New Years day Erin and I took a series of busses from Baños, Ecuador, to Santa Marianita, a beach on the coast of Ecuador. This took us about 12 hours and two busses over night. We were headed to a guest house called The Donkey Den, where we would work for accommodation and delicious breakfasts, for three weeks. We arrived on the morning of Saturday the 2nd, long before anyone in the hostel was awake. We were shown to our dorm beds and left to sleep.
The next morning we got to see the busiest day of the year at The Donkey Den, it was breakfast in the attached restaurant on the Sunday after New Years. This meant that everyone who came out to celebrate was still around and recovered enough to leave the house for food. There was also a power outage along the beach so no one had anything better to do. Unfortunately the power outage meant the kitchen needed to use a small diesel powered generator. It didn’t want to stay running and the person tending to it couldn’t seem to figure it out. I mumbled to Erin that it sounds like theres no fuel in it, having a diesel powered truck at home I am somewhat familiar with the basic principals. She urged me to stop being shy and go help.
I walked over and asked if it had fuel in it, to which I was told there was. I then looked the generator over, fired it up and listened to it sputter and die. Checked for a blocked fuel line and cleaned the gunk off of the kill switch and tried again but to no avail. I took a look for myself and it turns out the fuel tank was bone dry. I did my best to not say anything hurtful to the young man who told me there was fuel in it. I filled it, pressed the heater for the glow plugs and it fired up like a charm. I let it idle a bit and warm up before plugging in the power cables so as prevent the engine from stalling. From that moment on, I was considered a handy man. I am not a particularly handy person but the owner, Linda, still found plenty of odd jobs for me over the next few weeks. For the most part though, my job was simply to keep an eye on the place for a few hours a day and help guests with what ever they needed. I also spent a lot of time tending to the garden, something I thoroughly enjoyed.
Erin and I intended to stay for three weeks but ended up staying for six. Part of the reason we stayed so long was we were waiting for mail to come in to Quito before we left to Peru, another reason was that we just enjoyed it and didn’t feel like leaving. Something about the beach just makes you lose ambition. Over the six weeks lots of small things happened so here they are… In no particular order.
Tyson Steps On a Stingray:
One of the local American expats, named Ed, who lived near The Donkey Den was a regular for breakfasts and a surfing fanatic. I had casually mentioned to him that I would kind of like to try surfing. One morning, him and a friend showed up at the restaurant, they had been out surfing and his friend had been stung by a stingray and needed to put his foot in some hot water to ease the toxin and the pain. For future reference, hot water eases the pain of being stung by a sting ray, I also find that it help stop mosquito bites from itching so much.
Ed offered me the chance to take his friends place and go surfing. I was a little hesitant, considering the circumstances, but I went anyway. He told me to shuffle my feat on the sand to prevent stepping on a stingray and getting hit. Their sting is a defensive reaction to being stomped on. I followed these instructions carefully and shuffled out to the break… slowly. Ed explained the basics and helped me catch a few waves. I managed to stand up, very briefly, twice during the whole outing. Toward the end of our trip I jumped off my board and landed on something slimy and about the size of a dinner plate. I immediately lifted one foot off and then set my other foot down on top of it over and over again. I must have stepped on this poor sting ray about 5 times, it was similar to when you start to slip on ice and run on the spot for a split second. I managed to get both feet up at once and set them down far apart, it was a miracle I didn’t get stung. I don’t know for sure that it was a stingray but the other possibilities don’t make me feel much better. Shortly after, we headed back to the Donkey Den and I was able to get some breakfast just before the kitchen closed.. That was the end of my surfing adventures at Santa Marianita beach. The ocean is just too big and too deep, and it kinda scares me. I think I’ll just stick to snowboarding, I like the cold more anyway.
Tyson makes friends:
The great thing about volunteering there was that everyone I worked with was super friendly. I will undoubtedly miss them greatly as our travels continue. One of the ways I cheated to make friends was I baked sweets for them, this works every time. During our stay I baked several batches of peanut butter cookies. Some with oatmeal instead of flour because one of my fellow volunteers couldn’t have gluten (If you want to try it yourself just replace the flour with an equal amount of oatmeal and bake a little longer, Erin thinks they are much better this way). I also baked several batches of brownies, using oatmeal instead of flour didn’t work quite as well. I also learned how to make really good banana bread. The other volunteers tended to make huge dinners which they were more than happy to share. Erin also made her famous popcorn, naturally it was a hit. Someday I’ll put up these recipes for all to enjoy. Towards the end of our stay Erin and I had started putting weight back on, another few weeks and my pants might have fit again!
