began to wonder, “what is going on?” Because it was raining and foggy outside, we could barely see what existed in front of us. Our minds began to wander and our spirits began to sag.
After a few more minutes of waiting in apprehension, we carefully climbed out of the bus and saw a long line of inpatient cars that stretched as far as the eye could see. We trudged past these cars for what seemed like hours until we reached the source of the traffic: a mudslide.
There was a huge mudslide and waterfall that stretched for about 30 feet. The runoff of the waterfall careened over the edge of a cliff. It would be impossible for any vehicle to successfully make it through. The mud was thick and deep. There were also many large rocks and a fallen tree that lay strewn in the middle of the mudslide.
As more and more people gathered around the mudslide, it was hard to tell whether or not we would make our flight and save our sanity. In this aura of uncertainty, some of us took pictures, some made phone calls, others decided to wait out the mess in the comfort of their cars, and a few brave souls decided to take action.
A couple of Ecuadorian men waddled into the chasmic mud and subsequently the tops of their boots disappeared. They attempted to shovel the mud away, but there was only so much a few men could do with one shovel against mother nature’s gargantuan mudslide. Regardless, I thought that their efforts were selfless and heroic.
One reckless car tried to speed through the mudslide but it kept getting stuck and had to reverse their way out of the mess. After about an hour of waiting around in the cold, misty rainforest, a tractor finally arrived. First, the tractor had to help the reckless car get unstuck. Then, the tractor kindly paved a path for the rest of us to get by.
Fortunately, our bus was able to make it through the mudslide but unfortunately we arrived at the airport about 30 minutes too late. Our flight was supposed to be around 7:20pm but the gate had closed much earlier and would not budge for us.
Thankfully, our bus driver was kind enough to drive us for 10 hours to Las Tunas, a small beach town. While it was probably the most uncomfortable, inconvenient sleep of my life disrupted by many frequent restroom stops and harsh road bumps, I am glad we successfully made it to Las Tunas. Our hotel, El Manglar, is situated right on the beach! After spending many days in the Amazon rainforest with hardly any running water, El Manglar seems like the Four Seasons Hotel.
I believe that every detail of this experience will be embedded in my memory forever. What I extracted from this experience is that you really cannot control what life throws at you. The only thing you can control is yourself and your reactions to challenging and unexpected situations like this one. I am happy that I was surrounded by such like-minded peers who did not complain much. We all decided to tough through the night together as one unified group and I could not love them more for it.