Travel overland in Ecuador (or anywhere in the world, for that matter), and the price of one’s ticket isn’t solely for the transit. Depending on where you are and when you travel, the people you encounter run the gamut of the human experience, from the bold and brash teenager sitting next to you along the coast to the devout and timid woman clinging to her rosaries on the tumultuous mountain road.
A mid-length bus trip provided just such a cast of characters and settings for me, among them:
- A Surfer Jesus windshield decal splays itself across the front of one of the southbound buses. I’m not terribly superstitious, but I’d welcome the presence of an icon on my bus any day.
- Vendors board the bus at stops and intervals, offering water, fruit, snacks, the daily post, and prescriptioned glasses. I’m in need of the last one, but they’re only for farsighted eyes, and they make the world blurrier than I need it to be.
- During one twenty-minute segment: a prostheletyzing vegetarian, preaching the evils of eating meat! My buddy Josh E. must have sent him all this way, knowing I’d be stuck in my seat and have to smile and nod during the ordeal.
- And just when it couldn’t get any better: a Zodiac stone peddler! He’s very charismatic. As likeable as Hamlet was despicable. He even let me keep my Libra stone & gold necklace, despite “not being able to pay.” I threw them away at the first trash can I spied. I wondered if somewhere in the universe, the stars were conspiring against me.
- The highlight: a little boy, strung up by his arms, suspended by his father’s grip, swings like a pendulum around the center aisle as his family makes their way to the back, as the bus driver takes hard corners around the mountain’s edges. The boy’s feet are splayed, and his lower half is being thrown about the aisle, anchored only above by his father. He is grinning and giggling hysterically. We make eye contact, and share a smile.