These past 24 hours have been a whirlwind of events. We went from the Iyarina Lodge (Andes and Amazon Field School) to Las Tunas a town on the Western coast of Ecuador. This change in setting was supposed to be an easy trip. Just a 4 hour bus-ride to the Quito airport around a 45 minute flight into Manta, and another hour and a half bus-ride to our hotel in Las Tunas. However, this trip went nothing according to plan. We began what should have been a 4 hour bus ride at 1 o’clock. Around 3 hours into our bus-ride we came to a monstrous backup in traffic. After around 40 minutes of not moving an inch, we began to worry and quickly walked out of the bus to see what the back up was from. We quickly found out it was due to a massive mudslide. Due to all of the rain, the mountain slope above the road had collapsed leaving feet of mud and a running water fall spilling into the road. It was clear unless we had heavy machinery to clear the road we were not going anywhere. After around an hour stuck at the mudslide, a guy brought a massive bulldozer to clear the road. Around 6 we cleared the mudslide and started a race against time to make our flight. We knew it was going to be close being our flight was due to take off at 7:20. We sped off in pursuit of the Quito airport arriving promptly a little before 7:15. We ran up to the flight kiosk begging them to hold the flight, however they told us there was nothing they could do the doors had already been disconnected from the plane. With that my perfect record of never missing a plane was over. With that devastating news, we ate dinner in the airport then began mentally preparing for our 11 hour drive to Las Tunas.
We arrived at our lodge on the beach of Las Tunas around 7:30am this morning. In total our trip which was supposed to be only around 8 hours spanned a whopping 19 hours. Our bus-driver was a tank. He accepted all of these challenges during this stretch and never complained. Upon arrival we ate breakfast then rested up. After breakfast, Ben had a great idea. He organized a trash pick up of the beach we just arrived at. Around half of our group participated during the pick up and we left the beach looking spotless. At 11:30am we again boarded our bus with the same bus driver and drove to Parque Nacional Machalilla. Machalilla is famous for their crystal blue water and white sand beaches. At Machalilla we walked a few trails up to viewpoints along the coast line. After our quick and easy hike (at least in comparison to our previous hikes) we took a dip in the ocean. This was my first time in the Pacific Ocean and it was glorious. The water was fantastic. All 12 of us were having a great time in the water. After a quick dip, Ben and I once again wrestled in the sand. I thought I won (due to me controlling most of the match, but Ben pulled out the points and I had to clue what he was saying). I then went and explored the beach. After our day’s adventures we went back to the gift shop and ice cream shop. I got a little turtle figurine for my girlfriend. We then got back on the bus and drove back to our lodge. We are currently going to the town of Puerto López tonight for dinner.
The past week and a half in Ecuador has had profound impact on me. It has showed me various cultures from the cities of Quito, to the beaches of Las Tunas, to the indigenous cultures of the Amazon. I have loved every second of this great experience. Although the main part of this trip was supposed to be studying the Supply Chain of chocolates and flowers, the main takeaway I will bring away from this trip is from the cultures I was exposed to. The cultures of Ecuador although very different from American cultures is vastly different and values different characteristics. I loved how family and friendship is such a valued part of the Ecuadorian way of life, to go along with other characteristics of hard work, resilience, perseverance and much more. This is a culture and a place that is often looked over when compared to many bigger countries but should in fact be a place everyone tries to experience in their lifetime. This trip has put a new perspective into my life and I will forever be happy I was able to experience Ecuador.