Who would have thought that a blonde woman from the midwest who doesn’t know a lick of  Spanish would face challenges navigating the bus system in South America? Obviously I didn’t.  If there were a movie I could relate to Wednesday, it would be Romancing the Stone and unfortunately no one recognized me as a famous writer.  I traveled from Cuenca in a shared-ride bus; held 6 passengers, very comfortable, about 3 hours to Guayaquil, an industrial port city on the ocean; not a real pretty place. The scenery during the ride was incredible and we even went through a national park.  I took a couple photos during the trip but it was one of those rides where the only time I dare take a photo was when there were guard rails. We were in the clouds at times and when I saw the entire mountain covered in palm trees and it was soooo far down, all I could think of was Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone. I did arrive safely however.  In Guayaquil I left my comfortable transport behind to experience the cross-country bus north; this decision being marginal at best. It was a 20 cent fare and the trip would be about 2 hours. There are no shared ride options so I either fly or take the bus. Since I’m determined to see the coastline, I take the bus.  I left GYE at 3 and got into Puerto Lopez at 7pm (4 hours our time, 2 hours south american time).  About every 10 minutes someone would jump on the bus with something to sell. These people do not need to go grocery shopping as the food comes right to them.  You have the mango man, the coconut juice man, the warm plantains filled with queso (melted cheese)man, the pork rind man, the candy man, the juice/cola/water man, the caramel something man, the banana chips man, the pollo (chicken) in a cup man, the raspberry fruit leather man (I actually bought some), the unidentifiable deep fried stuff man, and those are just a few that I remember.  This goes on for most of the trip until we’re way up in the mountains. No one speaks ANY english but I am still a popular person on the bus. You see I purchased what I thought were wet ones to wipe my hands and other parts but when I used them on my face, they smelled like bubble gum and everyone in the front few seats could smell it. I offered some to the woman next to me, then her friend, then the man in front of me. They were all laughing and saying the spanish words for baby diaper wipes.  I looked at the package to see why they were laughing and figured it out, along with some hand gestures from my seat mate.  All of our faces were as soft as baby butts and the whole bus took on a Chicklet kind of fragrance.  When we reach Puerto Lopez, the bus driver grabs my bag and throws me out at my stop and as I stand there on the sidewalk at night, my bubble gum scented friends came to my rescue and got me a “taxi”. The taxis are really just motorcycles with a back on them, see the picture. I arrived at my little beach hut, reserved online that morning and got settled before I proceeded to forage for dinner. I could hear the roar of the ocean but it was too dark to see it well other than the reflection off the white waves as they crashed. My room on the ocean set me back $10 (yes, ten dollars!) and included a cooked-to-order breakfast. Puerto Lopez is a vacation spot but it is kinda off season so not a lot of people but very pleasant. I run into Lynn, Ron, and Tilo who are from Marco Island Florida. They are going for a drink at one of the beach bars so they ask me to tag along mainly because I couldn’t stop talking to them because I hadn’t spoken English all day, just a language I made up that sounds like Spanish but has no meaning. The trio have been down the coast in Salinas looking for a condo to buy and telling me how nice it was there.  Lynn and I really connect and laugh all evening. Tilo is a dentist and Lynn works for him. Ron is her husband.  They have had dinner but they order me a plate of jumbo shrimp as they say I “have to try them”. YUM. See the picture, $3.50.   A great evening. This morning (Thursday) , Maria at my beach hut gives me instructions to get to Manta for my 2pm flight back to Quito. This trip will involve getting off before a main stop on the bus before it goes east in order to catch another bus going west to Manta. This strategy she insists will save me an hour. She meets me at the bus station to tell the driver her plan. I am a little nervous but I decide to go for it. I have her write the name of the town I have to get out at and all the Spanish phrases I might need to get to the next bus. I practice these on the bus. The bus ride was bumpy, dusty, and warm. I was entertained however by Spanish pop music and trees that look like people. I tried to photograph them but it was almost impossible. They really did look like people, I swear, like Wizard of Oz land. I get thrown off the bus again, literally,  the bus driver attendant grabs my bag and without even stopping the bus they get me out and my bag sits next to me. I stand on this corner and there is a mango stand and about 6 or 7 Ecuadorians staring at me. I act very confident and know things will work out. I smile, say Buenos Diaz and fix my eyes down the road waiting for the bus that will take me to Manta. I see a bus coming after about 5 minutes and they yell out Manta Manta Manta, I nod my head, they grab me and my bag and I am wisked away. They collect my 50 cents (Marie told me what to expect) and I am off to Manta. (You may recall that this was my original destination but I had changed plans and went to Puerto Lopez, a diversion to stay on the ocean. ) Well, I make it in plenty of time for my flight and within the hour I am back in Quito. I will be going out for my Thanksgiving meal whatever that may be in an hour or so. I have a lot of pride knowing that I was able to navigate across Ecuador without incident. The people here are very kind and curious to know you better. It has been a very special trip so far and I still have another day.