Tyson witnesses Carnival:
Carnival celebrates the same thing Mardi Gras does, the Tuesday before lent begins… I think. I have never been to Mardi Gras, but I imagine its quite a party and I have no doubt that the Ecuadorians could keep up to it. The beach in front of our hostel was standing room only, with a large sound stage blaring all afternoon and into the evening. I would watch hotel guests and volunteers walk out in clean, dry clothes and return soaked in the colourful spray foam that the people were dowsing each other with. It was quite a sight, but I chose not to go out into the crowd, I could see it just fine from the balcony…
Erin gets wounded:
Nobody panic! Erin is fine now. She was laying on the beach when a large wave snuck up on her and some friends. She jumped up in time and grabbed most of her things but the bottle of sunscreen got away. She ran through the shallow water to grab it and in the process stepped on a jagged rock and cut her big toe open. When she got back to the hotel it looked awful and I though we should go to the hospital. Once we rinsed it and got the sand out of it I realized it just looked much worse than it was. We bandaged her toe and kept it clean and I am happy to say we didn’t have to amputate. I have some pictures of her toe cut open but its pretty graphic so I won’t post it here.
Linda rescues another dog:
Linda, the owner, is a one woman army for animal rescue. At the time of our stay she had three dogs and I think about fifteen cats, though nobody was sure the numbers. She takes in stray cats and dogs, gets them spayed and neutered, any medical attention they need, and then tries to find homes for them. After they find a carefully chosen home she continues to pay the vet bills to ensure their well being.
One day we were taking two cats into the vet to be spayed. A little girl on the beach saw the animal carrier in the back of the truck and came up to me. Unfortunately she only spoke Spanish and we couldn’t communicate. She walked off a little frustrated and came back when there were more people around the truck. Eventually we figured out that she had a sick puppy at her house and wanted us to take it into the vet. She jumped in the truck with us and one of her family members followed us on a motor bike to her house. One of the volunteers went with the girl into the barely standing brick shack. I could see they had no running water. They were using the gutters to funnel rain water into a shack beside the house, I imagine it to be similar to an old style wash house. It turns out the family had a sick puppy too young to be away from its mother, AND a sick dog. It turns out they had neutered the dog themselves and as a result he wasn’t feeling too well. We took both dogs to the vet along with the cats. Both dogs were treated for worms and the older dog had been given a shot of antibiotics to prevent his wound from getting infected.
After the vet, we took both dogs back to the Donkey Den with us along with some dog food and hamburger to give to the owners to help put some meat on the skinny dogs bones. The larger dog, whom we called Dobby (his owners named him Tobi), was at first shy and lethargic but once we got food and water into him he came around. The puppy, Erin named her Charlie, was at first quite mobile but by the end of the day was breathing shallow and not moving much. One of the volunteers put Charlie in a basket with some towels for the night and she hadn’t gotten much better by the morning. Linda took Charlie back to the vet, and unfortunately she just didn’t make it, she was just too young and malnourished to survive. When Linda got back to the Donkey Den, she told me what happened and I grabbed a shovel. We went off and I dug Charlie a grave on the side of a sandy hill overlooking the pacific. It was a hard hole to dig, I have a hard time with dogs dying, especially young ones. We buried her, set some stones on the grave and Linda’s friend, Mary, said a few nice words.
The family never came back for the dogs and I don’t think they even know that the puppy passed away. Over the next few days Dobby came out of his shell, and his wound began to heal. He was eating more and socializing with people and other dogs. Erin had to lift him onto the chair to show him that he was allowed to be there. After that he would go on the chair, but instead of jump he would struggle and climb to get up, I think he just never learned to jump. When I left The Donkey Den he was still there, and last I heard he still is. It has been about two weeks, so I think its almost safe to say that Dobby is at The Donkey Den for good.
Erin and I are now on our way to see the rest of the continent, hopefully we meet another group of people that are as lovely as the guest and volunteers at The Donkey Den… but those are some big shoes to fill. Thanks for the good times everyone.
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